Zion: is the glass half full

What’s the top 10 luxury vacation spots? Don’t ask me, I normally sleep on the ground and skip showers. Most of our friends rent estate homes, embark on cruise ships, or stay in high-end ski resorts. Lauren and I, however, take our holidays like homeless, granola smoking, tree-hugging hippies.untitled-1000143

Don’t misunderstand; there’s nothing wrong with a little luxury. I’ve stayed in 5-star hotels, slept in castles, and dinned at well-set tables. Yet. somehow I always find myself learning more and experiencing more on that cold hard ground. It’s entirely possible there’s something neurologically wrong with me. I ate a-lot Elmer’s glue and paint chips as a kid. But, it’s hard to argue the wonder of nature.star night1

After hiking through what is arguably the most beautiful terrain in the continental United States, freezing air drifted from the mountain tops as the sun slipped over the horizon. In the waning light we enjoyed a warm re-hydrated meal. Far from luxurious, this stuff makes Hamburger helper look like a three-star entree and it gives me “full-blown death farts. Nothing says I love you like a good hot Dutch oven fart in a small tent.little tent (1 of 1)

On Zion’s West Rim Trail, the beauty of this mountain range had our eyes swimming through the shifting shades of red rock and bright blue skies. Sleeping upon the soil and listening to nature’s song under the twinkling light of countless distant suns does something to one’s heart and mind. But, so does running out of water.untitled-1000184

Every spring on the map yielded only dry rock. I warned Lauren to conserve water. But, she expected me to pull another “MacGyver survival trick” from my magic Patagonia hat. As a percussionist, I wondered why couldn’t my pounding dehydration headache keep a consistent beat? I ask myself what would Bear Grills do? Kill a snake and use its skin as a goblet to drink his own urine? Alright! Plan B: what would a real survival expert do? I was weak and dizzy. Another day of this and I’d be running through the mountains, chasing a mirage coke machine.untitled-1000177

At our lowest point, with map and compass in hand, there was a “spring” a.k.a. large puddle. Our bodies screamed for water. I’m not a smart man, but I know what explosive diarrhea is. No Giardia for me, thank you very much! After filtering, I could see the bottom of Lauren’s water bottle tipped high into the air.untitled-1000129

Days later, as we sat relaxing at a local brew pub Lauren said, “I’ve never contemplated being without water.” We live in the United States where you turn the knob and water comes from the magic water place. We drink purified filtered spring water from designer bottles. We had taken water for granted. To this day, I often think of this when I shower or brush my teeth.

As I complain about my internet speed, 750 million people on this planet don’t have access to safe drinking water.
If you’re interested, these links represent some cool programs that help offer safe accessible water to those in need:

21 thoughts on “Zion: is the glass half full

  • Could not agree more! You experience things in a whole different level when you expose yourself to the forces of nature. Also, at least I, sleep waaay much better in a tent, with the nights chill surrounding the sleeping bag!

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  • I spent many years with my children living in different remote locations, often without a reliable water supply. When we first came back to the city it was quite amazing to have clean water. Rain in the city is often an annoyance but rain out there is a blessed relief. How lovely it is to drink after being parched. How right you are that we are very fortunate to have tap water. I’m like you though, I’d prefer a night under the stars than in a luxury hotel, even though it means a little physical discomfort. A great read, Curt. I had a good laughs in places. And the photographs are beautiful too.


    • Thank you. Your words are so refreshing. I fear so few people make choices which lead to authentic life experiences. Without such experiences we can not develop. We will never understand the world around us. We cant appreciate running water if we have never been without it. We can never understand the struggle of 3rd world problems if we will not see past our 1st world luxuries. Sorry for the little rant, but I think your heart sings the same song.

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  • A night spend sleeping in a tent freezing beats a 5 star hotel any given day. And what comes to water, I spent my childhood summers in a country cabin. The water had to be carried there 3 miles away, and without a car it meant walking with those things hanging from you bicycle horns. It taught me to appreciate the water and even in Finland, conserve it. My favourite drink is still a glass of ice cold water.

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  • An awesome post Curt, on many levels! That photo of the starry night is absolutely breath-taking; how did you manage to take it? The scenery of your walk looks amazing, and something that would appeal to me because of the very rawness of it all. How scary to run out of water, and I can imagine that such an experience would indeed be both grounding, and cause for celebration that we can turn on our taps and drink whenever we please. In the not-too-distant future, experts predict that wars will break out over access to such a precious commodity; a terrifying and sobering thought. Thanks for sharing your viewpoint, and your funny fart comments 🙂 Leah

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    • At our current rate of deforestation, and exploitation of our resources I could easily see struggles for the sake of water, in the same way we see these occurrences over oil.

      Alright Leah star shots, 1. On a very dark night with only a slight amount of ambient light 2. a very sturdy tripod, and a remote for the camera doesn’t hurt. 3. Adjust the camera. Open up the aperture to let in as much light as possible, set the ISO in relation to the faint level of ambient light. I normally shoot these scenes between 800-1600 much higher and you may start getting noise in the image. Then set the shutter speed to something like 30 seconds, or a manual timed mode. I’ve hung my shutter open for 15 minutes to get good star shots with star trails.If the lighting allows closing the apature down will result in star flare, but that takes some practice. It takes a ton of messed up images. But once you get it welcome to the addiction of 3am photography. I did some milky way shots this weekend. It’s so peaceful to be the only person awake and seeing those beautiful pre-sunrise light shifts.

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  • Thanks Curt for the detailed how-to lesson on starry night shots. I guess I need a tri-pod then, cause I’ve not got one. Time to get one though me thinks, if I want to try my hand at creating such a beautiful image as you did. 🙂 Thanks greatly for your help. Leah

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  • Haha, there must be something wrong with you indeed, wanting to sleep on the ground. Though the beauty of the surroundings might have something to do with it…. Gosh, it’s gorgeous there.

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    • I find paying the price for adventure goes a long way. Bad freeze dried food, small tent, heavy pack. All worth it when that magic view falls into sight. When nature sings a song under a star filled sky. I’m hopeless. Hope you are well and your trail runs long.


  • What perfect words you had for this post! Yes, nothing like being able to appreciate beauty and recognize the need for us all to be able to do our part – even little as they may seem to help protect these gorgeous sites and environment. You’re so right that we can’t sometimes appreciate things like a glass of cold water until we can’t get it and how fortunate we are truly! Great post and I’m glad you gave a how to on the star photography as I wanted to know too 🙂 – thanks!

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