Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park

A few weekends ago, my sister invited me to spend the weekend in Brian Head with her husband and in-laws. Our weekend itinerary included Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, which are both in fairly close driving distance. I had been to Arches National Park earlier this year and absolutely loved it. It was an incredible journey for me, almost a pilgrimage (if that’s a safe word to use). On this trip, I was, again, pretty amazed by what I saw.

In Bryce Canyon we hiked down from Bryce point into the base of the canyon and all around and through the hoodoos (yes, that’s their proper name) through the forests and back up to Sunrise point. It was a long hike but very much worth it. My sister and her husband were great company walking through all these amazing places. The major dilemma the entire time was “I can’t take my eyes off this gorgeous landscape . . . but I’m on a rocky trail next to a sheer drop.” This was typical most of the way up and down. Bryce was much more mild to hike here in October then say Arches in July, but I’m really glad we brought a lot of water because I got thirsty pretty fast.

I was reminded very much about Oliver Messiaen when he visited Bryce Canyon. He was so taken by the landscape that he used some local birdsong he dictated and wrote a piece called “Des canyons aux étoiles… (From the Canyons to the stars…)” Messiaen’s music was driven by color a great deal. Seeing Bryce Canyon for the first time, I can understand why he, specifically, was moved enough to visit and dictate. The orange and red hoodoos against the green forest against the blue sky. It’s much better in person than in these photos. I need to listen to that piece. I haven’t found Messiaen’s music to be very accessible, but after visiting, I had a great desire to buy a recording.

(Here’s a hint for anyway who wants to hike in Bryce Canyon. Bring two cars (with two drivers) park one car at Sunrise point and another car at Bryce point and hike from one spot to the other. Then when you’re done, just drive back to the other car and go home. I think there are shuttle services, but it’s way more convenient if you do it yourself.)

The next day, after Bryce, we went down to Zion National Park. We got off I-15 and travelled along the Virgin River till we got to the mouth of the canyon. Now, Arches is amazing, Bryce is incredible, but Zion . . . there’s something truly breathtaking about Zion. Most of the trip in I was speechless. I’ve never been so taken by a gorgeous landscape before. They do everything by shuttle now, which is kinda of a shame, but it’s a good service so I don’t mind that much. We drove past the different “temples” and “courts” up the canyon that got their names from their geological formations.

Our goal for this trip was to hike Angel’s Landing. I’ve heard about this hike before, but only that it exists and that it’s a good one. My sister and her husband told me that the first part is probably the hardest. The whole thing was pretty hard I think, except for “refrigerator canyon.” We joke that the reason it’s called “refrigerator canyon” is because it’s been littered with refrigerators formally owned by greenie/treehugger/granola-munching/leaf-licking hippies.

When we got to “the saddle,” I thought, “well that wasn’t too bad, I could do that any day!” In fact, when we got to the saddle and saw how high were were I made the comment, “you know, it’s moments like these when you say to yourself, ‘dang, I’m so awesome.'” Then they showed me how far we had to go still. My heart sank with terror. It wasn’t how far we had to go, or how high we had to climb. No, it was the sheer drops on either side of the trail. I turned to my sister and said, “so I have I mentioned that I’m kinda/sorta/a little/maybe/VERY AFRAID OF HEIGHTS!” I guess not. They provide a chain for you to hold on to (for dear life) at certain points. Even if I didn’t need the chain, I held on like my life was on the line. I wouldn’t say I overcame my fear, but definitely looked it strait in the eye and told it it’s ugly.

Believe it or not, I made it to the very top and was greatly rewarded. I’ve never seen a view like that in my life. Yes, many people do a good job of taking pictures, but they don’t do it any justice. Angel’s Landing is a name very well suited. To me, hiking Angel’s Landing and seeing that view was a very sacred experience for me. It wasn’t the most sacred experience, but definitely one to be remembered. The whole place felt like a “temple” of nature. It some moments, I didn’t want to speak for fear of disturbing the reverence of the place. Absolutely majestic. I highly recommend it.


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