noun: a fertile spot in a desert where water is found.
April 23, 2018 – Capitol Reef & Zion
My eyes fluttered open, the light was still dim, I reached for my phone. 6:00 AM. We could still catch the sunrise on our last morning in Capitol Reef. I went over to Anton, who was dead asleep, and asked if he would like to see the sunrise. He immediately sat up and started getting ready. We got in the car and drove off to an overlook across the street from Chimney Rock. The sunrise was breathtaking as usual. I felt sad to leave Capitol Reef today, there was still so much I wanted to see there. My sadness was overshadowed by the excitement I felt for Zion National Park, our next destination. You know how people keep a mental bucket list? I have so many bucket list items that I have an actual journal I keep them in. There are exactly 68 items and counting, Zion is number four on the list. This was kind of a big deal for me.
The long drive passed through desert, mountains, pastures…you name it. The diverse Utah landscape was constantly changing from one minute to the next. I didn’t know what to expect of course, and for some reason I assumed the drive would be like mid-western corn fields the whole way. I love how wrong I was, there was always something interesting to look at.
I could tell when we were getting close to Zion, the rock formations started to rise higher, this time they were stony desert mountains instead of mesas. I researched Zion a lot before we left on our trip. I felt as though I had a good handle on the things we had to do out there. The road twisted and turned through narrow passes and finally down into a valley where the main part of the park was. Zion was everything I imagined it would be and more. Lush and arid all at once.
We rented a crash pad for bouldering and did a little research on some perspective activities. Zion wasn’t nearly as remote. We were a 2 minute drive from Springdale which had shops, restaurants, and one of the most expensive grocery store I have ever stepped foot in. Whole Foods has nothing on this store. The price of staying in a touristy area.
For tonight’s sunset hike we took the popular 2.3 mile Watchman trail located adjacent to our campground. There were so many switchbacks that the hike became monotonous. Not much of a sunset, but the view was incredible. The view looked out over the valley which made up the southern part of the park and Springdale. We heard the canyon frogs, a lovely little bird call, and all other sounds of the evening. The sounds reverberating off the cliffs soothed me as the cool night winds blew in.
April 24, 2018 – Zion
We ignored our 5:30am alarm. I thought I set my alarm to snooze, but I didn’t. Finally at 6:15am I yawned, realized what time it was, then in a panic Anton and I scurried out of the tent. I prepared breakfast while he broke down camp. The only super annoying thing about this NPS campground is that it is booked solid and we had to move sites every single day. Today would be our Angel’s Landing hike, quite possibly one of the most famous hikes in this part of the country. If we didn’t get up there early it would be crowded. Instead of waiting around to set up our new camp we would have to park our car in the visitor’s lot and wait till later to check in again. I like to take my time while eating, but this morning I gobbled down my food knowing how imperative it was that we catch one of the first few buses.
We managed to get to the second bus and booked it up the trail. At this point Anton was power walking up the many switchbacks, while I struggled to keep up. I’m not the slowest person in the world, I prefer a moderate pace. Pacing oneself while hiking is the most important thing you can do. Find where you are comfortable, and stick with it regardless of how steep or flat the trail is. Taking a moment to stretch is always helpful as well. My back and legs often get quite stiff so find stretches which can work for loosening those sore muscles and joints.
We went up and up and up, until we came to a junction. I stared in awe at what lay before us. I think this video speaks for itself. I certainly don’t need talk about it, I was a little nervous…
There were chains I held onto for dear life. My knees shook uncontrollably as I tried to calm my breath. When I am hiking with others and they are frightened I always tell them to look at the next few steps, not the whole thing. Even my next few steps were terrifying so following my own advice seemed impossible. The only thing which kept me calm was the fact that many people around seemed far less experienced and they were just fine. Eventually I found my composure. Then we reached the worst part. It was a ridge with chains on both sides and sheer drop offs on either side. Despite the amount of people on this trail, the world went silent for a moment. I couldn’t hear anything except for the wind and my heart pounding in my ears. One false move and I was dead. Despite there being only a quarter mile left it felt like it took us hours to get to the top. In reality it was twenty minutes. The view from the top was worth every ounce of terror I felt. I can see why so many tourists flocked to Angel’s Landing.
The way down was much harder than the way up as usual. At one point my foot slipped. The guy right behind me caught my arm and helped me regain my balance. Other than that I got off the scary part of the trail as quickly as humanly possible. We walked over to the banks of the Virgin River where we soaked our tired feet in the frigid waters, ate lunch, and planned our next hike. We took the bus to Zion Lodge, got ice cream, and did the easy Emerald Pools trail. There were three pools, each less populated than the last.
After our leisure hike to the Emerald Pools we went to The Globe, a suitably named boulder right at the park entrance across from our campground. The area was teeming with snakes so I was a bit freaked out. The sheer size of the boulder also terrified me. We didn’t stay for long at this one, I didn’t even try. I promised myself that I would try bouldering the next day.
The day concluded with a lovely swim to clean up since showers were pricey and difficult to come by. I really should call it a wade, the water was freezing! We had to tidy up a little as we were going out for dinner for the first time on the trip. After an indecisive search and a drive through the surrounding communities we ended up back in Springdale at a great southwestern restaurant. Prickly pear margaritas, enchiladas, and tacos? Yes please.
April 25, 2018 – Zion
We slept in a little, then as we were breaking down camp the campsite across from us cleared out. That site had a lovely little practice boulder to play on. Anton coached me as I made my way up. He did an excellent job of making me feel secure and confident. I felt ready to try something more challenging now.
We moved to our new site, then went into Springdale to rent water boots, neoprene socks, and dry pants. Why you may ask? To stay warm and dry while hiking through The Narrows of course! I looked forward to this more than any other part of the trip. I was sweating profusely on the one mile walk to where the canyon began. The socks were a heavy, warm material and under the dry pants I wore leggings to stay toasty since the water temperature was 46 degrees. I could talk all day about how incredible it was, and how much fun we had. This cool video by Anton does all the talking for me.
In the evening I lay in the hammock by an enormous fire, which was created by me without lighter fluid (Anton enjoys using lighter fluid). Anton took pictures of the stars above us, they were brighter than I have ever seen them.
Trail Tips: Zion has lots of wildlife including mountain Lions, rattlesnakes, enormous venomous spiders, and scorpions. It’s best to prepare yourself with that knowledge. Keeping the tent closed and checking your shoes before putting them on is a good idea.