A Sad Word to the Wise

So, there’s always inherent risk in travel, especially that which involves hiking and outdoor activity. I’m sad to have stumbled upon an article published by the New York Times in May that details the disappearance and recovery of Geraldine Largay, a thru-hiker from Tennessee.

Parts of this post may come off as slightly harsh or heartless, but I must inform you that there is no lack of sympathy or empathy for this woman who lost her way. My heart grieves for a death such as this, but the rest of my post may come off as more logical and from outside safety perspective for the sake of a teaching experience. I apologize for any offense.


Geraldine’s death was caused by an unfortunate wrong turn and inability to find the AT again. Unfortunately she was also out of any range of cell service so could not contact anyone. Also unfortunately, a few mistakes prior to her disappearance could’ve indicated that the choice to continue on the AT was probably not the best for her.

1:  The first line of the article:

“She was afraid of being alone and prone to anxiety, a diminutive 66-year-old woman with a poor sense of direction, hiking the Appalachian Trail by herself, who wandered into terrain so wild, it is used for military training.

I can’t sum it up more than this – the Appalachian Trail is not to be taken lightly. If you recognize your limitations (fear of being alone, anxiety, lack of experience, etc), you’re more able to make a better choice in this situation. Once her hiking partner got off the trail for a family emergency, Geraldine continued on alone, regardless of her fears. This can be considered brave, heroic, pushing herself into her challenge zone – but perhaps she pushed a tad too far given the other shortcomings such as sense of direction and anxiety. I’ll elaborate below…

2: An observation by her hiking partner:

“Later, Ms. Lee would tell an investigator “that Geraldine had a poor sense of direction,” the Warden Service’s investigative report said. “Ms. Lee said that Geraldine had taken a wrong turn on the trail, more than once,” and Ms. Largay “became flustered and combative when she made these kinds of mistakes.””

Flustered is one thing – combative is another. If you have made the same directional mistake several times, it’s time to reanalyze what you can do better to follow the trail better, and accept that you have a shortcoming – not defensive. The experience on the AT can become a life and death situation instantly. It is not a place for combativeness or denial of your mistakes, which obviously, in this scenario, were deathly.

3: A word from her husband:

“Ms. Largay, a meticulous planner, was gregarious and made friends easily on the trail. But she feared the dark and being alone, said Ms. Lee, who told park wardens “that George did not know the extent of Geraldine’s inability to deal with the rigors and challenges of the trail.

But after he reported his wife missing, Mr. Largay told an investigator that “Gerry was probably in over her head.””

This is what makes my stomach twist. I am just so sad that the observations between husband and wife weren’t clear enough to really grasp what the other was thinking or doing. I’m not saying it’s anyone’s fault – I obviously don’t know what conversations there were before she left – but I wish something had been said, a fearful thought, a warning, if there wasn’t. I wish Ms. Lee had expressed this hesitation and analysis of Geraldine’s skill to her husband. But again, I don’t know them.

4: A missing call for help:

““In somm trouble,” Ms. Largay wrote in a text message to her husband. “Got off trail to go to br. Now lost.” She asked him to call the Appalachian Mountain Club “to c if a trail maintainer can help me. Somewhere north of woods road. Xox.”…

…Ms. Largay sought high ground, possibly hoping for a cell signal. She tried over and over to send messages, but none went through.”

Let me just recommend this fun product here, to start. Not saying these are incredibly affordable, or that I’ve ever really heard of it to this instant, but if getting lost is a serious risk factor for you, this could be of use.

Cell phones are never a good reliability for communications, especially in such a situation. 10 miles into my Dolly Sods trip we had no cell service. We listened to weather reports on the radio. I think it’s a great idea to have one. This woman was in thick brush and trees in wilderness. I’m glad she tried, but you must have a backup option (again, especially if getting lost is a serious fear or shortcoming), like a GPS  or a satellite radio for communication.


The biggest point I want to make here is that you need to be ready for the AT if you’re actually going to make it. I don’t mean just physically – I mean mentally as well. I know it myself, as I suffer from depression and anxiety as well, that you need to be mentally prepared for all challenges – being alone, getting lost, the dark. Hardly any of these are avoidable on the AT. In any outdoor situation, you need to know what comes with the territory.

