We took Annie to Zion for her first time! The more desert that girl gets, the better. Our first day there was rainy, muddy and beautiful.
We hiked to Upper Emerald Pool through the mud. Annie, apparently, didn’t get the memo about hiking because she wore Converse. (Mom of the Year over here.)
We followed what looked like a trail above the pools and became a bit lost along with a couple from Portland. I love how friendly everyone is when they’re hiking. There’s a comradery there not experienced often.
We met up with my mom and sister at the Riverside Walk which takes you to the entrance of The Narrows. It’s an easy little jaunt along a pale green river full of furry friends begging for food.
The next day, we set off on a hike I’ve had nightmares about: Angel’s Landing.
I did it, though. I hiked Angel’s Landing.
If you’ve never heard of Angel’s Landing, it’s a hike where the last 0.5 miles are completely insane. Most of it is equipped with chains you hold on to for dear life. In one stretch, the trail is no larger than two feet wide, with 1500-foot dropoffs on either side. It’s not really for people, like me, with a crippling fear of heights.
We took one of the first shuttles from the Visitor’s Center at around 7:15AM. The steep hike to Scout’s Lookout, where the chains begin, is breathtaking. Literally and figuratively.
I have been to Scout’s Lookout before, where I waited for Sean to come back from the summit of Angel’s Landing. This time, my mom and Annie stayed on the Lookout while Sean, Kevin, and I went on ahead.
Going up wasn’t so bad. I was able to concentrate on just my feet and my hands; diligently holding the chain to stave off height anxiety. At one point we stepped away from the chains to let by a faster group behind us. One of the guys in the group slipped right toward me as I stood precariously next to the ledge. That set me shaking for a few minutes. A kid, 12, slipped onto his hands and knees while we were distracting his father in conversation. Another few shaky minutes.
Eventually, we made it to the top, and I was elated. The views were incredible, everyone was so happy and nice, and I had faced one of my greatest fears in life. Everything was perfect. And everything went downhill from there.
People continued arriving at the summit at a steady pace, and I realized we had to go back down during a time when most people were climbing up. I tried to convince Sean that we should just live at Angel’s Landing, but there really weren’t enough discarded orange peels and chipmunks to sustain us for an extended period of time. Down it was.
Going down meant descending for a couple minutes and moving aside, when we could, allowing others to ascend. The problem with that, of course, was bottlenecks in areas where there shouldn’t be any bottlenecks. One bottleneck began filling up so quickly that we had to move or be crowded off the ledge. We walked past people coming up who were holding onto the chain … which meant we weren’t. I kind of lost my shit walking a mere 12 inches from a nightmare cliff without a security blanket. My chest started hurting, I couldn’t breathe, and I was crying. This hike is not for anyone like me. Ever.
Except. This hike can be for people like me. Just not 300 of us at the same time. This is the Devil of Angel’s Landing – it’s way too crowded. You can avoid crowds by going when it’s cold and snowy (uh, no?) or by staying at Zion Lodge and walking to the trailhead at 4:30AM (take a headlamp.)
Once we were back at Scout’s Lookout safely and my heart returned to a somewhat normal pace, we began talking about other ways to “fix” the Devil of Angel’s Landing. Stationing a ranger at common bottlenecks to direct traffic was one idea and issuing permits was another. Sean said he’d rather stand in line at the Visitor’s Center to obtain a permit than hike all the way up to Scout’s Lookout only to find a line there. I pointed out that if they only allowed Angel’s Landing by permit, many people visiting from all over the world might miss this. I genuinely believe it would be a shame if someone had traveled so far only to miss this beauty. There are obvious pros and cons to a permit idea, but I think overall we favor the idea.
Have you climbed Angel’s Landing, or planning to? What do you think?