Days Full of Big Fun

I fear losing credibility with anyone following this blog.  How can every campsite be the New Best Campsite, and each new stop be the Most Beautiful Park Ever?  Can I even be objective about this anymore?20140319_091622

Instead of standing on the rim and viewing the Canyon floor, we’re now camped on the valley floor and gazing up at the Navaho sandstone walls towering overhead.  Magnificent.

We pulled in later than our usual ideal time, after dawdling around Grand Canyon soaking up the last of the sights there.  So, it was around 6:30pm when we finally arrived to find a packed campground teeming with tents, RVs, and campers of all sorts.  Been a long time since we’ve camped in such a busy spot, but it’s worked out well.

Our first disappointment came the next morning when we found that the shuttle buses which take hoardes of visitors up the scenic drive to major drop-off spots doesn’t begin operation until April 1.  The congestion created by hundreds of cars on the narrow two-lane road is unbelievable, and haphazard parking creates all kinds of difficulties. So, we decide NOT to drive from the campground, but walk to a nearby hike with views of the Valley.  20140317_12423120140317_122654

One thing I really love about the National Park Service is their attempt to use native materials and incorporate native color schemes into the parks.  The result of this is the beautiful red scenic drive, which blends into the surrounding scenery.  Small touches make huge differences.wpid-20140317_113134.jpgIt’s Day 3 already, and we know that we have to get cracking to get our two dream hikes accomplished for this trip.  The biggie for us to hike into the Narrows, a slot canyon at the north end of the scenic drive.  The Virgin River runs through the canyon, and we know that this will mean getting our feet wet.  We have waterproof hiking boots, and are willing (fools!) to wade in and and take our chances. 20140318_104610 Such dopes.  We pack our lunch, load our backpacks and head off in anticipation of stepping daintily across river stones, gazing up at the ever-narrowing canyon walls.  Not exactly.  We meet folks in the parking lot wearing wet suits and dry suits, carrying special wooden poles to find their way across the river bottom.  Seems like this specialized gear can be rented from outfitters in town for about $50 per day.  So, we stroll out along a milelong path, until we get to the beachy end of the Trail.  Lots of folks are standing around taking photos.  We watch two older guys (in wet suits) march off into the water, carefully picking their way across the river to a wide sandbar on the opposite shore, about 25 yards away.  “Hell, I’m going in”, announces John.  With that, he rolls up his pants and steps in.  I follow.  Picking my way across, all is well until the first rush of freezing cold water rolls over the top of my boot.  Yowza!  It’s March, and the water temp must be around 40 (air temp around 45).  Well, once it’s done, we just march on to the relative safety of the sandbar. 20140318_103905 We wander along, boots pumping out water with every step.  End of sandbar – we have to wade across the river again to the shallows on the other side.  We slosh back in.  Splashing along until we come to young couple contemplating their next move.  They’re watching the folks about 100 yards ahead of them who are wading in water up to their thighs!  The folly of our plan is becoming pretty clear.  Our fellow travelers take our photo, standing in freezing water up to our calves, and we make our way back.wpid-20140318_104826.jpg

As we head back toward the truck, we spy an interesting spot across the river with an old staircase rising above the rocks.  We plunge back into the river to check it out.photo 2 On the other shore, we find a water source and old rock climbing lines set in the wall.  We bask in the sun for a bit, then have to wade back through a very strong current.  It was a great morning.

To escape some of the growing crowds, we decide to spend the afternoon on the east side of the Park, scrambling around the red and white limestone slickrock there.20140318_130054 We found a great spot for lunch.20140318_133550 Got a good look at the formation called the Checkerboard Mesa, a white limestone cliff with wind erosion in a unique pattern.20140319_111836

One last stop for the day was the Canyon Overlook Trail, a 2-mile roundtrip hike with spectacular canyon views.  Best of all were the five bighorn sheep perched on a rock just above the trail.20140318_15052020140318_144706 Once again, we were lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

Day 4 – our last day here.  The hike has to be Angel’s Landing, a strenuous 5 mile round-trip trail,20140319_122445 with a series of switchbacks knows as Walter’s Wiggles.20140319_120711 On top of this is a sandy spot known as Scout’s Landing, the last point before a very treacherous ascent to the top.  Getting to the top requires pulling yourself along a series of chains planted in the slickrock.  20140319_104611

