Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Where only Angels Can Land

Every time I come back from vacation, I promise a big recap post, and then it never happens. So this time, I'm trying a different approach -- bite-sized posts about parts of my vacation. For vacation last week, Dan and I went on a road trip to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument (with a brief but terrible stop in Vegas on the way). The first hike we did in Zion was a whopper -- the 5 mile up-and-back to Angel's Landing.

Angel's Landing gets its name from Frederick Fisher, who visited Zion in 1916 and exclaimed about Angel's Landing that "only an angel could land there." The first 2 miles up are a cool hike, but fairly tame. First, you spend a lot of time zig-zagging up the mountainside on switchbacks:

Then you travel through a cool (and chilly) canyon called The Refrigerator. Me goofing around in a sandstone cave in Refrigerator Canyon:

Finally, you top out on a wide sandstone saddle called Scout's lookout. Once you make it to Scout's Lookout, things get pretty hairy, pretty fast, and many people don't continue.

The final half-mile of the hike involves climbing up a narrow spine of sandstone with a 800-1200 foot drop on either side. At times, the ridge is as narrow as 3 or 4 feet. The sandstone is actually quite rough, and therefore very sticky on your feet. And there is a heavy chain attached to the rock for much of this final half mile, to hold onto as you climb, but it's still scary as shit. 5 or 6 people have fallen to their deaths from this trail. (It's probably good I didn't tell my mom I was doing it till after it was done. Seeing as how it probably would have given her a heart attack, which would suck. Hi mom. I love you.)

Once you DO make it to the top, though, the view out across the mountains is astounding. Uh, as long as you don't think too hard about that chain that looks like it's going right over the side of the mountain into the abyss. Which, you know, you actually have to climb back down to get back to safety. Better to think about the fact that shuttle buses on the road below look like ants from up here, and the river is so green! And, hey, look at that pretty birdy!

Anyway, here's Dan sitting on the edge of the abyss. That's a 1200 foot drop underneath his feet -- can you see how tense his arms are? Can you hear me in the background saying "Ohmygod are you crazy?!? Don't put your feet over the edge! Well, ok, if you're going to do it anyway, at least let me get a picture." I'm such a good girlfriend :-)

Finally, here's me going back down after reaching the summit. I'm smiling because I'm pretty darn excited to be alive after that freakin' scary hike up (and I'm not even scared of heights!). And also because, as it turns out, and contrary to what I expected, going down was actually quite a lot easier than going up. (Though perhaps the women I saw going down inch-by-inch on their asses, white knuckles holding the chain in a death grip would disagree.)

Anyway, if you go to Zion National Park, I highly recommend this hike. Except, uh, not so much if you're afraid of heights. And do yourself a favor, and DON'T read anything else online about the hike before you do it. You'll just freak yourself out.

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