Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015
Mesa to OBX

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Two days in Zion, June 19,20

We drove into Zion in the morning, back to the west end, where you can catch the shuttle which will actually take you into Zion Canyon. In the year 2000, they closed this canyon off to vehicle traffic because of high visitation. Now you hop a propane driven shuttle, which comes every five minutes, and that's the only way in, unless you have a special permit because you are staying at Zion lodge. We decided to take the bus all the way to the top of the canyon and work our way down. The top stop was the most popular trail, and it was evident as you walked. You couldn't stop to admire the scenery without causing a traffic jam. If you looked up while you were walking, you would crash into a chinaman who stopped to take a picture. The trail followed the Virgin River for about a mile, and then it ended. The trail continued for eight more miles I guess, but it was actually just walking up the canyon in the river itself. Pam stopped where the asphalt stopped, but I continued up the river for about a half mile. The water was a perfect temperature for wading, and it never got deeper than just above my knees. There were people swarming everywhere, kids squealing, people wasn't a very pristine experience, but cool just the same. I walked to a waterfall where people were lined up, taking pictures of each other, and decided to turn back. I guess as you continued to walk up the canyon, it got narrower, deeper, and there were places you might have to swim. You could go to the top of the canyon and stay over night with a permit. That would be the ultimate hot weather hike, because the water was beautiful, and I'm sure the people thinned out somewhere up there.
We shuttled our way back down the canyon, stopping at every stop, checking out the various length trails, none of which were as crowded as the Narrows up at the top. We decided to spend most of our day walking a 3-4 mile round trip hike to the upper, middle, and lower Emerald Pools. The upper was the neatest, a pond about 100 ft across. It, as most of the upper part of the trail, was in the shade, which made the steep hike more tolerable. There were signs telling people not to swim, so of course there were twenty kids of all ages swimming, wading, squealing, and chasing the native frogs all around. We stayed and relaxed on a rock and talked to some people from Michigan for almost an hour. We walked down a slightly different trail which brought us out at the lodge, which is beautiful. We had an ice cream cone, and headed on our shuttle tour. After we had stopped at all the stops, we shuttled to the visitors center and walked a short distance out of the park into the town of Springdale, which is where Pam picked me up yesterday. We ate at the Zion Brewing Company, and called it a day. We made plans to do a long, challenging hike tomorrow on the Angels Landing Trail. I also decided that I wasn't going to ride my bike through the park, because of the heavy traffic, narrow roads, lack of guard rail on the switchbacks, and the major headache of somehow getting through the tunnel. This will be the first break in my continuous ride,without missing an inch of road. I am going to leave the 13 mile park road as a gap in my tour. This decision does not come easily, but I may have to reconsider the way I encounter the summer tourist traffic in some of these busy areas. There are tons of rental Rv's, tour buses, foreigners who aren't used to driving, and kids on vacation, who are cluttering up the roads. We knew this was coming with the summer season, but that doesn't mean we have to like it.

East entrance to Zion

First sighting of the Desert Bighorn Sheep!

Hiking the Narrows

Waterfall in the Narrows

Hiking trail goes right thru the river!

Pam waiting by the river for Mike to appear!  She wasn't getting her hiking shoes all wet!  He was in sandals!

View from the Jeep!

Taking a break at Upper Emerald pool

Posing by the Upper Emerald pool

Hiking back down the Emerald Pools trail

At least it was shady in there!

Look in the middle of the photo, that's a waterfall!

The Court of the Patriarchs

Looking down at the switchbacks that we drove

Driving thru "the tunnel" !  No, it's not night time, just no lights in there!

Cool rocks

Full moon rising!

