Zion National Park: Spectacular, A True Highlight!
WHEN DID WE GO: August 10-11, 2017
WHY DID WE GO: USA Road Trip - en route to Yellowstone from Bryce Canyon
HOW LONG WERE WE THERE: All damn day! I could've spent longer there!
WHERE DID WE STAY: Hurricane/St. George KOA
We got an early start as we left our Bryce Canyon KOA and drove west to Zion. It wasn't that long of a drive, but we knew that if we were going to be able to find parking, we'd have to get to the visitor center early (thanks random person who'd previously told us about the busy-ness that is Zion!). And thank goodness we did! Though we got stuck in some traffic and the parking lots were definitely full, we managed to find parking well before the lots filled up! But that didn't mean there weren't lines! Before the buses even started running for the day, there were easily a probably two hundred people in line. So we joined in (or queued up as the Europeans we were in line with would say!) and got ready for our adventure!
Angel's Landing. Hike details here. They say that Angel's Landing got it's name because it was "so high only angels could land on it." Sounds incredible, right? This was a non-negotiable for me. If we were going to Zion, we were doing this hike! It sounded absolutely incredible! Exhilirating and perhaps a little bit scary, but also totally incredible. It's only a 5 mile round trip hike, but to get to the final viewpoint, you have to traverse a narrow, razor-edge ridge with thousand foot drop offs on either side and only a chain bolted into the ridge to hold onto. Sound crazy? Well, it kind of is. Especially when you factor in that the people going up the trail and the people going down the trail are using the exact same chain. Check out the picture to right (click on them - they expand!) to get a feel for how crazy it truly was!
It was definitely an exercise in patience, pacing, and mental toughness. I don't have an extreme fear of heights, but I was definitely uncomfortable up on that ridge. Especially when I started running low on water and getting a little light headed right as we were getting to the top of the lookout point. Now, before you judge me, I wasn't stupid. I brought almost 3L of water with me. 2 in my Camelbak and 1 in an additional water bottle. But being someone unaccustomed to extreme heat and the fact that it was pushing 100 degrees F that day, I guzzled all my water right as we were getting to the top. Fortunately, we met some friends on the way up that were kind enough to give their extra water to us. The last 0.5 mile of this hike are easily the most difficult hiking I have ever done in my life. Most of the time we didn't use the change, but instead we were basically on our hands and feet, rock climbing and bouldering our way up to the viewpoint. It was exhausting and when we had to break to allow the people coming down to use the chain, trust me, it was an absolutely welcome break. About 50 yards from the top, we had to stop just so I could catch my hyperventilating breath and regain a normal, non-lightheaded state. But when we got to the top, it was beyond worth it! It definitely was a bit scary getting anywhere close to the edge, but we took our time, snapped some photos, and had a quick snack before heading down.
The people that we met along the way! I was super surprised by the amount of really nice people we met on this day! From the really friendly couple we met while waiting in the shuttle line, to the incredible pair of ladies that we met and walked the majority of the hike with! Kayla and Katie? Something like that! I feel so bad that I can't remember their names now! We even got their number to maybe meet up with them at the end of the day, but our texts weren't going through! :-( Anyways, they were awesome! A pair of friends just like us that were out for a day of adventure. We even met another couple that were adventuring as well and not only did they give us poor Michiganders some of their extra water (dude it was so hot!), but they gave us some suggestions on where to go later! Which brings me to...
The Narrows. Hike details here. If there was ANYTHING that I was super appreciative for on this hiking day, it was the Narrows! If I haven't made it abundantly clear yet, it was hot as hell on this day in Zion! To the point where I burned through 3L of water plus, JUST hiking Angel's Landing and my America the Beautiful park pass actually melted while sitting in my dash. Ya, it was crazy! So, after Angel's Landing, we were looking for something to do that was just as cool, but perhaps a little bit more relaxing!
Oh my god, the Narrows was just that! It was packed and that was less than ideal, but I didn't care. What the Narrows is, well, NPS said it best so I'm just going to quote them here:
"The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. This gorge, with walls a thousand feet tall and the river sometimes just twenty to thirty feet wide, is one of the most popular areas in Zion National Park. You can see The Narrows by hiking along the paved, wheelchair accessible Riverside Walk for one mile from the Temple of Sinawava. If you wish to see more, you will be walking in the Virgin River. This can involve wading upstream for just a few minutes or it can be an all day hike. "
Ya, it's just as refreshing as it sounds. After hiking on crazy inclines when it was 100 degrees out, all I wanted out of life was to swim and this was the next best thing--tromping through knee deep, crisp, cold water in a spectacular canyon. We didn't hike far enough (and were too exhausted) to get some of those amazing pictures of a long hiker in an empty canyon that you see on like pinterest, but oh well! That just means I'll have to pencil revisiting the Narrows to the next time I'm in Zion!
Note: Yes, there are flash floods in the Narrows. And yes, they do happen in the time of year we were there. The reason why they can potentialyl be deadly is because they have nothing to do with bad weather in the area you're hiking. It's all having to do with what the weather is like further up the canyon. If it's pouring upcanyon, the water has nowhere to go but run down the canyon toward the tourists. So just be cognizant of that and keep an eye on the upriver weather!
The bus system. I had no idea how Zion worked when I arrived here! I had no idea that you couldn't actually drive anywhere inside it, but I had heard their was a bus system. Win! I like not having to navigate in my car! So I'm all for that. And I loved the bus system in Zion. Yes, it's packed. There will be lines in the morning and lines when you're trying to leave at the end of the day. But, in my opinion, the NPS has this system down pat in Zion and I really had no complaints about it!
Our friendly KOA "dad". When we arrived at our KOA, we were beyond exhausted! It had been a LONG day of adventuring and we had both probably walked and sweated more that day then we had the entire road trip so far. So after we set up our tent, we were both looking forward to dinner, but had very little motivation to even boil the water we needed to make Top Ramen (yes, we ate a lot of Top Ramen on this trip). As we were making the ramen, this older gentleman swoops over to our campsite, "Have you ladies had dinner yet?" We gestured to our Top Ramen fixings and gave him a "yes, we're pitiful and poor and unmotivated" smile. He then proceeded to ask if we liked pork and baked potatoes and to tell us how they were at the end of their trip and had way too much food leftover and if we would like it. We thanked him, but said that we had no way to cook pork and potatoes. "Oh that's fine! It's on the grill right now! Should I just bring it over when it's done?" Well, needless to say that we were little dumbfounded! Here was this wonderful gentleman, with his family in the campsite behind him, offering to not only give us a great meal, but to COOK it for us! About 10 minutes later, he came back with paper plates, perhaps the biggest pork loin I had ever seen, two good size bake potatoes and a big bag of watermelon. We thanked him profusely, clinked our leftover Hoodoo Kolsch from our time at Bryce Canyon, and feasted on pork, potatoes, watermelon, and, yes, some Top Ramen as well!
Our time at Zion was amazing! It couldn't even be marred by the overweight shirtless man that kept walking straight through our campsite, a ripped off toenail, or the thunderstorm that decided to wake us up (we hadn't put the rainfly on the tent) in the middle of the night! It was magical! And I will be going back one day!