Utah, Part III

Summertime camping at popular national parks means the excitement waking up well before you want to, sometimes driving to multiple campgrounds, circling loops of tents, and asking around to find out who is leaving and when. Arriving at the right place at the right time means you'll be able to secure your spot for the night. Luckily most campers are friendly and they'll let you stake your claim to their site while they pack up, or they are park rangers and will let you know which sites have already opened or are about to. We felt very fortunate to be able to camp where we wanted every night without having to wait in huge lines or battle anyone for a section.

We followed B's family's recommendation to enter Zion from the East, which turned out to be excellent advice since you drive from not-Zion into a tunnel, and when you pop out, you're in Zion. It looks a lot like this:

Entering Zion National Park
Zion National Park

We seemed to be having even more "right place, right time" success because we soon saw a man pulled over taking pictures of bighorn sheep. B had recovered from my moose/branch and bear/deer confusion in Yellowstone, so he agreed to pull over too. I'd finally found the animal that I'd waited the whole trip to see:

Zion National Park

We saw another one about 2 minutes later, but it was so still and so close to the road that I thought it was a statue and didn't take any pictures. Note that if you see a very life-like animal in a national park, it's probably not a statue!

Zion was also the first place that I've ever been afraid of heights. Like paralyzed with fear, turn around, I'm not going levels of afraid. We had decided on a hike to Angel's Landing since we found it in a book of the most beautiful hikes in the world. On the way, there were signs reminding us to bring a lot of water and telling people who are afraid of heights that they should reconsider. It was 102 degrees and we are not afraid of heights, so we were more worried about death from dehydration than any height-related nervousness.

No problem. The majority of the hike was like this:

Angel's Landing Trail at Zion National Park

And B was wearing his "Vacation Dad" outfit so I felt very secure.

We got to what we thought was the last segment and it seemed a little scary, mostly because there were a lot of people on the trail headed in opposite directions, but we didn't think at all of turning around or not going to the top. We even took this photo saying, "Ha! Too bad for all those people who are afraid of heights. They don't know what they're missing."

Angel's Landing Zion National Park

Thennn we got over that hump and saw the real Angel's Landing summit, which features a 2-foot wide ridge trail with 1,000+ foot drop offs on both sides and looks like this:

Angel's Landing at Zion National Park

So I made us turn around and go back down! (Sorry B!) I don't regret it now since we later read that Angel's Landing is one of the deadliest hikes in the world and fit, reasonable people die there just from stumbling or missing a step. Maybe I'm getting old, but when we hiked another of the deadliest hikes (Huayna Picchu), it did not give me the same feelings of terror that this one did. I only took this one photo of the view in my frenzied fearful state:

Angel's Landing Zion National Park

We descended, avoiding the feisty rock squirrels, to do some more tourism, and I felt ok about it. But if you are a normal, athletic, confident person who wants to do it, Angel's Landing does look pretty cool and you should do it! Otherwise, Zion is a breathtaking place where you can find many other ways to entertain yourself. 

Zion National Park the Watchman

Utah, Part II

Utah's national parks are a world of dreams and magic.

Bryce Canyon Fairyland Loop
Bryce Canyon Fairyland Loop
Bryce Canyon Fairyland Loop

We hiked the Fairyland Loop trail in Bryce Canyon to get a view of the canyons from all angles, and I can't recommend it highly enough. We spent the whole day in a constant state of amazement, and when I walked out of the tent at night to head to the bathroom (squat down at the edge of our campsite), I saw the biggest shooting star of my life. Thank you Utah for your incredible skies and scenery!

Bryce Canyon sunrise

Utah, Part I

I didn't have many expectations about visiting Salt Lake City for the first time since I hadn't heard much about it, but the name implied that there would be a lake... probably a salty one, bordering or surrounded by a city. When I dreamt of going there, I imagined taking walks near the lake, watching the sunset over the lake, or maybe even doing a few lake-related activities besides swimming because the stinging of the Dead Sea taught me better than that.

Silly me. We had an Iceland situation on our hands. 

From our pre-trip research, which tended to occur in the last hour of driving before reaching any of our destinations, we learned that the lake is 30-60 minutes outside the city and that people don't go there. Allegedly it's hot, smelly, and full of flies. So we changed our plans and instead climbed up to fancy Park City to eat delicious sandwiches, take pictures with animal statues, and watch the sky turn pink.

Salt Lake City sunset

Then we went back down to take pictures of LDS buildings and sleep, since a city full of Mormons doesn't offer much in the way of nightlife. On to the next!

Salt Lake City Utah