Friday, June 19, 2009

Zion NP

Zion is an amazing place. I will leave out the boring details. Suffice it to say Utah has a lot of open space and dramatic scenery. THe entrance into Zion was beautiful. Towering cliffs eroded with time, similar to what you would expect at the Grand Canyon I assume. There are some residential towns around and outside Zion, which is interesting, since it is pretty remote. Nice climate and very dry (though of course the rain found me again on two days). It was a refreshing cool down anyway. The canyon walls and monuments are beautiful and awe inspiring. Camp is situated right inside the canyon, with great views and shelter, though a breeze blows pretty constantly. On my last day I decided to attempt the Angel's Landing hike. It is world famous, strenuous and steep with a climb of 1400 vertical feet in 2.5 miles, with views of the entire canyon valley. There is one section of 21 short steep switchbacks to get up to scouts lookout. It was tiring to get there along, but there is still another trecherous half mile climb to the summit, which sits alone in the middle of the valley floor with 1200 foot drops to the floor. At one point about 3 feet wide you have 900 and 1200 drops on each side, with a chain to hold on to. This is where most people turn back.

The view ahead is intimidating and fearful to say the least. As I said to some fellow hikers (or should I say climbers?), I don't have a fear of heights, but I do have a fear of falling. I got over to the thin crescent shaped monolith and seriously considered turning back myself, but the hike up was work and I made a good pace and thought this was a once in a lifetime experience and decided to push on and take the risk. It looked like it would be harder coming down actually. Fine powdery dust on sandstone and limestone rocks, small footholds and lots of chains to hold on to. I held on to them with dear life and sweaty hands going all the way up. All the while asking myself, "am I crazy for doing this?". It was a slow climb, with people coming down, people changing their minds and unsure of themselves. Even some small kids made the trek, as well as older people. Stopping to wait for people to pass was a good excuse to catch your breath or take a drink of water. It was in the 90s and sunny with a stiff breeze all day. I think it was best to go early or late for this hike to avoide the crowds. The views were spectacular and of course, once you are up there, you can say it was worth it and highly recommend it to those without a fear of heights. On every edge you can stare down at the valley floor and river with dizzying stares. I took a well deserved rest, had a snack and shot some pictures and talked with some others I met on the way up. The hike down was surprisingly easy comparitively and I made the entire trip in about 3.5 hrs. My legs got wobbly and I am sore today from alot of activity. Of course, I forgot my walking sticks I got for xmas, which would have made the walk down easier on the lower half. I took the shuttle back to my car and headed on to Bryce Canyon. The first leg of the trip took me through a pitch black mile long tunnel, with occassional windows. It was hard to see without brights on after coming from the bright sunlight. The east side of Zion was just as spectactular, but different types of formations. I wish I had budgeted time for a hike on that side, but I had my mind made up already.

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