I mourn for this woman and her family. It is painful that I can use this as a teachable moment.

I’ll be posting some outdoor lessons soon, I think, if only to help someone avoid fatal mistakes in the future.

Lesson Plan

So my friend Yasha is coming over tomorrow to get an “outdoorsy” lesson. Basically he wants to get into hiking, backpacking, etc.

I’m currently drafting something up and was like, oh! This could be useful to a lot of people! So I may upload it here when I’m done. It goes over packing the right gear, clothing, trip planning, knowing your limits and safety, etc.

Would this be beneficial to anyone here? Thoughts?

More Red Rocks stuff soon I promise! 🙂

Jo

RRR – Mountain Biking

Okay. Mountain biking.

I forced myself to sign up for this clinic to hopefully overcome my fear of biking. Let me explain: I learned to bike kind of later in life (8, 9 years?) and always kind of sucked at it. Every time I go I end up veering into something, or wobbling a lot and just being extremely unconfident.

So reading the description, “great for beginners or advanced bikers,” and knowing Dennis would sign up with me, I of course thought sure, why not, it’s vacation and this’ll be fun if not interesting.

We were outfit for bikes in one of the camp parking lots. I watched other participants, confident on their bikes turning in delicate circles on the concrete as if the bike was doing all the work for them. I stood still, handlebars grasped tightly and walked my bike to the van to be loaded.

At this point it was hot. Desert icky hot. Still better than Maryland icky hot, but anyway. The sun was fully out, I knew I was already dehydrated, and I was nervous. I waited for an introduction to the bike, a few riding techniques, something that wouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.

Unfortunately this never happened. Instead the speech I got, in a nutshell of basic concepts, was “Okay, we’re going to follow this path the whole time. We might split into two groups depending on how everyone’s doing. Don’t clutch the front brake too hard or you might fly over your handlebars.”

Um… what?

I couldn’t even get on my bike – the seat was too high. “Who set that so high for you? That’s so strange!” said the kind woman who set up my seat ten minutes ago. I felt like I was being bludgeoned in the crotch the whole time. I didn’t even know how to use the gears, or the brakes, or whatever. Any street bike I’d used had pedal brakes.

So hot, tired, frustrated me ended up losing all the strength in her legs maybe in the first five minutes. No matter my gear, I was exhausted, either pedaling too hard, or having to pedal too fast on a lower gear. Dennis, the gentleman he is, trailed me most of the time, patiently waiting every time I totally beefed it, which was about five times.

At one point we did split up, which I was grateful for. I felt like shit watching all these people go off on their bikes and disappear into the hot desert, just wondering “why am I here.” The female guide took our beginners’ group – now me, a woman named Claire who was in my previous clinic, and Dennis – on an easier trail.

And I crashed again. Luckily Claire and our guide were up ahead when I fell, screamed out “fuck,” threw my bike across the desert and cried. At this point – not to get too gross, but – I couldn’t feel anything between my legs but pain and bruises. I was hot – have I communicated that yet? – and could barely get my bike to go anywhere given how exhausted my legs were. Damn that hike to calico cliffs…

I had a tough time even getting the bike to go again after that. Every time I tried to jump on and push off I’d fall, not even able to get my feet on the damn pedals. Why is the seat so high, dammit? It was only then Dennis told me that I’m not supposed to ride with my ass on the seat. Oy.

Finally I got going again, trying to relax, lucky for some flatter ground until I ran into a cactus that overshadowed the trail a bit. Looking down I saw blood streaming down my arm, and realized my ring finger and pinkie were completely numb. I hit the same hand on the way back, too… which fortunately was downhill.

I might try mountain biking again. In 40 years.

RRR Day 2

Oh my goodness. It’s May. End of May. Omg.

Life’s been crazy lately. I look back on our trip as if it were years ago, given how much has happened between then and now. I had a pretty stressful end of April, throwing a baby shower for my sister who was pregnant with twins, going to a baby shower for Dennis’ sister the next day; two days later she had her baby about a month early, and three days after that my sister had her twins three months early. Jeez.

