Although the beauty of Zion’s main canyon is compelling, the Spring Break crowds were a little discouraging, so we drove into the narrow 1930s era tunnel through a mountain to explore the very different east side of the park. Checkerboard Mesa is one of the features on this side, as well as slickrock sandstone mountains instead of the vertical cliffs found in the main canyon.We found the east side to be much less crowded, and although there are few formal hiking trails there is plenty of territory to explore off the beaten path. Our favorite exploration scrambled down into a wash with steep walls shaped by raging water. With clear skies and weeks without rain in the forecast we felt safe down there, finding interesting rocks and shapes in the sandstone that showed the effects of wind and water. Rocks look like waves or ripples on a beach!We had a steep scramble to get out of the wash and back up to the road, but we had the entire area all to ourselves and we loved having some quiet time to enjoy the landscape.After a brief snowball fight near Checkerboard Mesa, we spotted a hoodoo (rock spire) up on a hillside, so we found a place to park and headed up the slickrock to check it out.We couldn’t figure out what caused the black on top of the hoodoo, but there were other chunks of the black rock nearby that really popped against the red and yellow sandstone.A few other spots caught our eyes and we had a ball wandering around the odd landscape, wondering at the forces of nature that created this amazing place in the high desert. But there was one final treat – desert bighorn sheep! Just as we were driving back towards the tunnel, we spotted a small herd of sheep on the mountainside that stayed around long enough for me to change lenses and get to a good vantage point.There were several lambs……and they wagged their tails like crazy when they could get their mother to pause long enough for them to nurse.Wonderful! It was the perfect way to wrap up our first visit back to Zion in 25 years.