By Kathi Szabo
Last week we returned from our second trip this year! This time we headed to the Desert Southwest and met up with our daughter, Hana and her boyfriend, Anthony.
Our trip was designed to spend days hiking and exploring nearby National Parks including Zion and Bryce Canyon, both in Utah. But since we were trying to use up time share weeks, we booked an old out-dated resort in Mesquite NV, about an hour from the closest park.
We arrived to temperatures over 110 degrees. In fact, the cold water ran hot, so I couldn’t even take a shower to cool off! But the place was clean and friendly. The first day we rested and made a plan for the rest of the week. Read along and follow our adventure.
Day 1 – Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon was the furthest away so we decided to visit that park first. We all awoke before 5am in order to be out the door by 6 to ensure we could gain entry to the park as the news kept talking about how crowded many National Parks were this summer. AND we lost an hour traveling from Nevada on Pacific Time and Utah on Mountain time.
Off we went in our Jeep Wrangler. I intentionally rented a Jeep, picturing us traveling around with the top down. I did not factor in temperatures of 105 and higher! Needless to say we didn’t take the top down when we started.
To get to Bryce Canyon, Maps gave me numerous options as it is a distance off the closest Interstate. I navigated Mark to the one that looked the most interesting to me. It was about 10 minutes longer than the fastest route and took us through Cedar Breaks National Monument and Dixie National Forest. We pulled off a few times to take in the views. When we stopped to take pictures of Navajo lake, we noticed how much cooler the weather was now that we were in the higher elevations of Utah. I laughed that we needed to take the top down and so, we did! It was the only day we rode topless!
I didn’t know it at the time, but the route into Bryce, Utah State Route 12, is dubbed one of the most scenic routes in America, and it was! Red Rock, Canyons, and Arches! In hindsight I wish we had spent more time here, but we were on a mission to hike the famous Bryce Canyon, so we only stopped for a few pictures.
Arriving at Bryce Canyon
When we arrived at Bryce Canyon, it was crowded, but not nearly as crowded as we had expected. After driving in a circle, trying to figure out the best place to park and looking for the general store, we finally found it with a parking space right at the entrance! After getting our sandwiches and bug spray, we got back in the Jeep and went in search of a parking space to leave the car for the rest of the day as it didn’t seem right leaving it at the store, although there was no sign saying we couldn’t.
Mark found us a spot near the Bryce Canyon Lodge, which seemed close enough to where we wanted to hike. We got our backpacks and hiking shoes on and we were off! The intent was to walk from Sunrise point down through Queens Garden and up through Navajo loop to Sunset Point. However as we began walking we realized we were closer to Sunset Point, so we decided to take the hike in the opposite direction!
The pictures don’t do it justice, and my words cannot describe the majestic views! But I hope some how I’m conveying the beauty and awesome of the day, hiking through Bryce Canyon.
We hiked most of the day, drove to other parts of the park and before heading back to Nevada, we stopped at one last hike, Mossy Cave where I found myself under the waterfall!
That was just day 1.
Day 2 – Zion National Park
Luckily Zion was not quite as far AND we had reservations to stay the night in Zion, so we were not in as much of a rush the next morning! But I do think we were all a bit tired which was causing us to read into things. I thought Mark was being short tempered, he thought the same of me. Luckily, we both were able to communicate how the other was making us feel and once we said it out loud, we let any negative vibes go so we could enjoy the rest of the day.
This day was my favorite! We hiked The Narrows, the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. The hike takes you in and out of the Virgin River, so you are literally hiking in the river. Both the river and much of the riverside was covered in rocks. Now Mark and I were prepared! I had done my research and knew we needed shoes that could withstand water, but also gave support and solid footing on the rocks. My daughter and her boyfriend brought your basic water shoes, which although fine for the river, not fine for walking over 7 miles over rocks. But they were good sports about it and pretty much kept up with us. After all the beauty again was incredible! You didn’t want to come and then not see this!
Again the pictures just don’t do it justice!
