Saturday, April 30, 2016

Zion Day Three

I have a healthy fear of falling when such fear seems appropriate to me. I often tell people I'm scared of heights. Someone with true acrophobia - defined as someone with an extreme or irrational fear of heights - is probably worse off than I am, but I definitely don't like to be close to steep edges. My fear seems generally grounded on the rational, but there's no question I'm acrophobic to some degree.

I knew we were going to attempt Angels Landing this day, so I didn't sleep very well the night before. Angels Landing is a very well known trail at Zion which has chains during the last half-mile with 1400 foot drop offs on both sides, as it travels along a high narrow ridge. Since 2004, six people have died falling off this trail.

My goal was to make it to Scout Lookout, which is two miles up, a relatively flattish safe spot just prior to the start of the chains for the last half mile of the ascent. Deb and I made it to Scout Lookout. Yay! I even went a bit further and tried the chains for a short distance. Deb, who is not acrophobic, made it even further along the chains, but even she decided she was too uncomfortable and returned to Scout Lookout.

There were many brave souls that made it all the way to Angels Landing. Several reported making it there was not all that scary or difficult. Even mothers were hiking to Angels Landing with newborn babies backpack bound for the ride. However, there were also many others, like ourselves, who chose to stop at Scout Lookout, were quite confident in their decision to not attempt the rest of the trip, and weren't the least bit regretful. There were actually a lot of people attempting to pass each other on the chains, some going up while some were going down, and this made it extra difficult for those of us with acrophobic tendencies. Amusingly, one becomes rather intimate with total strangers hiking in these situations: giving each other a hand, wrapping one's body completely around another person's, and similar actions. Some were moving really slowly, even for me, during my short stint on the chains.

One reason I get great joy from hiking is that, without fail, every person we meet or chat with is extremely friendly and pleasant. It is a feeling of community like no other. We are all enjoying this beautiful planet.

The beginning of Angels Landing trail started innocuously enough with a pleasant footbridge crossing over the Virgin River. After some time along the path we began to see several switchbacks up the face of the rock on the left side of this next photo, arriving at the gap seen slightly above the center of the photo.  If you zoom and squint you'll see people in this photo.

Switchbacks Ascend the First Part of Angels Landing Trail

At the gap, we head back into "Refrigerator Canyon."

Deb in Refrigerator Canyon

Looking out from an Overhang in Refrigerator Canyon

After hiking through Refrigerator Canyon, we head up Walter's Wiggles; these are switchbacks to get to Scout Lookout.

Walter's Wiggles

View of Deb from One Wiggle to Another

At last, we arrive at Scout Lookout. We have ascended the majority of the Angels Landing trail and are relieved to have made it this far.

Happiness at Scout Lookout

The next photo shows the dropoff behind Deb in the previous photo.

Virgin River from Scout Lookout

The trail that lies ahead... Angels Landing is seen (we think) atop the furthest green peak left of center in this photo, immediately to the right of the whitish mountain rising in the background.

Angels Landing Trail Final Section

Here's a slightly zoomed version of the previous photo. Look closely. There are many people in this photo traveling along the chains in the left foreground, center, right, and hiking along the top of the ridge.

Chain Travel

Here's another view:

View Ahead from Scout Lookout

We returned back down the trail. Here's a shot of Zion Canyon from the gap:

Switchbacks Down to Zion Canyon

Switchback Detail

After returning to the bottom, we thought we were done for the day, but after a pleasant lunch at the Lodge, we decided to spend the late afternoon and sunset on the Watchman Trail.

The Watchman Trail takes us up to the top of the rock outcropping in the center of this next photo.

Watchman Trail

Color on the Trail

Another Trail Traveler

Deb Relaxing at the Top of Watchman Trail

Kindly ignore my hat hair in this next shot.

Sunset on the Watchman

We were just about to start back down when the moon decided to rise directly over a notch, creating a fitting ending for another wonderful day at Zion.


All photos © 2016, all rights reserved.  Contact me for licensing or to order prints.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Zion Day Two and Bryce

Welcome to day two of our Utah adventure.

This day's goal was to visit Bryce. To get from Zion National Park (Springdale, UT) to Bryce one goes through the eastern part of Zion through an area with beautiful, but very different terrain from Zion canyon, with surface texture known as slickrock.

This first photo shows this "layered" rock look clearly.

Slickrock Everywhere


From there we proceeded to Bryce.

Near Sunrise and Sunset Points

Near Sunset and Sunrise Points




We're Not in Massachusetts

It snowed the day before, so we were treated to some dramatic scenery mid-summer visitors don't normally see:

Snow Touches

At one point the raven cometh.

Raven Staredown


Natural Bridge Point

Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point was our last stop on the Bryce Canyon rim.

We returned to Zion and took the Canyon Overlook trail during, or more accurately, *after*, sunset. The Canyon Overlook view was spectacular, but for us it was getting quite dark. This is an ISO 3200 shot taken around 8:30 in the evening. We descended back down the trail mostly in just moonlight. We could have used our cell phones as flashlights but didn't even think of it.

Canyon Overlook

Moonlit Zion

All photos © 2016, all rights reserved.  Contact me for licensing or to order prints.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Zion Day One

Zion is amazing.

We could not believe the beauty here.

On our first hike we took the Emerald Pool trails and visited the lower, middle, and upper pools. We were greeted by this lovely waterfall on the lower trail. The trail goes *under* this.

Emerald Pool Falls

Rainbow Spotted at Fall's Base

After the Emerald Pool trails, we headed to the Weeping Rock trail.

This next photo is one of many classic views in Zion one gets by looking up.

Zion Grand Theater (my name for this, not theirs)

Indeed Weeping Rock weeped. Again, the trail takes us *under* the water, where we watch from behind the spray. Amazingly this water is not a waterfall, but rather, the spring water sourced far above seeps through the porous Navajo sandstone, a process that takes nearly a thousand years before it reaches the overhanging blind arch we are standing under, known as Weeping Rock.

Weeping Rock

Flowers Bursting on the Weeping Rock Wall

High Tree

Next up, we took the Riverside Walk along the Virgin River to the start of the Narrows.  Zion Canyon was created by the Virgin River.

Silky Virgin River

Late Day Red Walls

This relatively flat stroll along the Virgin River goes for one mile, and was definitely one of the highlights of our Zion visit. The river scenery and surrounding majestic walls were breathtaking.

Virgin River near Temple of Sinawava

We Felt Small Compared to Walls like These

The Narrows was closed due to high April snow runoff. For those that aren't familiar, this "hike" involves walking directly in the water upstream (or downstream). Here is the enticing "bottom-up" entrance to the Narrows seen during the golden hour.

These next two photos are two of my favorites taken in all of Zion and Bryce:

The Start of the Narrows

Deb wanted to get her feet wet both to soothe them from the day's hiking and so that she could get at least "two feet" into the Narrows. She says they turned purple right away in the icy cold water. You can see a few other brave souls in the background that actually went up river even though it was "closed".

Narrows Therapy

More on this trip will follow in my next blog entry.

All photos © 2016, all rights reserved.  Contact me for licensing or to order prints.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Zion Arrival

We're on vacation visiting Zion National Park!

Our lodge has some wonderful views and is situated in Springdale, just outside the park entrance.
We literally just arrived. I thought I'd share these photos taken from our lodge, or just nearby.

On the Road to Zion

Back View from the Lodge

Front View from the Lodge

All photos © 2016, all rights reserved.  Contact me for licensing or to order prints.