Now I’m in the middle of event planning for work. Which is fun! But stressful. I was just sitting in Starbucks a while ago totally fazed out though, thinking of other worlds when the barista asked me if I was okay. Ha.

Anyway. Let’s go back in time…

Second day of Red Rock was incredibly relaxing compared to the rest of our trip. Festivities and clinics (for us, anyway) didn’t start until the evening and the next day, so we had a whole day to chill, and perhaps catch up on sleep that was incredibly interrupted by burros’ heehaws.

Of course, beautiful weather the next day. I don’t know how one couldn’t get beautiful weather in such a place… but I digress. Seeing as how we were only a short drive from Red Rocks State Park, we took it upon ourselves to visit it and the —

Wait. I’m describing Friday again. What is wrong with me. Can you tell I’m confused? My brain is dead.

SATURDAY, then. Dennis and I had our clinics and woke up sober the next morning. I do not remember what we did for breakfast, but we did manage to get some coffee. I think I only got a bit, not realizing it was totally kosher to bring it on the charter buses with us.

There was a guy on the bus I chatted with for a bit as we were riding. I forget his name. I forget much about him at all, aside for how he looked. Grey eyes, beard, skinny. But I’m writing this as a reminder that the world is full of interesting people who you’ll never know unless you strike up a conversation. I almost want to add a “Characters” journal to my blog, to document the interesting people I meet.

My first clinic of the day was Chicks’ Intro to Sport Climbing. I’m not a very social woman, so having a few hours with a group of just women was slightly intimidating, but turned out to be a lot of fun. We hiked out to some shadowy areas of the Red Rocks and ended up learning a lot of useful sport technique that I could go into a bunch of detail about but won’t for the sake of most of my readers… perhaps in another post. I got to climb a bit and did pretty well considering I hadn’t climbed in months, and I definitely came back with a massive sunburn (that is still tan today!)

Unfortunately RRR, for how great it is, is pretty poor at planning bus routes. To get around the circle of the park takes about half an hour, as I remember – and that’s without traffic. So you think there’d be enough time between 11:30 and 2:00 to pick up people, bring them back to camp and then have them out again by 2 – nope! Dennis, unfortunately, didn’t get back to camp until around 2:15.

Our next clinic was together – mountain biking – and given my massive fear/loathing of bikes, I was NOT going to this one without him. So I talked to a few really uninformed RRR employees who seemed to have no clue where any of the buses were – great. Frustrated, overheated, tired now that it was about 90 degrees out, I almost started to panic.

Luckily those leading the bike clinic wouldn’t be leaving camp till 2:30 in their own set of vans unlike the buses, so that was lucky for us. Dennis barely got a chance to breathe after hopping off his bus and running with me to the bike clinic. That’s a whole-nother gruesome story in itself, though…

Red Rock Rendezvous Day 1

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Good morning from Tent City 🙂 less crowded this morning than it would be the next!

I forgot to mention we got awesome shirts and metal beer cups the night before – sweet!

Anyway, we woke up both knowing that RRR wouldn’t start (and beer wouldn’t start flowing 😉 ) until around 6, so we had a full day to relax and do whatever we wanted. Definitely a nice break from backpacking and hiking and driving, to sit in one place with AWESOME weather that day.

With difficulty that morning, we made coffee, which didn’t seem to want to filter… who knows what we did wrong. A slow start made a slightly later trip to the Calico Basin where Dennis and I went hiking / scrambling up small mountains of red and white rocks, peppered with some plants and, sadly, graffiti. It upsets me when such gorgeous natural places are defaced by those who feel the need to tell everyone “Andrew Was Here” as if it matters to anyone who sees it.

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Mulling

Either way, blue skies reigned supreme, and I personally wanted to go as high up the scramble as I could. I was able to make the summit but without Dennis, who stopped halfway after feeling like his legs were pretty tired.

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Summit!

 

It’s easy enough to get up a rock scramble that all looks the same – finding the way down, however, was a tad challenging. I ended up waaay off track, scooting on my butt down this steep face, while a guy up above called my name. “Dennis is looking for you!”

Whoops, I thought. I had tried not to worry him but guess I did after all. It was funny to see Dennis above me, wondering also how to get down. Eventually we met each other again and also made a trip to the visitor’s center, which is super cool.

