November 12, 2015

Hike to Angel's Landing

Today was the day that we decided to hike Angel's Landing. The weather was clear and cool with a high of 60° expected, but the temperature in the shadows of the canyon were much cooler. But we were excited and the temperature could not dampen our spirits.

The parking lot at the trailhead was completely packed with at least 3 cars per minute pulling in, checking for an open parking spot. We didn't want to fight the crowd for a parking space so I dropped the family off to start up the trail and I would park down at the Zion Lodge parking lot and hike the extra 0.5 miles to the trailhead and then catch up to the family on the trail. David stayed with me so I would have a buddy. We made pretty good time and caught up to the family at the first bench. Lucky for us it was in the sunlight so the temperature was pleasant.

We had been practicing trail etiquette and safety so we put that practice into action. We had the boys hike in a line behind Michelle. The order was supposed to be Michelle, Gidean, David, Quinten, Michael, Aleky, Donovan and Me. That way each older boy had a younger brother to watch and help with parents on both ends in case of any problems or difficulties.

The trail got steep very quickly. This picture was looking up at the first set of switchbacks on the trail.

And this is a picture looking down that same steep set of switchbacks. The boys are spread out just for the picture. Except for photo ops like this the boys stayed together very well for the almost the entire adventure.

When we made it to the top of the first set of switchbacks we paused to take it all in, to catch our breaths, and for a picture (of course).

A little further down the trail we were able to see the almost the entire length of the canyon. There were a lot of other hikers on the trail (thus the busy parking lot) and many of them were all too happy to help take pictures or exchange photo services so that they could get a good picture too. After all, if you stopped to take a picture it must be a good spot and they wanted a picture too.

After our short water break we continued up the trail. In some places it almost looked like the path had been carved into the mountain so we would have a place to walk.

Going uphill was hard work and our younger boys wanted another water break here. Strangely, no one complained about the frequent water breaks on our way up the mountain. The sun was shining brightly and was at just the right angle to cause most of our pictures to show the sun's rays. I'm surprised at how many pictures actually turned out under these beautiful conditions.

At the top of the first mountain climb we enter the canyon, a split between the Angel's Landing point and the mountain behind it. This section of trail had a much gentler slope and we made really good time here.

As we were hiking this canyon area we notice a few holes in the rock. And you can't pass up the opportunity to check out any hole, cave or crevasse! So up they went...

And another one...

And another one...(actually the boys went through a crevasse from the previous cave)

This picture marks the end of the gentle canyon slope. After this it was more steep switchbacks to the overlook summit.

This section of the trail has a special name, "Walter's Wiggles". It is a series of 21 switchbacks which were cut into the rock face back in 1926. It leads to the summit and the base of the dangerous Angel's Landing final assent.

Yes, this is Michelle wondering what happened to the boys! They were so excited to count all 21 switchbacks that they took off running straight up the mountain! Most mommies don't run straight up the mountain, including this one.

We found the boys at the top, waiting "patiently". A quick stop at the overused bathrooms at this base camp and we were ready to brave the trail to the top of Angel's Landing. The boys were in good spirits and all the hikers we passed couldn't believe we were taking our boys all the way to the top.

We paused at this sign to remind the boys the importance of staying on the trail, holding the safety chain and following directions immediately. And we reminded the boys that 6 people have died on this trail since 2004 by not following these directions but we were not going to add to this tally.  They  all agreed to stay alive and couldn't wait to move forward.

Graphic pictures to follow. Do not view if you are scared of heights!
(No children were harmed in the taking of these pictures.)

This is the very start of the upward ascent so we stopped for a picture, just like everyone else. In fact, we had to wait in line to get to this point because of everyone else taking pictures and to allow for several sets of hikers who were climbing down (after all, there isn't much extra space to pass on this section of trail).

Another kind hiker was happy to take our picture. (Notice that beautiful sky and bright sun behind us. I was amazed that any pictures were turning out.)

The boys were doing great, holding to the chain and helping each other through the more difficult and steep parts of the trail.

A pull-out for passing on the trail.

We stayed very close together. I am just a few links behind so I could pause and take the picture.

The boys clung tightly to the chain as they scaled the mountain side. David did a fantastic job helping Quinten, keeping one hand on the chain and one hand on Quinten at all times, just to be careful.

There were a few small sections of trail that didn't have chains. These sections didn't pose quite the same fall risks.

Then we went from the side of the mountain to the thin top of the crest. I think the boys were so focused on holding the chain, following the leader, and staying on the path that they didn't notice where they were hiking! (When we showed them these pictures later they couldn't believe they had actually hike this trail without being scared! ;-) ).

