In Awe of Utah: Zion National Park

After spending the day at the Grand Canyon we continued our journey northward.  We would spent the night in Page, Arizona on our way towards Zion National Park.  On our drive that night we could see the shadows of large cliffs and canyons whose true secrets were guarded by the darkness of the night. The next morning we rose to discover those secrets, taking a quick detour to see Horseshoe Bend.  The massive sandstone cliffs were expertly sculpted better than any artist other than the Colorado River could do creating the shape it is named for.  From here we continued heading towards the park and visited a unique little shop holding outdoor gear, books, and most importantly (for Louis) coffee drinks. We spent some time researching the region and then went on our way to find a spot to camp outside of the park utilizing the BLM land in the area.

It would be nice to say at this point morning came and so did a beautiful sunrise.  Instead, morning came and it was still pitch black and somewhere around 2 to 3 am.  A noise awoke both of us and led to several attempts by Tyler trying to find, and Louis being scared of what sounded like a small mouse.  We never managed to find it, but when morning did actually come we found evidence in the form of some droppings.  We did a quick sweep to look for it which ended with no success and then headed into Zion.  Driving up the road the red and white sandstone cliffs grew higher and higher.  Once we reached the park, we were greeted by a group of big horn sheep, followed by a massive tunnel which wasn’t massive enough for us to get through without having to pay an extra 15$ to get escorted through (Louis tried his best to get us through as our size was VERY close. Make sure to check the park’s website before visiting so you don't have any surprise yourself if you visit).  As the tunnel exit came we were in awe of the size and beauty of the mountains and cliffs that surrounded us.

 

Once we gained our bearings in the park we headed towards the Temple of Sinawava which is at the far end of the Canyon.  On the way we passed several cascading waterfalls that were far over 100 feet tall.  We managed to get on our first climbing route in the park, Tourist Crack, before finishing off the day by doing the regular touristy activities on the way through the park.

Cascading Waterfall within Zion National Park

Along the top of Angel's Landing

Tyler taking in the views

With only one day left before the weather forecasts were saying rain, we made sure to wake up early the next day to make the most out of what dry conditions we had ahead. Driving through the entrance to the park we were reminded of our lack of luck from the day before as the two rangers who cemented our fate as an over-sized vehicle for the tunnel greeted us as they checked our annual national parks pass. These bad memories weren't the only thing to greet us as we entered into the park. It seemed as if Mother Nature had created a wind tunnel blowing straight up the beautiful valley that sweeps through the area. Instead of starting our day climbing like we had planned, we headed up the canyon to the Angels Landing Trail. Despite being slightly off put by the literal sidewalk that leads up the the technical section of the trail this was an amazing hike. We sure were glad to have the chains during the last 1/4 mile as the sand on the rocks was like walking on marbles. (A must do trail if you find yourself in Zion and aren't too afraid of heights).

Sad about not being able to climb the stellar Headache Crack, a classic within the park

The views from our boondocking site on BLM land just outside the park

Hitting the trail. At the Cowbell on "More Cowbell"

With some good motivation from the epic summit views on Angel’s Landing, we moved the Bus over to the switch backs beneath the Mount Carmel tunnel to start our day climbing. Unfortunately due to the lack of sun that this area gets and the rain that had been through a couple days earlier the rock was too wet to climb but we did get to take our ropes out for a beautiful walk. Trying to still take advantage of the possible last day we had before rain we left the park to do some biking. Conveniently the biking was at the same spot that we had parked to sleep the night before. The area was again part of the IMBA epic list as The Hurricane Canyon. Due to our lack of sunlight though we stuck to a shorter loop, which ended up being more rewarding than we even expected. From single track trail skirting along the rim of the Virgin River canyon, to the edges of gorgeous mesas, the Jem Loop had all that you could want in a Utah desert trail.

Tyler riding "More Cowbell"

Louis on the Gem Trail, along the edge of the Virgin River Canyon

As a second look after our ride proved that the rain was eminent, we got Hermelda warmed up to start heading toward Las Vegas. Conveniently this also lined up with Louis’s 23rd Birthday and what he refuses to admit as a last ditch effort to gain an extra hour of his Birthday. To break up the drive on the now 75-80 mph highway speed limit we decided to take the scenic route through The Valley of Fire and along the shore of Lake Mead. After looking at the towering sandstone walls within Zion National Park our initial awestruck was quite subdued as we entered into glowing red rock valley. It didn’t take long for our fascination to kick back in though as we walked along the prehistoric petroglyph covered walls of the Mouse’s Tank Trail. Tyler was slightly disappointed though as we were unable to find any of the mystical bat woman glyphs which were represented on sign at the trail head. Continuing on along the shore of Lake Mead the light of the sun just started to disappear as the bright lights of the Vegas strip came into sight in the valley below.

Hiking through the Valley of Fire

Small example of the hundreds of petroglyph markings that give us a glimpse into the history of the area

From Vegas our plans are to head south to Joshua tree where we are hoping the rain will stop and we can get some more climbing in. We will likely spend at least a week in the park so it may be a little longer than usual for our next post.  Stay tuned!  If you have not already, consider subscribing via email below to stay updated on the journey. Thanks for reading!

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