After a very nice 8-day visit to Death Valley, Sandy and I took off and headed for Zion National Park on Sunday. We had a wonderful time in Death Valley – in fact it was so wonderful, we pretty much did something fun every day and there was little time to write. What extra time we had was spent cooking, imbibing and enjoying the week that Sandy took off from work. So, some D.V. entries are definitely coming, but I thought I would try to catch up to now, now, and get to what happened before, later. Make sense? So here is a little story about our first hike at Zion.
A little background first: As we are traveling, Sandy continues to work at Red Giant where she loves her job. Her company produces plug-ins for digital video, and they don’t have centralized headquarters. Instead, they have some people in San Francisco, and a group in Portland, Oregon – and some folks in Ottawa. And then they have people in a bunch of other places across the world as well. As such, Sandy can work wherever she wants as long as she can stay connected. So far, we have been able to keep the 1’s and 0’s flowing steadily between our her computer in our little aluminum can and the rest of the world. We have a wireless booster, and a cellular booster sticking out of the top. Four solar panels right next to them (to keep us powered up), and a couple of hotspot devices inside the trailer. We have a high-res TV which we can pull off the wall if Sandy needs to work with two monitors, and her office has both sit-down and stand-up workstations. (In fact, so does our dining room has the same set-up So far, so good. But please cross your fingers, because we sure are.
Sandy’s schedule is pretty well locked. She works a typical week except that she has Wednesdays off as well as weekends. So, the plan for most of the year is for her to work Monday/Tuesday, we do something fun or we travel on Wednesdays, then she works Thursday/Friday and the weekend is ours again to do whatever.
After two days of work, we decided to take on the Observation Point hike yesterday. We understood it was supposed to be pretty tough. The park guide indicated, “Strenuous. Long drop-offs.” Eight miles round trip and the first 3.5 miles are uphill. 2000 feet of climbing. Sounds good. So, we loaded up my backpack with cheese, prosciutto and apples and caught the shuttle to the trailhead.
Getting on a shuttle was lucky in itself, because we arrived on the last Sunday in October, and found out that shuttles would only be running on weekends in November. I discovered this on Monday after waiting for fifteen minutes with several other people. Zion is set up so that very few cars actually go into the canyon. Once they reach a certain number of cars in the park, they don’t let any more in. Luckily, they actually have an amazing system and you never have to wait longer than fifteen minutes… if it is running. And since the weather was amazing and there were thousands of people at the park, a lot of people found themselves stranded at the Visitor Center with no way in. To solve our problem on Wednesday, we had decided to get up very early and get into the park before they closed it to traffic. When the alarm went off, it was dark and cold – so we stayed in bed. By the time we got up, I was very nervous about whether we could get in, but then rangers starting walking through our camp telling us that shutting down the shuttles had been a disaster. So, they called all their drivers back and turned the system back on again.
So, we caught our bus, got off at Weeping Rock and started our climb. Here is what it looked like:
Okay, but we were fresh and feeling youthful. And it was a relatively cool day, so we went on our merry way as more fresh and more youthful folk passed us by. But we kept up a pretty good pace and in the end, we got into some very cool areas with overhanging cliffs and slot canyons.
It was beautiful. All thoughts of weariness passed as we hiked through this incredible canyon worn by water and rock. But all good things come to pass and soon we resumed our hike upward. And then the worst thing happened. We came upon a sign on the trail indicating that we had reached the half way point. Suddenly Sandy was plunged into the pit of despair. She is a trooper, but “hot/uphill” is not her thing. The sun was coming out, and suddenly things weren’t so peachy anymore. And then we hit this:
Let’s say that we slowed down considerably. Each step was sapping our energy and any person coming back down the hill had now become the ENEMY. Even a Clif bar didn’t seem to help, so I knew I had to take her mind off of the grind. Luckily, as we rounded a bend, we came across this beautiful tree.
We had been to Sequoia Park in October, and had seen our share of majestic trees there – some nearly 300 feet tall. This one reminded us those, although it was probably not nearly as tall. As we stood below it, and looked out across the vast canyon and the cliffs towering above us, we suddenly felt very small. Our perspective changed. Standing amongst million-year old cliffs and trees that weathered hundreds of years – suddenly our own little hike seemed pretty minor. We ventured on with renewed enthusiasm and respect for our surroundings.
Well, eventually we made it to the top, and it was worth it. Observation Point is over 2000 feet above the valley floor and 6500 feet above sea level. The view is spectacular!
We had hiked up Angel’s landing about four years before which is a pretty crazy hike. At points, you have to hold onto chains or take the chance of falling to the canyon floor below. We thought that was pretty high when we did it. But, from this vantage point, Angel’s landing was well below us, and we could just make out people on the top. Nothing but straight cliff drops all around us and the tiny Virgin River way below.
Well, it was time for lunch, so we walked off the trail a little bit and just enjoyed the view until it was time to head down. As you can imagine, going downhill was faster, but not that much easier on our tired bodies. Pain in thighs soon became pain in knees and ankles, but now we were the ENEMY and people coming up looked miserable. I didn’t envy them their journey, especially as we got further and further downhill, but we did our best to encourage them to keep on keeping on. Maybe it was because we were going downhill that our attitudes were a bit better. Or maybe the two of us grew a bit on the way up, having realized there was much more to the hike than the physical exercise.
In the end, we were tired and sore – and grateful to catch a shuttle at the end of our journey. We got a bunch of great pictures and some great memories of a beautiful park. Check them out if you get a chance. The colors are amazing and no software was used to saturate the images. We really recommend Zion!