My dad, the titular Papa, has driven and camped all over the US. I asked him for advice on what to visit in Zion, and he said he regretted never hiking the Narrows. Maybe I’ll make not hiking the Narrows a family tradition.
We left Bryce early to try to beat the crowds, as we wanted to tackle one of Zion’s most notorious hikes: Angel’s Landing.
After a two-mile hike, the last mile of which is a series of steep switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles, hikers reach Scout’s Lookout. The last half mile follows a thick chain set into the rock across a thin ridge; the story goes that Angel’s Landing earned its name when a group of climbers in 1916 decided it was so high that only an angel could land on it.
The second set of switchbacks looking up versus looking down.
I stopped at Scout’s Lookout because I didn’t trust my legs to get me back down the rock scramble to the Landing; Dan went further up the chains until the line of people sniping at each other for not hurrying across a thousand-foot-high thin slice of rock frustrated him. The crowds really got to us here; you’d think people would be encouraging and supportive, but I got the impression the majority of people were impatient to tick off an accomplishment and be done with it.
On the hike back down, Dan had the best idea:
After lunch our legs were still feeling a bit too much like they were made of jello, so we prioritized our remaining planned hikes and headed out to the Temple of Sinawava to walk as close into the Narrows as possible. We walked past a few smaller hanging gardens, where water squeezes through cracks in the rocks and plants take root, growing out of vertical nooks and crannies.
Thanks to heavy snows in the west this year, the level of water flow was four times the limit deemed safe to hike in any further; the ranger warned us someone had tried earlier in the month and escaped with her life, but the currents of the river claimed her pants (she suffered some non-life-threatening injuries as well). To me, the Riverside Walk made up for the disappointment I felt at Angel’s Landing. Being close to the water, in the shade of the canyon, meant cooler temperatures and a clean mineral smell in the air, and I missed flowing river water after so long in the desert.
And on the way back to Bryce, a herd of bison because why not?