Full Circle

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Last November I visited Zion national park and was completely astounded at what I discovered. My eyes were opened up to a whole other world that existed beyond my day-to-day reality. Looking up at the cliffs, barely acknowledging the below-freezing weather, something inside of me shifted. A blatant desire was born – a passion to see more of the beauty in America hidden in plain sight within our national parks.

Thus, Zion has a special place in my heart. Returning to this park made me realize how far I’ve come on my journey – both geographically and experientially.

Many people see Zion as a sacred place. In fact, early pioneers named various features of the park in such a way as to describe a spiritual awareness. Angel’s Landing, Court of the Patriarchs, Temple, Great White Throne… all of these majestic places are truly awe-inspiring.

Despite the crowds, I enjoyed viewing parts of the park that I didn’t have a chance to during my first visit. The Narrows was an interesting hike. Wading through water along a slender canyon was an enjoyable challenge. It was slow-going; I was extremely cautious not to lose my footing on the slick rocks and plunge into the 49° water. The Museum of Human History was another place in the park that was fun to explore.

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The Narrows

I reveled in the feeling of coming full circle at Zion national park. Looking back at all of the adventures I’ve had fills me with a genuine sense of fulfillment. And now I look, once more, to the future. Ready to engage in more exploits and take on the world… one park at a time.

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Capitol Reef Recap

Length of Stay:

  • 3 days, 3 nights
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Unique sand colors make hiking even more enjoyable

Highs

  • Picking apples in the orchard
  • Attending a ranger-led geology program that explained some neat things about the park’s rock history

Lows

  • Weird weather – it was hard to plan for hikes since the temp would change 10 degrees within the course of an hour

Favorite Hike

  • Chimney Rock loop
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A view of Chimney Rock and the surrounding area

Favorite Treat

  • Fruit pie! (You can purchase a delicious personal pie in the historical Gifford house within the Fruita district)
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Simply delicious.

Canyonlands Recap

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Length of Stay:

  • 2 days, 3 nights

High:

  • Fantastic hiking that truly immersed me into the natural wonders of the park

Low:

  • Sunburned lips

Favorite Hike:

  • Murphy Point
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Spectacular canyon view from Murphy Point

Favorite Treat:

  • Prickly pear cordial (the local establishments sell a lot of prickly pear victuals: fudge, licorice, tea, etc.)

Favorite Random Moment:

  • Watching lizards – yep, just sittin’ on a rock seeing how many I could spot scampering by

Peekaboo

I’m not talking about that ridiculous game you probably last played as an infant or with an infant. I’m referring to this glorious 10-mile hike that took me deep into Canyonlands national park. The jury’s still out on why exactly it’s called Peekaboo, yet I have a couple of theories.

  • Most of the hike is filled with steep rock faces you’re able to peer over, catching marvelous glimpses of canyons
  • Dips in the rock collect runoff rain water and become home to a myriad of tiny critters. An entire ecosystem lives in these potholes.
  • Petroglyphs with ancient etched rock pictures remind hikers that they’re only a speck on the history of this land
  • Erosion has left a couple windows of rock open, allowing brave souls to scramble up and take catch sight of the other side
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Take a peek at this!

Whatever the reason, I did my fair share of peeking on my journey. In 5.5 hours I ran into only two fellow humans. This is ideal for me – solitude with a sprinkling of personal contact. (The ravens* kept me company; their wide array of noises only got on my nerves once two of them began to follow me.)

Canyonlands is a special place. The desolateness of the desert coupled with the cloudless sky and fresh air invoked feelings of true freedom. And the sights, naturally, were phenomenal.

If you’re ever in the area, you should really take a peek. 🙂

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These petroglyphs don’t look like much, but they’re really old… which makes them cool

* They’re actually really smart birds

Arches Recap

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Landscape Arch: measuring in at a hefty 290 feet long

Length of Stay:

  • Three days, four nights

Highs:

  • Exploring the Fiery Furnace
  • Looking at arches (obvious, yes?)
  • Attending a Radical Reel film festival that featured some gnarly extreme sport clips
  • Stumbling across a Midget Faded Rattlesnake
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I named him Virgil

Lows:

  • Dry, cracked skin – oh the perils of the desert!

Favorite Hike:

  • Devil’s Garden primitive trail
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Devil’s Garden is chock full of rock fins

Favorite Treat:

  • M.O.A.B. – the Mother of All Burritos
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About the size of a newborn, this provided sustenance for four days!

 

Ancient Art

 

A rock climber can’t go to Moab, UT and not climb a desert tower. It’s like a chef visiting France and not trying any food, or a ballet dancer going to New York and not viewing a Broadway show. Though I haven’t done much climbing during my trip around the country, I figured that I couldn’t pass up spending a beautiful day enjoying a classic area climb.

That’s how I ended up on Ancient Art. This sandstone tower corkscrews up into the air with an artistic flair. While spectacular to look at from the ground, encountering this spire up close was absolutely breathtaking. There was so much air on both sides of me. The desert and its ancient formations stretched as far as the eye could see.

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Me on the summit of Ancient Art

Getting to the top is only the beginning. Rappelling hundreds of feet is the perfect conclusion to an extraordinary ascent.

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An outstanding rap on Looking Glass, another Moab climb

It’s days like these where I think, “I love my life.” It’s hard not to when you’re surrounded by paradise.

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Paradise

Delicate Arches and a Fiery Furnace

Arches national park is full of… arches. Duh! But did you realize that there are over 2,000 of these bad boys in the park? Nobody knows the exact number because wind and water constantly work their power through a cycle of destruction and creation. This desert landscape may look slightly different in a couple days, and within the next decade the observant traveler will notice big changes.

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Delicate Arch, the iconic symbol of the state of Utah (it kinda looks like there’s a tiny person dancing on my knuckle)

The Fiery Furnace is an area within Arches national park that looks like a maze of red sandstone fins and spires. To enter this formidable area, one must join a rancher-guided hike or jump through a couple of hoops to get a back country permit. In the true spirit of adventure (and because there were no tickets available), I opted to go in alone.

Since there’s no designated trail, my “hike” in Fiery Furnace was more like an exploration. I scrambled, backtracked, wandered, and gradually found my way through this geological puzzle. Eventually I reached a point where I could not safely pass through without the risk of being unable to retrace my steps. It was a dead end. Expecting this, I turned around and began the trek back to the trail head, but not before climbing up one of the furnaces to get a pretty good look at my surroundings.

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The view from the top of a “furnace” spire

I can now say that I survived the Fiery Furnace.