We drove into Utah from Arizona just as it was starting to get dark, the night before we were to set out and tackle Angel's Landing. As we got closer to Zion we started to see the outline of deer in the pastures lining the road, the last light of the day highlighting their shape against the rocky backdrop. It was beautiful. We rolled down the windows and let the air in, taking in the little bits we could before the sun went completely down behind the mountains.
When we woke up the next morning and took a look around we were in awe. Rocks towered around us on all sides- the red only made redder by the green trees. We stretched, we took it in, we discussed our plan. That morning we were headed out to hike Angel's Landing, a 1,500-foot rock formation that promised to provide insane views of Zion Canyon. I'd researched the hike pretty extensively- I read about how difficult it could be for those with any fear of heights and how dangerous it could be in inclement weather. All along I hadn't felt nervous- but the night before Erinn, Alana, and I had hopped back on the internet and started to psych ourselves out. "How many people have died doing this?!" "WHY are we doing this anyway?" etc.
As we got our packs out, laced up our shoes, and headed out, the sun was coming up. After a tiny bit of back and forth and some "once we get there, if it looks like a stupid idea we won't do it" talk we began the hike, pushing aside the previous night's apprehension. We entered at the trailhead at the Grotto Picnick area and made our way uphill, through Walter's Wiggles, a set of 21 steep switchbacks.
We approached Scout's Lookout and saw a few people deciding to stop there, rather than going all the way to the top. We had made some friends along the way and we all decided to head up together, and this is where is got interesting for me. All along I felt like I could possibly have some fear of heights, but I wasn't totally sure because up until recently I hadn't been in too many situations where I could have found out. A few weeks prior Alana and I had hike Devil's Bridge in Sedona and I was incredibly uncomfortable walking across it. But Angel's Landing, oh man, this was in a whole different realm- SO high, SO scary...but oddly enough I wasn't scared at all. This came as a surprise to me- my adrenaline kicked in and I was 110% stoked, no fear whatsoever. Awesome.
We continued going upward, and the hike definitely became intense at a few points. You're literally standing on a ledge thousands of feet in the air, with nothing to hold onto, sheer drops on both sides. It was crazy. And beautiful. And the kind of thing that makes you feel sick with excitement and nerves the entire time. Some of the way up there were chains- but there were a few hairy sections that had you just saying "okay, I'm doing it," and taking a breath then a quick step to a different rock or spot, with the world kind of spinning below thanks to how high in the air you are.
In all honesty although the scary parts were definitely scary, but those parts made up a small portion of the entire hike. It definitely wasn't as bad as I had read, and once we got to the top I sat there for a second and processed what I just did. Now, I'm going to try not to get totally cheesy here but I would say that this hike was kind of life-changing. Tears and everything, people. Just being nervous about something and then doing that something, and really and truly loving the shit out of doing that something...that's such a great feeling. How often do we get a chance to really get shaken up in life, or be surprised by ourselves? This was one of those times for me, and I will really and truly cherish this adventure forever. My only wish was that we had more time to spend in the park, but since it was a quick turn-around three day trip we headed home upon completion. Next time, I'll have to bring my GoPro (and Hank!) and capture a bit more of the climb!
Here are some iPhone photos, and do let me know if you have any questions below. I'm sharing this story in partnership with the National Park Foundation and their Find Your Park campaign. It's really an amazing project so be sure to check it out when you have a moment. Enjoy!