Friday, July 28, 2017

Zion Scout's Looking and Angel's Landing - Utah, Day 7-1 {Sabbatical SW trip}

Thursday June 22, the day after our amazing Narrows hike, was our last day in our Airbnb camper and we had originally planned to drive south east to the Grand Canyon. But since our first full day on Tuesday had been sort of "wasted" by not spending the entire day in Zion and instead doing that Red Cliffs hike, we wanted to spend more time in Zion. So we axed the Grand Canyon plan. I wasn't sure what to do on our last day in Zion, so I followed my sister's advice and planned to do Scout's Lookout, the hike that leads to the infamous and treacherously dangerous Angel's Landing. Steph said we just had to do Walter's Wiggles because they were so fun. We had heard on the shuttle bus that the Wiggles were an engineering feat of 21 switchbacks that climbed a steep canyon wall. So we loaded up from the camper, packed lunch but not dinner like the day before, filled all five camelbacks, drove through Hurricane and then Springdale, parked at our special roadside spot, walked down to Canyon Junction, and finally loaded the shuttle bus and got off again at The Grotto stop.

At 11:20am, we crossed the river by bridge and started trekking up to that shaded portion. Angel's Landing is that red rounded mountain that juts out into the canyon, not the flat wall to the left, but the one whose summit you can see against blue sky.

I turned on my Garmin watch late and it recorded almost all of our hike, though not too accurately. You can see how the red line started in front of Angel's Landing and then climbed up from behind it.

It was already 100 degrees and the trail went pretty much only up for the first couple of miles. The kids, especially Ezra and Evie, tired quickly. Terry carried Ezra on his shoulders a fair amount.

That is Angel's Landing. It rises 1,500 feet above the river at its feet. Terry climbed it!

The view across from Angel's Landing.

There was one particular young couple that we took turns passing. At one point I noticed first he had taken off his shirt and then she had so she was walking in a sports bra (tons of girls did that since it was so hot but it sure made me feel insecure about my 4 kid body!). So when we passed them I said, "Every time I see you guys you have less clothes on!" and we all laughed. Terry followed them up Angel's Landing and overheard them telling someone about some impressive dad carrying a "baby" on his shoulders and when they recognized him when they took his picture on top they said he was dad of the year. :D

Nearly every time there was opportunity we took a shade break. Evie turned into full on Wilted Flower from the very start of this hike (that's her new nickname she earned in Bryce since she gets a super bad attitude when she's tired and hot).

Getting closer to that rock wall next to Angel's Landing. If you zoom in you can see switchbacks cut into the wall and little people ascending and descending. 

We kept getting higher and higher and the view kept getting better and better.

From the beginning of the hike it seemed like we'd never get up that rock wall, but we did. Here's looking back down them.

This part was cut into the edge of the rock so I made the kids cling to the opposite wall for safety - there was a drop off from the other side. It was also a good shade break opportunity.

Terry took my picture. I look like a pioneer with no smile.

This part of the hike after the bridge was called Refrigerator Canyon and was entirely a shade break as you walked north. Its name comes from the fact that since it's such a narrow canyon, most of the day it's shaded and much cooler than the canyon below. It was nice.

Zoom and everyone smiling but Evie. Ha!

Glorious shade!

Dwidgie still needed a hand to keep him going when he wasn't on Daddy's shoulders.

And Evie still needed breaks even though it was all nice and shady. She was just determined to have a bad time that day. But really, we were on the trail for four hours and they were troopers to even attempt it, much less finish it.

At the back of Refrigerator Canyon, the trail turns back to the south and Walter's Wiggles begin - the 21 switchbacks we had heard about from Steph and the bus. You couldn't see that they looked this incredibly cool when you were on them but they were kind of fun...and challenging.

I raced above Terry and the kids to try to get a shot of the switchbacks. Boy was I tired!

We came to the top of the Wiggles and there was a park ranger who told us that yes, we had reached Scout's Lookout. That was as far as the kids went. Scout's is the lower section just behind the Angel's Landing climb, pictured below sort of behind that big pine tree on the bottom right.

