Friday, March 8, 2013

Epic Road Trip: Days 14,15,16 - Zion National Park

Oscar and I were both raised in Utah, and both of us have visited/driven through southern Utah many times with our families, but neither of us had ever spent much if any time in the southern Utah national parks. I vaguely remember taking a family picture with my aunt Kathy and uncle Richards' families in Bryce Canyon, but I'd never been to Zion National Park or Arches National Park. We decided we absolutely had to remedy that on this trip. We came in to Zion through the east entrance and took a short hike to the Zion Canyon lookout (above) before heading in to our campground. It was nifty to see this pretty lookout and then drive those same winding roads afterwards.
On the Zion-Mount Carmel Hwy running from the visitors' center to the East entrance, you also pass the pretty Checkerboard Mesa (left) and several other pulloffs. 
 Then when you travel down the winding roads viewed from the overlook, you see the great arch along the drive. This one's not easy to pull off for. Fortunately we didn't have anyone behind us, and I was able to get a picture from our car while Oscar slowed down as we approached.

 We drove to our campground in Springdale, UT where we were booked for 3 nights. The main campground in the park didn't have 3 full days together, so we booked at the Zion Canyon campground just outside of the park. There's a Springdale shuttle to take you into the park, so the extra distance isn't a problem. Plus it put us closer to church and to the nearby restaurants. The only detriments were the limited 6 minute showers (you're given shower coins that only last that long), and the intense heat. We'd been spoiled by having multiple days at a home or hotel by this point in our trip, so we'd lost our zeal for saving money by camping. Sleeping was incredibly difficult and uncomfortable because it was still in the high 80's/low 90's by the time we'd go to bed. We also felt that we really didn't need as much time in the park as we'd planned for. You can only hike and explore the park so much per day, particularly in this kind of heat, and we wished we'd booked a cheap hotel so we could have slept and enjoyed our leisure time better. We found ourselves getting bored for several hours after we were done with our daily outdoor activities, and hanging out in our car/tent was the last thing we wanted to do at the end of an exhausting day (we ran into a similar issue in Yellowstone, though there we struggled to sleep due to the cold temperatures and sinking air mattress. But at least there was a lodge to hang out in where we could be comfortable).

The next day we went to church in Springdale. There I saw the son of my mom's good friend whom I've known since I was 4 years old but hadn't seen in over 10 years. What a small world! He and his wife's family were also on vacation and were staying in the Watchman campground within the park.

After church we hiked the famous Angel's Landing trail where we saw this nifty grotto on the right. This is a difficult hike due to the many steep switch backs on the trail. Below is a view of the first set of large switchbacks.The trail levels off for awhile before the short, super steep ones (left) begin.

I noticed that people coming down the trail kept smiling at me during this hike, which made me realize that people often smile at me while I'm working out or hiking. I always thought they were just being nice and encouraging me to keep moving, which may still be part of the reason. But I figured out then that I unconsciously half smile whenever I'm seriously exerting myself, so people are probably just smiling back at me :)

 After by far the hardest part of the hike is over, you arrive at Scout's Lookout. Most people stop here since going out to Angels Landing requires the help of chains and has been fatal to many people. I personally feel this killer hike is not worth its difficulty if you don't go out to the gorgeous landing. The chains are very firm, well placed, and easy to grip. They're not hanging off the edge either. They're just there to help you keep your balance as the trail becomes narrower. It wasn't nearly as dangerous as I was expecting after hearing about how many people have died on the trail. You're unlikely to come to any harm assuming you're not showing off or doing anything stupid. I felt the same way about the Mist trail in Yosemite. As long as you're cautious and you turn back if there's the slightest sign of flash flood weather, there's nothing to worry about.

Beautiful Angel's Landing!
Now this is what makes the killer hike worth every step! There were gorgeous views from all angles, and thanks to the chains, more than just angels can land here.

On the way back down the trail, we met up with a woman and her daughter whom we'd met at our KOA in Seligman, AZ. They'd asked us if we knew anything about Supai, so of course, we told them all about the days we'd just spent there. They didn't have a reservation, and we told them as awesome as it is to see, it would be awful to hike all the way in just to be turned away. They ended up deciding to come to Zion National Park instead, having no idea that that's where we were headed next, and I recognized them going up the trail as we were coming down.

After Angel's Landing, we took a shorter hike up to the lower Emerald Pools. I hear the upper ones are prettier, but there was some hiking maintenance occurring, which prevented us from being able to do it all as a loop trail. Since they're fairly dry at this time of year, we opted just to take the easier trail. We also saw a mamma and baby deer on our way back.

On our final day in Zion, we hiked, waded, and swam up the Zion Narrows. The full narrows are 16 miles if you hike down them, but you have to arrange for a ride up, backpack for a night there, and then come down the narrows in the water with all your gear. We opted instead for hiking up the narrows and being able to turn around whenever we wanted to. Going up the trail requires wading and even swimming at times. Being the water lover that I am, I loved that! We found this small waterfall along our hike. It paled in comparison to the lovely Supai waterfalls we'd just seen.

You have to be prepared with shoes to hike and swim in since there are also sections where you get out of the water and hike on the rocks.

After our dip in the water, we hiked the short trail out to Weeping Rock.
On our shuttle ride back we stopped off at the Court of the patriarchs. Unfortunately it was difficult to get a good picture due to the position of the sun when we got there. It was one of those views you have to enjoy more with your eyes than with your camera.

And to finish off our Zion experience, we took the drive up to Kolob Canyons that evening. Lovely!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Stacy! I haven't looked at your blog in a while...these are amazing hikes! And stunning pictures! Good for you guys!