On my second day in Zion National Park, I warmed up to it. Not that it isn’t beautiful, but I wasn’t prepared for the crowds. I’m used to crowded national parks, but the crowds usually cluster around a central feature — say the Logan’s Pass Visitor’s Center at Glacier, Curry Village at Yosemite or Old Faithful at Yellowstone. Get yourself to a trailhead and you lose the crowds. Not so at Zion, which is quite a small park and is mostly one long narrow canyon. The park is accessible only by shuttle bus, so that lends it a bit of a Disneyland feel. In addition, nearly all the trails are flat, short and good for a whole family including little kids and Grandma. That means all of it is teaming with people. And who are these people? I thought school was in session and I’d be enjoying the solitude of the off-season. Turns out most of Europe seems to be on their Fall break and they’ve all decided to come here. Especially the Germans.
Still, the spectacular cliffs and formations make Zion a must-see. To experience it beyond the shuttle bus stops, I decided to get myself on what was billed as one of the more challenging hikes, the Angels Landing Trail. It’s not long — 5.4 miles — but it’s straight up through a series of steep switchbacks. I think you rise 1500 feet in less than 2 miles. Now it’s as challenging as you want it to be. If you go slowly and stop to take pictures at every switchback, it’s doable for most anyone. So I didn’t lose the crowds, but I was grateful for that. I generally don’t hike alone and I was glad there were so many coming and going in case a rock fell on my head and I needed someone to carry me off the trail. I was feeling pretty good about my progress and speed until a couple ran by pumping rocks in their hands and dropping down to do plank push-ups at every switchback — all while smirking contemptuously at those of us just plodding along. I resisted the temptation to kick red sand down on them and soldiered on.
Far in the distance, I could see intrepid rock climbers scaling the rock faces.
And they did it with baskets of grain on their backs and without fancy climbing equipment. They say the hand and footholds they chiseled out of the cliff are still visible in places.
Feeling humbled, and not as awesome as a Paiute, I ended the day with some easy riverside strolls.