Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thur 21 April - Hurricane, UT - Angels and Narrows in Zion

Today was meant to be a special occasion. Hans planned to do THE hike in Zion National Park, hiking up to Angel's Landing.

Angel's Landing has been named as one of the most dangerous hikes in USA. It is not recommended for anyone with vertigo as it climbs to a very high steep peak. And with sections with 1,000 feet drop-offs beside a very narrow, rocky trail. Definitely a no go for Di. Hans was a little nervous about what he was about to face. 

The return hike to Angel's Landing and back to Grotto takes about 4 hours, even though it is only 8.7km long. It climbs 453m but in a very short distance. And some sections can only have 1 person moving at a time. 

We left Hurricane by 7.30am and were in the park and on a shuttle bus by 8.15am.  It's a great system where you park at the Visitor's Center (if you arrive early like us). The shuttle bus then takes you to all the key points in the park. 

Hans got out at stop 6 - The Grotto for his walk, and Di continued on to last stop - 9 - The Temple of Sinawava for her first walk. 

Di's Riverside walk was hardly a hike, even wheelchair friendly!  But it was stunning at 8.45am in the morning light and without the crowds that would turn up later. 

Looking back to the large white sandstone monolith known as the White Throne. 

This area is known as the Temple of Sinawava, after an ancient native God. The river is the Virgin River. 

Di started her walk upstream. It was cool and quite dark in the canyon and not ends at The Narrows. More on this later.  

The Mule Deer here are so tame they basically ignore Di...finally!

As easy as this walk is it is truly beautiful. Sorry. Lots of photos to come. You walk beside the Virgin River, which is strongly flowing due to snow melt upstream until the path ends at The Narrows. 

The Narrows are another famous "hike" in Zion National Park but basically you walk in the river the whole way. There are no banks, just steep cliff sides. 

The "trail" is currently closed due to a risk of flash floods. The common period for flash floods is July-September but they had a big dump of snow further north just a few weeks ago (yes, we know - see yesterday's blog). 

The trail winds along the river and every time you round a corner the colours change with the sunlight. It's only short, 3.2 km return and comes to an abrupt end. This is where The Narrows start. Not for us. 

Di took a quiet moment to eat her apple and enjoy the peace and beauty. 

On the way back she was able to walk more along the river bank and this helped dodge the groups now coming up the trail from 9.30am.  Apparently this river moves more than 1m tonnes of rock each year. 

Di chatted to the shuttle bus driver as she headed to her next trail. 

The driver explained that the river is fast paced due to the amount of elevation change - 80 feet drop per mile of river. The river ends at Lake Mead near Las Vegas (aka Hoover Dam).  

He also mentioned a few other interesting facts:
- they still get earthquakes here. The last one was about 20 years ago but he said the noise in the canyon was like a freight train. 
- flash floods and very high water levels have removed the road up the canyon several times. 
- the red colouring on the surface of the road is because the road base uses some of the red cinder from an old volcano near Hurricane.  

The driver pointed out several rockclimbers were on the rock walls - some had stayed over night on the rock face.  Climber's paradise but no photos as the people looked like tiny worms that far up. 

Di hopped the shuttle down to stop 3 - Canyon Junction - to do another little stroll back to the Visitor's Center (about 2.5km) along the Pa'rus Trail beside the river. Not quite as spectacular but largely empty.
Much warmer in the sun. 

Just after 11.15qm  she was back at the Visitors Center and waited for Hans, who was not likely to arrive until 12.30 or 1pm. Fortunately it was a beautiful day and a good spot for a bite for lunch (homemade ham rolls worked well). 

In the mean time, Hans was attempting to hike and climb up to Angel's Landing. That's the peak that you see in the photo below.

The trail goes up and up. You may see some of the other hikers as small dots in the photo below.

Hans was a bit out of breath when he took this photo. The constant ascent can do that to you.

Walter's Wiggles is a set of many compact switchbacks that takes the trail all the way up to the top of the ridge. This goes on for what felt like a very long time.

This section up towards Angels Landing was not scary. Yes, there was a drop but the trail was wide and in good shape.

