Saturday, July 24, 2021

Southwest Parks 2021 - Day 5 (7/13/21) - Zion's Fallen Angel

Plan A for this morning was to try to go to the Narrows early to beat the forecasted thunderstorms. We didn't get going as early as Fran wanted, and the Springdale shuttle was running late (plus the first one was full), so we didn't get to the park entrance until after 8:30am. When we inquired about the weather conditions at the outfitter, the attendant strongly advised against renting gear for the Narrows since there was a decent chance of rain; it turned out that the rain never materialized, but nobody knew that at the time. We changed plans and decided to do a dry hike.

Fran's second choice for a hike was the Angels Landing trail, a strenuous and scary, but very popular trail. However, she was keenly aware that I was not in the best shape, lacked confidence scrambling down steep trails, and was scared of drop-offs. So she suggested that we check out the moderate Sand Bench trail instead. But once we got to the trail we could tell that it was going to be quite uninspiring; plus there were going to be "horse apples" all along it, as it is the trail used on the horse-riding excursions. We turned back, boarded the shuttle again, and headed to the stop for Angels Landing. As an aside, the temperature at this time was not bad at all (perhaps around 80°F); it didn't really get hot until we were just about done with Angels Landing.

The short story of the Angels Landing experience is that it kicked my butt and turned me into a chicken. We made decent time up the first part of the trail and then up Walter's Wiggles (a series of short but steep switchbacks). We came up on a mother-daughter pair that helped inspire me to keep pushing on. Once we got on to Scout Lookout it was decision time - the trail turned from being paved into a narrow spine along the slanted sandstone, with chains bolted to the rock for some measure of safety. Fran was eager to press on the final 500 feet to the top, but the mother, daughter, and I were much more apprehensive. After gathering myself for a second, I decided to go for it, and the ladies initially tagged along as well. They decided to bail during the first section of chains, and I didn't make it much farther either. After the first section the trail descended a bit before going back up. The anxiety and fear that hit me once I touched the chains for this section made me realize that I would be freaking out for the next hour-plus round trip. So I peeled off and turned around.

What was left of the trail to the top when I turned back

Fran and I discussed me waiting there for her to head to the top and come back to meet me, but decided that me waiting probably 1.5 hours would not be the best idea. Fran could make it up and back much faster than that, but the trail was so busy that you spent half the time waiting for people coming in the other direction (since usually only one direction could pass safely). We scrambled back down the first section of chains (this in itself validated my anxiety), and on a tip from a friendly hiker decided to go up the West Rim trail to one of the high lookouts. This section of trail was more like the first part of the Angels Landing trail, though less paved. I was pretty beat by the time we stopped at the overlook for a bit of a rest and snack. We then made our way all the way back down to the trailhead, and then took the shuttle back to the visitor center.

At this point I was done being active for the day - I was soaked in sweat and my legs didn't want to move anymore. However, it was only 1pm and Fran still wanted to hike some more. So we made a plan for me to take the town shuttle back to the B&B and clean up while she did one more moderate hike. It later turned out that the trail she wanted to go on was closed. When she eventually made it back to the room with more recently-purchased snacks and drinks in hand, she found me in a semi-catatonic state. After she also cleaned up we lazed around he room for a few hours. We later walked to a nearby restaurant, MeMe's Cafe, for dinner then got a couple of ice cream cones.

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Full pictures for the trip here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/FQpbDfmdGRksjimi9

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