Life Elevated

Though we’d squeezed a few hikes into the few nice days we had at the Grand Canyon, we were eager to be outside, to feel the hard earth beneath our feet. For that, few places offer as many options as Utah.

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Once upon a time, I wondered why anyone would return to the same place over and over when so much of the country (continent, world…) is left to see. Well, now I know. Sometimes you find a place that speaks to you in ways others don’t. Sometimes a place needs more than one visit to explore. Sometimes it’s nice — especially when your life is filled with so much unknown — to be someplace familiar.

And Zion National Park fits all of these for us. We’ve been there several times, but we always love returning. When we arrived in late May, spring had erupted after a rainy, chilly spurt. Of course, that meant lots of people, but we were glad for the sunshine.

We arrived, got settled in, and the next day — Bob’s birthday — headed into Zion NP to Angel’s Landing. When he mentioned he was hiking it for his birthday, the shuttle driver got the entire bus to sing “Happy Birthday” to him — a great way to start!

If you don’t know Angel’s Landing (which we’ve hiked a few times before), the park service has posted this helpful sign at the trailhead:

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It says, in part: “Since 2004, six people have died falling from the cliffs on this route.” Ikes! But yes, sadly, it’s true. The hike climbs along sheer drop-offs — I got over a lot of my fear of heights on hikes like this one. We’ve always believed that what makes the hike even more dangerous are the number of people who prefer to rush (overconfident in their footing) and those who get impatient with us slower folks and try to go around rather than wait their turn.

It’s a constant uphill hike. This view looks back toward the start of the trail, and was taken quite a way from the top. The specks on the ropey pale line are hikers.

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Two sets of switchbacks await for a total of 22 back-and-forth climbs like this one. This is called Walter’s Wiggles, which is a recognized feat of engineering, has a steep grade and will kick your butt if you insist on racing up rather than pacing yourself. (At our steady walk, we passed several groups more than once because they couldn’t help racing along, only to eventually fall behind. Yes, tortoise and hare do come to mind.)

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Speeding along means missing the beautiful little details trying to greet you along the way:

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And at the end of the trail? Take a breather, swallow some water, and enjoy the view! (That’s a 1000′ drop at the end of my feet. Which is why I’m sitting on my butt rather than standing on two legs.)

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What better reward after a hike like that (and making it up in just 65 minutes without even trying to set a speed record) than….

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Kathy’s Famous Carrot Cake at Oscar’s! MMMMMMMM! “Our homemade recipe with an unforgettable cream cheese frosting!” said the menu. Unforgettable is right 🙂

Oscar’s has some great dishes besides that awesome dessert… Among those we went back for was their salad, which was the best side salad we’ve ever had:

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While shopping in Springdale, a local store owner asked if we’d hiked Observation Point yet, we had to admit we hadn’t.

Next post, we’ll let you know how that hike was, and how we were, after just a day’s rest.

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About Ellen

Fiction writer and photographer, I travel the country with my sweetheart of a husband as a "full-time RVer."
This entry was posted in Food, Hiking, National Parks and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Life Elevated

  1. emhelms63 says:

    Okay, I’ve been to Zion a couple of times, but because I had young’uns along I never hiked that trail. Now, I wouldn’t trust myself to do so. I’ve suffered from vertigo for the past several years, and can’t even trust myself on a tall extension ladder. I used to have no fear doing such things; but now, I KNOW I would lose my balance and fall. No need to add my name to the park’s fatality list!

    One of my all time favorite N.P.s is Big Bend NP in Texas along the Rio Grande. There you can enjoy the Chisos Mountains (where the temps are mostly mild even in the summer; the desert environment, and the unique environments of the deep canyons (Boquillas and??–insert senior moment here!). Three different and spectacular natural environs all within one park and a couple of hours’ drive from each other. HOWEVER — I’ve heard that in the last decade or so that because of increased smuggling and illegal alien influx some areas of the park have become restricted, and even banned from visitation. That is such a shame. There was such reach cultural and historical and natural significance within the confines of Big Bend that it is a huge disappointment that recent events/changes have ruined what once was a fantastically enjoyable and learning experience has basically been taken away. Alas, such is life.

    You two keep trucking, be safe, and as always — Happy Trails!

    Mike

    • Ellen says:

      Mike — Angel’s Landing becomes a sort of personal test for everyone who hikes it; it is for me, that’s for sure! We have Big Bend on our list. We’ve heard as well about the “banditos” known to come across the Rio Grande to sell stuff. It sounded like a great adventure to us, but then we later learned, as you mentioned, that some of those exchanges aren’t so friendly anymore, that it’s hard to know who to trust or what’s happening. Too bad! But still on our list to see what we can see, someday. Take care — hunker down for the storms that sound like they’re heading east!

      • emhelms63 says:

        Hi, Ellen: Sana Elena Canyon was the other beautiful canyon I couldn’t recall before. The Rio Grande rushing through sheer walls hundreds (?) of feet high. Beautiful water there. At Boquillas Canyon you used to be able to park and visit the small village of Boquilla, Mexico. Men in Jon boats would cross the river and take you to the Mexican side where you could rent burrows to ride into town. Very friendly people (although all were out to make whatever money they could). Lovely adobe cantina, a restaurant, and other shops, etc. No electricity; propane appliances only. If not for that, life was much like the 1800s. Alas, you can’t go there any longer.

        My favorite hike was the South Rim Trail (12-13 miles). You hiked up into the Chisos Mountains, and about halfway you had a tremendous view of the Mexican desert for as far as eye can see. Also, don’t miss the Window Trail, and another one that supposedly leads up a peak to a lost treasure mine (can’t recall the name). I don’t know if your RV can make it up to the Chisos campground, but it’s a nice drive up there by car/truck. Camping is also available along the Rio Grande.

        Enjoying your full-time RVing vicariously! Happy Trails,

        Mike

      • Ellen says:

        Mike — That sounds like a great adventure! Thanks for the specifics so we can check this out someday 🙂

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