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This Just In: Hiking in Utah Does Not Suck

 

So as I sat in my room, and thought about the weeks ahead of me, all I could think about were the tasks in front of me. Thinking about work, work and more work. When I wasn’t thinking about that, I was thinking about work. I was getting everything in line, thinking about what exciting events I had lined up, just to get my mind off the mundane repetitiveness of the work week. There was nothing in the immediate future. I had a trip to Japan, but that was a month away. I couldn’t wait that long, I needed an adventure, and I decided to take full advantage of the Thanksgiving Holidays. I had a buddy that wanted to join in on the adventure, so I booked the tickets, booked the hotel arrangements, and the rest was history.

I hopped on a plane, flew into Vegas, cried as I drove past the beauty of “The Strip” (not being able to partake), and we made our way to the entrance of Zion National Park. After evaluating the weather, the last thing we wanted to do, was to be in a slot with a chance of rain. The words “flash flood” do not resonate fun times for me. So we decided to take on the Narrows as soon as we got there.

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We ended up getting to the park around 2:30 PM and after checking Sunset Time (5:45 PM), we knew we had to race to the Narrows. We didn’t come prepared to wade through 40 degree water, we didn’t have time to rent out the proper gear, so we assessed the situation and made the best reasonable choice. So I enter the water in Converse and basketball shorts….(yes I said we made the most reasonable choice) and the adventure began.

The first step can only be compared to… well nothing, it sucked! I say the water was 40 degrees, but it was close to sun down, so let’s give ourselves a little more credit and say it was ehhhh 34 degrees. We were already here, so there was no turning around. We continued to push on, and march through. The Narrows is a narrow canyon that is mostly taken up by the Virgin River, but you will catch areas of land that rise up, or as I call them “Salvation”, every 30 ft or so. This gives you a chance to attempt to thaw out before you step back into the set of Frozen. The Narrows is a 10 mile hike if you decide to walk all the way to the end and hike back to the start. We didn’t have enough daylight, and haven’t felt our toes in miles, so we gave ourselves an hour and a half to walk in and an hour and a half to walk back. Overall, we weren’t overly impressed by the views, but we truly enjoyed the challenge. We couldn’t stand the first step in the water, but somehow continued on 5 miles through the canyon, walking on blocks of ice that somehow resembled our feet. There was a sense of reward in the adventure, but we knew we had bigger and better things to conquer the next day. Learning from our lessons, we stopped by Zion Guru, picked up dry shoes, neoprene socks and got some good direction on how we should continue our adventure.

The next day, we woke up ready to take on Buckskin Gulch. We pulled up to the Wire Pass, and parked our Jeep Renegade, picked up an envelope to pay the $6 per person fee, and headed on our way.

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It’s about a 1 1/2 mile hike through Wire Pass before you reach the slot. There’s nothing too spectacular about the Wire Pass, but once you step into the slot, it is a whole different world.

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Here you make your way through another 1/2 mile of the slot, and it opens up to this amazing beauty that seems like a set straight out of Star Wars. It definitely was something that we just wanted to stop and allow the views to set in. It was magical to see the way an arch was so accurately carved out of the rock, as if it was meant to be that way. I think we were so amazed by the sights we completely forgot the direction we were supposed to go. You reach a crossroad, and the guy at Zion Guru told us “Ok, the ONLY thing you have to remember is to take a …….. when you reach the crossroads”. We could have sworn he said left, but if you are curious what he said, let’s just say it’s the complete OPPOSITE of where we went.

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When you reach the crossroads you can take a left and head to Buckskin Gulch North or you can take a right and head down Buckskin Gulch South. Well as I mentioned we headed north. This was still worth the experience. We walked through some of the most decorated sights, hiking through the narrow slots, with minimum water. It was about 2 miles through and we reached the end. Half way through we realized we were either going the wrong direction, or the Sun’s Google Maps was malfunctioning that day. We assumed we were wrong, so we headed back and reached the crossroads once again. There was a family hanging out in the open area who seemed like they knew their way around, so we inquired info on Buckskin South. The elder man stepped up and spoke in a wise voice “Ahhhh it’s not that bad, four pools and you are good to go, watch out for that one that’s waist deep though.” We weren’t going to let that deter us from our mission, so we hopped right in. We waded through pool, after pool, reached the fourth pool, and………waded through ten more. Either that guy has a different system of counting, or he chuckled to himself our entire walk into the slot.

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We continued forward, through one pool after another, but the work did not go unrewarded. The sights became more intriguing, the colors became more vivid, and we eventually came to this MASSIVE opening in the slot. We figured this would be the best spot for lunch, so we pulled up the smoothest rock, cracked open our favorite tuna packs (Thai Style Tuna is Deelish), and enjoyed the view.