However, the trail went on to the north and I was so curious that I left Terry with the kids to do lunch and I followed it. Since there was higher ground behind me, I just knew that if I came to the top I could have a better view that at Scout's. And I was right. It wasn't far and I came out on what seemed nearly as high as Angel's Landing, which is the immediate fin-like rock cropping there, behind the pine tree. That's what Terry climbed. Craziness!

More rock cairns on the edge that made me think of my brother.

Looking down!!! I was incredibly high!

I took a 30 second video of my surroundings. It captures the view better than a photo, but still you don't quite get the full picture of the incredible height.

I went back down to Scout's Landing where Terry and the kids had eaten and sat down with them. Terry wanted to continue on to Angel's Landing so off he went with the big camera for good pictures. The chipmunks under this big pine tree at Scout's Lookout were aggressively friendly. They would crawl all over you and get into your bag. They were so annoying but the kids thought they were fun.

Terry took this shot of Angel's Landing as he began to climb. 

And another one as he progressed. He said from a distance it looked like a simple vertical climb, but it was a lot of up and down.

But what Angel's Landing is famous for is the dangerous climb. The mountain "fin" as it is called juts out into the canyon so you can see all around it, but it is incredibly narrow. There are chains to hold on to as you climb to make you feel safer, but really, you're a bad step or slip away from falling 1,500 feet to your death. Terry was surprised that the park just lets people climb this trail at their own risk. Terry also overheard a guy on his way down say he was surprised that only seven people have ever died on this trail, he thought it would be more like one death per day. It was that treacherous.

Here are the chains I mentioned. What you can't see though it the complete drop off on either side of the chain.

It probably took him about 30-45 minutes to climb only a half mile to the top due to the large amount of people in line and their slow, careful pace. But he finally reached the top here.

Looking out from as far as he was comfortable going.

Further down edge of the slanted rock, people had stacked tons of rock cairns. Terry said to do that would have been putting your life in your hands, probably extremely foolish.

The guy taking Terry's picture was like, "That's a good one. I even got the Condors in the back." I don't know if they're really the California Condors that came back from extinction and live here that the bus talks about, but they still look super cool.

A little higher view. I kinda wish he would've taken a picture looking straight down, but he did capture that in his video coming up.

Terry took a few pictures and this video and pretty much turned right back around. The captured view is amazing, but Terry said it was difficult to capture how high up you were and how amazing it was.

Meanwhile, for an hour and a half the kids and I sat in the shade with the aggressive chipmunks getting more and more anxious. When he was gone past an hour I started getting seriously worried, and so did Noah. I wanted to pour out my worries that Terry was dead, but held it together for the kids sake. I reasoned to Noah that they had to walk slow and that if anything had happened, surely everyone descending and walking past us would be talking about the guy who had fallen, and there would be helicopters and park rangers. But internally, I was seriously so scared. I started planning Terry's funeral. I was envisioning how I would get the kids back to Rapid City by myself, how I would have to pack up alone, how I would somehow have to get Terry's body back home, how I'd have to plan a funeral, how I would be a single mom and what the heck would I do. So I got a little carried away, but that's what fear does to you. Finally after an hour and a half, Terry came back into sight and we breathed a sigh of relief. He explained why it took so long and we were on our way back down the trail around 2pm and got done at 3:15pm. Going back down Walter's Wiggles was much easier on the heart but harder on the knees.

Going back into the no longer cool Refrigerator Canyon. The sun was at the one point in the day where it came straight down the canyon. Bummer dude.

Back out on the front of the rock wall after emerging from the canyon.

Looking down the front wall switchbacks once more.

There goes Noah and Evie on their own. They were SO ready to be done. Hey, we all were.

Switchbacks and a view.

Looking back up at Angel's Landing. 

Just gorgeous.

Finally we got back down to the bus stop. We had drank all the water in our five camelbacks and refilled them here. The shade was nice.

Heading to the water spigot. From here we rode the bus back down a few stops to Canyon Junction and got off in order to walk. We were tired and so, so incredibly hot and sweaty, but weren't done yet for the day. We still had two destinations left, my sister's favorite waterhole and the Canyon Overlook family photo we needed to remake. But way to go for us! We had been on that trail in over 100 degrees for four hours!

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