2007-11-08

WITW is Jason, Part 1: Vegas and Zion

So to start things off Jen and I went to visit Ian, who is now living in Las Vegas. Shocking, I know. The only thing I can think to say is that it's like if IAN lived in Las Vegas. Jen and I boarded a late night flight out of Denver on Thursday, bags packed for almost anything. After landing in LV we immediately got things started with a trip to the Stratosphere where we wound our way through the thousands of slot machines and up the stairs to the rides. After riding all 3 ( the free fall is the best ) we decided that breakfast was in order and grabbed some in the casino. A quick drive out to Ian's house and some late night catching up brought us to the decision that we should head out to Zion National Park in the morning.

The next day brought 110 degree heat and 50+ mph winds to LV. We stocked up on goods at Trader Joe's and hit the road. Two hours of driving takes you out of the frying pan that is LV and into spectacular sandstone canyons. After confirming that we wouldn't be able to stay in the park we found a camp site down the road along a river. Over dinner (pizza) we discussed our plans for the next couple of days. Day 1: Hike up the west rim and Angel's Landing, Day 2: Hike up the narrows, a very deep and narrow canyon.

Because Angel's Landing is a very popular hike we were determined to get out ahead of the crowd. After getting up very close to dawn we chowed down some breakfast and headed to the Park to catch the tram to the trail head. While we were a little later than we had hoped, the trail wasn't crowded at all and we made good time up to the saddle that marks the beginning of Angle's Landing.

If you are afraid of heights the next part of our day wasn't for you. The trail was a combination of hiking and scrambling. Many times with a chain bolted into the rock as your only hand hold. In places the trail is only a few feet wide with a 900 ft drop off one side and a 1300 ft drop off the other. Even though we were on the trail early there were 20 to 30 people at the top when we got there. I took numerous pictures and we all took the chance to grab a snack and rest. Hiking down was even more treacherous due to the increased volume of people headed up.

After we got back down to the saddle we started up the west rim trail. This trail heads all the way to the other side of the park and is normally done as a multi-day hike. We knew this and had no delusions that we would get anywhere close to the end. We headed up the trail for another hour or so and found a nice spot to have lunch and grab a little nap. After lunch we continued up the trail as it wound it's way out of the canyons and onto a plateau. We never did make it all the way to the top, deciding instead to turn back before we got too tired. It turned out to be a great decision. We hiked down and out, all of us starting to feel the drain of the sun. We got down to the trail head without incident and hopped on the tram to catch a ride to the resort where there was rumored to be ice cream and beer.

The rumors turned out to be true and as we all settled into some snacks, Jen and I enjoyed some cheep beer and then the most amazing thing happened. While we were sitting there on the lawn two people got married. It was a planned wedding and the product of a wedding in a public place is a few uninvited witnesses. The inclusion of a surprise wedding in our day was very interesting.

We wrapped up the day by taking a quick swim in the river and then driving up the highway that goes through the park. At dinner that night we welcomed a forth member into our group, Ian's girlfriend. She would be staying with us that night and hiking up the narrows with us the next day.

Day 2 in Zion began with some ominous warnings about the risk of flash flood due to some predicted rain at the headwaters for the river that flowed through the narrows. The risk was very real and after considering it we, as a group decided that we would go ahead and hike up the narrows. We rented some gear that, while not required, was suggested for our hike: river shoes lined with neoprene socks and long wooden staff. We then spent the day hiking up the river, the canyon growing deeper and narrower the farther up we went. At one point during the day we headed up a tributary canyon where we found some deeper pools to swim in and finally got to a point that we could not climb up any higher and headed back down.

I can't seem to find the words to give this justice but can say that it was one of the most unique hikes I've ever been on. That night we grabbed some dinner and then started the trek back to Las Vegas. We got back late and were all pretty beat so we hit the sack.

The next day we got up and started talking about what we could do before our flight back. Turns out none of us really had it in us to motivate beyond hanging out. Late in the day we decided to get a picture of the 3 of us at the Las Vegas sign. Heading back to Ian's place we got caught in some traffic and by the time we got back and got the bags in the car Jen and I were seriously making contingency plans for missing the plane. We said a quick good bye to Ian (we really thought we'd be seeing him in an hour or so) and headed to the LV airport. We didn't hit any traffic and all the lines were short so we made it to the gate with 30 minutes to spare. With a little sadness we boarded the plane. Three days later I would be back on a plane, this time headed east. I'll write more on that later. The pictures from this trip are in the sidebar and on google