My very first time in Utah. Done with Grand Canyon and Yosemite in the past, but not Zion National Park. It’s huge! And so so many hiking trails. A few months back, I heard a lone hiker slipped and fell to his death. Somewhere near or off Angels’ Landing. Amateurs that we are, we only managed the Riverside Walk, took the park shuttle, got off next to the final station and walked the last few kilometers towards the Visitors’ Center. We were hoping to view the sunset as we walked back but no luck. It was growing too cold for that sunset view.

Zion National Park was teeming with autumn foliage. Fall colors always get me excited, especially when I sense the dry, fallen leaves crunch under my soles. Nothing beats Mother Nature, really. The rainbow, autumn hues, spring blooms, summer fruits freshly-picked off trees, the soft pillow-like snow melting under your boots. Nature is unbeatable in its majestic beauty. Petrodollars may build all the humongous palaces, resorts and malls, war loot may have built many such religious temples and comprised a collection housed in many museos, but priceless is the beauty of Nature unfolding before one’s eyes. A beauty that readily transforms with every change of Season.

The Riverside hiking trail was very reasonable. One follows the river’s path meandering through the mountains right until the end, perhaps take off one’s boots to wade in the river water, then head back to catch the park shuttle. The Virgin River Walk is a good choice for amateur hikers. But that is not to say it is not exciting enough.

In autumn, the trees in autumn hues provide such a breathtaking backdrop that one can’t hike without stopping to take in all the beauty. The sound of a bubbling stream and the “weeping” side of the red cliffs — especially after a rain — is music to the ears of every hiker. I’ve seen young parents hiking with their young children. You’d delight in the energy, enthusiasm and sense of fun of these young fellas.

As we headed back to the Visitors Center, a crowd massed around or under the bridges spanning across the Virgin River. Many had their tripods set up, waiting for sunset. We struck a conversation with this nice couple with impressive cameras and zoom lens — obviously not first-timers like us. Yet we sense the same degree of enthusiasm in them. Truly, Nature “repeats” its cycles — sunrise & sunset, day & night, spring, summer, autumn and winter — yet, no one can accurately predict how the fading light touches the mountain peaks, or how the sunlight stirs the reflections on the river waters. Each photograph is unique. The expectations are there, but the realities sometimes pull such pleasant surprises. Who’s to say how each photo would come out?