Zion National Park. Photo: Wolfgang Staudt

Recent notes from Roads Scholar Kyle Smith, fresh out of Zion.

When I first pulled into Springdale, Utah a dusty little tourist trap of a town just outside the southern gate of Zion National Park I have to admit I didn’t really get it.

Maybe it was the overly adorable names of the shops such as the “DeZign Gallery,” or it might have been the 110 degree weather scorching my skin rendered pallid by the inside life of a New Yorker, but I was immediately glad I would be spending two days in town, opposed to a lifetime.

The more people I met, the more I was confounded by how the cast of characters in town–which would seem a better fit for a John Irving novel than a small Utah town–managed to call Springdale home.

Wearing my Yankees hat, I made fast friends with a New Jersey-born, former Alaskan fisherman who now runs an art gallery in town and lives in a trailer behind it. He offered to close down the shop and take me on a hike the next day in the park, an offer I gladly accepted. Then there were my gracious hosts at the small family run B&B where I stayed.

Kyle, stoked in zion.

The lady of the house who ran the day to day operations (while her husband tended to other family businesses in town), treated me to a surreptitious glass of wine out on the back patio while her husband and kids were off about their days.

Having married into a Mormon family, which she acknowledged was a religion with never-endingly amusing contradictions, she is not really supposed to drink openly, though as she informed me, drinking in the closet is a Mormon tradition as prevalent as publicly refusing alcohol.

“You know why you should always take two Mormons with you when you fish?” she asked me with a smirk, “Because if you take one, he’ll drink all your beer.”

Cooking breakfast while his tiny Pomeranian dog dressed in a rhinestone studded pink scarf yapped about his heels, the chef of the house smiled as he told me that he “stuck out in this place like a 6’2 gay man in a small Mormon-owned town.”

I asked him why he would choose to live in a town like this. He asked me if I had been into the park yet.

As much as I love to shake up the established order of things even I, a white heterosexual male, know better than to flaunt my leftward leanings in hostile (conservative) territory. I asked him why he would choose to live in a town like this; he asked me if I had been into the park yet. I hadn’t.

Getting up bright and early before the afternoon sun could come in to bake me alive, I met up with my hiking guide in front of his closed-for-the-morning gallery to head into Zion for a hike. 3 hours and 5 miles later, standing on top of Angel’s Landing high above the Zion Canyon floor I got it.

Sure, it might be hard to find a good cup of coffee, and you might have to live under the watchful gaze of holier-than-thou polygamists, but damn, you don’t get views like this in Brooklyn.

Community Connection

This is the first dispatch from Kyle Smith, who is the first ever Roads Scholar. To learn more about the Roads Scholarship, please check out Digital Vagabonding. Big up.