Where Angels Land

On the second day of our 44-day road trip, Amy and I arrived in Zion National Park.  We had three nights and basically three days to see one of the most beautiful spots on Earth.  The towering sandstone cliffs are stained with iron to give the mountains an amazing red glow.  I describe it as a Yosemite in full color.  The canyon country around Zion has amazing red cliffs, but Zion has the most stunning cliffs of all and the trails to support it.

I’d heard about Angel’s Landing Trail being one of the best hikes in the world.  After doing it, I rank it right up there with half dome, Everest and the San Juan’s of Colorado.  Angel’s Landing is only about 5 miles round trip, but the last half mile up requires chains to keep you on the mountain.

The trail was too intimidating for Amy who has some vertigo, so she hiked another trail shown on the map above to Emerald Pools.

The Angel’s Landing hike had about a half mile of casual walking before it started ascending the 1,500′ cliffs.  The trail was wide and steep and lots of other people were coming down.  I started at 3pm to avoid the crowds and miss the hottest part of the early June day.

The series of switchbacks worked right up the mountain and I had to stop many times to catch my breath from the steep grade.  After about a mile, I entered a very steep and deep canyon called Refrigeration Canyon because the sun rarely reaches the canyon floor.  The slot canyon was cool and breezy and rather flat.  Angel’s Landing was on the right and a whole other mountain was on the left.

After a while, I hiked up Walter’s Wiggles – some tight switchbacks seen below.  The sun hit me as I climbed out of Refrigerator Canyon and I was sweating again and making good time.

Walter’s Wiggles

The trail was still wide and safe, so I was wondering what all the fear of the trail was about.  Then we reached a flat area known as Scout’s Lookout.  It’s a nice plateau with 1,500′ drops to the Virgin River canyon floor.    It’s Wile E. Coyote country for sure!

Scout’s Lookout is a nice flat area before Angel’s Landing.

After I made it across the high plateau, a small offshoot trail went to Angel’s Landing.  This is where the men separate from the boys – or something like that because a lot of beautiful women kept going.  I could see the chains and this sign.

Don’t fall off the cliff…

I looked up at people coming down a rock face holding on to a loose chain.  The chain was attached to metal posts pounded into the rock face.  I realized what all the fuss was about.  The chain is the only thing that keeps people from tumbling off the mountain to their death.

I started hiking up and some people were stuck in the trail.  I’d seen similar behavior on Half Dome where people would not let go of the chain.  They were paralyzed and not moving forward.  To keep going, I had to get close to them, reach around them and grab the chain on the other side of them.  Luckily there weren’t too many people doing this, so I made quick work of getting up the precarious ridges.

I saw many other people turning back with white knuckles and fear in their faces.  I’ve never been too afraid of heights and love looking down great distances, but even this hike was too much in places and my heart pounded at some of the gaps between the chains.

You need to hold on to that chain.

That’s a 1,000′ drop on the other side of the chain!  5 people have died on the trail with the last victim falling 1,000′ in 2009.  You don’t want to stumble up there.

I think I blocked out a lot of the hike until I made it to the relatively flat top.  Here’s a picture from there:

Quite a few people were up there and no rangers were there to enforce the rules of not feeding the animals.  This guy had this chipmunk crawl up him multiple times to get that perfect shot.  While I was watching, one of those little buggers jumped on my back and it made me jump.  my sudden movement scared all the other chipmunks and this guy was mad because I interrupted his cinematography.

This is my favorite shot from the top.  Right after I took it, I was uploading it to Facebook when some other people asked me to take their photo.  I said sure and set my phone in my lap.  They got into position and then I forgot about my phone.  When I got up, my phone fell onto the rocks and started skidding down the mountain!

People heard my phone skidding and bouncing and started yelling for help for my phone.  I’d seen a phone skid down half dome to it’s death, and people seem to relate to the fear of losing their phone.  The phone/camera/organizer/ bank teller/GPS/on and on is the most important thing people use all day long.  Losing my phone is a very painful experience and I prayed that I wouldn’t lose mine off the 1,500′ cliff!

Luckily, the person I was taking a picture of was in the skid path.  She stopped the phone with her foot as it was sliding to it’s death.  The slide scraped up the cover and the screen almost broke, but my screen protector worked and the protector chipped instead of the screen.

When I got back to the main trail a half an hour later, I decided to hike up the main trail a little farther.  When I got up there, I realized that I hadn’t used my tripod or selfie pole to take some pics.  I set it up and got some good shots and then saw the time elapse mode.  I knew I had to get a cool shot of the people coming down the chains while the clouds blew by.  Check this one out!

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I’m so impressed that I can take this HD time elapse video with my phone.  What a powerful tool.

The whole hike took about 4 hours.  I highly recommend it to lift your spirits and get to some life pondering moments.  I felt a good sense of accomplishment at the end of the day and my only loss was a scraped iPhone.

The Angel has Landed!

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