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We continued on further, but our alarms were going off, and we knew we had to head back, so we could escape the slot, before the daylight escaped us. So just as we conquered the slot going in, we followed suit and did the same on our way out.

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The next day, we arose. This was the last day, and it was THE DAY. Today, we were gonna climb not one, but two mountains, and two Texas Boys get to do it all in the snow. We were on one mission and it was to get to the top of Angel’s Landing. There’s about a mile hike up switchbacks before you reach the rally point. From there the real magic begins. It’s about a mile and a half to the top, and it will take you for an adventure. You climb up and down, picking the best footing as you go, and marvel at the views around you. Most of the climb will have chains to hold on to, but don’t be fooled, there are sections where the chains are non-existent, and somehow the danger still is. We had the pleasure of nice slippery, snowing rocks to grip onto and the genius that I am, was suited in running shoes. I might have feared for my life once or maybe fifteen times. As you can see, there were sections that were 3ft wide and would sharply drop off 3,000 ft below to the softest landing point.

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You start to climb and you always think, right around every corner you will be able to see the top, but it just keeps going and going and going and well….you get it. Just to give you a perspective, here is a shot from the hike, and you can see the path to the peak.

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We just kept our heads forward and focused on the prize. The snow gods were easy on us that day, and even though it looked like a blizzard might be brewing, the weather eased up and we reached the top amongst a nice slight snow fall. I wanted to throw my arms up in the air and run around like I was Rocky, but the slippery slope, and the potential for a treacherous fall kept me to a mere fist in the air.

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We took in the view, admired the accomplishment, and decided to move on with the trip. Once you reach the top of Angel’s Landing, there’s only one way to go…and that’s back to where you came from. At this moment, I felt I was a pro, moving swiftly down the mountain without a care in the world, until these two teenagers zoomed passed me, slipping down the rocks without a drop of fear in their bones (Showoffs). Once we reached back to the rally point, we decided to take the trip one step further. Not too many people continue the journey to the West Rim, which is another 2,000 ft climb, but we had the adrenaline pumping in our veins and a fresh batch of tuna in our bellies. We continued on the hike and for the first time in a long time, I was hit with a second wind. It was so powerful I began to sprint my way up the mountain. We went beyond the trails and the man made paths and carved our own trail to the top. Nothing could stop us, we were on a mission…..then my buddy’s phone rings???? 7,000 ft in the air, in the middle of nowhere, and he is having a conversation with his sister on top of a mountain??? (You can enter your own Carrier Commercial….it might have been Verizon) The obvious occurs, the reception cuts out, and we pace forward on with our mission.

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We reached the second peak of the day and was overwhelmed with feelings of accomplishment, victory and pure manliness. We literally were on top of the world, and looked around to see the beauty that nature provides. We looked at our clocks and knew we were racing daylight once again, so we pulled out our elk beef jerky, took a snag and made our run to the bottom. Some of the scenery is something that just can’t be described. It almost looks like something out of a scene of “The Martian”, almost as if you were walking on the surface of Mars.

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After hiking over 30 miles in the last few days, we were still pumped with adrenaline. It was something like I had never felt before, and the jog down was like a victory lap at the Daytona 500. As beautiful as it was going up, you get a whole different perspective on the way down.

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As we took step after step, we were greeted by one last surprise. It was a cry, almost as if there were a baby crying, and you can hear it echo through the canyons. No way it’s a baby, so I was on high alert, preparing to stand tall as we approach a mountain lion indulging in his dinner. But as we ran down the mountain, sure enough a mile away from civilization, in the mountains, there was a baby. And that baby was indulging in his dinner…..soooooo faster we ran, past the baby, to make our way home so we can indulge in our dinner. In case you’re wondering, it was a ribeye steak, loaded mashed potatoes, washed down with an ice cold beer (we’d been tricked into a Vegetarian pizza the day before, so it was well deserved). As we raced down, we reached the open canyon and stared as the canyon opened up and allowed the sun to paint its light amongst the rocks.

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It was the perfect ending to the perfect weekend. Sometimes we get caught up in the day to day life of work, of stress, of worries, and we never give ourselves a chance to just let go and enjoy the beauties that life can bring. I am no couch potato, I’m a weight lifter, but not so much a cardio guy. I would struggle to finish out a strong mile, but that weekend we pushed almost 40 miles, hiking up and down, crawling through the rocks, and wading through freezing water. I truly proved to myself that adversity can be overcome, that if you have the right mindset you can overcome any obstacle, with a focused mind you can push the limits. It was an inspiring and mind opening weekend. I recommend it to anyone who needs a quick adventure in their life, and a break from it all. Thank you Utah….you definitely do not suck.

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