Bryce, Zion and Horseshoe Bend!
I wrote my last blog in a restaurant in Escalante UT waiting for my laundry to be finished. My clothes were folded quickly and I got on the road at noon and headed toward Bryce Canyon National Park along highway 12. This highway is incredibly beautiful, which includes driving atop a ridgeline on top of a 'mountain range' with drop-offs on both sides. It was pretty incredible for a drive.
I arrived at Bryce in the afternoon and called Howard and Jorie, the couple that I met on the trails in Capitol Reef, because I knew they were headed to Bruce as well. They were about 15 minutes behind me, and we met at the visitor center before heading off to do a hike together. We started our hike at Sunset point, followed the Navajo trail, followed by the Queen's Garden trail to Sunrise point. Along the way, we met a couple and their grand-daughter from Louisiana, and had a hilarious time pretending to be a big mixed family together. It rained during the hike, and we all hid under a tree while it hailed for a few minutes. After the hike, we parted with the family from Louisiana. Howard and I asked a ranger where was the best food in town, and he recommended a place called the pines about 5 miles from the park. Howard and I both had elk burgers, and Howard and Jorie were kind enough to treat me to dinner. At dinner, we then realized that we would all be in Las Vegas at the same time, so hopefully we will be able to take a picture in front of a casino in a few days.
I got to my HipCamp with about an hour of sunlight to spare, it was a cool ranch about 20 minutes from Bryce. I was given by choice of campsites by the host, and took one of the more secluded sites. Before I went to bed, I checked the forecast for the evening and saw there was only a 5% of rain so I did not put up my rain cover for the evening. That was a big mistake. At 9pm, there was a slight drizzle of rain which was nice to hear, but by 10pm there rain was harsh and even with all of the flaps closed on the tent, water was seeping through the tent's zippers on the roof. There was a break in the rain, so I got on my phone and looked at the radar and saw that the rain was about to get worse. I decided I wanted to ride out the rest of the storm in the car, and jumped out of the tent. Before getting in the car, I folded up the tent and put on the rubber cover so that the interior would not get any more wet. I got into the car, and waited for the coming storm... it never came. I'm not sure what was going on with the forecasts that night, but the storm then moved north and it never hit my camp site. After about an hour of waiting in my car and watching the radar, I got out, unfolded my tent, and slept in my dry sleeping bag in my wet tent for the evening. Even though the tent was wet on the inside, I was able to stretch out get some sleep before my second day in Bryce.
The next day I stopped at the visitor center to fill up my water, and took a shuttle to Bryce point. I decided to hike the Peekaboo Loop Trail. At one point, I met a woman trying to take a selfie and offered to take a picture of her. Her name is Blythe Roberson and is the author of How to Date Men When You Hate Men. We spent a couple of hours on the trail together talking about life, but most of it was me listening to her talk about her book and her experiences in the entertainment industry and her future plans. She had already published one book, was working on her second book on her current hiking/exploration trip, and was working on a television show as well; all of which was pretty inspiring. We took pictures of each other throughout the hike, took a picture together, and traded Instagram profiles before we parted.
I got lunch at a Subway outside of the park. The weather was not looking great, so I decided to do the scenic drive to the end of the park instead of hiking some more. I drove down to Rainbow point, and sat in my car waiting for the rain to end. Eventually, the cloud parted and I hiked the Bristlecone loop trail twice as I thought about my conversation with Blythe. She was doing so much in life, and I have been feeling a bit complacent in life. I love being a business professor, and my job gives me the opportunity to take road trips such as this one. I wholeheartedly feel that I have the best job in the world. However sometimes I feel like I need a bigger challenge than being a business professor and I spent a lot of the time contemplating what my next big challenge in life might be, if any.
