We entered Zion National Park from the east on a winding road called the Mt. Carmel-Zion parkway. This road was built during the 1930s and was an amazing feat of engineering for its time. The road actually goes through the mountain in a narrow tunnel with no room for stopping. Although they did cut windows into the sides to enable people to catch glimpses of the mountain as they travel through the mountain. The road is a series of switchbacks that lead you down into the canyon and the park. Due to high congestion the scenic drives that go deeper into this park are accessible only by shuttle bus.
As we rode through the park on the shuttle the drive is narrated. At one point, we heard a description of a hike to Angels Landing which included something about sharp drop offs and chains. Of course, Alex heard this and wanted to try it. He also tried to convince me to hike the Narrows trail which is essentially hiking up a river. I decided to go for the high and dry choice.
Early the next morning Alex and I say waiting in the dark for the 5:35 AM shuttle into the canyon. We weren’t the only hikers with plans to beat the heat, by the time we got to the trailhead the shuttle was packed with sleepy hikers.
We headed up the trail which rose gradually until we were climbing at least a 45 degree incline even with the switchbacks. When we entered the canyon we had a bit of a respite before we started climbing again. The next section of trail is called Walter’s Wiggles which is a short series of switchbacks that reminded me of a marble maze. At the top we had a little break before the real rack climbing started.
The deal I made with Alex was he had to stay with me and we would turn around when I said so. We started off on the section of the trail that requires holding onto a chain. When I heard about this I just thought the park service had the chain there to help hikers steady themselves. It turns out we really needed those chains just to stay on the rock face. It wasn’t long before I was thinking it would have been nice of the NPS also provided helmets, harnesses and some sort of rope that attached us to the chain. Of course, maybe I am a little wimpy. There were people hiking up in sport sandals and they seemed to know what they were doing.
I think we got about half way through this part of the trail when we reached a break in trail. Alex decided he was ready to turn around and I was ready to agree. It was still a ways to go. I was worried about getting back down when the next wave of hikers was heading up. There is only one chain for everyone! So we turned around feeling we had accomplished something and made the good decision to turn around while we were still happy.
Now Alex is talking Mt. Katahdin!