Our second day in Zion was going to be dedicated to a long hike to climb to Angels Landing. It was more than I ever expected. We are so happy that we did it. If I ever come here again I will be too old to do what I did today. We walked up the West Rim trail from the Grotto bus stop. It started out innocent enough, sort of level, paralleling the Virgin River. Soon the trail became paved, and made a turn into a canyon, where we couldn't figure out where it was going.....until we looked straight up the wall of the canyon, and saw people WAY up there. Then we could see the trail, cut into the wall, and switch backing its way up the wall in a way that made us think we were going to be hanging on by our fingernails. As we got up higher and higher, we realized that the trail was pretty wide ( four feet), but very steep. There were people, but it wasn't crowded. After the trail got up the wall pretty far, it wrapped around the mountain and started a narrow, shaded, walk back an unseen canyon, following a small, dry stream bed. It went back into the slot canyon for quite a while, before turning again and heading up a series of switchbacks, steep switchbacks, to a top of a rock called Scott's Landing. This point was a destination in itself for many people, including Pam. She looked at the rest of the climb, and decided her knees were not going to do what we saw next. We had been walking an hour, climbing pretty high, but the Angels Landing Trail was just beginning. What we saw was a narrow outcropping of rock that went, up, up, up. There was no path, just chains that had been built into the face of the rock, for hikers to pull themselves up with. I was hoping I was going to be able to do this, but up I went. There was one way up and one way down, so climbers had to alternate using the chains. Traffic jams built up as a group was waiting for a group going the opposite direction. There were quite a few people climbing, as we got there at the busiest time of day. I was going up, when a lot of the early rising types were coming down. I should have known it was going to be one of the coolest things I've ever done when I saw a t shirt in the lodge, commemorating those who could finish the climb. The total altitude change was 1488 ft in about three miles. The rock face that I was climbing kept getting narrower and narrower, until it came to a section about four feet wide with over a thousand foot drop off on each side, with one chain to hold onto as you walked across the thirty foot length. Words can't really describe. I've never been anywhere so high and so narrow with a drop off each side like that. Once I got across the narrow section, the rock widened out again, and the climb continued to the top. Once I was there, there was quite a group of people just sitting up there, giddy about being on the top. I sat down and began munching on a small bag of trail mix I had carried. Soon I found myself surrounded by squirrels and chipmunks who wanted a meal. A chipmunk actually crawled on my shoe as I sat there, and started up my leg, when I put an end to HIS climb. I took out my camera, but the noise it made when I turned it on, spooked most of them, and they scampered on to the next potential meal.
The climb down was much less crowded, and more difficult in a way. The footing was trickier, and you held on to the chain for balance as you climbed down, unlike using it to pull yourself up.
The view of the drop offs was also more apparent as you looked down the mountain, as opposed to looking up as you climbed. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes round trip, until I was back to Scott's Landing with Pam, to continue our descent. I hope the pictures that I took convey some of the things I have described in words. Neither words or pictures will be adequate, however.

Why did the turkey cross the road?

To get to the other side!!!!

Looking up at people on the West Rim Trail

Yeah, that's a drop off ledge with no railing!

Part way up the trail, and looking down to where we had been!

Yeah, we hiked up there!

We just climbed up this!  Killer!

Mike found a little cave and had to investigate!

Trail gets a little narrow......

Continuing up

Looking back

Switch backs going up

Looking back down the same switch backs

Up at Scott's Landing, looking down at Big Bend

Leaving Scott's Landing and starting up Angels Landing

The following are pictures that Mike took as he was climbing up Angels Landing

See the chain?

Looking out over

At Angels Landing, looking down on Big Bend - just a little higher up!

At the top!

Long way down!!!!

Mike's little friend!

Time to start down!

And going down!

And going across!

Yeah, that's a drop off on each side!

Orange dot is Mike coming down!

Getting closer!


And he's down!

Always playing around!

Gonna start back down the West Rim Trail - yup, that's it down there!

Flowers in bloom

Once we got back to the visitors center, Pam wanted to float the Virgin River through Springdale on tubes, as we had seen people doing yesterday. It was over 90 degrees, so it sounded like a good idea to me. The water level was beginning to lower for the summer, so it was a bumpy ride, but the water was perfect for cooling off. We had a good time shooting through the little rapids and bouncing off rocks, floating near people's back yards in a very wilderness setting, even though we were in a town. It was so much like wilderness that I almost floated up to a mule deer buck as he waded in the river, and we saw a diamondback rattler about three feet long on the shore, even though it was dead. Pam wasn't thrilled with that! If that snake was alive I may never have found her again! Three hours of floating later, we were waterlogged, pretty tired, and ready to call it a day. ( note: look under angel's landing on you tube and see some crazy video of the area I climbed if you are interested)

Cool rock formations

While Mike was taking the above pictures, these two people came back from climbing the walls!  Crazy people!

Then, all these Desert Bighorn Sheep come by! 

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