Zion! - Day One, Part One
After taking my time hiking in the Grand Canyon (and locking my keys in my car in Page, AZ) I was racing the clock to get to Zion by sundown. By the time I passed the east entrance of the park, the sun was already gone and I was driving the winding, twisting road in the dark. I needed to get to Zion Adventure Company by 8pm and I made it 15 minutes before close, just enough time to pick up my gear for the Narrows. I then headed to my campsite in Watchman Campground, set up my tent, made some dinner, and then crashed, exhausted from the morning's hike. But I had finally made it to Zion! Let the real adventure begin!
I woke up to The Watchman towering over me, one of the benefits of setting up camp in the dark is the surprise of your view the next morning. As soon as I had some coffee and breakfast in me I hit the ground running. First stop was the Backcountry Rangers' Office to get a backcountry permit for the next day. I was about the 10th person in line when I got there so I had high hopes that I'd be able to get a walk up permit for the campsite I wanted along the West Rim Trail. Unfortunately campsites #3 and #5 were taken, so after talking to the Ranger and hearing her pros and cons of the available sites, I decided on campsite #7. With permit in hand, I headed to the shuttle for the day's first hike: Angel's Landing.
I'd read a lot about the trail and my friends who have hiked it all said it is a must. I knew it was hard and steep and there were deadly drop offs on the way up but I didn't fully understand what I had signed up for. The hike up was indeed steep, switchback after switchback on a paved trail. And once I got to Walter's Wiggles I had to kick it into gear for those 21 steep switchbacks. After hiking 5.5 miles and 2,500 ft of elevation gain the day before, I was surprised I didn't feel sore or more fatigued on this hike.
Once I got to Scout Lookout I figured the hard part was over, it's just a few chains and then I'll be there. Again, I didn't realize there would be half a mile of chains to carefully hold onto before I got to the top. Since I got an early start the trail wasn't crowded, not like some of the photos I've seen. The last half mile was more technical than difficult and some parts did make my stomach drop. Many people have died falling off the trail, even experienced hikers, so that fear wasn't too far from my mind.
After the last chains the trail flattens out on some slabby sandstone and the view was absolutely worth the steep hike. Gratitude swept over me once again, amazed that I was here in this place, by myself. I found a nice spot to sit and pulled out my watercolors for another painting session. This time I had to keep the ground squirrels from rummaging in my backpack for snacks! They were very aggressive and would not take "no" for an answer.
I spent about an hour and 15 minutes at the top, painting and taking it all in. Once again, I spent longer on this hike than I had originally planned and was taking time away from my hike into The Narrows. Reluctantly I packed up my stuff and headed down, carefully. By now there were more people headed up and I was glad to be leaving as the crowds were making me nervous coming down the chains. Most people were kind and courteous waiting for others to pass but a handful were not as patient.
The fall colors in the canyon were at their peak. Yellow cottonwoods, red maples, beautiful colors everywhere. Fall is my favorite season and I've missed my fall colors living in Tucson so this sight was most welcomed. I highly recommend visiting Zion in the fall!
I made it back to the Grotto Shuttle Stop and boarded the shuttle back to the Visitor's Center. I hurried back to my car and changed into my dry gear ready for The Narrows!
Angels Landing Trail
Date Hiked: October 29, 2018
Total Miles: 4.1 miles
Elevation Gained: 1,617 feet
Total Time: 4.25 hours (with 1.25 hour at the top)
Land Acknowledgement: Ancestral lands of the Southern Paiute and Puebloans. Before gaining National Park designation in 1919, Zion was known as Mukuntuweap National Monument. Mukuntuweap was believed to be the Paiute's name for the canyon before Mormons moved into the area and called it Zion.