The land, the water, the sky, the breath of interdependence.
Our time spent in the southwest was enchanting.
We left Las Vegas on October 1st, our third wedding anniversary; Our first stop, Valley of Fire State Park, located in southeast Nevada. October, a beautiful time of year, and the dry temperatures were in the low nineties. [During the summer this valley reaches extreme heat, somewhat similar to Death Valley.] Once you begin descending into the valley your soul finds itself so engaged with the beauty; awareness of temperature evaporates. There were a couple tour buses, and people scattered about the rocks, but the movement of the wind created an obscure stillness.
We hiked out a bit, drove up and down the winding asphalt, paused for photos, and admired.
Driving on we passed through Arizona and into Utah, making a friendly stop in St. George. Not staying long, we wanted to get to Springdale, Zion's town.
How could one describe Springdale. It's not quaint, or cute, but it is charming. The town is nestled between the gorgeous rock, and any place you stand you have a stunning view. The town feels mature and proud, the locals appreciate what they have, and the tourists are there to hike, to take risks, and to indulge in the glory. If you aren't there to camp, Springdale is the place to stay. The shuttle runs daily, moving international clusters back and forth to Zion Canyon.
Hike #1 - Angel's Landing • West Rim Trail • Emerald Pools
We woke up early, grabbed breakfast, and were on the shuttles before most. We had the pleasure of discussing options for the day during our ride, and many were mentioning the Angel's Landing hike, despite the tram's warning, "fatalities have resulted from this climb". We wanted a long hike, so we chose the West Rim Trail. What we didn't know was we had to hike up to the Angel's Landing climbing point before the heading out on the West Rim Trail.
If you aren't in perfect physical condition, the dry, brisk morning air will consume your lungs, and the forever switchbacks, into the canyon, and more, forever steep switchbacks might be the end of you. Oh my, were we surprised, but couldn't really talk about how surprised we were, because we couldn't breathe. Within twenty minutes of our hike we had been inducted into Zion, a place where hiking is hardly a joke. About ninety minutes later we reached the break-off for Angel's Landing and West Rim Trail. In the background a guide was carrying on about the California Condor, and ahead of us we saw masses of people climbing up to Angel's Landing, while others were coming down. It certainly looked much worse than it really is, but we decided to carry on.
The West Rim trail was quiet, a few hikers were speckled about. The solitude of the trail made it more profound, and the hikers we met were focused yet relaxed. We took to the trail for about five miles before stopping for lunch. If you sit there and listen, you hear the birds, and the chipmunks, and you'll hear the wind. But it's so beautifully quiet, a stillness that awakens your soul.
Our hike back was mostly downhill, mostly, and we felt bad for those that were just making their way up through the switchbacks at 4:00 in the afternoon sun. At the base of the climb we decided we could try the one-mile Emerald Pool trail. Our day ended with about fifteen miles total.
Hike #2 - Riverside Walk • Weeping Rock • Observation Point (Echo Canyon)
We thought that the second day would be easier, and light, with some rest involved, but we couldn't resist the idea of seeing more. With another early start we took the Canyon Shuttle up to the final stop and caught the Riverside Walk just, before the crowds. This was Sam's favorite spot. The Virgin River was charging through the canyon, the foliage was bright and crisp, and the icy air wrapped us with warmth. This is a short walk, one in which you can walk down along the bank and watch the river, and at the end you enter the beginning of the Narrows. We wanted to hike the Narrows badly, but weren't prepared with the appropriate footwear. Deciding that we would come back later in our sty to hike the Narrows we moved on to the Weeping Rock.
The Weeping Rock. Foliage growing in every crevice of a large rock formation, with ancient water coming through the sediment from above. A place of curiosity and the starting point for the Observation Point hike. TO BE CONTINUED....