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Monday, August 23, 2010

Trip to Zion National Park

Another trip report. I hope you guys don't mind. I will try to keep it brief, but who knows. I tend to start going off. You can just scroll down to the pretty pictures if you want.

Last Wednesday, we dropped off the kids at my sister's house (that woman deserves sainthood, seriously; I've offered to take her four kids for two nights whenever she wants), and my mom, my dad, David and I set off to Zion National Park. We were going to go on an overnight backpacking trip to hike the Narrows from the top down.

We get our back country permit. We rent our shoes. We set up camp in one of the campgrounds, ready to leave in the morning. We've been watching the weather, and we know there is a slight chance of scattered thunderstorms.

Look at the moon peeking over the ridge at our campground! It's beautiful! And no clouds in sight.

You know where this is going. When it involves me and the outdoors, it's bound to go awry.

I have never been so close to lightening it my life. It was hitting the ridges on either side of our campground. David swears he could hear trees cracking. We stayed dry, but it was not a restful night.

We get up at 6:00 am (very few clouds) and head to the shuttle that is supposed to take us to the starting point. We know there is a chance that we won't get to go, because the Narrows is a slot canyon and prone to flash flooding. It depends on where the rain was exactly last night.

It was in the wrong place.

On Wednesday the river was running at 55 cubic feet per second. If it gets any higher than 120, it's not safe to hike in. When we woke up on Thursday morning, it was running at 1560 cubic feet per second. That's not a typo. More than 10 times the allowable amount. Yeah, don't want to be hiking in that. We walked down to see the river and it's chocolate brown and nasty looking. Unless you think of it as chocolate milk, in which case it looks delicious, and now I want a glass.

We get a refund on our gear and shuttle and a rain check (literally caused by rain) on our back country permit and we all look at each other and wonder what we are going to do for the next two days. We decide to stay in the park and do some of the other hikes that are around.

We decide to do Angels Landing.

My mom and dad on the trail as we approach:

Another view:

Another view:

It was not the same driving through it as it was hiking through. It's just stunning, all of it. There isn't another word. The sheerness of the rock, the beautiful morning sun, the vegetation that is surprisingly lush. The trails are beautifully maintained and most of it up to Angels Landing is paved.

This is about half way up, looking back to Springdale. Each of those is a mountain. I wish I took more pictures of the switchbacks.

Maybe I was too mad. I thought on this trip I wouldn't be gaining any elevation. I was counting on a lot of rough terrain, on being wet and miserable, and jamming my feet between rocks, and having to lean on a walking stick and carrying my own pack, but after hiking Timp, I was really looking forward to not having to go up anything for any significant distance. Stupid rain.

Then we hit a place called Refridgerator Canyon. Cool and pretty and walking right next to the sandstone.

Then another series of little switchbacks (they call them the Wiggles, which gave me the giggles and made me think of the kids), and we were at Scout Lookout. It's not that far of a hike to Scout Lookout, about 4 miles round trip. The next part of the hike is scary. That's the part which the actual Angels Landing section. It's only about 1 mile round trip, but it's fairly sheer cliffs on both sides. There's a chain you can hold onto for most of the way, but heights are not my thing, and the trail gets fairly narrow in sections (maybe the width of a sidewalk). After walking up the trail, I wasn't feeling too sure footed. Plus, there was a ton of people on the trail, and the thought of trying to navigate past all those people just freaked me out. And people have died up there. Maybe if I sprout wings before my next visit, I will attempt it. So I happily stayed with the pack at Scout Lookout, while my mom, dad and David went. It took them about an hour and twenty minutes.

We hiked back down, had some lunch, then decided to do the Emerald Pools. It wasn't a long hike, about 2.5 miles, and it doesn't gain that much elevation, hurrah! It was very pretty though.

It's a loop, with three pools that feed each other. If you ever go, I would recommend going right on the trail, which will bring you to the bottom pool first (if you go left, you will get to the middle pool first). The pools were neat, but I'm afraid that after the crater lakes at Lassen Park, I just find any other pools described as emerald to be. . . misnamed. However, they were beautiful and worth seeing, if not exactly emerald in color.

The waterfalls down to the first pool.

You walk behind the waterfall. A view of the first pool.
A frog we saw on the way:

Then you walk up some more trail and see the 2nd pool, which isn't very deep at all.

And it goes over the edge, to form the waterfall down to the first pool.

You are almost surround by these sheer cliffs.

And you hike up some more.

Then you find the top pool. And there's another waterfall. I couldn't get the whole distance on my camera.

There's a beach and everything.

Then we hiked down and decided to get a hotel in Saint George, because sleeping on those tiny backpacking mattresses two nights in a row when you don't have to do so is just silly. So, we did. Only I didn't pack enough underwear for an extra shower (I brought a pair to put on at the very end of the trip--which I put on after we realized that we wouldn't be hiking the Narrows, because when you hike the Narrows, you don't want to wear regular underwear, because it gets wet and then you get chaffed--you want to wear quick-drying underwear). David had to go buy me some at the Kmart which was across the street from our hotel. Then we went and saw Salt.

The next day we slept until 10:30. Also, my dad snores. David finally got some hand-towels to throw at him when he started up. My mom can sleep through it. It's not really loud snoring, but enough to wake me up.

We started back home, but we knew we wanted to stop and see Kolob Canyon, which is not far off I-15 near Cedar City.

I've always thought of that part of Utah as the ugliest part of Utah. It doesn't really have any distinguishing characteristics. The plant life is all low and scrubby. The mountains look stunted and they all look the same. It goes on for about two hours longer than it's interesting. I'm sorry Cedar City, for thinking you were ugly. Because you were hiding something spectacular over the hill.

You first see this mountain. It's beautiful. And huge. I don't think you can tell how huge in the photo.

Then you drive a little more and there's a whole range of fantastical formations. And it's all laid out in front of you. And you can't even see it all in one glance. You have to turn your head around to take it all in. There are hanging valleys and grottos and chimneys and just all sorts of interesting things. It's like God's Cathedral and scaled to his size. My pictures aren't the best because we got there right around 1:30, nearly the worst time for photos. We also did a small one mile hike. I would love to go back sometime and really do some hiking in there.

Then we drove home. I'm sort of glad we didn't do the Narrows, because we got to see a lot of really beautiful things. On the other hand, I really want to do that hike. We are hoping to do it early in the season next year, when the risk of flash floods are low. Pbbbtttt weather! You are mean! (I really hope the people who were in the canyon got out ok. They were probably stuck in there a few days longer than they meant to be, but it's lucky that this flood happened at night, when people were sleeping on high ground. The park is also really good about educating people on the dangers and warning signs.)
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