Sunday Hikes: Angel’s Landing (Josh’s Perspective)

I’m going to preface this post by saying that you should read last week’s “Sunday Hike” about Angel’s Landing for a little more detail on the trail itself.

Angel’s Landing acquired it’s name from someone exploring the Zion Canyon in the early 1900s and commenting that “Only an angel could land on it”. However nowadays thousands of people have stood atop the peak of Angel’s Landing and looked down at the ant-like cars below on the canyon floor. I am lucky enough to be one of those many people. My family and I began our hike in the summer morning and it was already getting hot. We followed the trail along the river and up towards the first set of switchbacks that were long and not too steep but in the direct sun. By the time I reached the top of these switchbacks I realized how far behind me the rest of my family was so I waited before I could see them and they waved me to go ahead without them. So I continued through the only shaded part of the trail, a small side canyon with trees and a creek and beautiful cool air. This luxury went away quickly however and I found my self facing the infamous Walter’s Wiggles, a set of 21 switchbacks that shoot you steeply up the canyon wall. I fought up the wiggles quickly and thought to myself that they weren’t all that bad after all. At the end of the wiggles the trail turned and opened up into the “Scout Lookout” area (Also known as the chicken out spot). This is where the trail began it’s most famous feature of a small narrow path crawling out across a rock spine jutting out some 1500 feet from the canyon floor. I didn’t hesitate at all and climbed up a steep rock with a nice chain to hold onto while yielding to the many people returning from the other end of the trail. This portion of the trail was much longer than I had expected but also nowhere near as terrifying as I expected. The scariest thing to me wasn’t the steep drop offs on either side off me but rather how many people populated this tiny trail. It took a while to reach the end because of the extra caution you have to take and giving way to returning hikers (All of which kindly encourage you that you are almost there). At last I reached the crowded summit and took in the beautiful surroundings of Zion.

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After looking around and taking some pictures I had a snack and started my journey back (That rhymes). The return trip felt much quicker as well as easier. I passed my dad and my sister on the way back (probably at one of the narrowest parts of the trail). My dad was clinging to the chain for dear life and asked me for water because they had none. We wished each other good luck and parted ways. I quickly arrived back to the Scout’s Lookout where my other family members were waiting. We had a little snack and some water and them headed back down the trail. We soon were back at the canyon floor, sitting at a picnic table and looking up at Angel’s Landing marveling at how crazy it was that I had just been all the way up there. My dad and sister soon met up with us and we continued the rest of our day but ever since I finished hiking Angel’s Landing, I have been looking forward to hiking it again. -Josh

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Sunday Hikes: South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails

The sky was vivid blue and clear.   I could feel a nip in the air as I was dressed lightly in anticipation of hotter temperatures in the day.   My son Josh and I were packed and ready to descend into the canyon.   Which canyon?… the Grand Canyon of course.   The first time I visited the Grand Canyon, I had wanted to go down to the Colorado River.   Josh shared that dream with me and so we booked plane tickets from Atlanta to Phoenix.   Since we were unable to get a permit to camp in the inner canyon, we planned to hike from top to bottom and back up again in one day.   This is highly discouraged by the National Park Service and I would never recommend it in the heat of the summer.

Our hike was scheduled for late April (2016).   Our plan was sound and we were prepared.   At 7am, we headed down from the South Kaibab trailhead.   It was 36*F.   We both had backpacks loaded down with an excessive amount of water, high protein granola bars, peanut butter crackers, trail mix and an unfortunately large bag of dried apricots.    I was a little nervous.  I was in pretty good shape for 43, but could I keep up with my 18 year old son and the 13 miles of switchbacks back up the Bright Angel Trail?   My excitement and the easy start to the descent quickly made me forget about any anxiousness I may have had.   We marveled at the colors of the rock walls and the amount of blooming flowers.   6 miles and 2 ½” hours later we arrived at the Colorado River.   It is a very dramatic entrance as you go through a tunnel blasted through the rock face and cross a bridge that is somehow affixed to the rock wall on the south side of the river and leads to the north side of the Colorado River.   Our packs were much lighter having constantly chugged water and munching on our snacks on the way down.

We refilled our water bottles there at the bottom knowing the hike back up would be much harder.  Along the trail running parallel to the river, we found a picnic table in the shade to rest and prepare lunch.   The temperature at the bottom was a scorching 91*F.   We finished up our lunch and I was surprised to see that I had eaten almost the entire bag of apricots on the way down.   I went ahead and finished it off.   After spending a brief 30-45 minutes soaking up the views and watching a very tame deer, we were ready to head back up.   The unknown was a little scary at this point.  I figured that it might start getting dark in the canyon by maybe 4 or 5pm as the sun was blocked by the canyon walls and I was unsure how long it would take to climb back up to the top.

The first part of the ascent of Bright Angel was pretty easy as it followed the river for a ways before taking a sharp turn up through a pass and leading us back up the cliff face.   As we proceeded, the apricots started to make themselves known in my gut.   I quickly realized my mistake in consuming the large bag of apricots and I was struggling with stomach cramps as we ascended the trail.   We passed a beautiful small waterfall but I couldn’t stop to enjoy it as the apricots were causing me severe discomfort.  I was in desperation mode when suddenly we turned a corner and found ourselves already at Indian Garden.   Indian Garden is natural oasis with running water, trees and most importantly, bathroom facilities.   Crude facilities to be sure, but I never was more happy to see a hole in the ground.   After a rest in the cool shade, we resumed our journey and the more steep inclines.   Several hours and many a stomach cramp later, we turned the last switchback and crested the top of the trail.   My legs were like jelly and I was exhausted.   Josh looked like he could do the trail again.   Ah, to be young and strong again.

I must say I was proud to have done the hike in the time we had completed it.   8 ½ hours to complete 15 ¾ miles with 8000 feet of elevation change and a lifetime of memories to share with my son.   I would recommend this hike for everyone…..just leave the dried apricots at home.

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