Sunday, May 22, 2011

Zion National Park

3 feet cost us an hour...

Bumper to bumper Gigantor and the Whale measures 53 feet long. (They're 8 feet wide and 12 1/2 feet tall in case you were wondering.) In order to pass through the tunnel in the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway (the shortest route to Zion National Park from Kanab, where we were staying) we had to be no more than 50 feet long. So...we had to drive an extra hour all of the way around to enter the park from the west side. Oh well. It gave us a chance to drive through the polygamist stronghold of Colorado City, which I've been reading about in Jon Krakauer's excellent but disturbing book "Under the Banner of Heaven". A small, not very affluent "city" with enormous, but modest, homes, presumably to house equally enormous families.

We had packed up the night before and then left Kanab early (for us), at 7AM, aiming to arrive at Zion by 9:00. With no reservations to the booked-solid Watchman Campground, we had to vie for a site at the 1st-come-1st-served South Campground. We don't love the process, feeling a bit like vultures as we circle the sites, scoping out who looks like they're leaving, and looking at everyone's site tag to see what date they depart. Also, the park roads were narrow, curvy, and tree lined, so navigating the bulk of the whale through there was not at all pleasant. Anyway, we snagged a very good site and got settled in by 10:00, which is just about the time we usually are leaving any given camp.

It was a cold and rainy day, so, despite having all kinds of time on our arrival day, we didn't get much out of it. Also, this is a no-hookups campground, so use of electronics was very much limited. But the next day dawned bright and clear, and I struck out early to do the exciting Angel's Landing trail.

The pointy tip of the massive red bit of rock is Angel's Landing:

The trail starts out innocently enough, winding along the Virgin River, wide and level. And then, the switchbacks commence:

Up and up it goes until, at the saddle of the mountain, the trails follows a knife-edge ridge up and out to Angel's Landing. Chains are fastened to the rock to provide handholds in particularly dangerous areas.

It's steep, physically demanding, and not for the faint-of-heart. I loved it! The reward is 360 degree views of the canyon, and 1400 feet straight down to the canyon floor. Peregrine Falcons and California Condors soar hundreds of feet below. It's a great place to be!

Jutting out from Angel's Landing is a buttress of stone, circled by the Virgin River, the park road, and finally the sandstone mountains:

Got Vertigo?

The hike back down was quick but punishing to the legs. For the next two days my quads were very sore. One of my favorite hikes of all time.

Nancy and I rode the shuttle out to the end of the road (no cars allowed during summer months), then hiked to the Narrows, where the Virgin River occupies all of the gap between the towering canyon walls. When the river is somewhat more subdued it is used as a hiking trail. The Narrows trail, in summer, is a wading adventure deep into the canyon, which sounds like fun. Next time!

The next day, Saturday, the park got quite crowded. We joined the throngs to walk the Emerald Pools trail, where year round springs spit water out of the canyon walls feeding a stacked series of pools. Here is the view of one of the waterfalls:

We found a less-travelled path back, cut into the slope 150 feet above the river. Here we found lots of flowering shrubs and cacti, and this scaly fellow:

We finished up our stay by riding our bicycles into the town of Springdale, just outside of the park gates. We had a nice meal at the Bit and Spur, sipping fresh sangria and munching on chips, guacamole, fish tacos and enchiladas. Good stuff!

1 comment:

  1. Angel's Landing was so much fun wasn't it? To me, coming down the chains section was even better than going up since you were forced to "enjoy" the views down to the bottom.

    Love the picture of you on the edge!