|Zion National Park View from Canyon Overlook Trail|
Zion! Z-I-O-N!!! ...... Yes, I’m headed to Zion.
Picture me: packing backpack, sunscreen, hair bobble, warm hat, sun hat, 2 water bottles, lip stuff, sunscreen, green apple, half eaten power bar. Picture me: wearing warm layer, cool layer, Smartwool socks (LOVE these things! – no stinky after so many days!) It’s morning-in-the-desert chilly brrrrrr out there right now, but I know the oven will start baking in just a few hours…….
On the road, vanned-up, with 8 of my new BFF hiking buddies. Chitter chatter. Yappity yap. We’re sharing “who are we” stories, and, even better, awesome adventure stores as we make the hour drive. A great guy to my right is possibly the world’s most amazing dad – taking each of his 4 kids, annually once they were teens, on epic, outdoorsy adventures. Including a trip to Hudson Bay in chilly Northern Canada to see polar bears in the wild. Holy wow…… Another gal, behind me, has recently swum with Humpback Whales in the Dominican Republic. She passes around her iPhone to show us the actual whale she was next to and now is her screen-pic.
We have arrived at the Gates of Zion. And somewhere, I believe I hear trumpets playing…. I am a mere mortal.
Giant, towering dunes of Sandstone. Layer upon layer of golden, orange, yellow, red rock. Skyscraper-ing into the bursting blue of the Southwestern sky. I bend my head back, way, way back, to gasp at the size of these walls from our valley floor. Awe-some.
The Appetizer Hike: Canyon Overlook Trail: 1.6 miles RT: We zip along the great Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, thru the tiny 1920s built tunnel, and park at Canyon Overlook Trail. A quick but good, appetizer hike for the day ahead, I’m starting to get more of a sense of the scale of this park. Giant drop-downs into narrow, wavy canyons below us. Giant, neck-craning ups at the curiously massive, bee-hive formations and slick-rock bowls above us. We’re still a chattery, giddy group and tho I’m feeling a little like I want to take off and explore on my own, I hang in there. We have good guides, and I want their inside knowledge.
|Glowing Rock Face Towering as We Enter Echo Canyon|
The Main Course Hike: Echo Canyon (en route to Observation Point): Yippee! Our big group of splits into 3 (going the more challenging way) and 5 (heading off a more gentle route.) I’m thrilled to be in the small group of 3 heading to a destination that makes our very experienced guide’s eyes twinkle. I know he does this 5 times a week, and if he’s excited, then it’s got to be good!
We hop on the park service’s shuttle system and hop off at Weeping Rock. I see switchbacks – hiker’s evil nemesis, damn you switchbacks! – against the almost sheer face of a glowing Orange El Capitan like massive wall. I can’t wait – we’re heading towards the top!
Step, step. We’re churning our way up and stop here and there for our guide, Bob, to make sure we’re not about to keel over. Tho our hike is “only” a 1,000+ vertical, it’s hot and straight, straight up. Pleased at our seemingly alive condition, we continue. Up.
Woo! We’ve made the vertical climb (in record time, according to our flattering friend Bob) and now for the MAGIC……… The trail bends right, into a large crack, a canyon carved out over millions of years by a stream the size of a hummingbird’s rump. As the canyon begins to open up, it’s as if we’ve walked through the magic wardrobe door to a storybook land, as a beguiling, inviting gentle green path tucked into the hard, glowing walls of orange, beckons us forward. Wildflowers bursting. Small, resilient trees budding. Birds chirping. Where are we?
|The Center of The Earth in Echo Canyon|
The trail bends again, and we enter THE CENTER OF THE EARTH. The orange rock bends and twists in giant yet soft curves, waves of towering walls. I hold my breath. There is something so unbelievably spiritual here. So huge. So magical. I know my wimpy little iPhone camera can’t catch it so I hope my words do some sort of justice. If a dinosaur or a robed goddess or a elfin creature were to come out of the winding narrows we were peering into, I would not only not be surprised, I would probably run away with them. Wherever they were going…
Dessert in the Desert: Emerald Pool Trails, 2 or so miles. For hiking-dessert after our EPIC Echo Canyon main course hike, Bob decides to take us on an easy but feast for the eyes trail to the Lower Emerald Pool. Following the Virgin River, we bend away from it’s roaring spring rage and into a scooped valley.
THIS is where the %$%*^#* battery runs out of my 4SiPhone which makes me want to SCREAM! But, zen Namaste me merely puts my now worthless black brick of a paperweight into the side mesh pocket of my green pack and I use my eyes to devour the sights.
As we enter the giant almost cavern like amphitheater of the lower pool, we are sprayed by gently misting waterfalls cascading from above. The wind shifts and now Bob and my two hiking buddies and I are no longer being gently misted by the wafting drops from above – we are totally drenched!..... Ah, the tickling humor of Ma Nature. She gets one in here and there…. And, according to Bob the all knowing Guide, this happens quite frequently to unprepared tourists wearing their Sunday best…
Heading out of Zion, we stop at an ice cream stand and my pals and I order the local favorite: Huckelberry deliciousness. Licking the spoon with my cooling and sweet treat on it, I know I’ll come back, Zion.
Next time for your Narrows and it’s wet, walking stick adventure. Your Angles Landing for it’s sheer, precarious drop off and prestige. And your overwhelmingly, extraordinary beauty. I CAN’T WAIT to share you with the kids.