The Red Rocks visitor’s center has a few indoor exhibits but is primarily comprised of outdoor interactive stations decorated with multicolored metal sculptures to represent the elements. The stations are named for fire, earth, water and wind, and each had a lot of information on how each affected the desert and civilizations within the area. There was even an interactive wind tunnel… which didn’t work, but I bet would’ve been pretty cool if it had.

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Chilling at home

Dennis and I were pretty tired once we reached Tent City again, and honestly chilled halfway out of our tent for most of the afternoon reading. I’m getting exhausted just thinking about how exhausted we were, haha. It was definitely a nice respite before the festival started a few hours later, where we were able to fill up on New Belgium and even more barbecue. I must’ve been pretty dehydrated too because it only took me one beer to get drunk… oops… and talking to vendors got kinda weird after that…

More soon!

Further in the Southwest

Jeez, it’s been too long. Work got busy and I generally got busy between a lot of graphic design projects and planning my sister’s baby showers… identical twin girls eee!!! But I digress…

Luckily Dennis has been persistent in reminding me to update. Mother especially wants to hear about my time mountain biking… Here goes, eventually. *looks up where she left off*

Ah, yes. Zion…

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Good morning, tent

Woke up the next morning pretty well, from what I remember. It was nice to not have an alarm or a real plan for the day besides head back to Las Vegas, eventually. We definitely enjoyed the sun… I think… oh no, my mind is fuzzy.

I meant to write a bunch of this stuff in my actual journal during the trip so I wouldn’t run into times like this where I forget things. Unfortunately, the thing about camping is, you really don’t always have energy to write. Not just energy but time. When you just kind of want to sit and enjoy yourself in the slower moments you have where your bare ass isn’t getting hailed on, that’s what you do: sit and enjoy yourself.

So I imagine it was a nice morning since I don’t remember it. Let’s continue…

Packing up was bittersweet for sure, and the hike back seemed a lot easier than the hike in. It was our first hike in the opposite direction in daylight, so we got to see a few different views and a spread of cottonwood trees we seem to have missed the first time or two. Please, whoever’s reading this, GO TAKE A HIKE IN ZION! Because it’s amazing.

Sick of camp food, Dennis and I drug our grody bodies to a microbrewery in the park, Zion Canyon BrewPub, where we got awesome awesome lunch. I ended up getting a beer-soaked brat in a pretzel bun topped with cabbage stewed in a brown sugar mix (yummm) with fries, while Dennis got a bison meat loaf burger topped with cheese, I think, and an onion ring, and barbecue sauce… but skipped the fries and got a salad, which I totally should’ve done but whatever.

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Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer 🙂

Not only were those delicious but so was the beer – we were REALLY impressed with the stuff they had. For those who don’t know, Dennis is kind of a beer connoisseur, so we always like trying new things, especially microbrews that we wouldn’t be able to try at home. I don’t think we’re as hipstery about it as a lot of people are though…

I think I started with something citrus-y (the Redemption IPA, maybe?), and we also got three small tasters of other stuff they had. There was a stout I fell in love with as well that was probably my favorite, and I think it was this one: “Conviction Stout:  Dark, chocolatey, balanced stout with roasted finish.” Yum. Dennis will be able to verify, I’m sure.

Eventually we left Zion to make our way to Spring Mountain Canyon Ranch, where we would attend the Red Rock Rendezvous. We almost forgot that we had planned to visit Valley of Fire, and after driving through some interesting suburbs we pulled into the front of the park.

We must’ve just been exhausted and feeling pretty poor. It was $10 per vehicle, I think, to see it, but imagined we wouldn’t have enough time to really get our money’s worth, and wouldn’t see much in the time we did have that would vary much from Red Rocks anyway. After sitting and mulling for a moment we ended up turning around and leaving… but Valley of Fire will definitely be there for the future.

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The best way to read.

We drove through Vegas, hit up a grocery store (where I finally found Peeps!!!), and eventually parked at Spring Mountain Valley Ranch to set up camp for the night. We really had no clue what to expect as the RRR website didn’t give much instruction. Dennis had thought we’d be right in the ring of actual Red Rocks, but this ranch was about a mile away in plains inhabited by wild donkeys. Fun!

