Zion Canyon and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
A very early start today. The plan was to get up really early, about 4am, in order to get to Zion National Park before anyone else. This would mean hiking up the road to the trailhead (the park's shuttle service doesn't start until 6am), but then having the hike all to myself.
This didn't happen.
I did wake up at 4.30am, but managed to linger in bed until 5-something. Then I took the drive slowly, as it was still pitch black (and pitch black it really is in the middle of nowhere). I ended up getting the 6.30-ish shuttle, which was nice because it meant I didn't have to hike up the road, but a tiny bit of a shame as I was not alone. Anyway. I started out, not really knowing if I'd be able to complete the hike. The hike, you see, is a fairly strenuous one. First of all, you have to push through a lot of switchbacks. Incredible views make it manageable, but then you come around the corner and see the final 800 metres which clings to the very top of a narrow ridge, in some places just a few feet wide, with just a chain to cling to. Sometimes.
As I came to the stop before the final ridge, I seriously considered not doing it. The first 10 metres or so were along a steep slope, which didn't look very enticing. I ate, I drank, I clenched, and I went for it, and to be perfectly honest, that was the worst bit. At least, in terms of my nerves. There were sections with alarmingly close drop offs, no chain, and worst of all - people coming the other way (who gets the chain? WHO GETS THE CHAIN?!).
Boy-oh-boy was it exhilarating! Once I got to the final plateau, I was a bit sad to see it fairly busy, but I was completely high on the fact that I had done it. We all talked, congratulated each other, and had a good laugh – mostly centred around inappropriate jokes about falling to our death.
The way back was much, much better. I also had the privilege of happily passing terrified looking people clinging to anything stationary asking, "How much further?" and "Is this the worst bit is the worst bit over will I make it?" Bless them.
I actually stopped a few times on the way back - I didn't want it to be over. But over it was, and on the other side I talked to a few people I'd talked to on the ridge, joking and agreeing how happy we were that we set out early; there were a lot of people out there by now. Of course this goes to show that it's not all that bad, but it's not nice when you have to pass a group of people who refuse to let go of the chain on a section that's just a few feet wide.
I'm thrilled I've done it. I pat myself on the back. Not literally.
The hike down is pleasant. Good mornings are said over and over as I pass other hikers, and when I reach the bottom, I fall in to conversation with a couple from North Carolina who I met up at the top. They had both started out, but within just a few metres, she had decided not to do the final stretch, but he had pushed on. I passed her and exchanged a few nervous 'oh shits', before I moved on. I talked briefly to him at the end of Angel's Landing (the landing?), before he said goodbye and made his way back. We talk about Brexit, how Americans travel so much within their own country (I say I don't blame them - they say they don't have cool castles and Stonehenge), and how people know about Zion. They give me some tips on what to do, and I make my way back to the car. After a brief visit to the visitor centre, I make my way to another short hike. At least, I think I do. After much driving I stop for lunch at a Thai place, of all places, then realise I'm going the wrong way. Seeing as it was so dark on my way in, I'm completely disorientated. I curse myself repeatedly and grudgingly turn around. Not so bad really. But it's a nice drive, and I have nice views.
It's a good little hike.
It leads to a great view.
My time in Zion is at an end. I begin my drive back to Kanab, rather sadly. There's so much more to do, but holy moly, do my feet hurt. The weather is beautiful, the music is country, as I see signs for a state park, I think 'why not?'
I turn on to a small road, which to me, is heaven. It's the first time I've driven on a small road this trip, and I can't drive slowly enough. This whole trip has felt different to me from the last ones, and I think part of the reason why is because I'm kind of pushed for time. This means sticking to main roads - no exciting forest roads. This road, however, while not a forest road, is unmarked, and empty. I turn the AC off, roll the windows down (roll? Do people still say that?), slow way down, and enjoy it.
After a while, I wind up at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, and what a lovely place it is.
Lots of sand. I climb to the top of the highest dune, and sit for a while and contemplate stuff like, "Should I have a burger for dinner, or not?"
Once decided, I head back to the lovely drive, and this time, I pull over, and get out to enjoy the view. I'm not in Arizona, but this is the highlight of my trip (well, this and The Wave). These quiet moments, with spectacular scenery and a hot breeze on my face. I'm going to miss it.
Reluctantly, I get back in the car, and head towards the motel. I manage to drop my camera on the tarmac as I get out of the car, but as far as I can see, no damage is done. Phew. I pack a bit, then head out to The Rocking V Cafe, just around the corner, for dinner. I have an incredible meal of salad, fish tacos and local craft beer. The waitress, Jessica, is so goddamn smiley that I have to bite my lip not to laugh. It's one of the best meals I've had out, and I leave, full and very happy. I do like Kanab,
I sit outside my room for a bit, enjoying the evening sun. I'll be sad to go, but I'm also really looking forward to seeing my family again. I miss them so very much.
Now I'm back in bed, packed, watching an NFL game. Or trying to, anyway. It's that or Pearl Harbour.
Tomorrow I head back to Phoenix for my 7.30pm flight back to London. I'll try to break up the drive as much as possible, stopping first at Page, then for lunch at Cameron Trading Post, before pushing through the last three hours to PHX. It'll be a dull day, with no internet, so there'll be no update until I'm back in Copenhagen. I'm sure you'll live.
I'd just like to add that now Parks and Recreation is on. This is full circle. I started watching this on my first solo trip to Arizona. What does it mean? Probably that I watch too much TV.