Zion—Day Two — Hi, I’m Sammy of Sammy and the San Juan Express. You’re following my Sammy’s Summer Adventures blog. I call today, Sammy’s most beautiful hike.
After our near heat-stroke hike at Angel’s Landing, Uncle Teddy roused me at 7am for a breakfast of granola, blueberries, toast, and a huge glass of orange juice.
“Sorry, today is reserved for the most beautiful hike in the park,” he responded, spitting pieces of nut and blueberry in my direction.
“Sure,” I said, “but keep the food enhanced special affects out of the conversation. Besides, yesterday Angel’s landing was the most beautiful hike.”
“Oops, sorry.” He wiped his chin with a napkin. “This hike not only takes us up the Zion Valley East Wall, but through Echo Canyon above a river etched slot canyon and to a viewpoint three thousand feet above the Virgin River with views of the entire Zion Valley. It’s spectacular.”
“Okay,” I said. I put the last spoon full of cereal in my mouth. “Wait! Three thousand feet. How long is this hike anyway?”
“Eight miles,” he said, wiping a spec of granola from his cheek. “But half of it is down hill.”
Geared up with trail mix, two sack lunches, cameras, and about a thousand gallons of water each (Uncle Teddy insisted we carry lots of water), we caught the Zion Valley bus to Weeping Rock. The trail leads across a flat section to a sign reading, “Carry water.” I rolled my eyes, adjusted my hiking poles, and pushed off. Like Angel’s Landing the trail switched back and forth up a vertical red rock wall of solid stone. Because it was early and the East wall, we were in shade most of the hike up the wall. An hour later, we crossed from the wall into an upper canyon.
In the upper canyon, the trail followed a stream some thirty feet below us in a narrow. A narrow is a place where a stream, or river, flows over stone. With time, sometimes millions of years, the movement of water and silt dig into the stone and create a trough. Zion Canyon is carved out by the Virgin River and at three thousand feet deep, much older than Echo Canyon. Echo is a narrow with a stream (except during flash floods when it’s a torrent) running through it, and deep pools. I stepped near the edge and felt a chill from the height and the cool air rushing from the crevasse.
“Wait till you see the canyon from Observation point,” he said with a smile.
As I was getting used to the cool air and level surface, the trail turned right and headed out of the Echo Canyon and up a wall. We were in the sun now and the heat cranked up to 100° plus. I drank water like a hippopotamus. Don’t tell Uncle Teddy, but he was right about carrying plenty of water. The trail turned from red rock to white and the reflection was blinding. I stumbled several times up a sequence of switch backs. As I was ready to fall flat on my face the trail leveled off.
“Only a few more steps,” Uncle Teddy yelled as he stepped over a small mound and disappeared. I walked forward and stopped dead at the mound. Before me was a cliff edge with Zion Canyon spread three thousand feet below. Sun reflected off the Virgin River like a shimmering ribbon. On my right was the West canyon wall with Angel’s Rest, and on my left the East canyon wall we had climbed that morning.
The red rock with streaks of black and white was totally stunning, and the altitude made my head spin. I planted my hiking poles and baby stepped toward the edge. Uncle Teddy sat on a rock three feet back as I inched forward. I leaned on my poles and peeked over the edge. For a moment I felt like I would tumble head over heels off the edge, when my stomach did a backflip. Uncle Teddy grabbed my backpack from behind and pulled be next to him.
“Not too close,” he said. “That’s a long way down.”
We sat for half an hour, eating lunch, taking pictures, and scouting the point of land that is Observation Point. Recovered from our hike up, we retraced our steps to reach the canyon floor again. What I noticed most about the return hike was how different the canyon walls and Echo Canyon looked. The sun sat higher in the sky, and shade and shadows gave them a completely different look. As we rode the Zion Valley bus back to the Visitor Center I had to admit—it was the most beautiful hike I had ever been on. I hate it when Uncle Teddy is right.