Zion National Park was a bit of a black hole in my research before we left. I hadn’t researched any hikes or specific things I wanted to do there. Suz had researched a bike trip west of Zion and I had seen a few pictures but they hadn’t left much of an impression on me. We camped at the campground in the middle of the town of Springdale which serves the park in the same way as Banff townsite. We found the similarities very interesting as Bow Valley locals now turned tourists. It gave us some insight into why Banff townsite is so popular and what Banff does right. Anyway, the campground was dreadful by my standards. Very few campgrounds are to my liking having been spoiled by a lifetime of isolated, backcountry camping. So it’s a good thing Zion is so beautiful that even camping cheek by jowl didn’t put a damper on things!
The hike we did was up to Angel’s Landing. It’s the popular must do, like seeing the Eiffel Tower. Probably not the best thing to do in Paris but you’d feel weird if you didn’t see it. Angel’s Landing is an oddity. It’s basically a beautiful and easy path made to take people with no experience or skills into a place they have no business being.
Below: The amazing engineering of the Angel’s Landing path built in the 1920s. One of the few paths I thought was picture worthy unto itself!
Above: The first lookout atop Angel’s Landing. The most amazing feature of Zion is the scale. Many of the other places in Utah allow you to climb in and around and really get to know the land. Zion is about human-dwarfing scale that makes you insignificant. Above the lookout in this picture is a fin that angles up very steeply with thousands of feet dropping down just a few feet on each side of you. A fixed cable prevents people from falling to their death though a half dozen have died here in the last few years. If I was presented with an arete like this back home, we would climb one at a time with experienced partners. But here, people who looked more at home in a mall were all climbing bumper to bumper up this precipice in one giant accident waiting to happen. Suz was too curious and ventured up a bit but I wanted nothing to do with it, too worried some inexperienced person was going to slip and take me out with them.
Above: Suz has enough and comes back down. In the end, we were grateful for the path as the lookout really was spectacular. A similar problem exists here at home. Around the same time we were in Angel’s Landing, several tourists were snowshoeing at Lake Louise and found an easy path up into an avalanche path and were killed when they triggered the slope. The wisdom of making it easy for people with no skills to get into dangerous places seems questionable to me. As Alan Kane says, “if you don’t know what your mountain skills are, maybe you don’t have any.” I insist that people must be respnsible for their actions, but I also feel that people with knowledge have a responsibility to do their best to educate the ignorant of dangers. It seems like the current Parks information delivery assumes a knowledge level that is too high. Anyway, enough park policy!
Above: Back down in the main canyon, we wandered up the Virgin River as it slices through the soft sandstone. Again, it seems odd to have running water around after spending so much time in waterless canyons, gulches and deserts.
Above: Setting sun casts some big shadows across a big landscape. We saw plenty of photographers hauling big cameras and cumbersome tripods around here and for good reason. We saw some photos in a gallery in nearby Springdale that were simply mind-blowing.
Zion is amazing but the easy access and many tourists had us craving to experience it in solitude. Hiking guidebook gurus and Canmore elusives, the Copelands, profoundly opined that “Mountains speak. Canyons listen.” That certainly seems true to me now. Suz hit upon the thought of hiring a guide and learning canyoneering. After our day in the main Zion canyon, we were primed to seek out the hidden realms of Zion.