Friday, June 22, 2012

In the desert

Panorama: Evening near Monument Valley

I mentioned last time we were going into Death Valley next. Somehow we managed to make it through Death Valley without taking a single picture between the three of us. It was bright and hot, take my word for it. We paid $20 to a small hotel just outside the park for use of their showers, and there was something... strange... about their water. It made you feel greasy. I've never got out of a shower feeling nastier than when I got in, so... that's a new experience.

After skirting around Las Vegas we got to Zion National Park, which is one of the prettiest parks I've seen, but suffers from lots of tourists. We walked a little way up 'The Narrows', a slot canyon where you hike in the Virgin River itself:

The Narrows

The shade and cool water is a perfect place to hike here on a summer day. I tried this same hike once in January and was quickly turned back by the near-freezing water.

We didn't spend long here because I wanted to do the Angel's Landing hike. This is a very steep climb (around 1400 vertical feet) to a traverse across a narrow rock fin sticking out into the canyon. I've also done this one in January, when it's much sketchier since it's covered in snow and ice and you can't really tell where the edges are.

Stopping for a rest after the big climb:

Angel's Landing

The narrowest point:


Near the end, looking down Zion Canyon:

Angel's Landing

At Angel's Landing shortly after sunset:

Angel's Landing

We then had to get back down in the dark, with the one emergency headlamp I keep in my backpack between the three of us. I have pretty good night vision and I'm used to walking around in the dark, so I passed it off. The real worry here has to do with that 'Zion gets lots of tourists' thing. The road into the canyon is closed to private vehicles in the summer, so you have to take a shuttle bus - which stops running sometime in the evening. If we were to miss the last bus that would add another 10-15 miles of walking back to the car. So we hurried down the trail, and as we neared the trailhead we saw a shuttle bus coming. Is that the last bus of the night? We didn't know, so we acted as if it was, and Colby rqn ahead with the headlamp to try and beat the bus to the bus stop and talk the driver into waiting. He made it, and it was actually the last bus, so that was well timed. Would have been better timed if we were 15 minutes faster but it worked out.

The next stop was the north rim of the Grand Canyon, because it was nearby and why not? Looking at Bright Angel Canyon running into the main canyon:

Bright Angel Canyon

Then down an unknown but interesting looking highway, which passed through several neat small towns and over Marble Canyon:

Marble Canyon

And evening just outside Monument Valley:

Utah Evening

We drove overnight and made it to Arkansas the next morning, where Iv'er been for the last 3-4 weeks. Tomorrow I head to Santa Fe for a week, then back north.

Oh, and happy (belated) summer solstice:

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