I got assigned to work Ironman St George on May 7th. The Mrs and I had been up to Zion National Park a couple times and were entertaining the possibility of getting married in or around the park as we feel it's kinda "our place" since it was our first road trip together. Beautiful, beautiful place. If you've never been you need to go. It's geographically pretty small but pound for pound it's hard to find a place with more scenery everywhere you look. And it's near Bryce Canyon National Park as well as many other southern Utah parks and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
I decided to take the "long" way up there and visit Horseshoe Bend just outside of Page, Arizona. I've seen pictures and figured we were gonna be right up there so we gotta check it out. Quite impressive. As with many things in nature, you can see all the pictures you want but until you see it in person you really have no idea. And it's such a big feature that I found myself wishing I had something wider than a 16mm lens.
It's about a 3/4 mile trek down a sandy trail to the edge with which you are rewarded:
We hung out there for a little while enjoying the scenery and breeze. It was pretty cool out so we took our time. Headed back south because I wanted to take the route to Zion that goes closest to the North Rim. It's supposed to be a nicer drive. And it is... much prettier and scenic. The only downside is for a lot of it it's ~40 MPH winding mountain roads so it takes a little more time that continuing on US89 into Utah.
We stopped at the scenic view where you can see what I consider to be the beginning of the Grand Canyon.
Then a little further down the road we crossed over the Colorado River. There's a little Ranger station & rest stop on the west side and you can actually walk out on the old, narrow bridge across the river.
So, after ~9 hours we finally arrive at our destination: The Cliffrose Lodge. It's the first Lodge outside of Zion in Springdale, Utah, and sits next to the Virgin River with some great views out your back window. Unpacked the truck and stowed the bikes in the room (against Cliffrose policy) then went to dinner at The Spotted Dog Cafe. Great food although a little towards the pricey side. But, what do you expect in a National Park?
Woke up the next morning and this would be similar to our backdrop for the wedding:
We got up the next morning and had some appointments to meet with planners so decided to kill the remainder of the afternoon with a hike up the Narrows for a nice, afternoon hike. We get to the Visitor's Center and they've got Caterpillars everywhere!
They were all over everything, cacoons everywhere. Apparently Zion didn't get as cold this year and the cold usually freezes them away.
So, we've got our hiking sticks (a must if you plan on doing a lot of hiking in the Virgin River), our Camelbaks, and our watershoes and we take the tram to the Temple of Sinawava to be greeted by:
So we mosey on up to the mile-long, paved pathway to the egress of the Narrows and take our time, just enjoying the scenery and taking some pictures.
We head back into town to mess around and stop by Zion Cycles and chat with the two dudes there. The cat with the chops turns us onto the JEM trail about 20 minutes away so we make that our plan. I didn't need anything but I like to help the LBS when I can, especially when they are helpful, so I bought a couple maps.
We got up the next morning and followed the directions out to the trailhead. Got everything ready to go and off we went. Didn't take a lot of photos along the way but have a few highlights from the P&S:
So, it was a pretty easy ride. Easy enough for a beginner yet I was able to amuse myself here and there. Great views in the beginning as you ride along a little canyon's edge with the Virgin River below you.
As well as a video. Yeah, it's a little long... but it was pretty scenic and did some sessioning here and there:
We got back and stopped in Springdale for lunch at a little Deli. Then headed to the Zion Lodge where we stayed our remaining two days. It was definitely fun being able to stay inside the park at the lodge and the first time I've gotten to stay at THE lodge of any park.
This is the view from just outside our lodge room:
This is what the lodge would look like:
But they were doing some construction and reworking the main grassy area so it looked like this:
I feel sorry for people who booked their visit and showed up to orange fencing all over the main courtyard.
On our last visit this was the normal scene in the courtyard towards the evenings:
We missed the evening friends for sure. Would've been especially nice since we were staying at the lodge. Oh, well...
The next morning we got up and wanted to hike towards Angel's Landing but take the West Rim Trail instead since we'd never been that direction. I was also hoping to find the spot where the infamous photo of Walter's Wiggles was taken.
Approaching Angel's Landing
The hike up to Angel's Landing is something around 3 miles with a substantial amount of climbing.
Partway up looking back towards the lodge
Looking back down on some of the switchbacks
It narrows as you get closer to the saddle
Once you finish the climb up Walter's Wiggles and arrive at the saddle at Scout's Lookout you are rewarded with some great views of the valley Zion National Park is in. If you are brave enough to go all the way to Angel's Landing you will be even more rewarded.
A view of Angel's Landing from near Scout's Lookout
Angel's Landing is around 1200' high with sharp drop offs to both sides and the trail frequently guides you with chains drilled into the rock to help you not die. If you are afraid of heights, you won't want to do this hike. But, just like hitting that one tricky obstacle on the bike, thinking about it is far worse than actually doing it.
We had been up to Angel's Landing before so our path was to the left on the West Rim Trail to see some of the park we have not previously seen. It was a fun hike but not as interesting when compared to the Angel's Landing hike or the Narrows... Those are two hikes that should be on everyone's bucket list.
So we got nearly as far as I felt like we should go on the West Rim Trail in order to find this shot of the Wiggles. As we got further it started to dawn on me that we're so far away now that my 16-35 ain't gonna be enough to get the Wiggles in frame. So, I did not get the shot I wanted. But, DAMN, that West Rim Trail would be AWESOME to shuttle down on a bike!
About the time I was thinking about turning around we run into a guy with a big pack, sleeping pad, the whole outfit. He asks about how much further and we chit chat a little. He'd camped about 7 miles away and ran out of water. He'd been boiling water for a day and was trying to make it out before it started to get warm. We chatted a little, he seemed in awesome shape for 7+ miles with a 40 lb. pack. He took off on his way and we went a little further and Erika says, "should we have given him some water?"
It was then that it actually dawned on me this poor guy had been hiking for 7+ miles with a 40 lb. pack and NO water. He was in such great shape that I didn't even think he was in need. He wasn't breathing heavy and was totally coherent. I felt like a complete d-bag and turned around and went after him. Finally caught up with him maybe a quarter mile away and yelled up to him, "hey, you want some water?"
He tried to be polite and decline, not wanting to distract us from our hike but I told him we were turning around anyway and had more water than I could possibly need for this hike. He pulled out his collapsable cup and I filled it up for him. His name was Rusty and is a recent divorcee from Tennessee. He decided he was gonna head out west and have some fun. It was his first time out to this side of the country and he went backpacking, by himself, in a park he'd never been to for 7 days. And he loved every minute of it.
He finished up his water and refused another cup. He knew enough to know that when you are dehydrated it's possible to drink too much. We shook hands and he went off on down the road while Erika and I sat down, relaxed, and had a snack. After fifteen minutes or so we headed back down.
Erika and I on our way back from down the West Rim Trail
This is a 48" print on my wall that I took on our first trip to Zion when we went up Angel's Landing
Here are a few photos from our second trip to Zion when we did the
Top to Bottom Narrows hike staying at a campsite along the Virgin River
This one is also framed on a wall
Well, that's the trip report. The rest of the trip into St. George involved organizing photographers and taking pictures of the Ironman athletes. Not nearly as much fun as the previous 6 days but you gotta pay the bills, right?
And, yes, we have decided that we would be getting married at Cliffrose Lodge next year about this time.
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Thread: Trip Report: Zion NP & JEM Trail
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