1000 ft down
End of Angels Landing
Beginning of Angels Landing
Cedar Breaks Sunset (1)
Cedar Breaks Sunset (2)
I’ve decided that Southern Utah is without a doubt the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. There are five national parks here (granted I come from Georgia which has none, but still, that’s impressive). I only managed to visit three of the five. Yesterday, I went to Bryce Canyon which basically looks like a bunch of multi-colored fingers sticking out of the ground. It’s amazing that erosion can have so many vastly different effects on the same types of rocks in the same general areas. Bryce Canyon is the only place in the world that has rock formations like this, while Capitol Reef sixty miles down the road can claim the same thing, as can Arches and Zion. You go around a curve in Utah, and you’re in an alien landscape unlike any other place on Earth.
After Bryce, I saw the sunset from Cedar Breaks National Monument and then drove into St. George, Utah, a town made of 90% retired Mormons. Chiego has friends of his family that live here, Dave and Betsy. They are probably two of the more intelligent people I have ever meant. Their living room is filled with hundreds and hundred s of books on anything and everything you can imagine and several hundred jazz and classical CD’s. Dave has a Ph.D. in physical chemistry but taught advanced calculus at Memphis State. Despite a stroke, Dave is still sharper, wittier, more intellectual, and smarter than I have ever been or ever will be. They are truly impressive folks and fantastic hosts.
Chiego and I woke up early today and went to Zion National Park. I didn’t really know what I was getting into. We hiked six miles up 3000 feet to the rim of the canyon and back down, but then I went out to a point called Angels Landing. It was one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. I have no idea how anyone got the Department of the Interior to agree to make this trail, but basically, there is a “trail” out to this promontory 1200 feet above the canyon below. For most of the “trail” you are climbing hand over foot with sheer 1000 foot drop offs to your left and right. Fortunately, the National Park Service provides a chain that you can hang onto in especially dangerous parts of the climb. To give you a better sense of this hike, three people died in one week in April earlier this year--one from a heart attack, but still. Having this knowledge ahead of time, then looking over the cliff face began to sort of freak me out, and I longed to be back on the ground. Then I saw a ten year old kid jumping down the trail. I couldn’t be shown up by a ten year old, even if he was in better shape than I. Eventually I made it to the top, and was rewarded with an absolutely incredible view of the park, but I’m not sure that I would do it again. We’ll see if I can do half dome next week in Yosemite. I have to say that that hike was easily a top five moment of my trip so far.