Friday, October 12, 2012

Zion Zen

Well, I have just survived 8.5 hours traipsing around Disneyland and I just couldn't face the next 4 hours of even more "Zippity Doo Dah", so thought it was about time to write this walk up, which Lucy and I did about a week ago.

We spent a couple of nights at Zion. Well, technically not at Zion, but one night in Virgin (how appropriate) and the next in the RV park at Springdale.

Now the RV park at Virgin was very pretty and despite the Red Bull Rampage being right next door, it was still 15 miles down the road from Zion. The park at Springdale was tidy, if not very inspiring, but it was at the entrance to Zion and Springdale would have to be my favourite place so far in the US.

It is on the doorstep of a mindblowingly amazing national park, has some funky restaurants and coffee shops with easygoing, fun staff that genuinely make you feel welcome. And the view! Any direction you look, you see huge red rock cliffs, just begging you to get out there and explore.

And it had more than one place that made decent coffee. Unfortunately, we have found Starbucks to be our "go to" place for coffee over here as they make consistently good coffee. Totally the opposite to home, but there you go. Most places over here have zero idea how to make good coffee.

So Springdale ticks soo many boxes and I haven't even hopped on a mountain bike yet!

After the above coffee, Lucy and I jumped on the shuttle bus into the park. To cut traffic on the narrow roads, the National Park Service locked out cars from the main canyon and set up a bus service to all of the popular trail heads about ten years ago (or so the audio said on the bus). It works very well with a bus every 10-15 minutes with the added bonus of being able to take in the view along the way.

Due to logistical issues (finding coffee and the bus) we didn't get to the trail head for the Angel's Landing walk until about 10:30am. It was starting to warm up in the sun, but the high canyon walls were helping keep the heat down with copious amounts of shade. This would actually be a very cold place come Winter. But the shade would only last so long this morning. We hit the trail after a quick comfort stop. I was again shocked to see that even though we were in the middle of nowhere, the restroom had a sensor activated tap in the sink and a sensor activated hand dryer. At home you would not even have running water at such a remote location. I have to keep reminding myself that even though it is quiet (early Fall here) there are still 3 million visitors per year through this park.

The Angel's Landing walk is one of the more strenuous walks in the park, even though it is only 4.8 miles(7.7km) it is a steep climb of about 2000ft. The other interesting piece of the climb is the trail itself. In the last half mile it clings to cliff faces and scrambles along a razorback ridgeline that is in places only about two metres wide. Yep, 2 metres with a 1400ft sheer drop on either side! I figured that Lucy was up to the climb and would get a lot out of it but I wasn't willing to watch two kids on this one, so Willy had to hit the shops with his Mum (sorry, Mom).

That is where we are heading. Right to the top. It was nice and cool in the shade. Lucy even wanted to put her jumper back on for this section but I managed to convince her she would warm up soon enough.

We were soon into a whole bunch of switchback climbs that gained a lot of altitude very quickly and being in the full sun at around 5000ft above sea level some rest stops were definitely needed. Luckily for us the scenery was begging us to stop.

Moving toward a narrow canyon, chilled air was spilling down onto us. It was so enticingly cool we picked up the pace just to get into that shade.

At the end of this straight section was another series of switchbacks that gained several hundred feet. They were blissfully in the shade and we enjoyed watching numerous Chipmunks scurrying along the trail.

Suddenly we were on the last half mile of trail. The half mile along the razorback, with the drop-offs. Holy crap it looked steep and trecherous! The photos don't do it justice!

That is a 1400ft drop on either side. Gulp! 

I asked Lucy not to fall off because if she fell off, I would have to throw myself off after her as her mother would kill me anyway. I don't think this made much difference as her sense of self preservation was severeley overridding! Yay!!

Scrambling along, one guy remarked "youngest so far today" and I was again wondering if this was a stupid idea?!

At least there was a chain to help in the most difficult areas.

Nothing to see here.....gulp!

Once past this section there was a plateau of sorts at the top, the "landing" I guess and there were quite a few people sprawled out enjoying the view. So, who do we ask to take a conquest photo for us? Two Aussie girls, one of whom is from West End here in Brisbane! Small world?!

It was a beautiful, still day so we sat for a while quietly munching on some museli bars and watching the Chipmunks. They were extremely friendly, no doubt knowing that they can get an easy feed from the many hikers. In fact I will need to shake my CamelBak out before I pass through quarrentine back home just to make sure I don't have a little hitch hiker tucked away in there.

I usually dread the hike back down more than the way up but this time around the way down seemed easier for the most part. There was the odd section of trail that felt like we were climbing off the edge of the world though.

Before long we were on the relatively easy section of the trail. It all seemed very routine after the "Holy Moly" sections higher up. My pardner was running out of steam as she had packed as a trail snack the highly edible, but with dubious nutritional value, popcorn. This was of course gone after about 15 minutes of walking and 2.5 hours later her legs were flagging somewhat. My museli bars were not appealing enough so we progressively got slower and slower on the descent. Oh well, more time for photos.

Much resting was required and I was copping some flack for "making" her do the walk in the first place. Funny how kids get all out-of-whack when they are hungry and tired. Anyway, we sorted this by jumping on the bus and then jumping off at Zion Lodge, which had a fully functioning cafe'. Here we ordered Cheeseburgers, fries and Coke. Coke normally being totally off limits made it all the more special and without a word of a lie within 10 minutes I had the normal, sane Lucy back with me. We sat on the lush green lawn of the Lodge underneath some cool Cottonwood trees and reflected on our achievement for the morning.

It was another great reminder for me of how sensitive kids are to food intake when out in the bush. I should not have allowed popcorn to be her trail snack and insisted on something tried and true. 

We had a great time with so much of the flora and fauna being totally unfamiliar to both of us that I was seeing it as if through Lucy's eyes as well. It is great being a kid again!

Zion is on my list of places that I must visit again and spend a respectful amount of time. This trip, as much fun as it was, is only a taster of the delights that await a full-blown visit. Wading through the slot canyons sounds bloody interesting.



  1. Wow that looks like a pants shitting climb up that narrow ridge. The scenery is spectaular. Love the photos. Go Lucy!

  2. Wow, I agree with Steve, the last part of that climb looks crazy. But such a pretty area.

    Poor Lucy. We call that mood "hangry" when we get hungry we get angry. Now you know what to call it.

    Oh and regards to coffee shops. You hit the nail on the head. Starbucks is our go to place when traveling and wanting coffee because they are so consistent in their beverages. The independent shops are really hit or miss and more expensive. Sad but true.

    Good on you for suffering through Disneyland - such a good dad. I never went as a kid and I don't think I'd go there as an adult as someone would have to post my bail before the day was done. Too many people... I think I'd end up punching someone.

    1. "Hangry". I like it. Perfect description.

      Yes, we were aware of our coffee snobbery from previous visits, but the last was almost 3 years ago and we thought the "good word" about expresso coffee might have traveled further.

      As for Disneyland, I think I missed getting the best out of it by about 30 years. As kids growing up in a small country town with only two TV channels, Chillertek and I would watch "The Wonderful World Of Disney" religiously every Sunday night at 6:30pm. It really was "wonderful" to a couple of bumpkin kids and to actually see it for what it is was ok.


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