Atop Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah
"Where Angels Land"
““Enjoy the little things for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.”
Whew! What an accomplishment today! I climbed to Scout’s Lookout and then braved the trek out to the very pinnacle of Angel’s Landing today! When my daughter and I came 11 years ago, we chickened out once we’d reached Scout’s Lookout. I was determined not to wuss out this time! The trail begins at the Grotto and makes pretty steep climb up 1100 ft of switchbacks. Here is a picture looking down from barely at the 1/3-way point. I had to walk on my toes most of the ascent due to the angle of incline. About this point, I was feeling pretty smug and proud of myself, thinking, “ah! This is a much easier hike than I remembered from the past.” ....thus pride cometh before the fall....
From the top of these switchbacks, I entered a very narrow slot canyon called Refrigerator Canyon. Incidentally, Zion Canyon itself is considered a slot canyon on a grander scale, of course.
Refrigerator Canyon is so named for its shady coolness and the tree lined stream that runs through it far, far below. Here, you get an up close and personal look at the Navajo Sandstone alcoves and striations in the cliff face.
Again, it’s incredible seeing how these trees cling to the rock and thrive in the seemingly most impossible conditions. The richly colored rock pinnacles, hoodoos and formations, formed by weathering, surpass any famous man-made sculpture or painting, abstract or realistic. I just never tire of the wonder of it all!
I can see why adventurers, explorers and artists alike all gravitated here in the 1800’s. Zion draws me like a moth to red-rocked flame. Below are scenes from Refrigerator Canyon.
Once emerging from the refreshment of Refrigerator Canyon, I was met with the tickle-my-funny-bone name of the switchbacks, “Walter’s Wiggles.”
The engineering feat alone is mind boggling 1000 feet up a rock cliff. Man-terraced switchbacks wiggle their way up the next incline, and 24” diameter drain pipes were sunken below the trail at each most inland turn, where they emptied out into a small rocked-in reservoir, which fed into another pipe hidden below the trail. Genius preplanning! To think of the monumental task of creating this trail, only to have it eroded away by the elements would have been a daunting thought.
The first photo is looking up, although you can’t see all of the levels, and the photo below is a shot looking down. I was enlisted a few times to take photos of friends positioned in a vertical line at different levels---truly a picture saying a 1000 words! It made me smile to do it for them!
I’m wondering if these alcoves were already here before Walter’s Wiggles were made, or whether they appeared afterward due to the water freezing and then thawing at each level, pushing the rock out. I wonder if the drain pipe system came later, as a preventative measure, after seeing this happening here???
Another 50 feet or so further opened up onto Scout’s Lookout where I stopped for lunch on this little slickrock outcropping. Chipmunks and ground squirrels swarmed me the minute I opened my baggie of nuts, seeds and dried fruit. I know these cute little rodents are used to people, but baby chipmunks literally climbed up my back and over my thigh to get to the food! Yikes! The may be cute as heck, but you don’t want to feed them or get bitten or you’d have to get a rabies shot....not fun!
The view from Scout's Lookout, and as far as my then 9 year old daughter and I climbed 11 years ago.
Notice the rock “island” (The Organ) mid-photo, to the right of the river. See my photo farther down taken looking down on it from Angel’s Landing (for some perspective)!!
The trek to Angel’s Landing was daunting from where I sat. It appeared to be little more than a mountain goat trail, requiring a human to grip chains fastened to the cliff face! But I thought, ah it doesn’t look too far...I can handle that! What I didn’t know was that once you get around the bend at the top, you’re hanging onto the top ridge of the rock, which is nothing more than a sliver really. It reminded me of the lines for rides at Disneyland. Just when you think you’re close to the end, you turn a corner and find there’s a whole new set of zig-zagging lines. The idea is that you don’t realize how far it really is because you’re just focused on doable milestones. So true for this walk too. It was like a one lane highway, where the people descending gave right of way to the ascenders by rapidly searching for a foothold somewhere! I just stayed focused on my next step and talked myself out of my fear of heights!
A couple of cool views on the way up. For a few of these, I was laying flat out on my stomach on the slickrock to take them so that I wouldn’t fall because the wind was whipping so badly up on top.
Notice the mesa of that white mountain in the background and compare it to my earlier photos for some perspective!! I was HIGH UP!!! The way these sandstone layers angle up to the sky remind me suddenly of an old (black and white) Star Trek episode--I almost expected to see Captain Kirk and Scottie coming around the corner with their lazer pistols at the ready!
.....and the view from the top!!! Looking South toward entrance to Zion:
...and looking North. Notice the rock “island” called The Organ in this one, and how far above it I am now!! When you drive by that same rock formation in the shuttle, it dwarfs you, it’s so tall, and here it looks small! (see the reddish brown two-lane road that wraps around it?...and yes, that’s tiny olive-green ribbon is the big Virgin River~)
Now here is the view from Angel’s Landing, looking back toward Scout’s Lookout. Yes, it’s the skinny little ridge to the left that has a sheer drop off on both sides!
....and THEN I had to do it all over again and climb DOWN the rock holding a chain! About now I might have had Scottie to “beam me up.” I think it’s much easier to climb up than climb down. .....it’s a knee thing!!
Here’s Scout’s Lookout (Highest part at Top Right) to Angel’s Landing (Top Left) from a zoomed-in photo on the shuttle. The angle is a little deceptive though since Angel’s Landing is actually higher than Scout’s Lookout. Basically, that ridge is THIN, with drop-offs like this on both sides.
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