Thursday, October 11, 2007


So how do you top the experience of the Grand Canyon? The quick answer is that you don’t, but if you are going to try, Zion National Park isn’t a bad place to start. The park itself is like some desert on steroids. There are cliffs and, crazy sandstone formations, weeping rocks, hidden pools of water, trails that are barely chipped out of the walls of mountains, rattlesnakes and 50 degree shifts in daily temperatures.

While its beauty is undeniable, the park seems to be set up as a gauntlet of my fears. I do not love heights. I am fine with heights as long as I am encased in steel and glass, and have no access to outside air. Sadly, Zion does not make their trails to satisfy my needs. After a few tame hikes, we decided to try our boots at the Hidden Canyon trail. The Park’s hiking guide mentions that the trail should not be attempted by anyone with a fear of heights; and the symbol that they use to convey this? Why an abstracted hiker figure slipping and beginning his/her plummet off a cliff. Wonderful.

The first part of the trail was a standard collection of steep switchbacks. The cliff-side of the trail was an exposed drop, but frankly, that wasn’t too bad. Once we got to the first major trail break, the trail narrowed, became a less comfortable 3-4 feet wide, but still doable. Next, the trail narrowed to about 3 feet wide, was slanted about 20-30 degrees toward the 1500 foot drop and had chin link drilled into the side of the mountain. I scrambled across one such expanse and felt like I had conquered Everest. The second such trail section wasn’t so successful. On seeing that the chipped ledge appeared to run into thin air and not stick to the mountainside, I made some comment about how this was clearly not up to OSHA standards, turned around and began down the mountain.

Luckily there were other trails that were rigorous but not quite so terrifying. I made the decision that my hiking would be more about enjoying the hiking and the scenery and less about me grimly sizing up irrational fears and trying to overcome them. It makes the whole experience more fun and less like a Jack London Book in which the dog and the guy bravely soldier on through malnourishment and frostbite.

No comments: