Happy Friday! In case you are new to this weekend series, in Fired up Fridays I share all the badass adventure inspiration I came across this week, in an effort to get you fired up to carve out some awesome adventure time over the weekend.
This week I am going to highlight my awesome Zion adventure. I was completely blown away on my first trip to Zion, there is just no way to really do this National Park justice in words, you really have to see it to believe it. The 229-square-mile park features mountains, canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, rivers, slot canyons, and natural arches, making it a hikers paradise. The focal point of the park, Zion Canyon, is a photographers dream, cutting 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. This combination of great hiking and awesome photo opportunities really makes this park a great place for adventure.
My friend Katie and I had been planning a trip to Zion since December, unfortunately since both of us are crazy busy at work, other than booking the flight we didn't plan much for the trip. So we met in Vegas and headed off, letting the wind take us as it pleased, two girls on the open road ready for an adventure.
"She wasn't trying to "find herself" through travel. Nor was she jolted from a routine, domestic existence by some kind of emotional crises, as though only grief or loss or a search for love could justify a women seeking risk and adventure on the open road. Refreshingly she knew herself just fine, and what she was searching for, if anything, was an outer world as wild as she felt within."
The Ultimate 4 Day Adventure Girls Zion Itinerary
Although our original plan was to go into the backcountry and hike the West Rim Trail, nature had other plans. We got to the Ranger Station bright and early to nap one of the first backcountry permits only to find out that there was snow at high elevations, the Ranger was recommending cramp-ons and trekking poles (each of which neither of us had) and he informed us that it was going to snow at high elevations on Friday, right smack in the middle of our hike. Since hiking in the snow didn't sound fun to me, and frankly wouldn't be safe as we did not have the correct gear, we opted to go with the flow, get walk in camp sites and check out some day hikes. Car camping isn't always so bad especially when it is cold outside and you can have a fire.
So in the end, although it was not the trip we had planned, this is how it trip ended up shaking out:
Day 1: Drive to Zion from Vegas, set up camp at Watchman Campground, and enjoy the view of our Campground after a long day of traveling.
Don't get me wrong traveling to Zion is not too bad, fly into Vegas (direct from Monterey 1 hour), grab a rental car, and drive a little less than 3 hours to the park entrance. Katie was smart the night before and booked a campground at Watchman, the only real reservation we made other than the rental car for the whole trip. So we had a place to lay our heads for the first night. Just driving into Zion and setting up camp for the first night I knew we were in for an awesome adventure, Zion is probably one of the most beautiful National Parks I have ever visited and the energy coming from that awe-inspiring bright red rocks had me pumped. We grabbed some beer, made a fire, and camped that night under the shadow of the Watchman.
I remember watching the fire that night, and taking in a full breath of the fresh air, and realizing that it was the first full breath I had taken in weeks, I felt the stress melt off my shoulders, and I knew this was going to be an awesome trip.
Day 2: Check out scenic drive at Kolob Canyon and hike Taylor Creek Trail
On a tip from our awesome Park Ranger friend Kimberly, who kept referring to us as "parkies" not really sure what that means but I guess I will take it as a compliment from a Park Ranger, we decided to check out Kolob Canyons. One thing I have learned in my travels, if a local (in this case Kimberly) recommends something to you, you do it. So after securing our next camp spot for the night at South Campground, we somewhat reluctantly piled in our car and drove the hour to the northern portion of the park, Kolob Canyon. We drove the scenic drive and then jumped on the Taylor Creek trail, which is an easy 5 miles hike along Taylor Creek to the double arch. More to come on this trail in my expanded series but let me just say, I never knew a double arch rock formation could be so much fun.
Day 3: Hike the renowned Angels Landing and continue on the West Rim Trail
I was not prepared for what Angles Landing had in store for me. If you are not familiar with the trail, much like I previously was not, it is a 2.5 mile straight up very exposed hike. Which doesn't sound too bad, but it is an elevation gain of 1,500 feet, so essentially straight up; there was one point in the hike that was just switch back after switch back, later I learned this section in all totals 21 switch-backs in a row. The hike culminates with a 1 mile round-trip climb along what I can only describe as a fin-like rock formation with sheer drops on either side. Needless to say, this is hands down the scariest hike I have every been on. To help with not falling, chains are provided throughout the trail to clench onto, however since the trail is so popular often you have to let go of the chains to let people pass.
I heard a saying that it is so high up that only angles can land there, hence the name. In the end you are rewarded with awesome views, however like I already said there are a lot of people there so its pretty crowded at the top. For me the views were not the reward, I am a little scared of heights, so I was just proud of myself that I kept on going, pushed myself out of my comfort zone, and faced my fear head on.
Instead of turning around here, we kept going on the West Rim Trail. The views here were just as good and not quite as crowded, I felt like I was on some kind of epic quest in an alternate reality, the rock formations were so unreal, like following the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz.
Day 4: Check-out the rest of the Park and walk to the Narrows via the River Walk
Day 2 was so challenging we were a little anxious to get poolside in Vegas, so we decided to just do a quick and easy hike to the entrance of the Narrows. I would have really loved to do the Narrows but we were there a little too early, and it was closed due to high water levels. So we took the River Walk which is a quick, easy but beautiful 3.5 miles along the Virgin river to the Narrows entrance. Lots of families but an awesome waterfall and lots of nice, sunny, places to sit by the river.
Once we finished our River walk it was time to say goodbye to Zion. But this is not going to be the last of my new love affair with Zion. 3 days in Zion was definitely not enough and I will be planning a trip back here very soon.
Learning to go with the Flow
I am constantly reminded on these trips that having a solid plan and sticking with it no matter what is not always the best thing to do. I mean we really didn't have much of a plan at all, we didn't even have a campsite, just a vague idea of the trail we wanted to hike. But instead if letting that deter us from going, we embraced the unknown. I mean I wouldn't recommend to everybody to just show up at the doorstep of your nearest national park and expect to get walk in sites like we did, we had some special circumstances, ie, if we didn't get a campground we would just sleep in the car or splurge on a hotel room. But trail magic does seem to kick in a lot of these situations.
Kicking off the Summer
Pulling into Zion for the first time is truly a breathtaking experience. As soon as we got there I was in pure awe, this amazement lasted the whole trip and honestly I am still riding the high. It just got me super stoked for what the summer has in store for me. I am so lucky to have so many awesome adventure women in my life who are willing to just pack up and go for it. Now who's next....oh yeah wildflower hunts in Los Padres National Forest this weekend anyone?