We set up in what attendees refer to as Tent City and settled in, walked around, visited some vendors, and got barbecue from a food truck for dinner before settling in bed to a bunch of hee-hawing.

Zion cont. cont.

Aaaah the more I write about Zion the more I miss it a super ton.

Dennis and I got off of our horses and $50 worth of tips later were on our way back to the lodge because I needed a spoon dammit. Fortunately I was able to find one, and ended up also getting treats for my older sister Katelyn’s unborn children. As in, her identical twin girls, due in August :). Hope they like ’em! Anyway…

We also got pizza from the same food nook at the lodge, which was now packed with people now that it was noon. Pizza was a welcome break from tuna and goldfish, as was a second coffee, which upset my stomach but was totally totally worth it.

Much to the chagrin of my mother, I had considered hiking Angel’s Landing. My mother texted me a few days before, “Honey, I’m reading that tons of people die up there!” I didn’t have the heart to tell her (but will mention it now) that yes they die if they’re stupid. Apparently the most recent was deemed a suicide, another was heat exhausted and didn’t know her limitations and ended up tripping off the edge, then I think a guy just tripped too.

PSA: “Just tripped” in this scenario, however, means exactly as I stated before: “doesn’t know his/her limitations.” Angel’s Landing is an arduous hike that is extremely dangerous and requires proper footwear, water and food supply, and caution. A lot of people go up expecting great views without considering both the mental and physical energy it takes to climb such a ridge, and ignore their limits and obstacles in pursuit of conquering a hike or the renowned sights at the top. If you’re gonna do Angel’s Landing, do your research, and listen to your gut.

Anyway, on this note, we chose not to do Angel’s Landing, considering we’d been hiking all week, were tired from waking up at 4 AM, and conditions were still potentially icy and snowy. NOT the time to do Angel’s Landing, also, by the way, if weather is off. High winds are also a deterrent! Looking at it from below was nice, at least.

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After a brief stop at the Human History Museum and a camping store for some tent patch supplies, we headed out again to hike back to site 5 in the back country. The weather was significantly warmer, most likely in the 60s if I remember correctly, and the trail was peppered with more salamanders and rabbits along the way. I did some journaling once we arrived while Dennis lay in the tent a while, taking time to watch a chipmunk dig a hole for about 20 minutes before he hiked about, eventually finding cougar prints. Fun stuff! We went to bed around 8:30 or so after the sun set.

Poor Planning

poor planning [poor plan-ning], n.

  1. Waiting too long to reserve a campsite at Zion National Park, so you end up reserving a back country site 5 miles away from civilization.
  2. Booking a 9 AM trail ride before reserving said campsite.
  3. Realizing too late that you need a shuttle to reach the corral, and that the trail ride guide recommends you get to the park at least an hour ahead of time to catch said shuttle and make it to the corral by 8:30 AM.
  4. Then having it hit you that it takes about 2 hours to hike 5 miles and maybe more before sunrise at 7:21 AM.

Long story short, Dennis and I woke up from our Zion back country campsite at 4 AM to make it to our 9 AM trail ride that morning. Never mind that cougars are nocturnal or anything… ahem…

I stuffed myself on fig newtons and tuna the night before, so I was pretty warm through the night (especially in my -15 degree sleeping bag – thanks Ken) and Dennis was too, I think. So at least we were relatively awake and got up in time, and we weren’t in the busy season of the park (which wouldn’t start until June or so) so we were actually an hour early for our ride at Canyon Rides‘ corral in the center of the park. Hiking at night was confusing at best, as my last post already described how confusing the second portion of the trail was in the evening, and I didn’t even stop to consider cougars or notice how nervous Dennis was the whole time. I guess I was sleepy…

Anyway, with the plan of reaching the car at 7:30, we ended up getting there at around 6:30, which was ballin’. Sun wasn’t even up yet when we reached the Kia, so we took a moment to gather ourselves, drive to the park, and relax for a moment before heading to the corral.