Footholds are very narrow, and the dropoff to the canyon floor 1400 feet below is unprotected.  Having gotten an early start on the day, we were at Scout’s Landing before the big crowds of the day.  Leaving our packs behind, we gamely set off on the steep sides, doing pretty well.  But, when we hit the first plateau, about 300 yards up, we decided to call it quits.  The next series of chains were very, very steep, and the footholds tiny.  We admired the views from our precarious perch, and headed back down.20140319_115708(we stopped at the big tree in the center of the photo).  The return trip was twice as harrowing as the ascent, reinforcing our decision to bail out as the smart one for us.  From Scout’s Landing, we prowled the West Rim Trail for a mile or so, looking for a good lunch spot, protected from the wind.20140318_133925 At one point, we laid on our bellies and peered over the rim of the canyon to see a couple of rock climbers below.  We ended our hike with big smiles.

One more unusual event punctuated our day.  The previous day, we had noticed a big satellite truck parked not far from Angel’s Landing.  John surmised that the truck might somehow be related to the rock climbers we saw, so we decided to investigate.  Bingo!  The truck was sending a live feed for a BBC reality show,  To raise funds for families with hardships, including typhoon victims, show host Alex Jones is climbing Moonlight Buttress, a sheer 1200 face. wpid-20140319_131455.jpg(You can see the crew in the lower right side of the photo) The trick is that Alex has only climbed once in her life, and before January, had never climbed at all.  With a professional trainer, and three cameramen filming every move, she’s climbing this massive wall.  We went back in the evening to check progress – looks like she’ll make her summit on time sometime Friday afternoon.  There’s lots of info on the web on this crazy stunt.

So, Zion’s been great, incredible. The best?  Can’t imagine what’s around the corner.  A few more random photos – we’re off to Salt Lake City for a few days of urban adventure.  20140319_19365120140319_12503020140319_11484320140319_100118wpid-20140317_163143.jpg

We’re headed to Salt Lake City for a bit of urban adventure for a few days.

24 thoughts on “Days Full of Big Fun

  1. Zion is the best and if it makes it any easier the Virgin River is freezing in July also. You also have to add slime on the rocks so any time of year it is a feat doing the canyon. Kudos for trying!

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    • I would love to give it a try with you. Me pushing and you wheeling…..sure we could make a dent in it. But, we would have to get a running start for sure.You’d be surprised at how often I look at these places thru the eyes of a person in a wheelchair. While I can understand the difficulties of making many of these 80 year old facilities more accessible, it saddens me that they are limited. We would love to camp with you, Jolene, and the kids sometime if you want to give it a go.

      Seems like the folks in chairs at the Parks we do see are all quite elderly – not fit like you.

      Are you ready for TT?

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      • Not ready for TT unfortunately. I trained too hard during the first couple of months of the year (more than 400 miles) and I got rotator cuff tendinitis – right shoulder blade. I am doing PT and am not biking at all. Hopefully I can get back on the handcyle soon. It sucks.

        Ride a few miles for me. Have fun.

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      • That doesn’t sound good. Hope it doesn’t impede your everyday mobility. We put in a few miles for you today. Cycled all over Salt Lake City. Interesting town surrounded by snow-covered mountains. Lots of Mormon stuff, but we remain unconverted.

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    • Hmmmm, does that mean I’ll feel that way about home, when we finally get there? Doubtful.

      Don’t be too impressed with our physical condition. ;-). Most of the time, we just don’t know when to throw in the towel.

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  2. Those Pictures, I just want to go. I think the only way I am seeing it is through you Photos. Thanks a lot and soon you will be back. Hopefully I will be able to ride a bit, it has been hard

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  3. I hope you haven’t forgotten your old friend, Ron, for a piece of hard rock for tumbling. Please, not sandstone…you do know the difference, right??

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  4. The scenery is stunning I can understand why that area is so popular, and crowded.

    I had to laugh at your shortened hike up the river, being a trout fisherman, I know how cold that water can be, and how it saps the strength from your legs after just a short time.

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