Zion Canyon, Utah – September 3, 2009 (A.M.)

Thursday morning: With my backpack, an energy bar, an apple, and a one liter and 700 ml bottle of water, I boarded the shuttle at the Visitor’s Center. As the shuttle pulled away, I saw a man wearing a red knitted yarmulke. It’s too bad that I didn’t get a chance to greet him. The shuttle drove north on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, and I exited at The Grotto stop, where I walked across a footbridge across the Virgin River and began climbing the West Rim Trail toward Angel’s Landing.

The hike is 2.5 miles each way, so 5 miles round-trip. It is estimated to take 4 hours; I think I stopped for about ½ hour on the way back to enjoy the scenery, so it took me about 4-1/2 hours.

I started at about the same time as a lady who was probably around 70. I spoke to her briefly, but she told me she thought that she would move slowly, so that I should go on ahead and not let her hold me back.

The path at first was level and was sandy, with the river to my right.

West Rim Trail, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

West Rim Trail

After a short while, the trail became paved. Some of the other hikers speculated on what had been involved in paving the road. Originally, pack horses and mules were involved.

West Rim Trail, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

West Rim Trail

While Bryce Canyon had been desert, I don’t remember seeing any cactus there. However, I saw many of them at Zion, though typically Opuntia ficus-indica (prickly pear):

Prickly pear cactus

Prickly pear cactus

I looked back every few minutes, and the older lady seemed to be not so far behind me. I should have taken her photo.

Gaining some elevation, the river appears to shrink.

West Rim Trail, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

West Rim Trail

Getting higher still, and the switchbacks begin. The older lady seemed to be drawing closer.

Walter's Wiggles, West Rim Trail, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

Walter’s Wiggles

The series of 21 short switchbacks is called Walter’s Wiggles, in honor of the park’s first superintendent, Walter Ruesch. In 1925, with no engineering background, he designed and built this trail. Here’s a close-up of one of the Wiggles. This area was repaved more recently, with the aid of helicopters instead of pack animals:

West Rim Trail, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

West Rim Trail

This shot shows a number of the switchbacks winding back and forth below. At one point, I stopped to catch my breath, and the 70-year-old lady passed me.

West Rim Trail, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

West Rim Trail

After about 75 minutes, we had walked 1.9 miles (and climbed 1,000 feet), to Scout Lookout. There are actually two prefabricated restrooms up here! They must have been brought in by helicopter.

The paved trail ended, and the final 0.5 miles (and 500 feet in elevation) to Angel’s Landing involved scrambling over rocks. In many places a heavy metal chain had been added, either to keep people away from a dangerous edge, or to aid people in their
scrambling up the rocks (or down the rocks, when descending). I sat and rested for a few minutes, enjoying my energy bar and some more water, contemplating the next step of the way.

Scout Lookout, with warning sign, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

Scout Lookout, with warning sign

Warning sign for Angel's Landing, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

Warning sign for Angel’s Landing

The older lady decided that Scout Lookout was far enough for her, so I finally passed her for good.

Here’s a great view of the Virgin River and Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, about 1,000 feet below:

View from Angel's Landing Trail, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

View from Angel’s Landing Trail

Getting closer to the top:

Angel's Landing Trail, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

Angel’s Landing Trail

And closer:

Angel's Landing Trail, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

Angel’s Landing Trail

A look down at some of the rocks I’d scrambled up, and the helpful chain:

Angel's Landing Trail, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

Angel’s Landing Trail, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

Looking at an adjacent cliff:

View from Angel's Landing Trail, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

View from Angel’s Landing Trail

Different minerals are carried by rainwater and paint the sides of the cliffs:

View from Angel's Landing Trail, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

View from Angel’s Landing Trail

Finally made it! At the summit of Angel’s Landing:

Posing on Angel's Landing, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

Posing on Angel’s Landing

Here I am modeling my Columbia Dillon Ridge boots (the Virgin River is 1,488 feet below) [the rest of my body was behind a heavy chain]:

Looking down from Angel's Landing, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

Looking down from Angel’s Landing

On the way downhill, I overheard a couple of blonde-haired women talking about Birthright and how someone they knew had taken advantage of the program to go to Israel. I stepped aside in a safe place, allowing them to ascend the chains. One thanked me for stepping aside, and I answered, “Shalom Aleichem.” They laughed, and one said, “I guess he heard us.” But they didn’t stop to talk.

Further down the trail, but before getting back to Scout Lookout, I saw that there was a tiny cave under the trail, just big enough for one man. I sat in there for many minutes, eating my apple and watching people as they walked by. The people heading uphill never looked back at this point, and thus never saw me in this little cave. The people going downhill may have seen me. A squirrel ran into the little hole, was shocked to see a human in there, and ran out again.

Cave under Angel's Landing Trail, Zion Canyon National Park, UT

Cave under Angel’s Landing Trail

As I noted earlier, the hike took me 4-1/2 hours. I drank my 1.7 liters of water as I returned to the trailhead. I rode the shuttle back to the Visitor Center and walked the short distance to my camp, where I changed clothes, ate lunch and drank more water. The experts recommend that people drink a gallon of water each day in the desert, and I was on track to do so.

Next: Emerald Pools.

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