The park has a great shuttle system that takes you through the park with about 7 stops on a linear road across the park. Park. Park. I can write. The ride is narrated by a prerecorded informational tape about certain special areas, such as Angels Landing and the Court of the Patriarch (gorgeous, by the way). But regardless, it was hard to pay attention: it was about 20 degrees out that morning still and I personally was freezing. Dennis, silly man, forgot to pack gloves, so I think he wasn’t feeling super hot either.

We got to the corral at around 8:00 – and no one was there. So much for getting there early. Dennis and I took the opportunity to stop at a very Montana-esque Zion Lodge (think a lot of dark leather, knobby wood furniture and chess tables, and woodland creature motifs) across the street, and I was lucky enough to find a small food nook with sausage egg and cheese biscuits. Delicious.

I don’t even know how there were teenage kids there in nothing but jeans and sweatshirts in this weather. Fortitude, or stupidity, who knew. But there I was, in base layers and multiple sweaters and jackets, STILL freezing my ass off, my fingers numb as we stood to be assigned our horses. Never mind the cold; the experience would be especially fun for Dennis, who hadn’t ridden a horse since he was around 8, I think, but who was a natural at it nonetheless.

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Hey Hoss

I was saddled on a dark horse named Dunny, while Dennis was on a red horse cleverly named Big Red, a popular name for horses it seems, as one of my grandparents’ horses in Montana was named the same and I’m sure I’ve heard it another time in between these occasions. But I digress… Even the “dudes” were complaining about the weather, in their jeans and chaps and tassles and handlebar mustaches. I’m not even joking.

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Our guides were Jim and Bob. Simple names to remember, and they spoke with severely stereotypical drawls for cowboys. Bob talked to us the most, the senior of the group as he referred to himself, as he was probably in his seventies, and whenever on the ground walked around in a strut reminiscent of Gollum’s. Jim had longer tawny hair and a mustache that fell off his face, and I couldn’t help but think of my sister Lis as we rode through the mountainside. The whole time before this trip it’s been “I’m so jealous! Can I come with you? I want to go!” reminding me of when she and I were much younger. Granted, she’s 22 now, but now has a degree in Equine Sciences and experience training a very ornery colt in Colorado.

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The views of Zion, again, were astounding. The ease of riding a horse who knew its way perfectly led me to the convenience of dreamy thoughts as I asked myself, “am I really here?” “Is this real?” “Why do I feel like I’m in the Sound of Music?” “Will I meet Julie Andrews today?” Seriously, riding a canyon through snow-dusted red caps will make you feel funny things, and completely ignore the cold rawness of your fingers and toes.

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Dennis on Big Red

Also, Dennis’s horse was the fartiest horse ever. I even told him, “I hope you get a really farty horse,” because I’m me. Dreams DO come true.

UPDATE: Sorry, Dennis wasn’t nervous, just “incredibly alert to [his] surroundings.” Mhmm…

Zion Cont.

It was around 4:30 last Tuesday (whoa, a week ago already!?) that we rolled up in our pretty Kia to the Coal Pits Wash trailhead. We took a fairly quick amount of time packing our things and locking up and heading our way down the trail.

If you need a refresher, check out my last post about Coal Pits Wash. Otherwise, I’ll continue with some pretty pictures that aren’t nearly as pretty as the landscape was at the time!

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When I had searched for images of the trail before, Dennis and I agreed it looked pretty barren and dreary, but that was just as we expected the desert to be. Little did we know the trail would smell like the ocean, that we’d see umpteen species of desert flowers, tiny salamanders and big beetles would dot the trail, that the sky as the sun set would turn purple later in the day and that a cold breeze would relieve us from the weight of our packs. I mentioned before that Zion is otherworldly, and this trail proved it as well.

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The first 1.7 miles of the trail to our site, site 5, is kind of windy, sandy trail that goes through a lot of desert brush. Visibility is high, as is exposure to the elements. We’d catch bits of rain here and there that evening, and were also prepared for more snow that was forecast for the evening. There’s nothing really to be wary of on this side of the hike.

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The best “get that camera away from me I’m exhausted go away eh” face ever. Also, boulders.

