Friday, September 14, 2007

The Long and Winding Road: Part 1

Holy Hecuba, we're back! And I've been trying to find the time and energy to write a trip report. Keep it on the downlow, but I put together a huge hardcover photo album with iPhoto. I had worked on it nonstop for three days till 1:30 in the morning and sent it off to the printers Wednesday night. I think it came out just swimmingly and as a 31st anniversary gift for my parents, I think they'll eat it up.

But enough sentimental crap, let's get on to what happened on the road trip!

We departed on the night of Saturday 9/1 a little after midnight. There was a little skirmish over who would stay awake with Father Routes for the first part of the drive. Because I had taken a nap earlier, I opted to be in the passenger seat. More than half way to Vegas, Father Routes got tired and I took the wheel with Mother Routes shotgun. It was about 2am at the time so I myself was starting to fall asleep, but Mother Routes and I were talking enough to keep me awake. I drove the 140 miles to Las Vegas and pulled over at a gas station to refuel, where I also switched off with Ellvin Kelvin and slept till we arrived in Zion National Park in the morning.

Zion is a fairly big sized park (well from as much as you can see). They've got a terrific shuttle system that takes you to each hiking trail and point of interest destination. Unlike the horrid buses at Mammoth, these trams come every 5 minutes or less to each stop, so it's extremely easy and desirable to hop off, see something, and hop back on.

Ellvin Kelvin, Timotei, and I went on many hikes. Two of them consisted of a short walk up a paved cement walkway. Hardly a hike, but they took you to two of the most interesting areas: Court of the Patriarch and Weeping Rock. We also did some real hikes. The first was a 2 hour hike up and down a dirt path to The Emerald Pools. Sounds cool right? Well these hikes got pretty tough in spots with no shade all to see... little ugly boring ponds.

The other hike we did was the Riverside Walk, which was a simple, but long, trek down a flat path alongside a river. At the end is a bunch of dirty children playing in a riverbank. If you go on from where we ended, you can see some caves, but you'd have to cross the water.

So in doing these simple one to two hour hikes, we felt we were ready for something really ambitious. Zion had a "strenuous" hike to Angel's Landing which consists of going up really high, through difficult switchbacks, and even through a narrow path through a huge elevated boulder. Since it is estimated to be a five hour hike, we weren't able to conquer it the day we were there, but we plan on returning specifically for Angel's Landing within a year.

But next it was on the road again to Bryce Canyon National Park. The following morning, the plan was to make it to Sunrise Point to witness the sunrise over the canyon. That was the plan, but what really happened was I woke up late and Ellvin Kelvin took literally 15 minutes to put on his contact lenses (that just weren't working for him). Then, after hauling ass to pick up Father Routes and the Grandparents (we had to stay at separate hotels), we learned that the Granny K's weren't even awake yet. So Father Routes left them to sleep and ran out to the car, but soon learned that he forgot his ID needed to enter the park. So he ran back and realizing that he had forgotten to grab a hotel key, he knocked furiously for a Granny K to open the door. Meanwhile, the rest of us are cursing because we could see the sun quickly rising over the horizon. After another five minutes, he ran back down and we hauled ass again into the park and up to Sunrise Point. We grabbed a parking space and ran as fast as the wind could carry us to the viewing area. Many people were leaving already and when we got there, the sun was already well above the horizon. Everything wrong that could have happened that morning happened. We literally missed it by a couple of minutes. Out of breath and disappointed, we took pictures anyway and decided to just tell people we saw the sunrise.

But things would turn out better on our hikes, we thought. The sun was out and the sky was crystal clear when we made our way down the canyon. Bryce Canyon is beautiful! The rockwork is phenomenal. We began the hike at Sunrise Point, made our way down to the Queen's Court (where I bowed to Queen Victoria), and then up the Navajo Loop to see Thor's Hammer. That's when it started to rain and lightning! Fearful that we'd die, we kept shelter in a narrow pass between tall rocks; though the charred dead trees didn't provide any comfort.

When there was a break in the storm clouds, we headed off to complete our hike to Bryce Point. We crossed through to Peek-a-Boo Loop (a horse and hiker trail) where we would take half way and then detour through to Bryce Point. It started to pour again, but thankfully the lightning didn't return. After 1.5 miles of freshly laid horse crap, the saddest most disheartening moment of the trip came when we walked up to the Bryce Point trail with a giant "TRAIL CLOSED" barricade.

After screaming many obscenities under the pouring sky, we literally ran back up and down the trail in 10 minutes. When we finally got out of the canyon at the top of Navajo Loop, the rain stopped, the sun returned, and a bunch of new hikers made their way down the trail. We were muddied and exhausted and drenched, but drying off. And even though the hike didn't go as planned and lead to much frustration, Bryce Canyon was awesome and my favorite National Park I've ever visited.

To Be Continued.