After a few exhilarating days with Elissa at the Grand Canyon we traveled north to Zion National Park. Zion is one of those places that got under my skin, and has remained there, since the moment I drove into the canyon. Words cannot begin to describe the magic of this place. The magnitude of the rock formations, and the winding river that runs through the canyon are breathtaking. And it’s a hiker’s nirvana!
I fell hopelessly in love with Zion during my first visit last fall. In less than a week I had more tales and images than I could share in one post! Read why… Be Still My Heart… Love Zion! (part 1) and Be Still My Heart… Love Zion! (part 2)
By the time we settled into our campsite it was too late to set out on more than a short hike, but I could not resist taking Elissa for a drive up Zion Canyon. Her reaction was much like mine the first time I saw it… one big jaw-dropping “Woooooooow!” We stopped several times to step out and enjoy the beauty. The rock formations reach so high they are hard to view from the confines of a car without putting serious strain on your neck!
From Zion Canyon we drove up the scenic switchback on Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and through the mile long tunnel. It is hard not to notice the difference in color and texture of the landscape on the other side. (Examples in part 2 above)
We arrived back in the campground in time to watch the moon pop up over the cliffside above us. After a long day on the road we opted for dinner on the town. The town being Springdale, just outside of the park entrance, and the restaurant of choice was Wildcat Willies Grill. I found Wildcat Willies last fall when looking for a place with good WiFi, and enjoyed the food and casual atmosphere enough to return for work and nourishment a few times. Other than quickly scrolling my email I had no reason to work that night. Not when I had my beautiful, animated daughter sitting right across the table from me!
Before arriving at Zion I described a few hikes for Elissa to consider. We had only one full day in the park, so we were limited. There were several choices to consider, but other than a few short hikes there were only two I was personally familiar with;
Angels Landing… a breathtaking 5.4 mile round trip hike with an elevation gain of 1488. Most of it follows along steep ridges with ever changing views of the canyon below. (part 2 post above) I should note that when I did this hike last fall I did not hike the last 1/2 mile which is by far the most treacherous part of the trail. It is narrow and rocky with sheer drops to the canyon floor on one or both sides of you all the way out and back. Since I was hiking alone, and had been told by another hiker that some of the safety chain was broken, I thought better of it and continued out the West Rim Trail instead.
The Subway… a strenuous 9-mile round trip hike down a steep canyon, and up a river to a slot canyon. This is a permit-only hike with combined elevation gains of 1000′. Once in the canyon the hike is literally IN the river and scrambling over boulders all the way to the uniquely shaped slot canyon the trail is named for. (part 1 post above)
Another hike I’m dying to do is The Narrows… a 9.4 mile round trip hike up a narrow gorge carved by the Virgin River (this is the river that runs through Zion Canyon). It, also, is a permit only hike. This is how it is described in the literature… “The Narrows, with its souring walls, sandstone grottos, and hanging gardens can be an unforgettable experience. It is not, however, a trip to be underestimated. Hiking The Narrows means hiking in the river. At least 60 percent of the hike is spent wading, walking and sometimes swimming in the river. There is no maintained trail because the route is the river. The current is swift, the water many be cold and deep, and the rocks are slippery. Flash flooding and hypothermia are constant dangers. Good planning, proper equipment, and sound judgement are essential for a safe and successful trip. Your safety is your responsibility.”
Sounds like fun huh?? This one just seemed a bit too extreme to attempt for the first time with Elissa, especially since it was still mighty cold!
I let her make the call, and it was Angels Landing the enticed her the most. I also left it to her to decide if we’d go all the way to the end of the trail.
We set out relatively early. [I find this best when hiking most any trail for two main reasons… you’re hiking at the coolest part of the day (even in the cold it’s easy to get overheated while exerting yourself in the sunshine) and the trails are far less crowded.] This is by far one of the most stunning hikes I have ever done. You can read in more detail about this hike in my former post (part 2) since I don’t care to be redundant. I’ll let the images tell most of the story of our hike together!
The next image is where I stopped last fall, and it was here that a decision had to be made. Do we brave the remainder of the trail or not? I put absolutely no pressure on Elissa. She decided on her own that we should do it. (My brave girl!) As we set out I told her that we could turn back at any time. From that point forward the conversation went pretty much like this… “Be careful Honey. Hold on tight to the chain. You be careful Mom. Watch out it’s slick here. Wow! Oh wow! Hold on Baby. Be careful Mom. Oh my God… look at the view. Careful Elissa, it’s really narrow here. I’m ok Mom. This is amazing isn’t it Honey! Be careful Mom…” Interestingly we both worried about the other more than ourselves. The most unsettling thing was hearing someone slip on loose rocks from above you, knowing that if they went they’d probably take you with them. It was intense, no doubt, but the view from the end of the trail was one of the most spectacular sights either of us had ever seen!
Note the rock formation in the valley below is the same rock formation in the background of the first shot of Elissa at the top of this post!!!
We were greatly relieved when back on wider ground, but pleased and proud and glad we’d made the decision to brave the trail! The rest was a fairly simple (albeit knee jarring at times for me) hike back down to the canyon floor.
Since we didn’t read this until after the hike I figured I wouldn’t share it until after you read about our hike and safe return! A friend, upon seeing my post about our death defying hike on Facebook, shared this article with me. I wonder if it would have effected Elissa’s decision if she’d read this before the hike! Defy Death on the Worlds Most Dangerous Hiking Trails.
I arranged for Elissa to fly back to Dallas out of Las Vegas (far closer to Zion than Flagstaff where she flew in) so that was our last stop. Vegas would not be my choice for a vacation destination… ever, but after attending and speaking at conventions here for many years it’s old hat to me. I planned one night on the town with Elissa just for the novelty of it. We hopped a bus out Fremont Street (which I had not seen since they revamped it) and walked around gawking at the people for awhile. Interesting use of the ceiling there! Video of Fremont Street ceiling show, Las Vegas, Nevada
When we tired of the characters on that end of town we headed to “The Strip”. We watched the water fountain show at The Mirage, and cruised through The Bellagio so I could show her this artful ceiling display I’d taken a liking to.
After that we took in more sights and sounds and people watching while walking back to the KOA where we were camped behind Circus Circus. It can’t be more than a 2-3 mile walk, but as those of you who’ve been there know… the routes they designed for pedestrian traffic wind you up and over the streets, and as close to the doors of the casinos as possible, easily doubling your walking distance. Not a wild night on the town by Vegas standards, but good enough for us. Like me, Elissa was not a fan of the hordes of people nor the traffic.
The following morning I took her to the Vegas airport for yet another heart wrenching good-bye. I doubt it’ll ever get easier for me when I know it’ll be months before I see her again. I’m usually left driving back to where I’m camped and fighting a funk for a few days. On this particular day it helped that was not sitting still. I stayed in town only long enough to know her flight had departed before heading off to Death Valley… another intriguing place I had never seen! Those tales and images are up next!!
A reminder to those who were once on my email notification list… a blog “melt-down” destroyed those connections and any possibility of retrieving the list. If you’d like to receive an email notification so you know when I post a story just click on the envelope icon at the top right of the page. Several changes coming, and many more tales too! Death Valley, Eastern Sierras, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Yosemite National Park, and the California Coast are in the works!!