What I wanted to be a mini-vacation filled with relaxation and sporadic hiking at our temporary home on the Virgin River turned into a full-out adventure. As we shared a bottle of wine and watched the sun set behind the picturesque red rock in our backyard we decided to rent dry suits for an early morning excursion through Zion Canyon.
So much for relaxation and sleep…
We spent the following eight hours hiking through the Narrows at Zion Park, most of which took place in waist-deep river water. Navigating through the murky waters was especially tough because we couldn’t see the bowling ball sized rocks at the bottom. Never have I ever loved a walking stick more. We ventured up to Wall Street, where the giant Red Navajo sandstone walls narrow and the true canyon trek begins. It was an incredibly peaceful experience, even more so because we didn’t see another soul for almost five hours.
As if a 10-mile river hike wasn’t enough, we climbed up the mountainside of Angel’s Landing the following morning. Hours before I wake on a typical work day, we were eating breakfast at Wildcat Willies Ranch Grille & Saloon. The western style restaurant buzzed with happy people surrounded by good food. It was exactly what I was looking for in the small town minutes from the National Park. The restaurant offers large portions of America’s favorite comfort foods – Bumbleberry pancakes for breakfast, beef bacon burgers for lunch, and buffalo meatloaf with mashed potatoes for dinner.
I went for the picky eater breakfast staple – white toast and chocolate milk. As a toast aficionado, I created a formula for the perfect toast-to-butter ratio and I know when restaurant toasters are set to three minutes rather than the four to five that are necessary to toast bread. Trust me, there is a difference between toasted bread and warmed bread; receiving warm bread when I ask for toast is one of my pet peeves as a picky eater. Wildcat Willie’s toaster was definitely set in the five-minute range. For a picky eater, it’s a small gesture that goes a long way.
The hike to Angel’s Landing was unlike anything I had done before. Once the first two miles of the uphill paved walkway ends, the hike begins. In the distance sat a giant mountain equipped only with a chain rope to guide hikers to the top. It was more of a rock climb of sorts than a traditional hike through a mountain. The sights of the National Park from above were incredible – a true bird’s-eye view – and the perfect blue skies made the experience that much better.
So, what does happen when a picky eater hikes to the top of a mountain after eating nothing but white toast and chocolate milk? She goes back for more.
When toast and chocolate milk from Wildcat Willie’s sustained a picky eater through a four-hour mountain hike, you know it’s a special place. So, we ate at Wildcat Willie’s for lunch before making the journey back to Las Vegas. It was just as good the second time around, if not better. Mitch ordered the Turkey Avocado Sandwich with a mound of sweet potato fries and I enjoyed the Pulled Pork Sandwich (without the crispy onions) and plain fries. The BBQ sauce had the perfect sweet and spice combination for my picky taste buds and the shredded pork was slow cooked to perfection.
Not only did we find a lunch discount in the local newspaper but our server happily accepted it – an unusual reaction for a small vacation town. My experience with restaurant staff in tourist destinations is hit or miss. Sometimes, the servers are unfriendly and rude. They realize that most of the diners are not repeat customers and choose to socialize with coworkers instead of tending their tables. Other times, restaurants are like Wildcat Willie’s. The staff was happy and helpful rather than grumpy and gloomy. They shared their quaint town and National Park with excitement and joy. They paid attention to us and were genuinely interested in our experience. If you find yourself in Zion (which I hope you do after reading this post!), don’t miss a meal at Wildcat Willie’s.
Restaurant: Wildcat Willie’s Ranch Grille & Saloon / 897 Zion Park Boulevard / Springdale, UT 84767 / 435-772-0115
Picky Eater Approval: 5/5