Tag Archives: Zion National Park

In the Shadow of the Great White Throne

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The morning, I intended to wake up early to catch the sunrise. I didn’t realize how tired I was from all the hiking I did the day before until I slept through my alarm and woke to dawn breaking. I hurried over to Kolob Canyon and made the quick walk down the Timber Creek Trail to a great overlook where I could watch the rest of the sun peaking out over distant horizons.  From this overlooks, not only could I see the main body of the Kolob Canyons but the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was also right out there.

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After some relaxation I headed back to Zion in full light to tackle the one thing everyone recommended to me, Angel’s Landing. After Observation Point, where you can actually look down on Angel’s Landing, I wondering if it would be worth it. But then I just did it because it’s not just the destination, but the hike itself it supposed to be great.

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I found an ostrich farm!

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The Court of the Patriarchs.

And it was. Great and brutal. Insane switchbacks to start, literally crawling up the side of a canyon wall, then level ground for less than a mile before another crazy set of switchbacks called “Walter’s wiggles.” Those were tough; I could finally feel the elevation change getting to me, having come here to hike above 5,000 feet when only two days before I was breathing so much more oxygen at sea level. My tired muscles from the day before were crying and my heart was pumping, but I finally made it to the last half mile, the infamous sandstone ridge where mere feet, sometimes inches, of rock lie on either side of the trail before a thousand foot drop. I loved this part!  Though a chain was installed for the whole half mile, I only used it a couple times to hold onto while letting people pass in the opposite direction. I just scrambled the whole way. I don’t think a lot of people realize how much easier it is if you use your hands and feet! You have to get close to the ground, lower your center of gravity, and climb along and it is so much more fun! There were a lot of people who seemed very scared or stressed and were only continuing along because their friends or family wanted to continue. There were also just a lot of people in general, so many more than I saw on the Observation Point Trail. This is where all the tourists must go! I must have passed by or seen around one or two hundred people in only a few hours. There was no such thing as privacy.

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Angel’s Landing rock seen from the beginning of the trail.

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After the first set of switchbacks.

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Walter’s wiggles. AKA death. 

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But the end destination was worth it! Unlike the day before, Wednesday was sunny and bright! The canyon below was lit up in beautiful hues and you could look up and truly feel like you’re in the shadow of the Great White Throne, the canyon formation that contributed to Angel’s Landing’s name. A minister who came up to this rock imagined this is the place where angels visiting from heaven would come to land on Earth, in this shadow.

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Made it to the top!

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And the other side!

When I finally descended back to level ground, I was beyond exhausted. I decided to walk down the Riverside Walk just to stretch my legs out on level ground before jumping back into the car to head over to my next stop, Coral Pink Sand Dunes. On my way out of Zion, I stopped by the biggest of many rock and mineral shops on the main road in Springdale. They had some awesome stuff! I got a couple gifts for people, agate slices and geodes you can break open yourself, and then a little stone dinosaur for myself. Such a success! The drive out of Zion too, through the Mt. Carmel/Route 9 tunnel, was great. The other side of the tunnel, while still part of Zion National Park, has such a different landscape. It was all beautiful.

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Timer Creek Overlook Trail

0.8 miles, slight elevation gain, 1 hour

Angel’s Landing

5 miles, 1,488 feet elevation gain, 3 hours

Riverside Walk

2 miles, very slight elevation change, 1 hour

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The Great Southwest USA Roadtrip 2013!

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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.

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My zen ride. 

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KITTENS.

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.

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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.

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After the first set up switchbacks up to Observation Point.

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Echo Canyon.

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Interesting rock color and form. 

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Almost to Observation Point! The views along the path are spectacular.

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Made it!!

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Looking at the famous Angel’s Landing from the top of Observation Point. 

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What did they find so interesting??

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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.

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Observation Point

8 miles, 2,1000 ft elevation gain, 4.5 hours

Hidden Canyon

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.

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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.