However, if you’re hiking Coal Pits Wash and get past site 6, where the next 1.7 mile portion starts according to the super crappy map you’ll get from your park ranger (tip: buy a real map first), the trail gets a tad tricky. Of course as it got cloudier and got darker I got a bit more nervous than usual when our neat sandy trail would disappear into a tall pile of rocks or a stream with seemingly nothing on the other side. It was hard to leave no trace when the path seemed to die completely, and we couldn’t see it until we looked about 50 feet or so ahead of us, still wondering if it was really the trail or a neat ledge. Be prepared for boulder scrambles, river crossings, and pulling your pack through a lot of brush.

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If you’re also going to site 5, which I would recommend because it’s gorgeous, beware that the “spring” that looks so obvious on the map, was undetectable by ourselves. Who knows if it was dry, or over a tall hill or something, but do not use it as a marker – it will potentially mislead you. Definitely pay attention to topography and compass direction of the trail and you’ll be set. I relied I think too much on the hour and our pace which was significantly slowed by rocks and getting confused, as opposed to a sharp curve of the trail that led us right to our site. If all else fails, follow the river and you’ll get to where you need to be. It took us about two and a half hours to get there, on the way there – on the way back, with packs, an hour and 45 minutes.

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Eventually we reached our site which was located past a large rocky bed overhanging the stream, a flat haven of more sand and boulders and a few dead trees. Of course right as we gt there it began to rain again, and also of course, as soon as I went to one of the trees to use the restroom, it started to hail. Fun stuff. Luckily Dennis and I were able to set up efficiently, made ourselves tuna sandwiches from inside the vestibule of our tent, and fell fast asleep.

Oh man

Huh… it’s Tuesday… we got back yesterday… now where did I leave off…

Page, Arizona.

Woke up just fine in Page. Not much happened there aside for finding a girl who looked exactly like the Disney version of Pocahontas. I really wanted to hug her but thought that might be weird so I didn’t. Bought some gifts at the Quality Inn gift shop and that was about that, and we headed for Zion.

Man was that surprising. I can go on and on about rolling desert plains and such, but I won’t, because it snowed. SNOWED. Here I am a week beforehand, thinking of how exciting it’ll be to vacation in warm weather… and then it snows.

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There’s something gorgeous about the desert in the snow, though; only the living things seem to pick it up, so there would be splotches of snow on bushes and cliff faces in the midst of red rock and gravel. At least at first. Eventually we got a good inch or two to lay the closer we got to Zion.

I’ll continue by saying that Zion National Park is indeed quite magical. I felt like I was in a nature-based Disney World upon entry. We came via the East entrance, which takes you through these winding switchback roads along with a man-made tunnel through one of the cliffs, built with peephole windows in the sides so you can glance for about three to five seconds at the red mountains through them. Apparently the tunnel was started in the 1920s at both ends and met in the middle, and was only off by six inches, according to our trail guide… but more on him later.

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It’s so sad when you look back at images and realize they never will ever quite capture what you saw, and knew was there.

In retrospect I’m really glad things were a bit frosted when we came. I doubt it would give us such an otherworldly image of the park otherwise. Within a span of a few hours we went from 50 degree, high-wind desert weather into 25 degree snowy red cliffs, capped with puffs of fog that reminded me of this scene in Fellowship of the Ring where Aragorn is just staring up at these HUGE statues of men on either side of the river they rowed down. I was just as wide-eyed, staring up at these red soldiers that cascaded into clouds, wondering where the hell I really was.

Zion National Park, once you get into the heart of it, is an interesting mini-community. The courtyard of the visitor center sprawls across a few buildings from a bookstore to restrooms to a bus station, segmented by these intersecting informational signs about the area, none of which I really looked at. Dennis and I were more interested in 1. the bookstore (more of Dennis’s thing at that point in time once I realized they had no collectible spoons available, but I digress), and 2. picking up our permit for backpacking. It was hard not to sink into my anxiety at the snow and not try to scout the developed campgrounds, especially when lows were to reach around 20 degrees. Reminding myself though that this was our adventure, and that I’d been through worse weather, and that the elevation was lower at Coal Pits Wash, I saddled up mentally as our incredibly-obviously-bored-and-discontent-with-her-job park ranger printed out our permit to hike and camp in the cougar-filled Zion wilderness.

More soon.