September 3, 2011

Oh Crowded Zion

  The sun was setting as we headed north into Utah from the Grand Canyon.

Even the state signs change going from southern to Northern Utah.  Southern Utah is filled with beautiful red rocks and desert.  Northern Utah is more mountainous and covered with the beautiful green color of trees and grasses.  So it made sense that this Utah welcome sign was the red rock version.  Much different than the Utah I saw in high school and with Dave last summer.

Lisa and I stayed overnight in Hurricane, Utah.  Twenty miles northeast lies Zion National Park.
After some early confusion about where the park entrance was, we finally found the shuttle which led us to a bridge which led us to the entrance.  No personal vehicles are allowed inside the park.    
Lisa at the entrance to Zion National Park.  This park entrance sign was different than most of the others.  Of all the national parks I have visited, only Zion and Mount Rainier had their own unique park entrance signs.

Almost immediately the park sucks you into its vastness and beauty.  We caught another tram that would take us straight through the park.  I took some photos as the tram's tour guide provided information about the park.

Our first stop - the Narrows.  We took the tram all the way through the park to the last stop.  The narrows is a trail, really a creek, that goes into a canyon where the walls become very narrow.  Lisa and I were very excited about this excursion, that is until we arrived.   

People were everywhere, screaming, crying, yelling, talking on cell phones, throwing trash, chasing wildlife, just going wild.  I passed a disgruntled visitor who mumbled to me..."these people think they are at a waterpark". 

Video of a waterfall in the canyon.

Lisa and I did manage to find holes in the paraded to get some pictures of the scenery.  It took ten to fifteen minutes to get some of these pictures without people jumping off the walls or splashing our camera. 

After hiking and wading through chest deep water for a mile we turned around.  It was just too much.   At some points you couldn't even move, that is how crowded it was.    

Another waterfall in narrows.

Haha, look at Lisa with the pandemonium in the background.

Thank God we decided to get out of there.  From the narrows we headed to our next hike - Angels Landing.  The title gives subtle hints about the hike.  For a long time the locals here thought only angels could reach the top of this rock.  They must have not known about the determination and stubbornness of the CCC (civilian conservation corps).  Today there is a trail to the top and we were on it.

Here lies the trail head warning visitors that this is not a waterpark, I mean an easy hike.  The first mile included some easy switchbacks through a desert.  It was hot!

After some tough switchbacks with a good amount of elevation gain, we approached the canyon trail.  But before we entered we made sure to get a picture and some rest.

And then we climbed some more... look at those switchbacks.  Reminded me a little of the grand canyon switchbacks.. steep and hot.

The views on the way up were amazing.  It was hard not to stop every 5 min to take pictures of the canyon walls and their red color schemes.

Once we hiked into the canyon we had some relief from that blazing summer sun.  We also encountered some interesting rock formations along the trail.

Lisa found a cool lizard that blends right into the red walls.  He was very tiny about the size of a finger.

And then there was more climbing and more switchbacks.  

But it was well worth the climb for views like this.
And this...

At several points the park had put in chains to help visitors continue on the trail.  Here is a picture of Lisa holding on for dear life.

Why chains you may ask?  This picture should sum it up for you.  Any type of fall would be a long one on the Angels Landing trail.

A video of the canyon from one of the high points on the Angels Landing trail.


Due to time constraints we were not able to climb to the tippity top.  I did however snap a picture of the top.  We were a little upset that we did all this climbing and couldn't continue to the top.  But we were pressed for time and needed to leave the park.  If you look closely enough you can see some people hiking the narrow trail on the cliffs.

We down climbed Angels Landing and had quick lunch before leaving Zion.  Overall Zion was one the most beautiful and majestic places I have ever seen.  It was also one of the most crowded national parks I have ever been to as well.  During our time there I kept thinking about public land and how it was meant for all to enjoy not just the wilderness seekers.  That helped me get through the day at several points.  A song from elementary school kept creeping into my head, the lyrics go "this land is your land, this land is my land".  Something to think about. 

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Originally from Strongsville, OH, I spent 8 years in Raleigh, North Carolina and have since recently moved to Missoula, MT. I have been a runner all my life and have recently started pursuing ultra marathons. Any excuse to be outside and on the trails.