Having left Salt Lake battered and brusied from the terrain park, we headed out to Moab to take in some of the National parks. Starting at Arches National Park we spent the day hiking out to some of the more picturesque Arches. After some impromtu rock climbing without the necessary equipment and nearly getting stuck half way up "Double O" arch we ventured out to watch a beautiful sunset over the park.
After a minor detour next morning we made it to Canyonlands and Dead Horse point(we only missed the exit by 30 miles, driving straight passed the big brown National Park sign!) we looked out onto our first Canyon. The views were 'awesome' as our American friends say. We managed to sneak in a bit more hiking before the journey to Bryce canyon. Bryce was beautiful even if we did hike down into the valley floor and attempt to hike out the other gentler side. Attempt being the key word, it was snowed out so we had to trek back up the way we came! Almost a few tears shed at that stage, The beautiful scenary seemed to fade rather quickly. From Bryce we hit the trail once more and headed out to Springdale.
Springdale sits right on the edge of Zion National park in a valley of glorious red mountains. After starting at the most expensive part of town and working our way to the less salubrious part we eventually found a motel room for a couple of nights. After a night on the beers we ventured out into the park to tackle some of the more challenging hikes. There were two options we'd carefully considered the night before, "The Narrows", an 8 mile hike up the Colorado river into some slot canyons or "Angels Landing", 5 miles up a mountain. When we say 'up the river' it is literally waders on, jump in and walk up the river. Mrs P was a little concerned with this option as the river seemed to be a little but lively. After checking with the ranger, he advised that The Narrows were not the smartest thing to do at the moment because the river was flowing at 5 times the speed that they issued hiking permits for, but yes if we wanted to do it we would be charged an inordinate amount of money if they had to come out and rescue us(of which there was a very good chance). Having seen the ridiculous speed the river was running at on our way out to second choice "Angels Landing" we knew we had made the right decision.
The hike up to the top was phenominal, through a series of switchbacks, a section called the freezer and finally a hike across a very rocky precipace with a only a chain to guide you. Still, the views down the valley were amazing and we felt suitably proud of ourselves at the top(once we had recovered).
Glutons for punishment we discovered we could hike down into the Grand Canyon. After a few phone calls we managed to book onto a trip out of Flagstaff. This was a 3 day hike of 17 miles, one mile down into the Canyon and then the slow hard slog out again. Leaving Flagstaff early on a Monday morning we drove out to the starting point of the South Kaibab trail. The plan was to hike down the first day(8 miles), stay there the first night at the Bright Angel camp site, join up with the Bright Angel trail then head out to Indian Gardens for the second night(4 miles) then finish off with a 5 mile hike the final day. Meeting our fellow hikers we were relieved to find that they were a little older than us(twice our age) and wanted to take things easy. Loading up our 40 lbs rucksacks we ventured down into the canyon. The scenary was staggering, nothing like we'd expected. Due to it being Spring the meadows were a sea of colour and wildlife in abundance. The hike down was hard going on the old knees (until they lost feeling) but we managed admirably and looked forward to a nice cold beer down at the posh ranch near our camp site. Arriving at the ranch late we walked straight past the posh lodge to our more low key campsite. Finding the last pitch available(on a river bank) we set the tents up for the night. Expecting to be washed away by the river that night and end up in the Pacific we fell asleep to the sound of boulders being forced down the river by the current. Once more reminded that we had made the right decision to avoid The Narrows walk in Zion.
Early start next morning and up the Bright Angel trail. This is were we encountered mules for the first time. Just out of camp there was a train of mules crossing the bridge. The rangers lead the mules down the Bright Angel trail until they are used to it, then load them up with tourists who don't want to do the hike. One mule hadn't crossed a bridge before and was determined never to cross one. After 30 minutes of chasing, pushing, pulling two rangers eventually got the mule to cross. Avoiding the mules coming down was considered an extreme sport. You had to make sure you were on the inside of the narrow track with your heavy pack leaning against the mountain, and keep well clear as they bucked and skitted nervously around you. The look on some of the tourists faces as they did this was rewarding enough to spur you on. One other hazard we encountered was Rons (one of our fellow hikers) flatulence. Dinner the night before had resembled the scene from Blazing Saddles Movie when they were eating beans at the campfire. We have never met anyone before who could so shamelessly fart and not bat an eyelid. At first we couldn't believe it and had to check with Scott, our guide, whether this was a cultural thing or not. Apparently not, so the next days hiking objective was to stay in front of Ron at all costs. Come to think about it was that the sound of boulders being washed down the river the night before or Ron's backside rumbling??
The hike up was much easier than the one down. Buoyed by the beautiful scenary we made good time up to Indian Gardens campsite. Late afternoon we hiked out to a wonderful spot to watch the sunset. Due to lots of cloud the sunset was a non starter, but a Condor turned up to keep us amused. With sightings of mountain lions close to camp and an abundance of deer we thought it best not to be out too late.
Up early again next morning we made the hike up. Avoiding mules had become second nature to us by now, it was the masses of tourists coming down that became the challenge. Thick Yanks who think they can make the bottom of the canyon and back again in one day don't have much courtesy or thought for those people with heavy packs walking up out of the Canyon. Enough said!!
On return to civilisation there was a big rush for the first shower (Grand Canyon is definatly lacking in facilities!) - Mrs P was gutted when her new tan washed off.
Reaching the top was such a rewarding experience for all of us and we rated this hike in the top 5 of things we had done since we had left the UK. A very high accolade indeed!
Next stop Las Vegas.