And thus, the great Southwest USA Roadtrip 2013 begins.
I fly into San Diego on a beautiful Monday morning to pick up the car that will be my home and way for the next two weeks. The guy who I’m picking it up from picks me up from the airport and lets me play with his two kittens for a little while before heading out on the road. I got a way later start than anticipated (I blame the kittens), but the moment I sit down in that car and take a look at the coolest, most welcoming dashboard ever I knew it was a good sign. Seriously, this dashboard is something else.
My zen ride.
The drive from San Diego to Springdale, the entry town to Zion National Park, is somewhere around eight hours. I was only right past Vegas around 10:30pm when a cop pulled me over… Turns out, I was driving 5-10 miles under the speed limit so therefore I was an immediate suspect for drug trafficking. At least, that’s what I gathered from his litany of questions about who I am, where I’m going, do I have my boarding pass from earlier today, etc. Also, “Do you have anything illegal in the car? Marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, guns, knives.” “Um…I have a kitchen knife?” Needless to say, he let me go, but since I was clearly tired told me to pull over at the rest area ahead to catch some ZZs.
Sleeping in your car in a well-lit rest area surround by massive trucks is awkward, to say the least.
Since I was still a couple hours away from Zion, where I meant to be starting early in the morning, I woke up at 5am to continue driving. Within a couple hours, I was parked, fed, packed, and ready to start my first day in Zion National Park. The hike I chose went up to Observation Point, along the side of the canyon off the East Rim where a 4 mile one-way hike up steep switchbacks and through the mysterious Echo Canyon leads you up off 2,100ft above the canyon floor with a sweeping view of Zion. This was a stunning and impressive introduction to Zion, strenuous but very manageable thanks to some good cloud cover with the occasional drizzle to keep me cool. By the time I started heading back down, the clouds were clearing up and I could see why rangers don’t recommend this hike on a sunny summer day. It was hot and exposed. I was also surprised by how few people I encountered on this awesome hike when the rest of Zion was teeming with tourists and hikers everywhere. Zion receives around 3 million visitors every year, a huge bulk of that being in the summer, yet once I got up to the main trail to Observation Point I saw no more than 10-15 people for the rest of the hike. The solitude was welcome.
After the first set up switchbacks up to Observation Point.
Interesting rock color and form.
Almost to Observation Point! The views along the path are spectacular.
Looking at the famous Angel’s Landing from the top of Observation Point.
What did they find so interesting??
On the way down I met a family who just got out of the Hidden Canyon, who recommended a side-trip up into its shady and cool territory. I was ahead of schedule and decided if I was up there I might as well. The route up was fun, besides another set of switchbacks. One part of the trail was along a narrow canyon ridge where you don’t have any choice but to use the chain attached to the side of the wall to pull yourself along. Where the trail ends, you can continue walking down through silky sand to an impressive free-standing arch. There, the park is trying to restore some vegetation so there’s a sign indicating you may go no further.
8 miles, 2,1000 ft elevation gain, 4.5 hours
3+ miles, 1,000+ ft elevation gain, 1.5 hours
After eating my lunch is the Great Lawn at the Zion Lodge and resting my weary muscles, I drove over to Kolob Canyons to try to do a hike there before sunset. Unfortunately, my little detour in Hidden Canyon cost me some time and I couldn’t do the hike I wanted to before sunset and a last minute thunderstorm blocked a nice sunset from even happening. There was some pretty intense lightning though.
The Great Lawn.
Because of my tight budget, I was trying to save money whenever possible. This included sleeping in the car off the side of the highway a lot. Fortunately, there are quite a few exits around Zion that lead to nothing and let me get away without detection.
After day of some wins and some fails, excited for what tomorrow holds, I fell into a deep sleep with the soothing sound of the storm lulling me to sleep.