Monday, November 28, 2016

Zion National Park trip

In October, I went with four friends to Zion National Park for five days away.  I had always wanted to go to Zion and jumped at the chance when my friend Elissa asked me if I would be interested. We planned it together and knew that our friend Sarah would come, but weren't sure if anyone else would join us. We got two more friends to join (one of them was Elissa's cousin) and so that made for five. A great number for the trip. 

We flew into Las Vegas and then drove to Utah. On the way there, we stopped at The Valley of Fire, a state park in Nevada which came recommended by a friendly Nevadan we met outside an iHop. It basically on our way and it was awesome.

The park is named for all of the red sandstone formations. Above- Sarah, Becca, Britta, Elissa and me on a hike.

The park is known for petroglyphs. We stayed for a few hours and then kept going to Utah.

We continued on and made it to Springdale, UT where we stayed in a hotel for a night and this was our view from the porch. 

Since we didn't plan this trip a year in advance, we read that we would have to stand in line to get a campsite in the park. So while Becca and I slept in and took a leisurely walk by these enormous grasses, the other three poor souls waited in line starting at 6am until about 11:30. For the record, they volunteered.
All that waiting paid off-- we got an amazing site.

We got started midafternoon and the lines for the shuttles were really long. We then learned that all Utah public schools were off for a long weekend. So we vowed to wake up early the next morning and get on the trails ahead of most people. 

After we got through the shuttle lines, we hiked to Emerald Pools and did one more hike before heading back to the campsite for the night. 

The next morning we were up early and ready for the hike we had been looking forward to the most, Angel's Landing, which ended up being one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. If I had read the sign above thoroughly, I would have learned that 6 people have died on this hike since 2004. Granted they were probably doing headstand selfies, but there was still some risk involved for experienced, alert hikers.
The hike is 1 mile round trip and took about an hour total. Almost the entire time we were holding onto these chains on the side of the mountain for dear life. I can see why we were advised to go early because the more people there are the longer you have to wait for people to slither past you on the chains, so it can take a while. 

Sarah stayed back, but the rest of us made it safely to the top.

Beautiful, but wouldn't be a pleasant trip down if you had a misstep and weren't holding on to the chains.

It is hard to describe, or even show in pictures, the beauty of this park.

On the shuttle we met this fellow, Rob, and after Angel's landing we hiked with him in the afternoon. He was traveling the US for 3 months and originally from England. We hiked for a few hours and then paired ways as we went back to our site to make some dinner.

The next morning we hiked The Narrows, which is a spectacular gorge in the Virgin River. Sixty percent of the hike was in the water so we rented special boots and neoprene booties and I also rented waterproof pants. It got very cold in the water and with the wind, even more frigid. The hike is 16 miles long total, but I would say maybe we did 6-8 miles of it total. I think all of us enjoyed this hike the most.

Sandstone formations on the walls of the canyon. 

While hiking, I slipped on a wet rock and fell right on my left thumb. I went to the doctor when I got home and it was injured, but not broken. It still hurts although I have been resting it as much as I can and also not knitting. 

A little lunch on a rock. 

In the afternoon we ventured outside of the most popular area of the park where we had been and drove about 40 minutes to the area of the park known as the Kolob Canyon. The landscape felt completely different even though there were still the same types of mountains everywhere. 

It felt like fall with deciduous trees changing colors. 

After passing over a creek about 250 times we finally arrived and what is called the Kolob Arch. It was kind of a giant amphitheater. Here's a shot from the top of it that Elissa took and you can see the rest of us as tiny specks below. We finished the hike as it was dusk and had hiked a total of about 15 miles on our last day here. A great way to end the trip, even if it was exhausting. We treated ourselves by going out to eat in town for our last dinner of the trip. We also went back to the hotel hot tub, which was an amazing perk!

Sunday we bid farewell to Zion, a park we have come to love and appreciate for its beauty and natural wonders. It was my first real trip away alone from my family and I missed them, but also really enjoyed my time away with friends. We had a wonderful time together and all seemed to be on the same page about how much we wanted to hike and what we wanted to do. Everyone was very agreeable and up for anything. In fact, we loved it so much that we would like to go on a trip like this each year together to a new national park. Looking forward to the next adventure.

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