Guide Service In Zion Mountain by Bonnie and Bill Neely

Millions of visitors each year enjoy the places of wonder that the National Parks and Monuments of the United States offer, but, sadly, only a small number of these visitors spend more than a few hours or hike more than the half mile trail near the Visitor Centers. Fortunately, these centers are situated in carefully chosen locations for excellent views and an easy trail accessible to everyone, wheelchairs and strollers included. However, many visitors say they don’t stay because they don’t know what to do in nature and because of living in the city they don’t have the right equipment and are frightened. In the town of Springdale, UT, located at the West Entrance to Zion National Park, we were fortunate to find Zion Rock and Mountain Guides and, for the first time, had a guide for hiking.
We had enjoyed ranger-led pathways of discovery within many Naitonal Parks and had done extensive hiking on our own in our years of RVing and staying in National Parks and Monuments throughout the U.S. and Canada. We were not aware of the benefits of guide service in a wild place in nature and how much more of a place an experienced and competent guide could open for us. Our experience with Jeremy was the best we could ever hope for!
When you become a senior citizen and your doctor and lawyer and policemen are younger than you are, it makes you feel a bit distrusting. However, when your canyoneering guide is younger than your youngest child, at first, you don’t know whether to be apprehensive or grateful! But 28 year old Jeremy Draper is perfect for his job, and very quickly we knew we were very lucky to have him as our guide. He grew up the son of a military man of the 82nd Airborne, who had all the skills of wilderness survival and taught them to his son at an early age.
Jeremy couldn’t remember when he was NOT outdoors enjoying nature and learning. He always knew he wanted to work in the out-of-doors and lead others to appreciate the Creator’s handiwork as much as he does. Instead of college, he chose to take courses to certify himself in all the ways necessary to be the best guide he could be. Over several years he became certified in C.P.R., Life Guarding, Search and Rescue, Wilderness Survival, First Aid, First Response, Rock Climbing, Mountaineering, and other courses to save people’s lives and to survive in difficult circumstances. He maintains a lifestyle which enhances perfect health and fitness and finds his inner peace in the natural world, inspired by deep meditation in the wonder of nature.
Finding ourselves so fortunate to have to have found such a guide, we asked what questions people should ask before hiring a guide. Insurance companies have strict rules for shops who advertise Guide Service, so ask if they are certified guides. You should be asked to fill out a a release form informing you of the risks involved and a medical form which your guide should read before taking you out. Be honest in your health report because that helps him keep you safe. All the guides at Zion Rock and Mountain Guides are highly qualified and experienced, and the shop has been in business here for years. The equipment you can rent or purchase here is the best and can be trusted to last, for whatever sport you choose. They have it all: mountain biking, skiing, snow shoeing, hiking, rock climbing, back packing, camping, canyoneering, and much more. And each piece of rental equipment is carefully inspected after each use, so it is in safe condition you can trust. Many visitors to Zion Park want to hike up The Narrows at the North end of the park which involves hiking in the river and requires the right shoes and shoes and pole to make the venture safe and enjoyable. Zion Rock and Mountain Guides has the right equipment for rent for those wishing to experience a hike into The Narrows or Zion National Park.
Jeremy took us for one of the most thrilling and memorable outdoor experiences of our lives. We are in our early 60’s and he assessed our physical abilities, experience, and expectations before deciding where to take us for the Canyoneering for which the shop is well known. We told him we wanted to repel but not rock climb and we wanted to see some narrow canyons. He drove us on unpaved back roads through Bureau of Land Management land, for which the shop has a license to use, and led us on a wondrous hike up a little-known trail through beautiful scenery. We ascended about 1,200 feet in about two and a half miles. He made us feel good about setting our own pace and never hurried us nor made us feel we were old or slow. In fact, he said he preferred the way we stopped to look around and appreciate the natural beauty around us and- take photos, which were really breath-catching-up, heart resting stops in our minds!
