Having just landed in Mexico, freezing temperatures in Utah seems more than just 6 weeks ago but, back to Utah we go:
Zion! As in Zion National Park, is essentially a canyon featuring massive cream, pink and red sandstone cliffs that soar high up into the sky. Different to other parks and canyons one looks up to the rim of the canyon rather than down into it.
The area offers two major hikes and being us we opted for both.
Angels Landing is a famous and thrilling trail which is in itself a feat of engineering. It takes you on a gradual ascent before meeting a series of 21 steep switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles arriving at Scout Lookout which is where the sensible people feel satisfied with the spectacular view and turn around. Not us!
We pushed through to the final summit which is a perilous half mile (it really did seem A LOT longer!) section running along a narrow rock fin with deep chasms on each of its flanks, making you dizzy if you looked down. It must be said that prior to doing this hike we were well and truly warned that people have fallen to their death whilst climbing to the summit – eek!!
Anchored support chains are provided for some of the truly hairy sections as well as being extremely helpful in assisting to haul yourself up rocks. Let me tell you I wasn’t letting go of those chains for love nor money!
When we did arrive at Angels Landing itself and were able to exhale, it definitely felt worth it as 450 metres up from the canyon floor, the views in every direction are magnificent.
In complete contrast to climbing a monolith, the following day we hiked The Narrows – Being a #5 rated hike by National Geographic from America’s Best 100 Adventures list we just had to do it!
The hike is along the North Fork of the Virgin Rivers, the unique aspect being that you must get wet to see the goods. Now the water temperature was far from warm in Zion very late November – 5degC – so doing the hike required hiring full dry suits and shoes. This Star Trek looking ensemble was worn over our thermals and normal warm clothes – we were a very long way from the Paris runway!
All decked out we waded 5km upstream through the narrow corridors of red, brown and black stone which towered 450metres above us.
The swift, murky water which got waist high at points and threw in a few surprises when the slippery rocks underfoot disappeared like a rug being pulled from underneath you, was a challenge at points and didn’t seem much easier going downstream either. Once again we had a feeling of being in an unreal world, dwarfed in nature by the immense proportions of this sky-stone-river hallway.
After all these adventurous thrills, life threw us a bit of a curve ball in the form of a loss in our family. Michael’s beloved second wife – aka his camera – threw herself off a 300ft cliff on our last morning in Zion. Utterly distraught I burst into tears at the sight of this once perfect but now obliterated camera whilst Michael retreated under the duvet. When this method of grieving failed he turned to comfort eating through all our snacks.
A complete change of plan was called for and saw us head back to Vegas to rectify the situation. Not all bad as we got to celebrate Thanksgiving at the mega buffet found at the Ballagio. As well, after some deliberation and complications Michael acquired a slimmer, lighter, funkier new camera complete with new and lighter lenses.
Minor drama solved, we were back on the road headed to Bryce Canyon.
Despite its name Bryce isn’t a canyon at all, rather a collection of giant amphitheatres distinctive due to geological structures call hoodoos, which are rock spires formed over millions of years from erosion. A legend of the Paiute Indians, who inhabited the area for hundreds of years before the arrival of European Americans, claims the colorful hoodoos are ancient “Legend People” who were turned to stone as punishment for bad deeds. So we remained on our best behaviour just in case.
It must be said that our first sighting of the amphitheatre was out of this world! We did hike down into it all but the sight from above is truly entrancing. We were fortunate to be there with snow which really added to its awe inspiring factor and certainly put our Walmart purchases to very good use in the -20degC temperatures.
Prior to our final day in Bryce Canyon it snowed as only Londoner’s dream it will. Non stop white stuff all night with the following day dropping to a balmy -31degC. This called for a delve into some unexplored territory for us – cross country skiing. What fun! I always thought the activity didn’t look very ‘cool’ or perhaps I’m very uncool?! Anyway, coupled with the picturesque setting it was a truly marvellous day!
And I say this with the fact that the wind chill was so severe it burnt one side of our faces.
On that note, hasta luego and wishing you a very Happy New Year – hope 2014 has gotten off to a swell start.