This was one of the last photographs I took as we completed our last hike of, what had been a long fun filled winter’s day in the sun of Southern Utah.
Though it was late in the afternoon on this February winter’s day and the light in the canyons wouldn’t last much longer, my wife and I shouldered light day packs (which included headlamps, just in case) and started hiking the wide paved "trail" toward Angel’s Landing from the crowded parking lot for the Emerald Pool and Angel’s Landing trail.
The last light hitting the west facing sandstone towers and cliffs was both beautiful and inspiring. Nothing like an extemporaneous hike for fun!
Saturday we had left the SLC area at 4:30 am. We then drove to Snow Canyon state park, where we thoroughly enjoyed a short hike and wanderings about the sandstone slickrock there. Still there was plenty of daylight left before we would return to our motel room in Cedar City, so on the spur of the moment….off we went to Zion National Park. It is a short drive from Snow Canyon.
We had not planned to hike on this "winter escape" weekend together, so we didn’t have our hiking boots and my wife didn’t have her beloved hiking staff. We did have day packs with extra clothing and what I call my "everything pack", which is a small pouch of "essentials" I take in my backpack or my daypack, wherever I go.
So the idea was just drive up the North Fork of the Virgin River to the end of the road at the Temple of Sinawava parking lot and enjoy the drive and the scenery.
We have been visiting and hiking Zion National Park since the early 1970s. Much has changed, but not the impressive scenery. Winter, you can still drive your car anywhere within the park that you like but now during summer, and the "tourist season", you must travel the North Fork road by shuttle bus. That is something we have avoided.
On one of early trips to Zion, we had stayed with our three young kids at a small "then country like" motel, in Springdale, Utah. I had got up before dawn and hiked to the top of Angel’s Landing to watch the sun come up. My wife and the kids slept in, then got up and picked pecans that had blown down recently around the grounds of the small motel.
With light starting to retreat from the canyon floor, I asked my wife if she would like to hike up the Angel’s Landing trail. I promised her we wouldn’t go up the chain and rail section at the end. Like always, she agreed. The deal was that we would hike "one hour" and then turn around. I thought we might be able to make it to the bottom of the switchbacks of the trail called "Walter’s Wiggles" but didn’t plan to rush the hike.
Lots of people on this Saturday hiking the Angel’s Landing trail, so we were constantly passing people on the paved, well maintained trail. The large majority were returning from Angel’s Landing since it was getting toward the end of the winter’s day.
At exactly one hour of hiking we had made it to the top of Walter’s Wiggles and enjoyed the view down into the North Fork of the Virgin River canyon, from the saddle below the chain aid section of trail. I was so happy that my wife would do something like this short hike in running shoes, on the spur of the moment, just as she had willingly clambered about the sandstone outcroppings with me at Snow Canyon.
I remembered the trail well from having hiked it 40 years earlier. The scent of chemical toilets at the saddle was a surprise but with all the folks that hike this popular route now, it certainly seems prudent to have them there.
We dug a soda and snacks from our day pack and talked to others and enjoyed the views. My wife offered to wait for me if I wanted to hike up the last section of the route to Angel’s Landing itself. I was tempted but decided that since I had been there before (and on that occasion I was the only person hiking to the landing that early morning) and it was getting late in what had been a long day, that I would just head back down the trail with my wife, which is what we did.
I was wishing we had brought some hiking poles or my wife’s hiking staff for her. There was ice and a little snow on portions of the Walter’s Wiggle section of trail, and I know my wife would have loved the feeling of added security in having them along. We held hands on the iced sections though, and had no trouble at all.
Hiking downhill it didn’t take us long to return to our vehicle. The last sunlight of the day was now hitting only the upper sections of west facing sandstone cliffs in the canyon. It was beautiful!
We drove on to Cedar City, Utah and retreated to our room with a large take out pizza and smiles.
Winter Road Trip: The drive down from our home in Eastern Washington to Wendover, Nevada on Friday February 8th, 2013…was not fun. Blowing snow; low visibility; black ice; and lousy driving conditions made it a chore to drive. The same conditions continued when we drove from the Bonneville Salt Flats to our kids’ home in Utah, on the next day (Saturday).
We spent some quality time with our kids and granddaughter in the Salt Lake City area during the week, then headed south to forecast sunshine in Southern Utah on the following weekend. The driving conditions were great and some 68 degree days, sunshine, blue skies, and a short hike in both Snow Canyon State Park and Zion National Park, were just the winter break both my wife and I had been long anticipating and looking forward to. We did not have much hiking gear with us as the conditions for hiking far exceeded our expectations…but hike we did and loved every minute of it.
Here is a link to some photographs I took at Snow Canyon back in May of 2010 when the wildflowers and cacti were in bloom:
The trip back home from SLC on the 18th was the antithesis of the drive down….sun, dry pavement, and breeze to drive. I made great time on the return trip (no snow and ice stress).
I hope you enjoy some of the photographs of Snow Canyon and Zion. Oldmantravels Feb. 2013 (Winter will soon be done and over) Smile!
Tagged: , North Fork Virgin River Canyon Sandstone canyons , walls , cliffs Zion National Park winter hiking road trip Southern Utah , Southwest landscapes , Sandstone canyon