We have discovered that it’s a lot easier to get everyone moving in the morning when the lodge offers an extensive breakfast buffet. Between that and the sun shining in through the windows of our east-facing cabin, we got off to a pretty early start. (Spoiler alert: it was not as early as we thought. Details in a future entry.)
After fortifying ourselves with enormous breakfasts, we headed back into Zion. It was just as amazing as we’d heard. Every bend in the road reveals a new breathtaking vista, so after a while you just get saturated with the beauty. Fortunately there’s a park shuttle, which goes to nine popular hiking spots, so we could look out the windows with abandon.
Our first destination was Angels Landing, because Zoe apparently has a death wish and wants to take her parents out with her. Only the last part of Angels Landing is truly terrifying, so the whole group of us headed off to hike the first two miles. It climbed steeply up to the top of the canyon through a series of switchbacks and awe-inspiring views. Lucky for us it’s only in the high fifties here, so we weren’t sweating too much (except for Bob and Nadia, who were sweating with nervousness over the sheer drop that we had on one side of us).
The final mile of the trail is along a knife-edge ledge, with steep ascents and descents and a chain drilled into the rock to hold onto in most areas. Bob was bravely planning to accompany Zoe, but was clearly suffering after the first few
feet, so I offered to take over.
The most frustrating thing about the trail was that you’d be climbing up to the top of a hill, thinking you were done — only to see further undulations stretching out ahead. My strategy was to maintain a death grip on the chain and stare at my feet. This worked reasonably well except when there were people coming from the opposite direction who were trying to follow the same strategy.
Eventually we labored to the top, at the end of the ledge, with spectacular views of the canyon stretching on all sides, and the road and river tiny ribbons far, far below. We stood a few seconds, breathing in the thrill of victory.
I was not looking forward to the descent, but was feeling pretty good about having made it.
Then it started to hail.
Seriously. The skies darkened, and fearing rain, I told Zoe we should start down right away. The wind picked up. Then flurries of white specs appeared in the air. I think I said something like, “You have GOT to be kidding me,” maybe with a few expletives thrown in. And we were still passing people going UP. Call me crazy, but when ice starts to fall from the sky I think it’s time to call an about-face.
Luckily, the weather here is even more changeable as it is in New England, and it wasn’t too long before the storm passed and the sun was shining again. We made it back to the regular trail without incident. Bob, Nadia, and Lanie had been waiting for us there, but gave up and headed down once the hail began.
On the plus side, the trail down seemed like nothing after that. Zoe and I walked along side by side, carefree and nonchalant. (In contrast, Bob told me he’d been nervous enough on the descent that he made the other two keep one hand on the canyon wall the whole time.)
And this was just the morning! Tales and photos of our afternoon to come in a future installment.