Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hiking Zion National Park

I spent 2 weeks at Zion National Park last month and got to meet up with a group of RV blogger-hikers who led me to some pretty incredible places (both on and off the beaten path). 

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The other bloggers posted their trip summaries weeks ago, so I won’t attempt to repeat all their terrific details here.  If you’ve not yet read them, I encourage you to check out Mark & Bobbie’s Box Canyon Blog, Jim & Gayle’s Life’s Little Adventures, and Suzanne’s Take to the Highway

I also greatly enjoyed meeting the non-bloggers of the group— John & Ellen, Debbie, Laurelee, John Q & Joallen.  Thank you all for the fun laughs and pleasant conversation both on and off the trail!

I’m still very much a novice hiker and, as such, spent most of my time huffing and puffing from the tail end of the pack focusing more on simply completing each hike than masterfully photographing them, but I did manage to snap a few shots to share now with you here.

The first hike I did with this group was an easy trail that started just beyond the boundary and then led into the park, Chinle Trail.  Almost right away, we had some towering views over Highway 9 and the little town of Rockville.

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Then, we admired some petrified wood & scenic vistas along the trail…

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After our lunch stop, I joined the fellow dog owners, Debbie and Laurelee, to hike back to tend to our pooches while the rest of the group continued on to Coal Pits Wash.  At 9 miles, this was the longest hike I’d done to-date, but it was a relatively flat and easy trail, so the distance was a nice, early “win” to boost my confidence.

The next outing was to one of Mark & Bobbie’s favorite “non-official” trails on the east side of the park above the tunnel called “Many Pools.” 

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This area must be incredible in the Spring when there’s more water, but still even in November, a few pools were still full, and as an added bonus, we had some glorious fall colors to admire as well!

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After reaching an impass at one end of the wash, we started looking for new side trails on the way back.  This slot canyon looked inviting…

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and soon enough, we were off onto a new branch that Mark & Bobbie had never explored before—quite a rarity as they’ve been hiking Zion every November for well over a dozen years!

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A very narrow “mini slot” canyon was discovered about 25 feet above the larger canyon’s floor.  Mark and John gave helping hands to everyone to scramble up the rocks to take a look.  It was so dark and narrow, that only 2 of us could fit into the slot at a time.  I now understood the “religious” experience people get when visiting this incredible park! The sliver of sky just barely illuminated Mark, but was indeed an “other-worldly” experience!

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As we walked back to the cars, I was now feeling inspired and invincible.  These Zion hikes were a lot easier than I thought!

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Well, funny thing about novice hikers—we feel giddy with confidence until…we’re suddenly not!  The next hike firmly knocked me back down a few pegs to put me properly back in my place.

Mark proposed the “Tripod Rocks” hike on the West side of the park.  A few who had done it in previous years, decided to skip it this time.  I naïvely missed this important hint!  This hike was only about 8 miles, and the first half was all downhill along slickrock.

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Our lunch spot was in front of these amazing boulders, each precariously balanced on three dwindling spindles of sandstone—“Tripod” rocks!

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After lunch, it was time to head back the way we’d came….all 4 miles and 1,000 feet of it up, up, UP-hill!  I’d never done anything so demanding, and was rather embarrassed at how much I had to struggle.  Fortunately, Mark and John hung back to make sure I didn’t get lost (or need a Med-evac!) and to provide me with continuing, gentle encouragement.  Finishing this trail was a true turning point for me—I now knew my body could do things I never imagined possible before, but I also learned to never, ever become too over-confident.  The mountain is ALWAYS in charge!

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For the final Zion hike, the wildly popular (and hellishly demanding) Angel’s Landing hike was chosen.  While the option was open for some of us to scramble the last 500 feet up to the top of Angel’s Landing itself, we all chose to climb the much less imposing West Rim Trail on the opposite side of Scout’s Landing.  Same elevation gain, without the drama of crossing a ridiculously narrow ridgeline 1500 feet above the canyon floor!

To reach Scout’s Landing, would require a 1,000 foot climb, but this time, I decided to start 30 minutes ahead of everyone else (so not to keep the group waiting, and to enjoy the scenery at a leisurely pace).  It was a cooler, cloudy day and by doing the uphill portion first, felt like a much easier hike than Tripod Rocks had been.

The views of Zion’s main canyon were simply breathtaking as I climbed…

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Soon the trail turned into “Refrigerator” Canyon (named for it’s refreshing shade from hot summertime sun). It was a great place to enjoy the fall colors and smaller vignettes of Zion life.

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At the end of Refrigerator, I turned and climbed the infamous set of steep switchbacks known as “Walter’s Wiggles” to take me up to Scout’s Landing.

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The view of the canyon and surrounding mountains from Scout’s Landing was simply breathtaking, and as luck would have it, the sun made a brief cameo appearance right at the same time!

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As I stood there soaking it all in, a woman next to me pointed out the tiny white speck on one of the sheer rock cliffs—mountain climbers!  Unbelievable!

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After about 15 minutes, the rest of the gang arrived at Scout’s Landing, and after a brief lunch break, we started our hike up the West Rim trail to get a better view of Angel’s Landing (from Scout’s Landing, it looks deceptively easy to continue on the last 500 feet.  Only when you look at it from the West Rim, do you start to realize how narrow it is (with only a chain rope to hold on to)…umm, no thanks!  I know my place as a newbie hiker!  The view looks just as good from over here!

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Still, it was fun to zoom in and see this guy doing his “Rocky” pose at the top of Angel’s Landing!

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After climbing West Rim a bit further, John took a wonderful “graduation” shot of the group (Suzanne, Debbie, Bobbie, Mark, Me, Ellen & Laurelee).  Thank you, John!  What a perfect way to graduate from my “Hiking 101” course!  Thanks to everyone for such a wonderful introduction to this very transformative sport!

A Moment in Time - West Rim Trail - Zion National Park

12 comments:

  1. What a way to get your 10,000+ steps a day in!

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  2. Absolutely beautiful..... I'm afraid I would be the one holding you back , not to mention this ambitious crew.

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  3. Great report. Though we had followed most of the adventures through Marks blog and Johns facebook posts, it's always nice to see more pictures and read of others thoughts on all the adventures.

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  4. (h, so much fun to see the hikes from your perspective, with photos of the photo man to boot. I follow Mark's blog and Suzanne's as well, so had read about these adventures previously, but your photos were fantastic, and it was fun to read about it from another person who may have huffed and puffed as much as I would have. Thanks for your great photos and wonderful story.

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  5. Congrats on accomplishing Hiking 101, I hope to be able to do these types of hikes someday.

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  6. Wow, impressive. Nice to see you keeping up with the others. Great pix as usual.

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  7. What great memories, eh?
    Great shots as usual.
    Box Canyon Mark

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  8. Your calendars arrived today and are better in person! I will love it all year - so inspirational.
    And for this post, everything Sue said. That's the fun of reading different blogs, each person shares their experience in a different way.

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  9. What really great pictures!!! Afraid I would get vertigo, obviously you don't have that problem. That spiney ridgeback looked scary!! Great colors tho!!

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  10. Zion feels like such a long time ago. Nice to relive those hikes again. Hope you are keeping your fitness level up!
    Gayle

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  11. Fabulous post my friend. To think this hiking business started with El Faro. Well done.

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