Scouts Overlook is a viewing area where you get a good view of Angels Landing. Beyond Scouts Overlook it starts to get tricky. Chains start to appear for hikers/climbers to hold on to. You may see some to the right of this "hill".

That first section was fine for Hans, but soon this...

Yep, a very narrow, perhaps 1 meter wide section, with huge drops on either side. With a chain to hold on to.

Nope. Hans is not that crazy! Hans looked at it for a while. Did a futile attempt to overcome the fear, but no. Shitscared! Hans could not do it. This is how a disappointed man looks like.

One more photo for show. Would you go up there?

Hans took a break at Scouts Overlook before heading downhill. Plenty of squirrels there. In one online overview, the squirrels were described by as "aggressively friendly". Too true as they were all around Hans with one squirrel almost entering his backpack. Although they rejected the bit of apple Hans gave  them.

Hans was back at the bottom of Angels Landing by 11am. Going down was difficult on the knees but fast. The path is made of concrete.

Wanting to spend more time in the park, Hans took the shuttle up to Temple of Sinawava.  The Narrows is currently closed due to a risk of flash flooding. Probably from the snow dump a few weeks ago upstream. 

A very differen crowd from what Di met earlier. 

Funny that Hans took a break in the same location as Di. 

Still a lovely trail.

Hans returned on the shuttle and met Di around 12:45.  Yes, there are trails in this park that are wheelchair accessible and the shuttles cope well with this. 

We had our lunch break and catch up on the Morning's news at the visitors Center and decided on a scenic drive long way back to Hurricane. 

The road winds up a different canyon towards Mt Carmel junction, via US89. We had intended to come this way the other day from Bryce but if you recall the connecting road (148) was closed due to snow.  About 2km of the road passes through a tunnel built in 1930.  You approach a rock face similar to the one below but we were not organised enough to take a photo to start with. This is the entry to the shorter tunnel. 

Inside the long tunnel. Which goes on and on until yes, there is a light at the end...

On this eastern side of Zion the rock formations are quite different. This is known as the Checkerboard Mesa due to the squarish lines/blocks. 

We liked it and thought it deserved a selfie.  

And Di liked the angle for a little sun bake. Much less steep than the rest of Zion national park. 

The lizards were pretty friendly too. 

Heading out back to Hurricane is about a 100km trip this way around and yet again we left Utah, went into Arizona near Fredonia, and then back to Utah.  We promise our last time in Arizona for this trip. 

Fredonia Family Dollar got a second visit from us, which had us laughing. This place is a little tin-pot highway town and It was weird to be back a second time. But it made sense as we knew where it was and it was on the way home. We picked up more water and some sweets. 

We had to commemorate with a photo. 

Another swim in the pool when we returned to our Super 8 at Hurricane.  Compared to yesterday the water was like a bath. It's amazing what two days of 28+ degrees does. 

After a rest we went out to dinner at Red Lobster at a nearby town called St George. What a treat. 

From our trip in 2013,  Red Lobster was one of our favourite chain restaurants. Really good value, mid price range, good shrimp dishes a d nice decor.

We looked at the menu and were relieved that the famous Seaside Shrimp Trio still exists as a signature dish. It's amazing and huge but delicious.  It's fried shrimp, garlic Shrimp, and Shrimp pasta Alfredo. Hans just had to have it. It also comes with salad and bread so you waddle out. 

But how nice to have a food seafood meal with a glass of red wine. Very civilised. 

Di thought she was ordering less food with choosing just 2 shrimp dishes but it seemed to be just as big. Again delicious and she ate it all. We even took the spare cheddar biscuits (scones) home with us for breakfast. 

After dinner the sun was setting so we took Ta sunset drive around Hurricane on our return. 

Looks great setting over the ancient volcano (on the left) and rift from the fault line on the right. 

We've really enjoyed staying at Hurricane.  The closest town to the park is a place called Springdale and to us it looks a bit fake, like Disneyland. Just touristy stuff and lots of hotel. Hurricane is a real working town and has a nice feel. 

One more full day here. Good night. 

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