Friday, April 3, 2009

Day Thirty, 090330 - Zion Nat'l Park, UT

Day Thirty, Date Monday, March 30, 2009
Time in Saddle: 0:55
Distance for the Day: 7.06 miles: (Still in Zion Nat'l Park)
Accumulated Trip Distance: 1184.1 miles
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 3886’/3886’, Highest: 5785’, Accumulated: ~2600’ (hiking)
Speeds: Avg: 7.6 mph, Max: 17.4 mph
Weather: Clear, slightly below freezing in AM, warming to lower 60s
Expenditures: $12

Unfortunately, we underestimated the level of cold weather that had arrived, so the night was a little uncomfortable, but not totally intolerable. I kind of hate that, though: enough of a bother to be disturbed, but not so bad that you’d actually get up and do something about it. Yechh! Got up at 7am local Utah time, and it was below freezing. The plan for today was cycling to the end of the valley in Zion National Park, and do the Angels Landing hike, and possibly the Emerald Pools hike, as well. We fixed sandwiches for lunch, stored all our gear into the tent and Eusebio locked the tent’s zippers with a small padlock (clever), and off we went. Being in the valley, there was still no sun, and I for one was still freezing my ass off. I think I’m going to have to get used to not feeling my toes, because it happened again (first time on the Mountain Spring pass between Pahrump and Las Vegas). Even after cycling 5 miles into the park with mild uphill grades didn’t thaw them out. When we did hit a patch of sunlight, we paused in it and melted a little, before continuing on. We locked our cycles up at the trailhead, and made our way up the Angels Landing trailhead. The sign there said it was about 5 miles of strenuous work with an estimated four hours to get there and back; let me tell you – they weren’t kidding. Within the first half mile, it turned into medium-steep switchbacks against the wall of the canyon. Then, it straightened out a bit, going still uphill but at a gentler grade, and then there were 20 more switchbacks, climbing several hundred feet higher up a high wall. When we got to the top of that, we thought we were done, but no such luck. Facing us about a hundred yards away was a narrow, almost bridge-like path which fell off steeply to either side, connecting to a tall spire that loomed high above us. Oh. That’s Angels Landing. Now, the going got intense. The trail went up at a high angle, and the trailblazers for this hike installed chain handgrips for the particularly hairy places, and there were lots and lots of chains. Sometimes, it was more like climbing a ladder, than going up steps, but eventually, we made it to the top. There were spots where you could look over the edge (not Poolia), and see an uninterrupted drop to the valley floor, 1,500’ below. Cool! We went down to a less windy part of the trail, and ate our lunches, then went back down all the switchbacks, through the canyons of twisted and sculpted sandstone, back down to the valley floor. We made it in less than two hours – not bad, but, we are cross-country cyclists, and our legs are like pneumatic pistons! But, even pistons have problems, and Eusebio was having some trouble with his ankle (it had been bothering him a bit the last week or so), so Cati and I took the Emerald Pools trail, and saw the massive escarpment of semi-circular sandstone with a small bit of remnant waterfall action happening. It was nice. The hike wasn’t very difficult, though it did climb up several hundred feet above the valley floor. I was surprised, though, that after Angels Landing, I was still up for another mile long hike. I generally don’t like to hike for long distances (ie, more than the length of the mall), so perhaps all this cycling has improved my ability to walk, or at least inured me to the pain of physical effort. After all this hiking, we returned to our campsite, got our laptops, and headed into Springdale to get some free wi-fi at the library. By the time we found it (it wasn’t easy), there was only about an hour left, so we got to it, and did what we could, but then they kicked us out. We were still able to connect, so we stayed outside a while longer to finish up. After that, we went back to the grocery store to get more food stuffs for dinner and breakfast ($12) and returned to camp. This evening, we were better prepared for the cold, and so had a nice, warm, night’s sleep.

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