That night was less eventful in terms of rain, and I had a good night's sleep before I woke and headed off to Zion national park. When you enter Zion through the eastern entrance, you go through a tunnel before entering the main canyon portion of the park. However, once you enter, the sights are amazing. It is near impossible to describe the sheer size of the canyon walls and their beauty, I feel it is as something that everyone should see once in their life. Social media has made Zion incredibly popular due to its breathtaking views, that it has nearly doubled in attendance in the last ten years. I spent my first afternoon in the park at the end of the canyon at the River walk, which is the precursor to the famous Narrows. The Narrows are the portion of the park where you can walk up the Virgin river through the canyon. However, there was too much rain and snow, so the Narrows were closed to the public and I ended up taking pictures and video along the river which was nice.
I decided to wake up early the next morning and get to the park to attempt to summit Angel's Landing which is the park's most famous hike, but also incredibly scary due to the thousand foot drop offs on both sides. I am pretty scared of heights to begin with. I don't like being on a ladder and cleaning my gutters; and I really don't like being on top of my two story house and playing with the television antenna, but I wanted to see if I could push myself to do this hike. I got to the trail head around 8:30 which was later than I wanted, and crowds had already begun to form. Along the trail, I passed Blythe who had just finished summited the hike and we said hello (its strange how you can keep seeing the same people at the Utah parks). After about an hour, I got to a part where the maintained trail ends, and you need to start climbing along the side of the cliffs while holding onto a chain attached to the mountain. I did this part fairly well since I could not see the canyon floor. However, after 5 minutes of that, you finally get a view of Angel's Landing and the canyon floor around it. I spent about 10 minutes at this location talking myself up to do this harder and more scary part, and finally told myself 'You will be pissed at yourself when you are 80 if you do not even try', so I got in line to make the ascent...
My ascent lasted an entire 50 feet until I got to a part with a narrow 'walkway' with the cliff on my right and a drop off on my left. At that moment of seeing the drop off, I felt part of my mind shut down and literally could not continue forward. I literally saw the drop off, and said 'nope' and turned around. I got to a flatter and safer spot, and tried to decompress what happened. I felt like I was semi shaking on the inside due to what happened. In the end, I was disappointed that I could not do the hike, but I was glad I made an attempt given my fear of heights, and I am pretty happy with how high I got before I had to turn around.
After Angel's Landing I did a short hike to the Emerald Pools, only one of which were open. The Emerald pools consist of a 'waterfall' that you can walk behind, and occasionally the water falls on you instead of the pool, dependent on the wind. I took some video of me being rained on, and then headed back to the visitor center.
I still had a lot of time in the day left, so I left the park and drove to Kolob Mountain outside of the park which was near my HipCamp (a ranch where I had been camping next to a pond). Kolob mountain is fairly un-populated, and has a reservoir at the top. The reservoir was extremely beautiful, and since it was at a high altitude, the temperature was in the mid seventies (as opposed to the 90s in Zion). I felt so secluded at the reservoir, and took some video of how beautiful it was. As I was leaving, I stopped at a small general store along the road, and bought a $3 ice cream (crazy expensive, but it was really remote). That evening, I then went back to Springdale (the town outside of Zion) and had a beer at the Zion brewery while I chatted with a friend on the phone about the trip before heading back to my HipCamp.
This morning I left the HipCamp around 8am and left for Lake Powell in Page AZ. The trip took me back through Zion and out the eastern entrance, so I got to enjoy the ridiculously scenic drive of the canyon once again. I arrived in Page around 11am, and was not able to check into the hotel that early. That is when I decided to go to the Horseshoe Bend, one of the most photographed parts of the Colorado river. When I was done with that, I went to a local bar and watched the USA women's world cup team defeat Sweden 2-0. It was strange watching the game since I was born in Sweden. I found myself rooting for Sweden since they were losing for most of the game and I always love an underdog, the USA team is incredibly and deserved the win in the end.
It was 2 pm local time when the game was over, and I was finally able to check into my hotel. I immediately took my first shower in about 5 days, and loved every second of it. I am happy that I get to sleep in a real bed tonight, and get to shower once again tomorrow before I start the next part of my journey: Antelope Canyon followed by the Grand Canyon.