Not Your Typical Thanksgiving [part 1]
Thanksgiving this year was a little different for me and my best friend. Instead of hanging out with family, stuffing our faces and taking long afternoon naps while "watching" football, we opted for something a little more active and a little less cozy. I know, we're probably some of the only people that actually prefer that type of Thanksgiving, but I have no regrets about our non-traditional holiday and I would do it again in a heart beat.
Since I obviously can't get enough of the West Coast this year, I flew out to Los Angeles to meet up with my best friend Alicia, and then we drove the 7 hours to Zion National Park in Utah! We ate a Thanksgiving dinner of PB&J sandwiches and set up our tent under the huge rocks of the canyon. Our views from the campsite alone were incredible. And somehow I didn't even mind the PB&J dinner instead of turkey, and I loved sleeping under the stars, curled up in layers of pants and jackets and a warm sleeping bag (it got preeetty cold at night).
We had 2 full days in Zion and definitely made the most of them both! Day number 1 was all about gorgeous views and conquering fears. There's this hike in Zion called Angels Landing. It's terrifying. One of the most dangerous hikes in the US Parks System (so I've heard), and yet somehow people still do it. And not just a few people, but tons of people. It's one of the most popular hikes in the park. I obsessed over this hike before leaving for Zion. I looked up all of the pictures I could, I found videos, I found reasons why you shouldn't do the hike, and reasons why you should. I was hooked. I was also scared out of my mind. The videos and pictures of the hike itself were terrifying. Drop offs on either side that led to sure death if you happened to slip, a trail that was 2 feet wide at some points, chains on the side of the rock so that you had something to help you feel more secure...sounds exciting, right? So of course we had to do it. Friday morning we woke up early, grabbed some breakfast and hit the trail. The whole trail is 2.5 miles one way, and about the first 2 miles are relatively "easy." And by easy I mean steep switchbacks that lasted foooorever. Easy in comparison to the last .5 miles. After you hike up the 2 miles you reach Scouts Landing. Most people make it here and then stop, not brave enough (or stupid enough?) to continue on to Angels Landing. After taking a breather and conjuring up some strength (and knowing that the views at the top would be a photographers dream), we continued on. The next part of the hike was literally just a scramble. You're on the side of a rock, hiking sideways and holding on the chain for dear life, hoping you're putting your foot somewhere that it won't slip. Once that's done you reach another landing with some open space, and right in front of you is a great view of the hike and the peak of Angels Landing. And then you realize what you've gotten yourself into. That's the part where I almost said nope, I'm good, I'd rather not risk death today thanks. I was so nervous. From where we were, all you saw were little tiny people hiking up the side of this cliff, totally exposed. That's terrifying. I realized maybe I wasn't quite ready for this extreme hiking that I was hoping to conquer. But I knew that I had to do it. I couldn't come this far to turn around now. So on we went.
The closest way I can describe hiking up this part of Angels Landing was that it was just like being on a never ending stair stepper machine, but with steep thousand feet drop offs on either side, a trail that was 5 feet wide at most, and the need to use every muscle in your body at all times. Maybe the more accurate way of describing it is that it's like rock climbing, but with no harness and more distinct places to put your feet. Luckily though there were several areas where we could step off to the side (and not look down!) and catch our breath. This was also necessary because the trail isn't wide enough for people to go up and down at the same time, so there were lots of times where we had to step off to the side to let some people down. I didn't mind the reason to catch my breath, but I didn't like that it meant stopping on the side of a cliff. It was in those instances that where I was really sunk in.
We eventually made it to the top and oh my gosh, the views were SO worth it. Seriously breathtaking. Not only were we surrounded by gorgeous canyon overlooks on all sides, but we were filled with the greatest sense of accomplishment! We did it. We made it to the top. Wow, that's just all I can say to try to describe how we were feeling. After taking a thousand pictures, we sat down overlooking the canyon below and had some lunch, in awe at our location and what it took to get there.
I knew that going up would be physically hard, but I had a feeling that going back down would be mentally hard. As you climb up the cliff you basically just stare at the rock directly in front of you, trying not to focus on how high you're going. Hiking down is another story, it forces you to stare at the dizzying views below. But despite how I thought it would be, it actually wasn't bad! It was enjoyable even. By the time we were hiking down, I felt more or less comfortable with how high we were, and knowing that we had already conquered the climb up and that now we were going down, to solid ground, made it a lot easier. And the views were seriously incredible. It was crazy to look out in front of us as we were going down and see all that we'd climbed early.
After Angels Landing we did another, smaller hike to the lower, middle, and upper pools in Zion Canyon. It was a nice "cool down" hike and a totally different experience. But still neat. We even saw some wild Turkeys, which was super fitting.
After a long day of hiking we grabbed food and a much needed beer to complete our first day in Zion! Day 2 was a totally different adventure, and one that I think I'll save for another blog post. :)