Hi, I’m Sammy of Sammy and the San Juan Express. You’re following my Sammy’s Summer Adventures blog.
Los Angeles is great and I totally wanted to stay forever, but Uncle Teddy had other ideas—like hiking Zion National Park.
“It’s gorgeous,” he said as he tossed my bags in the back of Angie, his float plane. We lifted off from Bob Hope (who’s Bob Hope anyway?) airport and headed northeast. I got nervous taking off. Nothing against his airplane, but my flights in Angie always seem to end in some kind of absolute disaster—like kidnapping by rogue fishermen. I also get nervous when we’re on a runway and not water. Even though Angie’s pontoons have wheels, she’s supposed to land on water. Gulp!
We flew out through a yellow layer of smog, over a spider web of freeways with lines of stopped cars. After fifteen minutes we crossed a mountain range, the air cleared, and the landscape morphed from vehicles and rooftops to a yellow, orange and buff desert. Two hours later Uncle Teddy dipped Angie’s right wing and we soared over a split in the earth like someone had used a jagged knife to cut open a meringue pie.
“The Grand Canyon,” Uncle Teddy said. She’s 277 miles long, 6000 feet deep, and in places 18 miles wide. That’s some split in the earth’s crust.”
A little over an hour later we circled a single black line drawn in the bright orange earth. My stomach rose as Angie dipped and cruised to a smooth landing on the runway. We were at Zion National Park.
Almost before we landed Uncle Teddy was ready for a hike. “Angel’s Landing,” he proudly announced. “Fifteen hundred feet high. It’s a great walk.”
“Walk,” I repeated. “How long is this walk?”
“About five miles. It will only take a few hours,” he said.
I was worn out before I had my boots on.
We hit the canyon west wall about 2pm, crossed a small foot bridge over the Virgin River, and began the hike in 100° heat. The canyon wall was the same redrock as the ground around the airport and reflected the beating sunlight like a mirror. I lagged behind as Uncle Teddy pushed forward with the energy of a ten year old. “C’mon,” he said over his shoulder, “this is fun.”
The trail led along the river for a half mile, then began a series of switchbacks leading up the vertical wall. Ahead, Uncle Teddy began to breath more heavily, and I soon passed him.
“C’mon,” I teased as I passed, “you can do this. It’s just a million mile hike up a wall made for mountain goats.”
He laughed, but several minutes later I heard him call me. “Sammy, I need to hold up for a few minutes. This heat is getting to me.”
I approached and could see he wasn’t joking. We drank water and surveyed our progress—half way up the wall and exhausted. “With the constant sun and these canyon walls, the heat must be over 115°.” He said. “Maybe I was a little too ambitious.”
I wanted to poke fun at him, but sometimes it’s better just to take your wins without rubbing it in. I bent forward and put my hands on my knees. “Thanks,” I said, “I was about ready to pass out.”
“Easier, I hope.”
“Sort of. It’s eight miles long and rises up three thousand feet.”
“Really,” I said as I admired a beautiful yellow flower on a Prickly Pear cactus. “Are you out of your mind?”