Angels Landing


 Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

Angels Landing.

One of the most exciting and fulfilling hikes I have done is Angels Landing in beautiful Zion National Park UT.

As you step off the bus at the base of this hike you first become aware of the size of the canyon around you. the hike starts out as you cross a picturesque bridge over a rocky stream at the base of the mountain. it is one of those places you only see in pictures and sometimes you think it might not be real. As you make your way up the gradually steepening path you get to the first set of switchbacks. at the top of this first set you enter into a path that has been blasted from the face of the cliff. As you look out across the canyon from this point you can see that beautiful blue smoky haze at the end of the canyon. This is one of my favorite sections of the hike. It always amazes me how far we go as humans to seek out adventure and more than that how far we go to show someone else what that adventure is. After the cut the path turns into a series of smaller canyons that lead you away from the main. These closer quarters have lots of wildlife, plants, and trees. I was lucky to go in the spring months so the bright green pop of fresh foliage against the rich red sandstone was unbelievable. Up next is Walters Wiggles a breath taking (meant literally) set of switchbacks that will have you stopping occasionally to count just how many more you have. but every one of them are worth the burning calf's and sore ankles. you are now at the end of the "path" this point is were a lot of people come to look out over the canyon. for many this is the destination. but for a brave bunch this is just the beginning!

image.jpg

Once at this point you are greeted with a sign that basically tells you nicely that you may die at any point once you pass it. Not only that but they point out how many people have died between the sign and the top of the mountain. From this point on No sidewalks, No railing, No help. I had come a very long way to do this hike and I was not about to turn back now. This hike was on my bucket list and how many times can you say you crossed somthing off your bucket list. As I stepped past the sign I felt confident, but about fifty feet farther up the trail confidences escaped me. Over the next hundred feet or so is the section that separated the men from the boys. Imagine a path about twenty inches wide, on one side sheer cliff up and the other sheer cliff straight down a thousand or so feet to the riverbed. The only sense of relief, a small chain bolted tightly to the wall to hold onto when someone coming down the mountain needed to pass. That's right two way trail hanging off a mountain!! Once past that my footsteps were steady and close together. The terrain flattened a bit and became not so sketchy after that and in no time my mind and body had adjusted to the terror. As we got closer to the top I remember a small section of trail that basically was a narrow rock on the ridge of the mountain on either side straight down, it was so amazing and a bit scary to walk across. Toward the top the terrain got a bit steeper and the rocks turned into natural stars you could see the rock wearing away after thousands of adventurers passing through.      

image.jpg

The last few steps up the mountain, and our hearts had a full feeling of accomplishment. And we were rewarded with the most beautiful view I have ever seen with my own two eyes. It was at this point when I thought to myself that maybe it wasn't that things in Utah were bigger but views like this make you feel so small. I could see the buses that dropped us off at the trail head, they looked like white rice grains. The river was barely a streak of reflected light from the sun. We felt on top of the world! It was then I noticed a five year old girl feeding a chipmunk trail mix and that took some of my accomplished feeling away. And then I could not figure out if that was good or bad parenting. But anyway back to the story. My wife and I sat on a bolder at the top and just watched the whole world go by. It was us against the mountain and we came out on top. 

If you are ever in the southern Utah area look up this hike. I promise it will be one of your greatest moments when you place your own two feet on that summit.