I’m alive! I didn’t become the 9th person to die on this hike (#8 was just the other day sadly). As much as I’d like to say Angels Landing was named that because only angels like me hike there, but it’s actually because it is so high up that only angels could land there. When I hit the trail around 9am, there weren’t too many people on it yet by Zion standards. Keeping a quick pace on the first stretch, I quickly reached the famous and dreaded Walter’s Wiggles, a series of 20 tightly stacked, steep switchbacks. The trail went from gradual elevation gain to intense like that (*snaps fingers*)! I sweat out every toxin in my body over this stretch, happy to reach the top. It was a great leg and butt workout though, so I can’t complain too much. Plus I chatted with a few different people on the way up. Hikers are so friendly, my favorite type of people.
When I reached the top of the Wiggles, I came to what I thought was the end of the trail. How anticlimactic! Buuuut it actually continued further around a bend, as I was only at Scout Lookout, where many people choose to stop instead of taking the knee-weakening route up to Angels Landing. After taking a breather, I continued on to the fun part of the trail: the last 0.50 mile stretch to the summit. This part of the trail is very steep and narrow, only 4 feet wide at some parts with steep 1 mile deep drops on either side. But at least you have chains to hold onto for dear life! Going up was exhausting, requiring the use of every muscle in my body and intense focus. I do absolutely love rock scrambling though, so I enjoyed choosing where to best put my hands and feet so I don’t die.
If you haven’t done a hike like this before, you may not be familiar with hiking etiquette. On the narrow parts of the trails people or groups will take turns stepping safely to the side to let people going the other direction pass. Thankfully the group I was traveling with to the top was courteous, and taking turns let us all catch our breath and muster up strength for the next stretch. However I did encounter a few people who only had their destination in mind, compromising the safety of everyone else to squeeze past to get ahead. Friends, don’t be like them. Our kindergarten teachers taught us to take turns for a reason.
After the last set of chains, I emerged VICTORIOUS! Hanging out at the top of Angels Landing were about 30 souls like mine, congratulating each other and taking in the views. Even with the buzz of excited chatter, it was so zen and peaceful. Getting to the top of this hike wasn’t like a mountain climb where you scream and raise your arms. Instead you breathe a sigh of relief and smile at the beauty surrounding you, maybe because you’re too dang tired to scream. I found my own corner to lay down and stare at the open sky, looking for angels. I asked a nice gal to take my picture, and did the same for her and her friends. They were on spring break, and traveled to Utah to hike Zion and Bryce Canyon. What an awesome trip for them to do while still in school! I wish I had been like that in college.
Twenty minutes of hanging out on the top, and it was time to begin the descent. On the way up you aren’t very aware of how high up you are because you’re so focused on your hands and feet. The way down however, is a whole different story. Not only can you see the steep drops on either side of the trail, but gravity is also trying to help you slide down. How nice. That being said, the route down was much easier physically than the way up, and I thought it was all pretty fun. I stopped at Scout Landing to eat my tuna and crackers, and then continued down the Wiggles. When you’re on normal paths going down, I don’t believe in fighting gravity too much. I like to jog on down slopes because going slow is extremely hard on your joints, especially your knees.
After jogging down all 20 switchbacks, I reached the canyon between the mountain and the rest of the switchbacks/trail down. I stopped to listen to a beautiful singing bird, and took a step and felt incredible pain. My first thought (because the last few days have been kind of rough, plus it really, really hurt!) was that I tore something. I didn’t know what that thing would be (now I think it was possibly a really bad and weirdly placed shin splint), but I couldn’t walk. I stopped to massage it out, took a few more steps and stopped again. I still had 1.5 miles down the canyon to hike, and I was NOT going to be one of those people who gets hurt and has to get taken out by helicopter, so I evaluated my situation. I could sit on my butt and scoot down the entire thing if I had to. I decided to tightly tie my sweatshirt around my upper thigh to keep everything compressed (I had a knee injury in high school and a thigh sleeve helped the pain), and that took away enough of the pain that I could hobble my way down. I successfully limped for about a quarter mile before stopping to stretch my leg again, and by that time the spasm or whatever it was subsided. I cautiously continued on, eventually going with gravity to the end of the trail, and never feeling that pain again.
After riding the shuttle back to my car, I did the 2 hour drive over to Bryce, Utah – my home for the next few days. I will be hiking Bryce Canyon tomorrow, although I heard not many trails are open due to snow. Even though it was 70 degrees here today, snow still stays because of the altitude. I got here early enough that I could catch the sunset at Bryce Point in Bryce Canyon. Now I’ll rest up, and hit the trails again tomorrow. I love Utah and its weird landscape.