Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Anniversary in Zions

In August Ben and I celebrated our 9th anniversary. 9! That's just crazy to me. I wasn't expecting anything big since 9's not so much of a special number. But a couple weeks before our anniversary Ben made me open my present...

a detailed 3-day itinerary for a trip to Zions to hike The Narrows.  

I panicked because I knew that would mean putting somebody out (namely my sister, Andy) for 2 full days while we were off having a grand child-less time. After a bit of  persuasion and reassurance from Ben and Andy I decided to accept the gift and started getting prepped and excited! Ben had gone a few times before with Heritage kids who had earned the privilege and he had raved about his experiences so I was super excited to be going now too.

I have honestly procrastinated doing this post because of how many pictures we captured and because of the amazing time we had. So much pressure to get the post just right - It just felt like anything I showed or said in the post wouldn't capture my feelings.

But alas I'm going to try, so I have something to reflect back on and bring back so many fun memories of sweating, blisters, burning leg muscles, complete exhaustion, camera paranoia around water, expensive almonds, gift shop visors, Ben rescuing my sun glasses, beautiful, beautiful nature, total appreciation for God's creations and my handsome husband and tour guide, Ben.

**Note - there are many pics in this post... most of which will mean nothing to everyone else but us and probably all look the same. Hiking and more hiking. :)

Ben got off a little early from work and we dropped the boys off and all their gear for a 2-night overnighter at Andy and Gav's house.

Drove down to Hurricane around 8 pm and checked into our motel. Made some last-minute purchases at the grocery store and Walgreen's and of course made the essential stop at DQ for a much needed Peanut Buster Parfait.

Went back to motel to pack food and gear for the next day and decided between two pairs of quick-dry shorts that I had bought. :)

Day 2
Woke up early, ate continental breakfast and drove up to Springdale.

Parked at the outfitters to rent the special water hiking boots neoprene socks and hiking sticks (SO worth the $40).

Walked to the bus stop and rode the bus up to the gate of Zions.

Made a quick stop in the gift shop for a visor which I swore I would needed and never actually used. 

And since we were just hiking The Narrows bottom up and back (instead of top down... an all day excursion) we took the Zion Park shuttle all the way up to the Temple of Sinawava.

From there we booked it up the Riverside Walk.

Hanging gardens and half of an arch along the Riverside Walk. There was no good angle to fit it all in.

The end of Riverside Walk is where The Narrows hike begins. That's where the paved tail ends and the water hiking begins.

We sat at the beginning of The Narrows to snack and get on our shoes before hitting the water.

  After just a minute of sitting down these lovely little pests approached us. Cute right? Wrong. They were so annoying and started chewing through our bags to get at our food. 

Here you can see the head of The Narrows trail. It's a popular hike and actually quite crowded at first. But the crowds thin out as you get further up. The water is super cold, so some people who are wearing regular hiking shoes, etc turn back.

This is shortly after we started and there was a huge crowd that we were behind for a while.
This is a slot canyon so we were walking in water most of the time, essentially hiking up the Virgin River.

 ...hence the reason I was so paranoid about the cameras. :) Can you blame me after this experience?

The water was knee to thigh - high majority of the time. There was only one section where I was wading up to my chest in water, and we had to hold our packs over our heads.

We were super careful any time we passed the camera back and forth.  But the tricky part wasn't the deep water - it was while was while we were hiking. It was so gorgeous and I was constantly wanting to take pictures. It was annoying constantly getting in and out of my pack for the camera, so I'd hike with the camera around my neck, but then I had to be super cautious about footing in the water, etc, so I wouldn't slip and fall, plunging the camera in the water. Ooh it makes me cringe just thinking about it. The hiking sticks were a huge help, though.

an ode to our Canon Rebel making it in and out without any mishaps

 Luckily Ben wore the pack with all our food, shoes, water bladder etc in it. And I got to carry a small hip pack with water bottles. Thanks dear. :)

Loved the bubbly rock formations here and how high the canyon walls shot up.

