Prattle & Jaw

Two blogs about a whole lot of nothing

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. 

 Yeah...no

Yeah...no

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?!). 

 Here we go...

Here we go...

 That's a really small river down there

That's a really small river down there

 Oh good, a tiny chain

Oh good, a tiny 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. 

 Yes, get closer to the edge, why not?

Yes, get closer to the edge, why not?

 Not a bad morning

Not a bad morning

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.

 Down. But not too far

Down. But not too far

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. 

 An awkward chain situation just waiting to happen

An awkward chain situation just waiting to happen

I'm thrilled I've done it. I pat myself on the back. Not literally. 

 Hiked that, I did

Hiked that, I did

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.

 Nice hike. Note tiny bridge to right hanging over nothing

Nice hike. Note tiny bridge to right hanging over nothing

It leads to a great view. 

 That's a canyon that is

That's a canyon that is

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. 

 Yes please

Yes please

After a while, I wind up at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, and what a lovely place it is. 

 Sand

Sand

 Crazy colours and stuff

Crazy colours and stuff

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. 

 Country

Country

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. 

Goodnight. 

Bryce Canyon

Another post written in bed, with throbbing feet, and tired eyes. Started out early, and a short Skype with the family who were in the park. Melvin was more determined to go down the slide than talk to me, but that's life. 

I had a quick breakfast in bed, then hit the road towards Bryce Canyon. For some reason I thought it was two hours, but it was actually closer to three. Oh well. It was a beautiful drive (although the road was littered with dead deer) and I listened to some kind of talk radio station. I heard a very funny story about a couple who had been arrested shortly after dropping their kids off at the first day of school. They had been smoking a celebratory joint in the car, and were caught because while the speed limit was 25 mph, they were driving 6. 

I can't get over how different, almost immediately, Utah is to Arizona. It's green. There are rivers and relatively lush fields. It's really, really beautiful. Huge meadows with ridiculously picturesque creeks winding through them, rolling hills, cows dotted around, and red and white wooden houses with obligatory picket fences. It's just gorgeous. It's what I imagine pioneer American to have looked like. I'd stop here if I was wandering around looking for somewhere to call home. It's far more appealing than the neighbouring deserts of Arizona, that's for sure. Anyway, because of all this, it's a lovely drive. After a couple of hours, I spot the familiar red rocks up high in the hills, and just a short while later, I'm at the park. 

I have a quick lunch, and then head out to hike. I've been to Bryce a couple of times before, but never gone below the rim. It is – as with most canyons – definitely worth it. 

 In all her glory

In all her glory

 Hoodoos what you dos down there?

Hoodoos what you dos down there?

Once I leave the popular trail, the crowds disperse and I'm on my own for great stretches. It's hot and hard, but extremely beautiful. 

 The switchbacks going down

The switchbacks going down

 Twisty paths

Twisty paths

There's a lot of up and downs, but some spectacular views. 

 A walk along a ridge

A walk along a ridge

I must admit I was pretty pleased when I rounded the corner and found myself back at the start of the loop. I ate, I drank and I considered doing another hike, but time wouldn't allow it, so I started back up the switchbacks to the rim. 

 On the way back up

On the way back up

What a beautiful place. 

 Hoodoos

Hoodoos

An hour and a bit later, dodging more dead deer, and I was in Kanab, my final spot for this holiday. Kanab is great. It's a small town, but with a really friendly feel to it. It was settled by Mormons in 1870. There are quite a lot of churches, but not as many as Page, interestingly enough. Page has 28 churches. 28! For a town of just under 7,300 people. Anyway, it's very nice here, I recommend a visit. 

 See them hills? That's my motel to the right. Flags everywhere on 9/11

See them hills? That's my motel to the right. Flags everywhere on 9/11

Tomorrow is more hiking, this time in Zion Canyon. I'll be doing Angel's Landing – a hike along a huge ridge, with 1000 metre drops to either side. Eek. For now, I'll sit here, with my belly full of ribs, and watch some telly.

The Wave

What a day. 

Up at 5am after a very disturbing dream involving my family and a faulty hot air balloon...anyway, up, breakfast in my room, pack (4 litres of water, energy bars, bananas, cheese and crackers, dates, sun cream and camera), then a quick cup of coffee and I'm on the road. The mesas behind me are beautifully misty and I have to stop to try to take a photo. I'm immediately annoyed I didn't bring my other lens. 

