Archive for July 17, 2010

Day 48: Remember this hike?

July 17, 2010 12 comments

Location: Las Vegas, NV

Miles Driven: 329

Total Miles: 11,980

For the past several weeks, I’ve been lucky to have zero car trouble.  I have a AAA membership, but as I told Kelly at Big Bend, I have never used it in the five years I’ve had it (at least for a car of my own).  Well, Friday morning I put that membership to good use.

It was my own fault.  I have a system for when I go to sleep in my car – crack windows, recline the seat, then turn off the ignition.  I must’ve been too tired, because I managed to shut off the engine, but not turn the key all the way.  So when I woke up near 6AM, I saw the red lights on the dash were on and immediately thought, “Uh oh, how long have I been asleep?”  Sure enough, it was too long, as I could not power my windows back up, nor could I start the car.  Drained the battery.

I was annoyed at myself, but grateful at the same time for a relatively minor issue.  Fortunately, I had slept at a combination privately-ownes/public rest stop, so there was a 24-hour Chevron right there.  I stopped in and asked the two gentlemen working if one of them wouldn’t mind giving me a jump.  One of the guys said he used to do that all the time, but that Chevron is next door to a mechanic, and he said management doesn’t want him helping people with auto issues because that’s business taken away from the mechanic.  Somewhat of a moot point, considering I can’t give the mechanic any business at 6AM when he’s not open until 9AM.  And then the original clerk, referring to the other clerk, says “I was told not to do it, but maybe he wasn’t.”  His response: “Well yea, but I heard it now.”  So they weren’t going to risk getting in trouble, and I respected that.  I figured maybe I could grab a passerby.

It took me a few minutes sitting in my car to remember that I had a AAA membership.  With no cell phone service, the clerks kindly loaned me their phone and I got word that someone could be there in 45 minutes.  Win.

Killed some time playing on the computer, and before I knew it, this man Rick showed up with his truck.  Within two minutes my car was up and running again.  I thanked Rick and the guys working at the station, and by 8AM I was on my way.

My plan was to avoid any super long-distance driving today, as I covered about 1,200 miles in the past two days.  In Cedar City, Utah, I made a stop at a local coffeehouse (I recommend “The Grind Coffeehouse” to anyone in the area), covered breakfast and lunch, and took advantage of the free WiFi.

By early afternoon I was back on the road, making my south towards Zion National Park.  I first stopped at the Kolob Canyons entrance to the park, which is a 5-mile loop that takes you inside the Northwest portion of the park.  I had never seen this part of the park before, and it was pretty impressive.

This section of the park offered a couple trails for hiking, but I wanted to get down to the other area of the park before it got too late.  In about 45 minutes, I was near the Visitor Center and a lot of memory of this place came back from five years ago.

Hopped on the free shuttle to get a ride towards the trailhead for the Angels Landing hiking route, most likely the coolest hike I had ever been on before.  Like last time, I noticed all the warnings about the 5-mile route being strenuous, “don’t hike here if you are afraid of heights,” etc.  And now this time I knew what I was in for, and I was even more excited about it.

The trail goes 1200 feet up to that peak

The trail winds up and up

The path winds up more, this time steeper
Stay near the chains, or you’re going off the cliff

I made a video from one of the areas near the chains (don’t worry, I was in a safe spot) so you could get a better sense of the place:

Chains taking you higher

Another video:

View of Zion Canyon close to the top

It wasn’t long after this point where I reached the top of Angels Landing.  The view was even better than I remembered.  I was breathing heavier this time around, but man, if there’s anything worth exerting yourself for, it’s this:

One of the most amazing views available on this planet

So before I hopped on the park shuttle, I changed my shirt.  I had remembered the yellow shirt I wore on this hike five years ago, and sure enough that shirt I included in this trip’s luggage (in addition to my hiking boots).  So when I was at the top of Angels Landing, I vaugely remembered where I had the picture taken five years ago (almost to the day), and worked to set up the same shot.  So here’s me at the top of Angels Landing in 2005 and in 2010:

What differences can you spot between the two pictures?

Earlier in the hike up, I had met another person doing the hike on their own.  I since continued past her after she stopped for a water break, but she found me at the top not long after I got there. Turns out this girl, Marta, is a doctoral student from Spain who was on her own roadtrip exploring the western U.S.  Pretty impressive, especially being her first time to the country.  I had mentioned to her that I was blown away by the number of foreign visitors to this place (particularly Eastern Europeans).  I’m glad that so many people from outside the U.S. come see places like this as opposed to just the big cities, but it’s also somewhat discouraging there aren’t more Americans here to enjoy this place in their backyard.  Maybe it was just my timing, but I felt like I was in the minority at this park.  In any case, what a testament to the beauty of this place when travelers from all over the world come to Zion and climb the Angels Landing trail.

Marta and me

The trip back down wasn’t as bad as I expected.  It probably helped having someone to chat with along the way.  It was good timing, by the time we hit the bottom there were some strong winds that picked up sand and dust into your eyes.

Sun going down on Zion Canyon

Took the shuttle back to my car, and around 8PM I was back on the road.  I was originally thinking I’d drive just a little bit southwest towards Nevada then find a place to crash for the night.  In Las Vegas, I had family friends Jim and Elyse offering a place to stay, but didn’t think I’d get there til Saturday.  But I talked to Jim on the phone, and he said the drive towards Las Vegas from the east is pretty cool, as you come over the mountains and then get to see the bright lights of the city down below.  That was enough to convince me, so I drove the easy 130 miles or so and made it Las Vegas before it was too late.

Las Vegas ahead

I’m glad Jim recommended that drive, because it was one of the coolest moments I’ve ever experienced driving at night.  There was a lightning storm off in the distance (the kind you see in the desert where the lightning goes horizontally across the sky), and then seeing the expanse of Las Vegas coming down the mountain.

Jim and Elyse kindly offered their place to me as long as I need it, so I’ll stay here through the weekend.  Not a lot on the agenda.  It’s good to just be in an air-conditioned home relaxing once again.  The simple pleasures of a nice bathroom and a bed to sleep in…can’t take those for granted.  And thanks, Jim and Elyse, for the banana/chocolate chip bread.  Sooooo good.  Guess you’ve been talking to my Mom.