It was kind of odd seeing a butterfly since we were surrounded by so much water.

I loved being surrounded by two extremely high walls with nothing but water and rocks in between. So very cool.

See the line of people behind me? Luckily it wasn't this crowded the whole time.

This is showing the cool curvy rocks to Ben's right.

Amazing roof with bright blue water (not captured well in the photo)

This is a section we had to climb up, but I took a pic of Ben before I walked up to his level

Lunch time - wohoo!  I was a bit hungry by this point.  We packed in PBJ fixins and cheez its, nuts, grapes and I can't even remember what else. I just remember it tasted good...except for the generic peanut butter.

Cool little inlet that Ben climbed up. No, he didn't pee. It just looks like it.

I was actually the one who had to constantly pee because I was drinking so much. I think I had to go at least 5 times while we were in the canyon. Which, might I add, is NOT an easy feat considering there aren't very many hiding places around.

more walking and sloshing around in water.

love the canyon walls here

Another AMAZING roof. I think this was one of my favorite parts of the hike.

We named this cool rock "Couch Rock"

Other rocks were named so why not this one? See the need for quick-day clothing?  We were constantly wet but it didn't take long to dry off if we were out of the water for any length of time.

This is where I lead a bunch of people astray :)

There was a group of people walking behind us. Ben crossed the river and I decided to cross just a little bit later, but apparently I waited too long. I got stuck on this rock because it got super deep just beyond it. So when I turned around to back track I realized everyone behind us had followed me and had to back track as well. Oops.

Life  lesson: Never assume the person in front of you knows where they're going. :)

This is the ONLY pic we got of both me and Ben. Thanks fellow hiker!

Once again... amazing rock walls

I think these were the tops of the canyon walls that are above Ben in the pic just above

We hiked up 3 miles to Orderville Canyon and went a little ways into it before deciding to turn around. We also hiked up Wall Street a little ways before hiking the 3 miles out.

Aw, cute little slimy tadpole. I love being married to a biologist.

This is Orderville Canyon and this is probably the narrowest point we hiked through.

Wall Street before we turned around to head back. If you've seen Wall Street in NYC then the name makes complete sense.

Right after this picture I almost lost my glasses! I bent over and they slipped off and once they hit the water they were instantly camouflaged because they're green, brown and clear. Awesome. 

Luckily (because Ben is practically a fish... well he's at least a fish whisperer) he has mad skills for seeing things in the water. :) He was able to make a mad dash down stream to catch up to them and rescue them. Thanks love!

Hiking on the way out the sun was finally shining directly on us at parts. But even then it was perfect temperature. I think the high that day at Zions was 104 degrees. But we NEVER felt that heat in the canyon. If anything it was almost chilly.

I think this is coming out of Wall Street
 There is a huge rock called "House Rock" that is somewhat of a road block. You can either hike up and around or swim through. We decided to hike around it on the way up and to swim through on the way down. 

Well Ben stuck to the plan - I chickened out because the water was freaking cold!

Later on there was another deep section that I chose to swim through because I was hot enough by then. Much better.

I think we spent 5 or 6 hours hiking The Narrows up and back. We took our sweet time on the way in stopping for pictures. A LOT. But then we booked it on the way out, hoping to get other hikes in before dark.
The crazy thing was that because the lighting had changed so much in the canyon I hardly recognized the hike on the way out.

After hiking out of The Narrows we  jogged (my feet felt light as feathers walking on dry land again) back down the Riverside Walk to the shuttle stop so we could go to Weeping Rock next before returning our rentals. Man it felt so good to sit at the shuttle stop and strip off our wet boots and socks. I swear I was carrying around puddles inside my neoprene socks. Warm, warm puddles of water. Ew.

Ben standing under Weeping Rock - gorgeous

Facing out from Weeping Rock, looking down the canyon

We took the shuttle back down to Springdale to return our rentals.

