We factored in a “play it by ear” day within our stay in Kanab. It could be for visiting a park again, something else in the area, or even just resting. But I don’t rest. Sadly, it is not something I really have in me. Kate is happy for a lie in, but me… I’m awake by 6am and happy to be doing something not long after that. So today, was a tale of two halves.
I decided to head back to Zion National Park and do the one hike I couldn’t do yesterday… the epic Angels Landing. Kate was content to rest for the morning, so just before the sun was coming up, I was back in the car.
The drive into Zion was different from yesterday. Today, I was arriving as the sun was coming up, so different peaks were catching the light differently. The reds in the cliffs started popping, while some were an illuminating gold, and others still shrouded in darkness. It was hard not to keep stopping to take sub par pictures.
Given my very early arrival, I didn’t have the same issues getting on the road as we did yesterday. But it was still busy, as when I got to the hike car park, it was all full! Who were these crazy people! So I could go to the next closest, and then it was just a brisk 10 minute walk to the start of the trail.
Angels Landing is THE hike in Zion. It is so popular that apparently from April they are launching a ballot, so that you need to go into a lottery to get a spot to do the hike each day. Along with being the most popular, it is also the hardest (outside the Narrows), highest, and scariest. The gruelling 400m hike on switchbacks gets you to Scout Lookout. That itself is a feat. But then it is apparently a heart-pounding trek up to Angels Landing, with only some well placed chains and your wits to help.
So as the sun was up and the temperature just starting to get above 0, I headed off.
My running in the last 6 months held me in good stead as I was able to power up the main part of the trail. Don’t get me wrong. It was exhausting, but it felt great to get the heart rate up and keep it up there for a solid 45 minutes.
So with not too much difficulty (some icy paths aside) I made it to Scout Lookout. It was glorious up there. It had warmed up a little and the sun was gorgeous. I took some time for a breather and keep the fluids up, and then it was to the tough part.
Tough in two ways. Physically very demanding as it was steep. But more so, it was mentally tough as the path was precarious. On average about one person a year dies on this part of the trail. Yikes.
About 75% of the way up was with a rock solid chain guide. Luckily, as it was often needed to pull yourself up, or to stop slipping on ice. It was also accompanying a VERY narrow trail, rarely wider than a single person. So managing traffic got quite difficult!
I have to admit, there were times that were absolutely terrifying. But in the best way possible. It was a RUSH. I am fine with heights, but to see shear drops on each side was something else.
I kept powering my way up, and after about 45 nerve-wracking minutes I reached the top.
It was a rush of emotions. Being right on the edge for 45 minutes. Wrestling with the craziness of it. The exhilaration of reaching the top. THE VIEWS.
But most of all I think it was also the build up fo the last 2 years, where for two whole years, I had not spent a night outside of the house. And the odd day trip aside, had not done anything resembling travel. So to think that after 2 years I was now on a mountain top in Southern Utah, looking down on a very different world… well, it was pretty emotional.
I sat and soaked it up. I got chatting to some lovely folks, in particular a group of friends from all over the US, getting together over their shared love of hiking.
After a little time of self reflection, I started on my way down. Traffic was much greater, and so there was lots of waiting to let people through at times. Down is in some respects harder, but I was full of adrenaline so was just enjoying the rush still on the way down. On the way down I met a lovely couple from California. The lady said the sweetest thing as we headed down. On one part of the path which was quite precarious, there was a lone tree, and one branch had a beautifully shiny and smooth worn branch that I imagine most people grab for support on the way down. Her partner commented on the shininess of the brach, to which she replied, “If it helps, let it shine”. Not sure why I just found that to be the sweetest comment.
I made it back safe and sound to Scout Lookout, and then was able to power down at a fair clip back to the start. I did the wander back to the car, still full of adrenaline.
I had done most the hikes I wanted to now, and so decided to drive around the park and then head out. One other hike that I was considering I had no chance of parking the car, so off I went back to Kanab.
Kate had had a lazy morning and caught up on some sleep. On my return she had done a slight bit of changing to our plans, and thought that today would be a good day to go for a drive to (somewhat) nearby Horseshoe Bend. We had planned to do that on a different day of driving, but it was only about an hour away, and it was only 2pm, so we thought, why not! So after a freshen up, it was back in the car.
Horseshoe bend is part of Glen Canyon (near the end of the Grand Canyon I believe) and is a gorgeous horseshoe shaped carving out by the Colorado River. It is not really much of a hike or anything, rather just a spectacular part of the Arizona (yep, back in Arizona!) landscape. It did not disappoint.
We were about done for the day, so after a stop for some supplies at the Page Walmart, it was back to Kanab. Being Superbowl Day, I caught the last half, before settling in for the night. More parks await tomorrow!