Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Zion, I never want to leave you!

Here we are on the second half of our trip, and boy has it been delivering!First was Grand Canyon, where my family met up with us. That place could never get old (although it is ancient, with the youngest rocks being 270 million year old). If I lived at the park and visited the rim everyday, it would still blow my mind every time. We didn't do any major hiking here, mostly just went to the rim and stared. It was wonderful to see my family, too, and my mom gave us a giant bucket filled with dehydrated and canned foods from her farm, including peach sauce (like apple sauce but with peaches), gourmet tasting zucchini pickles and tons and tons of dehydrated zucchinis to make our ramen more bearable. As John mentioned in his last post, we also had a night where we watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail at the campfire while eating my mom's popcorn, under the Grand Canyon desert stars. One of my favorite memories ever. On our last night there John and I went to watch the sunset, and it was definitely the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen. I think I took about 40 pictures of it, but the photos could never tell you.

The next stop was Lake Powell, where we cooled off and Seymour went swimming for the first time. My goodness, that was one of the cutest things you could ever see, if you like that sort of thing. It was here that I started getting tired of the lack of privacy. I love cooking at epic scenes, it's such a fortunate opportunity that we have. However, "what's for dinner?! Haha!" from watching strangers is getting very, very old.
The next place we went was Zion National Park. About four years ago I went on a Green Tortoise tour of the "Canyons of the West," and so I've seen most of these places before. That doesn't make them less epic, nor do the other beautiful pieces of land we've been seeing. Zion looks like a desert version of Yosemite, with similar high rock faces, only where Yosemite is in shades of grey, Zion is shades of burnt reds.
When I came to Zion before, the driver of the Green Tortiose had given us a run-down on some of the hikes of the park. She stated that Angel's Landing was one of her favorite hikes in the entire world. Now, this woman has hiked all over the entire world and drives an adventure tour bus, so if she says it's great, I must do it. She warned us that it was encredibly difficult and dangerous, so don't do it unless we're in shape and have no fear of heights. It was our first stop on the Tortoise, I hate heat (it had been 110 degrees or more at this time) and I was terribly out of shape, but I thought I could do it.
Well. Angels Landing, which is about 1 mile of hiking with a chain, is gotten to by about 4.5 miles of very steep uphill switchbacks. I failed this trail miserably on that summer day in 2007. Lisa, the friend I had been hiking with, was fine and continued on without me, while I hiked a little bit down the Narrows. I realized later that I wasn't just being a baby, I had been suffering some heat exhaustion. Anyways, Lisa came down to the camp raving that it was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen, showing me photos that of course could never do it justice. I've kicked myself ever since for now finishing the hike.
(my miserable face 4 years ago, right before I turned back.)

So here I am, about 25 pound lighter than I had been then. I've been living in my car for the last 2 months, by night sleeping on highway shoulders, by day hiking in different landscapes in the heat. This is the most bad-ass and in shape I've ever been, if I can't conquer this Angel's landing trail now, when else will I be able to? So of course I go to this one on our first day in Zion.
If you've never hiked this trail, let me tell you-it is a challenge to your body, your breath and your gut. After the 4.5 miles of steep switchbacks I mentioned, there is about a mile of steep up hill on a cliff sometimes only 10 feet wide, with thousand foot drops on either side and your only safety net is an old chain attached to the rock. This hike is epic and terrifying. But also amazingly beautiful. When you look down, if you can brave it, at first it makes you want to pee yourself. Once you get over that, you realize how beautiful it is and you feel like you're on the top of the world. Now, of course I made it to the top this time! With hardly needing any breaks, I might add. It felt amazing. When you get to the top you can understand why they called it Angel's Landing. If I were an Angel I would totally fly there as often as possible. (Also because if I could fly I wouldn't have to brave the trail.)
(Part of the Angel's Landing hike. Yeah, you hike along that ridge there, all the way up.)

(the view from Angel's Landing, of course being overwhelmed 360 degrees by it is much more amazing.)
(I made it, I made it!! (yeah, pale belly. I also have a silly tan line straight across my chest from a strapless dress.))

And so then after a little hike to the Weeping Rock and I got a drizzle of water on my head, I went back to John and Seymour with magic in my eyes again. We also happened to be here while the Zion Music Festival was going on. We showered for the first time in 9 days and went on a splurging date, buying delicious cheeseburgers and local beer. The bands were fun folky, jazzy, funky things, and the final band of the night got a lot of people dancing. I am proud to say that my boyfriend got more down on the dance floor than any other man there. :)
My second hike day I went down the Narrows, further than I had gone on that hot day long long ago. The Narrows is a hike where the trail is the Virgin river. At this time of year, the water doesn't get past chest deep, and then only for a short bit. The hike is difficult because you're wading against the current, but it is just as beautiful as the Angel's Landing, with huge, towering cliffs on either side of you, making it shady, with the river echoing off the canyon walls. I'll let John tell you more about that one.
(note the little people. Man was this gorgeous.)

Zion also has a charming little desert tourist town attached to the outside of it, Springdale. I love this town. It hasn't been overwhelmed by tourism in a gross way. Everyone is friendly and has that tanned, mystical face that people who live near Zion should have. If this were a different kind of trip, the kind where I was alone and taking my time, I would try to find a job here and stay for a couple months. Although our next stop is Bryce, which on the Green Tortoise had been my favorite, I am reluctant to leave. Don't tell John, but I've fallen madly in love.

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