We were about to call it a day because afternoon rain hit the park on our way out and plus I was wasted! I actually fell asleep in the 30 minute shuttle ride back down to the park entrance. But once we had returned our gear the rain stopped and somehow I caught a second wind and thought I had enough left in me to hike Angels Landing before dark. So back into the park we went.

Here's Ben at the bus stop snacking, waiting to go back into the park. I think it was about 5 or 6 by this point. I think?

Our goal was to hike as much of the West Rim Trail (which leads to Scout Lookout and Angels Landing) as we could before sunset, so we were bookin' it.
The hike to Angels landing is a pretty steep hike that is exposed at parts.

This is a pic of a crazy tree root that grew out and around that rock and back down into the soil. Nature is amazing. And those junipers smelled heavenly the whole way up the hike.

We made it up the 2 miles to Scout Lookout and our hike ended there.  Scout Lookout is half a mile from the top - Angels Landing. BUT the trail from Scout Lookout to the top is very exposed with steep drop offs... 1500 ft drop offs. 

Ben wanted so badly to hike that last leg to Angels Landing, but then I went into hysteria, literally.  It was not a pretty sight, and luckily no one else was on the trail to witness it because of the afternoon rain that hit earlier. I was sobbing, freaking out, begging Ben not to go the rest of the way and physically pulling him away from the edge of the lookout.  I was a mess. 

But to defend myself let me paint the picture:
-we were racing against the dark
-my heart was racing because of my fear of heights
-who knew how slick the rock was from the earlier rain
-no one was around if anything happened to him
-there is a warning sign at Scout Lookout informing hikers of the 6 deaths that have occurred on that leg of the hike. Or maybe it was 4 deaths in the past 6 years? Either way - death people. Death! About one per year.
-Growing panic and fear of being a widow
-And I'm sure my exhaustion played a role in my panic attack too

Have tons of people safely done that leg of the hike? Yes. But there was no talking sense into me at that point.

And because Ben loves me he didn't go. I feel very guilty now that I held him back, but on the flip side I sure am glad I still have him around :)

But 4 miles round trip and almost 1500 vertical feet still made for a good hike, right babe? Right? (nudge, nudge)

These pics (obviously) aren't ours, but here's a view of the exposed trail between Scout Lookout and Angels Landing... no thanks.

If you want to see amazing photography from the whole hike, go to this guy's website. Amazing.

As far as he got...
Looking out from Scout Lookout

And me after my hysterical breakdown

Checkout those switchbacks - just a tad steep
On our way back down the West Rim Trail.  This is just below Scouts Lookout.

Another tree root that found its way over and around the rock and back into a tiny little crevice at the bottom.

Cool little pockets from erosion right next to the trail

This is maybe half way up to Scouts Lookout. You can see the trail going all the way down to the Grotto (the shuttle stop where the trail head is).

My favorite pic of the whole trip

We ended up running down the last .5 mile of the trail because we could see the shuttle coming down the road and we didn't want to have to sit and wait for the next one to come by. It was dark by the time we got to the shuttle. Perfect timing. 

This was by far the most tiring day I've experienced in a LONG time. And by far the best anniversary yet.

It was late when we got back down to Springdale. We found a mexican restaurant to eat dinner at and man did it hit the spot.  We were fammished by then, so chips and salsa never tasted so good. We drove back to Hurricane and passed out for the night.

Day 3
Ben took the truck into a local auto shop to get it checked out. I can't even remember what the trouble was, I think something with the tranny. But luckily we were able to drive it back to Provo so we weren't stuck in Hurricane for another day. 

Drove home and picked up the boys from Andy and Gav. In case you thought otherwise, I do have the best sister in the world. Thanks again Andy.

Wow, this turned out to be a novel. Give yourself a high-5 if you're actually still reading.

Happy Anniversary Ben - and try as we might, I don't think 10 will be able to beat this.