I was up early and off to Zion National Park. Zion wasn’t on my radar of places to visit and it was added onto my trip a couple days ago. It is absolutely mind-boggling beautiful. It is a spectacular sight and the best way to see it is by hiking.
The night before I stopped into the Chili’s across the street from the Wal-Mart lot I was staying in, and the waitress saw my NY License and asked if I was touring the National Parks. I told her about my day in Bryce and how Zion was next. I was looking up hikes at that moment. She suggested the two I was reading about, and one of them is called Angels Landing, with a steep climb and narrow walking cliffs that drop-off on each side and you need to hold onto chains for. I thought this would be the most epic hike to end this solo and unpredictable journey. It is not for children or people with a fear of heights.
I never thought I had a fear of heights until one trip to Yosemite with my brother. He took me on a secret hike and there was one part where you walk out on a ledge about 3 feet wide. I followed my brother anywhere, I trusted him and he always encouraged this bravery. But when I got out to the ledge, I froze. It’s dizzying and one wind gust or loss of balance felt like I would blow off the side like a piece of paper. I couldn’t move back towards the place we started, he had to coach me back, and when I was off the ledge, I was paralyzed for the next hour.
I hiked up to Angels Landing with this knowledge. It felt like a fear I wanted to conquer, much like sleeping in a tent alone, or hiking in bear areas alone, or driving around this massive country by myself. I wanted to end this epic National Park tour with a crazy hike, solo.
I made it to top of the mountain and began up the chain portion. I stopped and thought about it, and decided to give it a try, I didn’t want to regret not finishing the hike. My sneakers had no grip, and I was slipping as the sloping steps created by redstone sediment were covered with sand. I didn’t take another step, and said to the person behind me, “I’m sorry, I’m having second thoughts.” I felt alone. I felt the fear and my body beginning to freeze up. I didn’t have my brother or anyone with me to coach me or for me to follow and trust. As I turned around to go down the first set of chains I had climbed up, my sneakers slid more and I lost total balance and began sliding down, my hands and knees slowing me to a stop. I heard gasps and a stranger holding the chains reached out his hand for me to take and helped me up to grab the chain. I was done.
I hiked down the mountain and couldn’t hike any longer, because I had improper shoes. It was such a defeating feeling. To be in the most beautiful park, and to not be able to experience it the way I would like, with hours and hours of daylight left.
I took a look at my map, and began the plan-dance. The Grand Canyon was no longer in my plans, but I looked again. Within two hours, I had found a shower at a nearby RV park and began the drive to the Grand Canyon to arrive a couple of hours before sunset.
It was perfect. As I entered Grand Canyon National Park, the first sight was a herd of Bison. This immediately made my detour worth doing.
I entered at the North Rim, a less populated view of the canyon, and I found the most perfect spot to sit and watch as the sun set on my final stop on this National Park frenzy. What a time of my life.