Once we reach to far side of the crest we had another uphill climb. They boys never complained once on this section of the hike! They just powered forward, climbing up along the chain with our goal just out of sight.

Here we are at the final section of the climb to the top of Angel's Landing!

We've climbed a long way to get to this point! I think David is excited about his accomplishments for today.

Here we are, on top of the rock heading to the highest point of Angel's Landing. We feel like we made it to the top of the world.

Time to celebrate and eat our lunch as we take in the beauty of Zion NP from the top of Angel's Landing.

Group shot overlooking the west valley.

Family photo on top of Angel's Landing.

Family picture overlooking the east valley from on top of Angel's Landing.

The boys army crawled to the edge to look down with hikers from 4 different nations watching every move very closely to make sure nothing bad actually happened. (If you look in the at the bottom right of this photo you'll notice the shadow of one of these hikers who's still holding Gidean's ankle to make sure he stayed safe.)

King of the Rock
(Family Pictures on top of Angel's Landing)

Jones Family







Michelle and Khayyam

If you'll notice in the previous family pictures, Donovan was a blue hunchback. It was only after we had made it to the top of the mountain that we discovered that Donovan had packed a parliment of owls in his backpack. Even though we had told him to leave the owls in the suburban, he had secretly packed them all into his pack and carefully brought them all to the summit of Angel's Landing.

Michael also brought his stuffed racoon. His collection isn't quite as extensive as Donovan's so his animal reveal wasn't quite as shocking. But he was still proud of himself for bringing his racoon to the top of Angel's Landing.

As fun as the hike up had been, going down still had some serious concerns. Somehow the trail had gotten a little steeper while we had been sitting on the top. On the way down I had the care of Quinten instead of David.

The complication that made the descent tricky was that you were forced to look down, all the way down, through the entire process! So we reminded the boys to hold the chain at all times, go slowly, help each other and follow directions. For the most part they were excited and ready to go, no fear. So back down we went.

Back down from the summit.

 Pausing to let another hiker pass us going up. (We took the picture first, then collected at the bottom of the chain and hung on tightly to the chain as the other hikers squeezed by to finish their climb.)

Carefully moving across the crest line, the boys are in good spirits and feeling confident about their climbing abilities now.

Back around and down, even Gidean is moving pretty good on the mountain.

And finally, back to the outlook summit. After a quick potty stop the boys were waiting to continue the hike back down the mountain.

But who can resist all this sand! It's like the beach without all the water and and the sand is just moist enough to start a small sand castle!

Back down Walter's Wiggles. They boys started to go fast and Quinten almost landed on his nose!

This picture was basically the last time the family was together as we started down the switchbacks to the trailhead. From here the boys felt confident they knew the way and the dangers associated with this section of the trail were significantly smaller than up at Angel's Landing. So they took off, heading to the bottom at top speed.

This time Quinten did fall but this was the only injury of the entire hike. (With his slide down the trail I think he might have a future in baseball.) We felt bad for his scraped elbow but happy the we had a very successful hike, no other injuries and a great family memory.

Good thing David was prepared with a bandaid and training in scouting first aid. He doctored Quinten's elbow and we made it back to the suburban without further incident.

We found the boys at the trailhead throwing rocks into the river from the bridge. Afterall, the bridge is higher up so the rocks make bigger splashes from there than from the river bank. My boys and rocks...

We were initially surprised at the number of deer we saw out along the lower parts of the trail. We saw several doe and at least 2 bucks acting as if they didn't have a care in the world. After a while we realized that they must be so used to the thousands of park visitors that pass by each day that they don't have time to notice everyone individually so they just ignore the people as a general rule.

A buck and 2 doe

A buck and a doe

A doe

We had a fabulous time hiking to the top of Angel's Landing. The boys didn't know it was supposed to be scary, except for our repeated warnings (but when do children fully listen to a parent's warnings?). They did fantastic with almost no complaining the entire hike. Gidean started to complain at the end of the hike so David gave him a piggyback ride the last 0.5 miles to the suburban.

We headed home for a relaxing night at the condo. For dinner we had stir-fry veggies and chicken over rice. We tried to get the boys in bed by 8:00 pm but they just couldn't settle down until almost 9:00 pm. (Boy, we're not doing very good about getting our boys to sleep on time while on vacation.) We let David and Donovan have some computer playing time while we finished up some laundry and went to the hot tub for the last time. It is sad to think that this is our last night at the condo and tomorrow we'll be returning home to real life.