Sunday, November 9, 2008

Rainy and FREEZING in Utah

We woke up this morning to dark clouds behind our mountain ridge instead of the usual sunny glow. We were all hoping for rain so we just kind of assumed we wouldn't get any since that how it usually works. After breakfast we packed the lunches and bags and were headed out for the harder hikes today.

Let me remind you that I'm afraid of heights, so much so that when we're coming home from Laughlin and going through the Cajon Pass I make Jason drive on the right side of the freeway because that drop off makes me crazy. Well, the Cajon Pass is nothing in Utah and today I somehow gathered up the strength to just push through and get over the fear so I am VERY proud of myself.

We started the day off at the Zion Lodge and hiked to the Grotto. After we reached the Grotto we crossed over the main road and were headed to the Emerald Pools via the Kayenta Trail. When I research and plan for the hikes on these trips I always make sure the path is really wide and there is no danger of falling off a cliff because I know I just couldn't do it. Well, someone forgot to mark this trail as being REALLY REALLY SCARY! Holy moly! I think I might have gasped and told Jason to walk closer to the inside of the path every 50 feet. The hike was only about 3 miles but it was probably at about a 30 degree angle 90% of the time so we all got a good glut workout. As the hike kept going and going it seemed like the trail got more and more narrow and I kept thinking if it's not better in a couple minutes I have to turn around. Eventually we got to the Upper Emerald pool which was incredible. Standing at the shore of the water dug into the side of the cliff with trees of every color surrounding us was unreal. There was a lookout point a few minutes away from the Upper Pool and we were all amazed at how high we were. Tthe trees and cars that we felt so tiny next to were now little specs and all kind of blurred into one.

We headed to the Middle Emerald pool next and started to feel some tiny rain drops every once in a while. Those tiny rain drops got a little bigger and more frequent as we descended the mountain side. Once we were back at the river we decided to head back to the meadow near the grotto and had a VERY chilly lunch on a picnic bench while Ashley slept on top of the table.

We were all tired but felt like we could eek out one last tiny hike before we called it quits. We remembered seeing a really cool trail off Carmel Mountain HWY the day before so we decided to try it. I had remembered doing this hike as a kid with my parents so I knew it couldn't be too bad, WRONG!!!! I obviously wasn't scared of heights back then. The first 10 minutes of this hike was going up dirt stairs that climbed right up the side of the mountain, once we were done with the stairs I quickly realized I was in for a challenge. This hike opened up to a VERY deep canyon (when I say VERY deep I mean 1,000-1,500 ft deep). We had a path about 4 feet wide to hike on with a railing sporadically appearing along the trail to keep you from falling to your death. About half way through there was a spot where the path had completely eroded away so they built a little bridge across made of metal and wooden planks (you should have seen how quickly I flew across that!) Once we got over that we were inside a cave in the mountain and then continued the hike up to the canyon overlook point. We arrived to the top with some sprinkles on the way and while we spent no more than 2 minutes admiring the view we watched a giant rain cloud move through the canyon, heading straight for us. We quickly snapped our touristy photos next to the sign and vaminos, off we went! Jason was so fast I couldn't even see him after about 3 minutes. I thought hiking that trail was scary before, well now I had to experience it in the rain with slippery rocks and mud, JOYOUS! I was so cold and scared that my knees were shaking but we all managed to get down in one piece and I think we would all agree that we would probably never do that hike again.

On our way home from the park we were talking about how scary the hikes that strongly warn you of the possibility of falling to your death must be. When we got home Jason got on his laptop and googled the two trails we had done and what do you know, they have the highest death rates out of any trail in the park! No wonder I was scared! Looking back if we would have known what they were before hand I don't think we would have done them, or at least I would have skipped them. At least we left the trip with some exciting stories to tell.