After staying over in Las Vegas, I awoke early the next morning to make the almost three hour drive East into Zion National Park.

The drive East on 15 was an absolutely phenomenal scenic drive. I would have stopped for pictures, but was sadly on a tight time schedule.

I’ve been avoiding Zion since the pandemic’s inception due to their stressful covid guidelines. While well-intentioned, Zion’s implementation of a first-come, first-serve shuttle service in the park means you have to plan ahead (hate it), have access to reliable internet (hard when traveling) on a specific schedule (oh no). Thankfully, my best friend at home is a phenomenal navigator and much more put together than I, and was able to log in on the dot at 7pm EST when tickets were released to secure me one. He told me tickets were claimed within a minute. What a mess.

The importance of the shuttle ticket is that although you can drive through the park from West to East or vice versa, the scenic drive North is inaccessible by car, and it’s also where all the main hikes are. You could walk or bike it, and add an additional ~7 miles one way. So having the shuttle access is pretty important.

Yeah. Thank goodness for the people I surround myself with, I gotta buy him dinner.

I hopped on the shuttle bus to head up canyon. Right now they’re stopping at 4 places up canyon: the lodge, the grotto, big bend, and the temple of Sinawava.

The views on the drive up were great, and I disembarked at the grotto to hike the West rim trail up to Angel’s Landing, the most widely-known viewpoint in the park.

The trail is about 5 miles round-trip, up and back. It’s a pretty steep walk up for the most part, with a bunch of switchbacks. The trail gains about 1500 feet in elevation. So, I took lots of breaks. Like, lots.

Once you hit the top, the trail has a hogsback portion, also known as the spine, where the trail narrows to about 2ft in width with an extremely steep drop-off on either side. Like, if you fall, you’re dead. The ground is treacherous sandstone, and sandy and slippery, and it’s very windy. Thankfully there’s a secured chain that you can hold on to, but that’s the only solace offered.

You might not know this about me, but I’m woefully out of shape, and sadly not confident at all in my body. I was impressed I even decided to embark on this hike in the first place. The trail was packed, and I was surrounded with much more savvy folks going for it, who encouraged me to give it a go. So I did, with my legs shaking, and chose to look at my feet and not the view. I was offered words of encouragement and patience, and even a gentle hand on my back at times. I was grateful that there were so many others around; what could have been seen as a nuisance became a strength. I really, really believe in the goodness of human nature.

I went most of the way up, and decided to call it when I reached a view I liked. And, to be honest, when I looked away from my feet and saw that death was less than a foot away.

I’m annoyed when people say this, but it really is true– the way down was hard, and I felt old as my knees were crying out for relief. But I made it.

After this long ass hike, and feeling absolutely dead but also invigorated from the exertion, I went down canyon to check out the emerald pools hike. I checked out the lower pool which was a little over a mile round trip and then hopped the bus up to scope out the narrows, which I would hike the following day.

I then went to the Zion Pub and absolutely destroyed a Reuben before relaxing fireside with a few fellow solo travelers I met.

The following morning, I awoke early and drove back through the scenic Eastern portion of the park before heading up to the temple of Sinawava to hike the narrows.

I had to rent a bib from Zion outfitters to hike the frigid river waters in.

The Riverside walk up to the narrows’ beginning was pleasant and cool.

The Virgin river is moderately shallow and tame, with certain rapids sections. Something I read described this hike as “hiking on slippery bowling balls”, and that was pretty accurate. I ate shit a bunch of times.

At the end of the hike is the money shot where the canyon walls narrow.

Thoroughly exhausted by my unusual amount of physical exertion, I headed back to my car to begin the long drive down to Flagstaff, Arizona, where I’d be staying over with a friend for the work week.

On the way, I drove by scenic, faraway views of the Grand Canyon, and rode closely alongside the Vermilion Cliffs national monument. I was pressed for time, otherwise I would have stopped, of course.

I did make a short stop at the Navajo Bridge over the Colorado River, which was fucking fantastic. I feel like every section of the Colorado River is incredibly breathtaking.

I leave you here for the workweek. We’re expecting cold weather, and thankfully I took a bubble bath last night. The luxury!

Until next time.