Utah March 2017
Zion National Park seemed unreal. The beauty here was astonishing. We came into the park on the east side. As we pulled up to the ranger station, we asked if all the hikes were accessible this time of year. She informed us that they are, but one was closed due to a rock fall and the other was closed in the morning but should be open by the time we get there. The second trail she was talking about was Angels Landing. The reason it was closed was because they were doing a search and rescue, which we found out later was actually a body recovery. While this is incredibly sad, those weren’t my first feelings. This is a hike that is on James’s bucket list. So my fear started settling in right away.
We arrived to the park about mid day so we spent the rest of the day driving thru the park and figuring out what other hikes we wanted to do. We were excited to find out that we were there before the “season” started here. Of course we ended up hear on a Friday afternoon. Turned out that even though the season didn’t pick up until next week you had to ride the shuttle through the park on the weekend still. As we drove to the different trail heads we understood why. The parking lots were packed and people were parking in the street causing traffic problems.
There was a short but steep hike to Weeping Rock that we were able to find parking for. This was interesting because the water that falls off the rocks is the same amount year round. It felt amazing to stand where the water was falling. It was a welcoming cool mist. In the pictures it almost looks like white noise. Some of the rocks did look like they were weeping. The water seemed to seep right out of the rock. When we were done here we drove just outside of the park to find somewhere to stay and to get some groceries. After grocery shopping we hit the local brewery. That is where we overheard two locals disusing the body recovery.
Angels Landing is a 5 mile hike round trip. Although the last half mile is the part that will make you shit your pants. The first 2 miles of the hike are paved and the trail has a steady steep elevation gain of 1,488ft. A series of switch backs called Walter Wiggles involves 21 steep switchbacks. Scout Lookout is generally the turn around point for people who are unwilling to make the final push to the summit which is 5,790ft. The last half mile that scales the rock fin formation has an anchored chain along portions of the trail, which has 1,000ft drop offs on either side of you.
As we approach the first part of the trail that has chain, my stomach drops and I start to rethink my commitment to finishing this trail. As usual James is there to lend supporting words to talk me into it. In passing, some people mention how the rocks are a little slick because of the sand, great! So hear we go, all in, I’m doing this. We get to the first little peak and I discover that is not the end. Oh no, we have much more scary trail to concur. Looking ahead of us at the trail, I really start to panic inside, and outside. I tell James that he has to let me back out if I feel the need. Of course he dismisses my panic and we forge on.
We came across a guy who followed us up the rest of the way. He became dubbed Uncle Dave. He said he liked our pace and he could tell that James had no fear, so he was channeling his chi. I told him not to channel to much because I needed it! I was surprised at how well I scrambled up this trail. I basically had tunnel vision the whole way up. There were only a couple of spots that made my stomach turn. Once we got to the top we had a breathtaking view of Zion canyon. I was amazed at how many people did this hike. At the top there was a couple big groups of people. We found Uncle Dave and took pictures of him at the top because he did it by himself. He in turn took pictures for us as well, and didn’t miss the opportunity to throw in a selfie of himself. It was pretty funny. This inspired James! He now willingly takes pictures of people for them. One picture is a selfie and the other is of them. I wish we could see their faces when they find his mug on their phone.
After loitering up to for a while we thought we should head back down. The foot traffic was getting heavier and the thought of having to pass people on this retched trail gave me anxiety. Going down was so much fun. If you believe that last statement then you clearly haven’t read any of this. This was the most horrifying part of the hike, by far. I did a lot of sitting on my butt and scooting down on the really steep parts. There were so many people coming and going that we came upon several traffic jams on the way down.
Once we made it back to Scout Lookout I had a euphoric high. I can’t believe I just did that crazy hike voluntarily! James said he knew I could do it. We were both proud of me. Now it was time for a snack. We stashed our backpack near a bush so that we didn’t have to carry it up the difficult part of the trail. When James walked up to the backpack, he found a squirrel tail deep in it. That little sucker chewed a hole right through our pack and through the lid of a can of nuts we had. The squirrel was in heaven eating all of our nuts. Unfortunately James didn’t catch a photo of the criminal in action. We had a pretty good laugh about that squirrel. Neither on of us gave it a second thought when we left the pack there. Oops!
James made us a much deserved steak for lunch. After lunch I caught the shuttle back into the park and did one more hike to the Emerald Pools. I have to admit, I had bigger expectations of this hike. Maybe it was the time of year, but it didn’t look any kind of green. I imagine when it is warm the moss grows better and gives it an emerald color. James hung out at the van with Xander while I did this hike. On my way back to the shuttle I passed 3 women who were hiking with their purses. This made me chuckle. Seems like a huge pain to have to carry your purse on a hike but to each their own.
Zion will always have a special place in my soul. Doing a hike like Angels Landing and seeing the canyon from that height is something you never forget. Angels Landing is the most epic hike we have ever done. It is hard to put into words how it makes you feel. Zion Canyon is a very popular and busy place, and for very good reason. One day we will make it back to do The Narrows hike. It was the wrong time of year for us. You need dry suits this time of year because the whole hike is in water that is ankle-knee deep. It is hard to believe a place like this exists.