I was glad to arrive in Kanab at my Airbnb, Burro Flats, and find something that more resembled a B&B than a room in a house someone was letting me stay in for a small fee. The entire first and second level of the house was set up for guests with a constant influx of mostly foreign travelers. The nearby National Parks were obviously the main draw, and the hosts prided themselves on providing helpful tips and information about how best to see the the area in the allotted amount of time each guest had available.
My hosts gave me some tips, and despite a fairly large rain storm moving through the area, I hit the road early for my one day at Zion National Park.
Upon entering the park, I was welcomed by a herd of Bighorn Sheep easily scaling the steep-sided canyons.
This park, like Bryce, had a shuttle system and it was still a mandatory requirement. So, I parked at the visitor center and grabbed my pack for the day, a raincoat, and plenty of layers. Unfortunately, the finicky battery on my phone died after trying to answer a few questions about a Facebook account that I had been managing. My failure to charge my backup phone AND my external battery left me sans-technology until I returned to the car. I wasn’t concerned for safety – there is not much reception in the park anyway – but bummed that I would have no way to take pictures. I chalked it up to fate’s gentle reminder that experiencing is better than being stuck behind a lens and, I got on with living my adventure.
There were a lot of recommended sights to see, but with the rain, I had to slightly alter my plans. One of the main canyons was somewhat questionable because of the area’s tendency for flash flooding, and it had been raining since I entered the park. I hadn’t done much of a hike since Arches National Park a few days prior, so I chose a hefty one: Angel’s Landing.
Angel’s Landing is on the to-do list of many adventurers. It’s a 5-mile trail which includes over 21 switchbacks, cool canyons, an overlook where the majority of people like to end their trek, and then an intimidating climb to the top assisted by a series of poles carved into the steep rocks connected by chains. At many points, hikers must pull themselves up or lower themselves down by these chains. The instability of the situation was demonstrated by one pole dangling along the rock, held only by the chain – apparently; they don’t always stay fastened into the ground.
Angel’s Landing was a tough hike for me. I’m the kind of hiker who likes to stop often for short periods of time to catch my breath and then continue. I don’t go on for hours and take a long break when there is a lot of elevation involved. Others…not so much. One group of guys who blazed passed me talking loudly about their sweet skills, I later found rationalizing why the last ascent was unsafe, and they should turn around. Lesson: everyone does things differently. It’s never good to compare yourself to others especially in situations where you have your doubt to overcome.
The total elevation gain was 1488 feet with 5.4 miles covered, as per the National Park Service website.
The park recognizes no less than five deaths on this upper portion of the trail and advertises caution with a large sign stating this fact right before you start on the chained section.
My hike on that steep section was quite an experience and encouraged a lot of commiserating and friendly bantering between strangers. With narrow trails and room for only one, there is a lot of stepping aside for others and accepting that same offer when others throw it your way. It is nice to offer encouraging words while giving each other a look of “what the hell did we get ourselves into here?”
Because it was extremely challenging and required a lot of fear management, sitting at the top of the overlook was a proud moment for me. And sitting there, I thought about how this was probably the hardest hike I did on my entire trip. But, it was possible because I wanted to prove to myself that the challenges of the days before (flat tire in the middle of nowhere without phone reception) wouldn’t throw off my determination to live boldly.
What it reminds me of now, (sitting in my new Oregon home on the opposite side of the country from where I started in Florida all those months ago) is all the major obstacles I ran into on this journey and before, and my ability to deal with them and move on. It’s impossible to avoid the tests life throws your way. But it is quite fulfilling to use these tests to discover the weaknesses and cracks in your personal foundation and strengthen and grow for the next time around. Ultimately, it helps us recognize and acknowledge our efforts and achievements, no matter how small they may seem.