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Zion! Day Three

You know those videos of people climbing Mt Everest, they're in their tents during a winter storm and the walls of the tent are shaking violently it looks like the tent could blow away any minute because the wind gusts are so strong? That's how my tent felt all night.

From sun down to sun up I was stuck in my tent due to the cold and wind of the Zion backcountry. At 7,000 elevation it was a bit colder than in the main canyon, plus a cold front was moving through making the temps drop into the 30s. After the sun went down, the wind made it so cold all I could do was stay in my tent, in my 15 degree sleeping bag, wrapped in all of my layers to keep warm. For almost 12 hours I laid there, nice and toasty thanks to an emergency hand warmer, waiting for morning and for the wind to subside. I did get out twice in the middle of the night for bathroom breaks. I was blown away by how many stars I could see! Oh so many! Unfortunately the wind was relentless so I couldn't lay out and enjoy the star show, I had to jump back in my sleeping bag and warm back up! I slept surprisingly well. I used a combination of melatonin and ear plugs to give me a restful night's sleep. Even though it was cold and the wind gusts made everything feel colder, it never dipped below freezing. My extra bottle of water, which I left outside my tent, didn't freeze.

Sunrise

In the morning I woke up around 6am. The air was calm, absolutely no wind but the sun had yet to come over the ridgeline. I couldn't bring myself to get out of my warm bag until the light of the sun was shining on my tent. Finally at 7am the sun crested and I was able to bask in its warm rays while I made some granola and coffee for breakfast. 

Today was my last day in Zion. I wanted to hike south on the West Rim Trail for a bit more. I knew that there were some beautiful vistas waiting for me and I wanted to experience as much as the trail as I could. I packed up camp, gathered my trash, used a wag bag for the first time, repacked my pack and was ready to hit the trail. I said goodbye to campsite #7 and started the quick 400 ft climb out of Potato Hollow to the upper plateau.

West Rim Trail

I felt even stronger than the previous day. I was starting to get my hiker legs! I made it to the top of the plateau and once again the vistas were stunning. I could see the top of West Temple! If I had enough time and the right logistics I would have hiked the remaining 13 miles to the Grotto. I knew it was 5 miles from my campsite back to the trailhead and any further hiking I would do this morning, I would just have to turn around and hike those miles again when I head back. I also had to consider the fact that I had to drive to Flagstaff today so once again I was on a time crunch. After hiking 2 miles south of campsite #7 I sadly turned back wishing I had more time in this beautiful place.

The 7 miles back to the trailhead flew by. My legs were strong and my pack was lighter. I told myself not to look at my GPS or my watch, just enjoy the hike back. Plus looking at my GPS or watch constantly won't make me get there any faster. I continued on, meeting two more groups of backpackers heading down to the Grotto. We all had a cold night but were glad to be experiencing the backcountry of Zion.

While hiking back I met another woman traveling solo. She was in the middle of a 3 week trip visiting some National Parks in the West before moving to New York City. It was nice to see another solo traveller and we reassured each other that this was perfectly normal! She was just out for a day hike but expressed her wish to backpack solo someday. I encouraged her to do it!

Before I knew it I was back at the trailhead and back at my car. I had successfully completed my first solo backpacking trip! I was so incredibly proud of myself! I started the drive back to the main canyon. I couldn't resist this photo op on the side of Kolob Terrace Road. I hadn't showered since I left Tucson 4 days before. I was sweaty, dirty, but mostly I was happy.

I was quite emotional driving back into the main canyon. This had been an amazing trip. I made one last stop to say goodbye to The Watchman who I felt had looked after me while in the park. I soaked up the beautiful fall day and thanked the canyon for its goodness. This trip was completely magical. Traveling, hiking, camping, and backpacking by myself has left me feeling braver, stronger, and so incredibly grateful for the heart impulses that led me here.

West Rim Trail - from campsite #7 to campsite #5 back to Lava Point trailhead

Date Hiked: October 31, 2018

Total Miles: 9 miles

Elevation Gained:  feet

Rating: Moderate

Total Time: 2 hours

Land Acknowledgement: Ancestral land of the Southern Paiute and Puebloans

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