17 June 2011

A few more national parks and a bit more hiking

Our not so good mail company has impressed us once again with their incompetence – they've sent a letter (hopefully the last piece of mail they receive on our behalf) to our Texas mail forwarding company rather than the Monticello post office as we requested, to top that effort they've made an error in that address … then charged us $16 for the privilege. The only positive that comes out of this is it will soon be in the hands of a company we can trust.

Somehow, we neglected to take note that Zion National Park is in the middle of the desert (perhaps it's the very recent snow we've seen) and would be hot, hot hot. (Or as one of Brad's t-shirts says, and prompted a conversation with a family who think the Queen Victoria Market “is just the best in the world”, hut, hut, hut). The daytime temperatures ranged upwards from 32 degrees, meaning some early hiking starts and although our alarm has been going off as a similar time to when we were working strangely, it's been harder to drag ourselves out of bed – but we've been glad to avoid hiking in the heat of the day.

Zion (a Hebrew word) has a somewhat multi-cultural, or should I say, multi-religious, naming system. In addition to the park's name, several of the formations are named for figures in the Book of Mormon, others by an evangelical priest. Angels Landing is one such formation, so named because the evangelist thought it so impossible to reach the summit, that only angels could reach it … I guess that makes Brad an angel (Don and Kaye, I bet you already knew that) because he climbed to the summit. In the 1920's a guy disproved the angel theory by trekking a path up. I hear it's one of the best walks in the park, but my unsteadiness and fear of heights led me to chicken out of the very last part of the walk, and let Brad go it alone. I'm trying my best to conquer some of my fears on this trip, particularly my fear of heights, but unlike that roller coaster in Vegas, I knew closing my eyes the entire time would not be an option as I'd more than likely fall off the crest … and die (I don't exaggerate). As we were repeatedly reminded on the shuttle bus audio, the walk was not suitable for those with a fear of heights and should be reconsidered if anyone in the party became uncomfortable, further there had been a number of fatalities on this walk, and our safety was our own responsibility. We are learning this is quite the contrast to Australia's “fence the shite out of any scenic viewpoint that tourists visit' mentality … and we're coming to like it. Brad described the last part of the walk as more of a half mile rock climb taking you over several sections only a foot wide with a knee high chain to hang on to and a significant (read at least 500 metre) drop off each side and that my decision not to proceed was the right one.

While waiting for Brad, I took photos for several groups of people and watched large birds soaring in thermals, and some young chipmunks (too young to be scared of the birds or me) play. We've learnt to tell a chipmunk from a golden mantled squirrel by their size and the stripes on a chipmunks face. Chipmunks are much smaller than expected (about the size of large mouse) and we haven't seen any fat or puffy cheeked ones like they are portrayed in movies. I was very glad to see Brad when he returned, though I'm not sure if this was because he hadn't fallen off any cliffs or because he'd left with the backpack containing our water and snacks.

After leaving Zion we detoured briefly to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes (very cool)

and then onto the Grand Canyon North Rim. The views from the northern side were different but just as good as the opposite which we visited on our honeymoon. There was no snow this time around and it was almost as hot as Zion, despite the elevation. The heat, coupled with mule poop and wees (man, do their deposits reek) and a mountain of dust, led to a somewhat unpleasant walk part way down along the Kaibab Trail into the canyon. I found the walk back up particularly hard, something Brad thinks had to do with my hair being out and giving me heat stroke.

Last night we arrived at Bryce Canyon (yup, you guessed it, another national park) and we spent this morning and early afternoon on a 14 km plus walk through the canyon. It's an amazing place, unlike anything we've seen before, with formations that could almost be man made, created by differences in the mineral make up and rain, wind and snow.
On the walk I mentioned to Brad that I seem better able to keep up with him and the following conversation ensued:

Brad: Yes, but you still need rest breaks, I don't.

Me: I was hoping for some encouragement, some agreement.

Brad: Treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen.

Me: I guess I'll add that to your “no pain, no gain” comment.

Brad: And you haven't moved slower than you did on our walk yesterday.

But I maintain I'm definitely managing to better keep up, and there's no leg pain any more.

1 comment:

  1. Photos are amazing! US is definitely going down as next holiday destination! Hmmmmm could we squeeze in a trip before April next year.... will have to work on that :D