Zion - Conquered
Apr 15, 2013
[Huy Le]
7 minute read

Arrived at the trailhead, we eagerly jumped out of the shuttle to start our adventure. Meanwhile we were doing our last gear check, a couple next to us (the only other people that rode with us to the trailhead on the shuttle) started talking and got into a small conversation. The only memorable thing about our little chat was when the gal said “… we don’t plan for our trips, that way, we would never be disappointed.” <o:p></o:p>

While the couple were also getting ready, we decided to take off first into the woods. Unlike Moab where everything was pure copper red and shriveled junipers was everywhere in sight, Zion was a totally different beast! Trees, plants and animal thrived from the water source nearby. Tinted in red, Zion colors and features had a distinct difference compare to that of Moab’s national parks. <o:p></o:p>

Even though we were engulfed by the beauty of the features in the backcountry, we could not help it from recalling the park ranger’s comment about running into knee deep snow. Where we started, the trail had running streams and only small, random patches of snow in sight. Automatically dismissing the undesirable comment every time it was brought up, we trekked further into the heart of Zion. As we hiked, the solid ground and snow patches slowly transformed to mud. At first, this was really exciting since we finally get to test our ‘waterproof’ hiking boots. Trampling happily through the mud quickly died out to the sound of our boots squishing through the earth.<o:p></o:p>

To push our patience a little further, flat trails were turning into inclines…. With mud…. and knee deep snow. The inevitable… was here. Looking around, we know we needed a partner to help us through this tough time. Someone who would ‘sticks’ by our sides, and be there through ‘thick’ and ‘thin’. You would be surprised, but each of us found a lady friend who helped us through the undesirable terrains, and through ALMOST the entire trip. Out of all the ladies who have helped us… the most memorable one was Kevin’s partner. He called his…. walking stick… Precilla. =]<o:p></o:p>

Trekking through 15 miles in and out of canyons, we kept telling ourselves that we only had 4 miles to go and the next incline would be the last one before we enter into the main canyons. Again and again, we fooled ourselves. Finally, at about 6:30PM on that Sunday, we saw our little camp post, our safe haven. Some of us almost cried seeing this campsite, literally. Our backs were aching, and knees were shaking. Right at sunset, our tents were up and our gears unpacked. To celebrate the hardest day of our 5 days, we left everything behind and went searching for a nice view to enjoy the sunset and plan for the upcoming days. At this point, we had just covered two days’ worth of hiking into one day.<o:p></o:p>

Eat, pray, sleep, it went by just like that. The next day, we were revived from the KO’ed sleep and the early morning oatmeal. &nbsp;One day ahead of schedule, we took off into the main canyon. Our goal for the day was to enter into the main canyon, see Angels’ Landing, hit Observation point and sleep at the East Rim of Zion. On the map, it was much more than 4 miles… but there we go again, fooling ourselves… ‘only four more miles… only four more miles… only four more miles.”<o:p></o:p>

At the sight of Angels’ landing, it was more than enough to have your breath taken away. A slab of rock that stands 1500ft tall and alone in the midst of the surrounding canyons (not cannon, but canyon). Shear drop to both sides, the hike up was an experience of a lifetime! Some portion of the trail itself can get as thin as 2ft in width. Chains are placed along the trails for experienced hikers and acrophobia alike. At the top…. Remarkable, amazing, astounding, shocking, surprising. Nothing else can be said. Coming down from Angels’ landing was a pure two miles of downhill, knee pounding, and blistering hike. Little did we know, by afternoon, we had to hike back up another vertical wall of greater magnitude.<o:p></o:p>

Going to the East Rim to set up our tents for the night and going up Observation Point to catch the sunset was the most brutal hike for some of us. Traveling at the speed of…. Snail. We inched our way up the wall to the East Rim. Losing track of time and was willing to give up the hike to Observation Point, our one and only goal at that moment was to set up tents before dark and rest. About an hour before sunset, we finally hit the East Rim, where pitching tent anywhere was allowed. Roaming the canyons (again, not cannon, but canyon) looking for a good spot, we got our tents set up and recuperated. With the weights off of our shoulder (pun intended), we decided it was a once in a lifetime chance to hit Observation Point, catch the sunset, and do a night hike back.<o:p></o:p>

Headlamps. Check. Jackets. Check. Water. Check… Check. And… Check. Just like that, within 5 minutes of our decision… we took off again. As summarized by our previous research, Observation Point is rated as one of the most difficult trail in Zion; rising 2150ft in total but has the “…best views in the park at day’s end”. No lie… at 2150ft from the Virgin River rushing below… It was definitely an incredible sight to witness. From this point of view, you can see the entirety of the park. It almost seem as if below was a lush and thriving Jurassic Park.

Heading back after the last ray of light strike the slot canyons, we fulfilled our night hiking wish. Another unexpected day completed. Everything up to this point was completed based on our wishlist/itinerary… check, and check. Dinner. Sleep. And do it again!!

At this point in the trip, the days went by without much on our minds. School, work, life were all non-existence. Our time in the slot canyons based on the sun position rather than the clock. Our location was based off of our pure physical ability and will power. The feeling was quite pleasant… it’s something indescribable. Something that cannot be obtained… here. In the city. Bounded by time and space.

Hiking back out in the early morning, we were once again revived and excited to see what was in stored for us that day. Before hitting the main canyon again and taking our last hike of the to see the smaller tourist-designated-features of Zion, we wanted to wander off into Hidden Canyon. Remember Precilla? Our climbing partners have been true and really stuck by our sides, literally. As we hiked out of Hidden Canyon from a morning of exploring the cracks and&nbsp;crevasses&nbsp;of Zion, our carelessness struck us. It was more than half way out when we realized our hiking ladies were left behind in a corner somewhere in Hidden Canyon. No matter how much we mourned, it was our fault. We left our hiking buddies in Hidden Canyon. That was that.<o:p></o:p>

After finishing up the morning with a little of crying, on the inside, we headed back to the car to drop off our gears to blend in with the tourists to explore the main canyon. Even though we looked like them, walked like them…. We definitely did not smell like them. Coming back to civilization, we did not realize how bad we smelt until we sat down on that shuttle. Through the ride back to the Silver Surfer, we held our head high…. Just to keep our nose as far away from our bodies as possible.<o:p></o:p>

Emerald Pool. Check. Weeping Rock. Check. Keyenta Trail. Check. Schedule wise, we were a day ahead. It was a short and sweet decision to head back to Moab, rather than drive back in the morning. At this point, we deviated from our plans and to our surprises… we were not disappointed with the outcome.<o:p></o:p>

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