We ended the day at dinner in town at a place actually recommended by an old friend we ran into at The Narrows. Imagine that running into someone you knew from NJ who now lives in Florida in Zion!
I think we were all exhausted as after dinner we came back to the lodge and were in bed before the sun fully set!
Day 3 – Angels Landing
I don’t how we would have done this day had we not stayed the night in Zion. We were able to get to bed early the night before, and awaken to Mark’s favorite hike, Angels Landing. As I am writing this, I wondered how it got it’s name and with the help of Google, I found that it “received its name in 1916 when a group passing through the canyon commented that only an angel could land on top of it.” But yet thousands do it I’m sure now every summer!
The Easy Start
The hike starts out relatively easily with slight elevation gain as you walk along the Virgin River. Then you slowly make your way upward and before you know it, you’re starting to loose your breath because you are now quite high up.
After a number of switchbacks, the trail takes you through Refrigerator Canyon, a side canyon where the temperatures are always a bit cooler. This was a lovely walk with picturesque views.
After a turn to the right, the trail begins its ascent again. Walter’s Wiggles is an engineering marvel of the 1930’s. It is a series of 21 steep switchbacks which are the last hurdle before reaching Scout Lookout, the stopping point for many hikers. I must have been too focused on the climb to take pictures of this marvel, but hiking it up and down were both strenuous in their own way!
At Scout Lookout, one can see how much further it is to the summit as well as the chains set in stone to assist hikers.
Who will go to the Summit?
At this point, Mark and Hana decided to attempt the last half mile to the summit. I love a challenge, but getting to Scout Lookout was challenge enough for me. The two of them set off as Anthony and I made camp. Anthony, being a protective boyfriend, used my binoculars to keep an eye on the two daredevils. He was relieved when in a few minutes it seemed they stopped their climb on the chains. At first he thought both were coming back. But after a few minutes, nope, Hana found a place to sit on the rock as Mark continued his climb! So much for keeping both eyes on our daughter!
A bit later Hana made her way down with another woman. We sat and waited for Mark to return. He had gone around the bend and we no longer could see where he was or if he had fallen off the cliff. We watched through the binoculars and found folks sitting on the edge, dangling their feet into air, which just made my tummy turn seeing them through the binoculars. Finally, about 45 minutes later, I found Mark in my view heading back down the chains!
The rest of the afternoon was not as exhilarating, but still breath-taking! Emerald Pools, lunch at the lodge and dinner again in Springdale before heading back to Nevada.
Day 4 – A Remote Desert Drive
The next day Hana and Anthony were ready to just chill at the pool, but not Mark and me. We set out on a drive through Gold Butte Monument outside Mesquite.
This was why I rented a Jeep! A desert road with pot holes that turns to rock and gravel and then to dirt for a 63 mile loop!
We saw more red rock, Joshua Trees, a sink hole, a herd of cattle, a bush in the road (literally, I had to get out to move it and it wasn’t light!), and just beautiful scenery! But this was not a route to take without a 4×4 vehicle!
My Love for Travel
This week simply reinforced my belief that travel is a requisite for well-being. Travel allows us to explore and challenge ourselves. Travel inspires us. It connects us with others and with the world around us. The earth that we share with all other beings on this planet.
I learn more from travel than any class I’ve ever taken. We learn about nature, how our planet was formed. We learn about the animals and birds and reptiles that share this planet with us. We learn about other cultures. Eat other foods. Try new ways of doing things.
This trip I learned a lot about different rock formations. About how they formed the mountains and canyons and deserts we see today. I learned more about traveling with others. Providing space for each to experience everything in their own way. To find beauty in what they see, not just what I see.
Travel has opened my eyes to the vastness of the world. The complexity and simplicity at the same time of this planet and of the billions of people living on it.
I can’t imagine not traveling. It creates joy in my heart. It connects me. Not just to Nature and with those I travel with. But also to those that I meet while on my journey as well as, it connects me to the Universe, the Greater Good. Knowing we are all one.