Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park was expected to be something different, something we have never seen before. Something unique in the deserts of Utah. It was our last national park before our planned 7 to 10 days stop-over in Las Vegas at our friend Abel Pina’s house where we would take some time to maintain the truck.
It was a busy day in Bryce but we got a nice parking not far away from the viewpoint area. In front of us was laying a world we have never seen before. As we walked closer it looked like a scene from a fantasy movie, those created with lots of imagination. I couldn’t believe looking at the multicolored rock formations, to see the naturally formed “hoodoos”. They were so perfectly standing tall and still with their boubous sculptured shapes and colors... Altogether standing like a fairytale castle on a kingdom guarded by petrified tall knights, with its own proclaimed king and queen.
What made the scene so unique were the bulbous canyons erosion out of the cliffs following water, snow, ice-melt and a lot of time. The trail through the hoodoos, fins, narrow tall walls was full of wow moments.
We decided for one of the longest trail combination, from Sunrise Point on Queen Gardens Trail to Peekaboo Loop Trail and return on the Navajo Loop Trail all the way to Sunset Point and then to Sunrise Point via Rim Trail. This was about 8 miles which we would complete in about 4 hours. Vested of a “let’s do it!” attitude we started what it would be our last trail before other type of fun in Las Vegas.
It ended up being more demanding than we expected, mostly due to the ups and downs of the trails. A considerable challenge at the end of the first part of our national parks marathon. It was 4pm when we reached Sunset Point. We were really happy we finalized our the 5th national park in Utah and we congratulated each other for making as we had planned.
Zion National Park, Part I
It was a beautiful day when we reached Zion National Park on our way to Las Vegas. Our objective was not to hike that day, but to get to know more about the park and camping inside park premises so we could return after our time in Vegas. It was a superb drive through with great scenery. It was interesting crossing the old tunnel too, and the information gathered at the visitor center made start dreaming in anticipation of Angel’s Landing hike.
Zion National Park, Part II (3 weeks after our first visit to Zion)
Returning from Grand Canyon North Rim we were ready to conquer one of the most dangerous and strenuous trails in Zion. After wild camping overnight outside park limits we were up early and headed to the visitor center to park and to get the bus to Angels Landing trailhead. When we heard of Angels Landing from fellow travelers we knew we had to do it. It was a beautiful day, and we wanted to get the most of it.
We started well in good pace ascending around curves through the sandstone mountain. For a brief moment I thought that was it. The narrow path up the mountain with a big gap as we would ascent. I said to myself, that’s easy.
Picture zig zag?
Well, I was wrong. When I thought we reached the top, that’s when the hard part was about to start. I looked up and there was a tall thin ridge rocky mountain in front of us to conquer. We could see the chain going up steep and the huge cliffs both sides. I was like… really? Are we really doing this?
We knew that we could make use of chains to continue our ascent but we did not know it would be that dramatic. What makes it challenging is not how steep it is, but the number of people going up and down the same chain line and the huge cliffs both sides of the narrow trails. You have to coordinate who passes when, often having to let go the chain. Nothing really separates you from the cliffs so you better grab that chain well as it would take only one mistake.
We had to continue. Step by step, chain by chain, we overcame one obstacle after another. The trail was packed which made the situation more difficult. There was one line, one chain, and only one person could pass at the time.
We ascended for about one hour holding the chains, paying maximum attention to the trail, careful not to trip over, staying present and alert. The adrenaline was pumping up like a burning fire, and I felt some sort of mountain lion: focused and energized.
What a feeling when we reached the top! Yuhhu! Time for a few pictures and a well deserved celebration! But wait, we still had to descent the same way and the way down was supposed to be as dangerous to going up. As it was still relatively early and we anticipated that more people would be hiking soon we decided to stay focused and start our descent before having lunch. We preferred to enjoy our lunch on a safe zone, or at least out of the chain zone.
The last leg of the descent on the chains was very crowded as we thought it will be. With cautiousness and attention we made it down. Yuuhhuu! We signaled “Give me 5”, hugged, congratulated each other and finally felt safe to have lunch.
On our way down we were talking to other hikers and one of them commented about a guy who almost fell from the top of a cliff when trying to salvage his camera at Angels Landing. We laughed about the way he told the story but jokes aside thanks God nothing happened.
Soon afterwards we came across with two German youngsters who were traveling around US and just completed Angeles Landing too. They were really nice. The funniest thing was that one of the kids was actually the guy who almost lost his life trying to salvage his camera on the peak of Angels Landing. Glad all ended well.
After this trail, we got back to the bus stop and continued to the Temple of Sinawava where we went alongside the Virgin River to The Narrows, the place where the river crosses the canyon. This was an easy walk, picturesque and in straight line. The sun was shining beautifully on the valley and we could admire the lovely nature while chatting with the German youngsters.
Our last stop was Zion’s Museum where we learned that the land has been populated for more than 10,000 years by indigenous populations. 1500 years ago the Ancestral Puebloans were using the land for agriculture as Zion’s elevations, terraces, the Virgin river and adequate growing season made the place a great location for a sustainable living based on agriculture.
In the 1860s early Mormon pioneers came to the region and build small communities and farmed the river terraces. They also named most of the mountains after biblical characters. Even the park’s name Zion means “the promised land”. This is because this area was considered by Mormons promised to them by God in times where the majority of them fled here following the religious prosecution in the north. They found Zion as a good land for agriculture, a sustainable living in those times.
Today the park attracts not only lots of tourists from around the world, being an oasis in the middle of the desert, but as well artists, painters, photographs coming to immortalize the beautiful vivid scenery.
We returned to the truck on a serene trail where we saw deers, wild turkeys and a beautiful sunshine through the river. It was wonderful and relaxing.
Once back to the truck we started the engine and headed out to find a wild spot to camp overnight. We continued the road and turned left on gravel road taking us deep into the desert. We soon found a beautiful spot to stay overnight and were rewarded by the most amazing sunset with colorful reflections on the surrounding red and orange mountains. It was magic.
We were literally exhausted that day. But boy, what a day! Our last day of a week in pursuit of discovering Grand Canyon and Zion. We completed this loop as we promised, in what was a unique experience. We were very happy to have accomplished so much in such a short time.