 Misty morning

Misty morning

GPS tells me that it's about an hour to the trailhead, but I can see it's not quite right. I've had a close look at various maps online and the GPS is only taking me to the road off which the trailhead lies. Doesn't matter; as long as I get to the road I can just keep going until I see the trailhead. I leave Arizona for Utah, and find the road, which takes me back down in to Arizona. I've read that it's impassable if it's been raining but as it hasn't rained for about a week, I think I'll be OK. And I am, mostly. The unpaved road has been washed away in four or five places, but the gullies left are quite easy to navigate – except one of them. One of them makes me stop, and wonder if I should even attempt it. It's a vertical drop for about two feet, then about another foot up the other side. I decide to give it a go, and make it – albeit scraping the front of the car through the sand and mud. I drive on, and after about 30 minutes, I finally see the trailhead. Here we go. 

I won't drag you through the whole hike, but I will say it was longer than I expected, and a little harder too. There was a lot of hiking through sand, which is horrible. It's 99% unmarked, so I had to stop a lot and make sure I was on the right path (the Bureau of Land Management, who are responsible for The Wave, send you a little map together with other information when you win your spot. It's simple, but works). Most of it looked like this:

Eventually, I could see the end. You arrive at the back, which is also quite beautiful. 

 Thanks to the rain, we had puddles

Thanks to the rain, we had puddles

I wasn't alone, but after a while, people move on, and for a short while, I had it all to myself. 

 Getting *that* shot

Getting *that* shot

It's absolutely beautiful. Do you know those places that just get more and more beautiful the more you look at them? The Wave is one of them.

 That shot 

That shot 

I sat on a ridge in the shade for my lunch, and had a perfect view. It was so quiet, and I just stared at it. Magical. 

 Not a bad view for a lunch of cheese and crackers

Not a bad view for a lunch of cheese and crackers

It's so soft. The 20 person limit is vital for this place to exist. It'd be gone in less than a year if it was a free for all. People do hike in without a permit, but they risk heavy fines and luckily, the lack of signs on the hike probably put most people off (it's also completely exposed, which made for a sweaty hike back). 

After a good wander around, I decided to start back before the midday sun kicked in. 

I get a little lost, but find my way back to the path quickly. It's incredibly hot, there's no breeze, and, just as I'm approaching the end of the hike, I run out of water. Luckily, I've only got about 700 metres to go. I pass a man and women who stop to ask me about the hike. They must be mad setting out in this heat, but there you go. They ask if I have a permit, and if I saw a ranger at The Wave. They haven't got a permit. I'm in two minds about how to reply, but can't think quickly enough and say that I didn't see a ranger but apparently one is about. The man goes on to say that he's entered the lottery three times, never won a spot, and has finally given up. They've come from Germany, and seem so excited. I take the easy way out, and tell them it's incredible, and to have a great day before I turn around and start back down. Then, just as they're about to round the corner, I remember that they won't have the map if they didn't get a permit. I run back up the hill (I actually ran. If you knew how hot it was you'd be impressed), and tell them the hike isn't marked and they can have my map. I might not approve of them hiking without a permit, but people die out there. They are very happy and off we all go. 

I'm exhilarated to get back to the car, but first I head to the toilets. Outside, in the shade on the floor, are some bottles of water. They're sealed, and I've no idea what they're doing there, but hope that they're left for hikers, like me, who've run out of water. I gulp it down, gratefully. 

Then, the drive back. And the gully. As I face the two feet, I start to think that I'll have to go the other way back to Page, which is just under three times the distance. I really don't want to do that, so I decide to give it a go. First attempt just left me stuck in the gully. Front bumper against the two feet, back bumper against the one foot. Just stuck there, wheels spinning in the dust. Hmmm. 

For a minute or two I have no idea what to do. Then I decide I'm just being silly, and just gun it. The backside skids around, the wheels spin as I perch on the edge and then boom! I'm up! Brilliant. 

The drive back is uneventful, and all I can think of is jumping in to Lake Powell. I get home, I eat some chicken, I change, and then I go and jump in Lake Powell. It's too hot, so I come back to my room which is where I am now. 

A shower, and a general sort out of stuff, and here I am, in bed, writing this. I will have a beer, have a burger and then hopefully Skype with my family. God, I miss them. 

Tomorrow I head to Bryce Canyon, and Kanab, but could quite happily go home now. 

Copyright © 2014, Lara Mulady. All rights reserved.