Jeremy makes sure his clients start at the early morning cool time for summer hikes so they are out before the temperatures rise too high. He also makes certain people stay hydrated. He told us how much water to bring and made sure we drank it throughout the day, as well as reminding us to breathe deeply and snack when we needed to. We all made sure we had a big, healthy breakfast and drank lots of water before beginning the hike. Although we carried our own “stuff” and water in very comfortable back packs he provided, he offered to carry extras for us if we needed the help.
Strong and fit, Jeremy had an amazing amount of equipment in his pack, to cover any emergency and hundreds of feet of heavy rope and clamps necessary for safe repels. But he only appeared to be toting the weight of a feather pillow! He had equipped us with our safety harnesses and helmets at the shop before we left, and we each carried our own. Jeremy’s personality made the trip fun as he told interesting stories and explained how he had learned many things growing up in Wyoming and working in this area for the past ten years. He seems to be a walking Nature Encyclopedia and told us many facts about the plants and birds and rocks around us, making our hike even more enjoyable.
When we reached the top of his carefully-chosen moderate trail, with only a few difficult moments and extremely steep places, we couldn’t believe we had reached the top of the 100 foot high narrow canyon waterfall we had photographed from below. We had been afraid to ask if that was where we were going because it had looked so impossible from below. The scenery in this narrow box canyon was so beautiful from above and below that we wanted to just look and take pictures. We had plenty of time to do this because when we were safely at the top, Jeremy went back down the trail to get the ropes secured above and below, an extra job for him since we had not wanted to land in the water, as many of the repellers do. While he was getting our ropes ready, we were able to watch another group of four with a different guide from the Zion Rock and Mountain Guides shop repell into the cold, cold pool 100 feet below us. They each squealed with delight at the cold shock of the first splash, which we were happy to avoid.
It was such a thrill to be new at Social Security and new at Canyoneering and Repelling on Ropes on Rocks in the same year!!! Jeremy assured himself and us that we were very safely anchored with harnesses, safety belt, and secure ropes. When I first saw him back off the ledge to the seemingly unseen depths below, I didn’t think I could do it. After Jeremy demonstrated and tested everything and climbed back up the mountain again, he asked if we were ready. Bill went first, and I couldn’t watch. I think I held my breath for his whole descent, but he loved it and they both assured me I was ready.
I fearfully stepped near the edge, belted securely by about a ten-foot strap and safety anchor to the top of the mountain, and at some point in my trepedation, Jeremy must have unhooked that so I could make the descent. I could not look down, but just looked up at Jeremy who belayed me from above while Bill belayed me from below, and I backed off the mountain, just simply walking backwards down the steep rock precipice….actually a piece of cake! With Jeremy’s encouragement at every step I took, I simply looked straight ahead at my feet against the rock wall and walked backwards, yearning to stop the breaks and just fly down like a zip line, but Jeremy had said that was not what he thought would be the safest way to descend.
So slowly I made my way down until my feet could touch the wall no more and then the line passed over the water with me safely dry, well above it. And then I was down, touching into the sandy shore with Bill waiting to help me unclip. It was one of the greatest thrills of accomplishment I have ever felt! And it was SO MUCH FUN!! Jeremy descended and magically released the ropes and we were on our way again walking to our second repell point, this one only 26 feet. We were not frightened on the second repel, only disappointed that it was over so fast. At that point we felt we could do ANYTHING and wished for more and more drops, but it was time for our hike out. We passed through the cool creek bed, narrow canyon walls, down the rock strewn, sandy path, into the opening where locals were in swimming in the deeper part of the little river. The red and white cliffs towered above us, and it was one of our unforgettable experiences of life! Thanks to Jeremy!!!
We stopped for a tasty homemade lunch at the Merry Wives Cafe in Hilldale, Utah, the town of which could be the genesis of the HBO series Big Love. When we returned to Zion Rock and Mountain Guides shop we were plenty tired and hot but quite exhilerated by our first Canyoneering experience. If you are physically able, be SURE to make this part of your Zion Canyon trip. It is fun for every member of your family, and the guides specialize in teaching kids and teens to safely enjoy this and other sports also.