Seven Sunday Gratitudes – 9th Edition – Spring Break, Nature’s Beauty, Feet to Carry Me, Desert Rivers, Shelter, Getting There, And Back Again.

Gratitude #1 – Spring Break!!!

Click this image to go to the Zion National Park website.
Click this image to go to the Zion National Park website.

I LOVE WHEN THERE IS NO SCHOOL!!! I love spending time with my kids, without the school’s time-clock dictating what we can do and when. This week we planned an adventure to Zion National Park in southern Utah. The plans at the outset were:

  • Hike to Kanarra Falls, up through a pretty slot canyon.
  • Set up camp in Zion National Park. Sleep well for tomorrow’s hike.
  • Hike Angels’ Landing. Not recommended for those people afraid of heights. (Like me – haha.)
  • Sleep soundly.
  • Hike the Subway from the bottom up. Permit required.
  • Sleep soundly.
  • Hike the Zion Narrows.
  • Drive home.

Remember that saying about the best-laid plans?

First day –

Hiking to Kanarra Falls
Hiking to Kanarra Falls

It seems to me that a hike categorized by Mr. Hot Stuff as “not too bad” is always longer, and more ankle twisting than what I imagine “not too bad” to be. Still looking back, the Kanarra Falls hike was definitely “not too bad” in comparison with the two hikes that followed it. It is a very pretty hike and you can get some fun experience hiking through slot canyons in a smaller time window than you can with some of the others. But why, oh why, do I always optimistically hope for a good night’s sleep when camping? I wake up every time I fall off those little camping pads, and it seems I fall off frequently.

Second day –

Angels' Landing - Walter's Wiggles. View from a distance.
Angels’ Landing – Walter’s Wiggles. View from a distance.

Angels’ Landing is a climb of 1,400+ feet. The trail starts out paved and vigorously steep. Then it becomes red sand and continues in tighter switchbacks, all in full sun. Just when you think you’ve had enough of this dry back-and-forthing, you enter the shaded narrow canyon, where trees grow out of the red sandstone rock, and you think that you have discovered a new definition for magnificent. Not long after that, you come out into the sun again and look up to see a series of tightly walled switchbacks snaking up the side of the mountain at a slope that reminds me of the Great Wall of China, and I heard another woman compare to an experience in the Andes Mountains of Peru. And then you top out at the most magnificent red sand pit a kid ever dreamed of. This is where many people stop. The view from here is beautiful and much safer than the next part of the hike, where you clutch chains and pray for sturdy footholds up a cliff. Once again, you level out very near the outer peak where “the angels land”.

The view from the top of Angels' Landing.
The view from the top of Angels’ Landing.

To get to this final place, you must cross a fin-like ridge with chains in many places due to the sharp drop-off on either side of you. There is one place where one set of chains ends and you have to take a “leap of faith” – a step without a handhold – before reaching to grasp the next chain. Once you cross this narrow fin, you walk out onto the top of Angels’ Landing and the view is incredible. Terrifying, but incredible.

He had me worried he was going to take the shortcut down. Grr.
He had me worried he was going to take the shortcut down. Grr.

That night we went to see Divergent, the movie. The theater in Springdale only has one screen, but it is one of the two largest in the state. I’m not going to give a review or any spoilers of the movie, but just say, if you have a problem with heights, this may not be the movie for you. Especially if you just hiked Angels’ Landing in spite of the warnings for those people afraid of heights.

That night I had nightmares about falling. So much for “sleep well.”

Third day –

This is the "trail" for the Subway.
This is the “trail” for the Subway slot canyon.

The next morning we left early to hike the Subway slot canyon. Our plan was to hike it from “the bottom up” or “the easy way”. Ha. Always remember that ease and difficulty are relative. I’m certain that “the bottom up” is the easy way, I don’t ever want to sign up for “the top down” version. To get into the narrow river canyon, the “easy” way, that leads to the Subway, you must first hike down some cliffs and a steep mountainside. The trial trail does not wind back and forth in leisurely switchbacks like the Angels’ Landing hike. This trail is more like someone said, “Let’s make a trail that makes them hurry up.” After tripping and stumbling your way down the mountainside, the sandy trail levels out and follows along the riverbed, winding around and alongside boulders, crossing and recrossing the river. After a while of this, you gradually realize the trail is becoming more and more faint and primarily consists of climbing over and among boulders. By this point you don’t care about wet shoes, you just plunge through when you need to cross the river. The “trail” has a level of magnificence though, that makes you grateful to be one of the few granted permission to see it.

The "small falls" of the hike.
The “small falls” of the hike.

And then you get to what I call the Small Falls. These are red shelves of rock that the water slides down, one after another, and which are now your trail as you walk up the watery march of stairs. Then the rock monsters come again and you navigate a boulder of trails a trail of boulders. AND THEN you see it. A blanket of water flowing down a red sandstone hill contrasted with green moss and guarded by green trees.

Invitation into the Subway.
Invitation into the Subway.

Arching over all this is the giant curve of stone wall that beckons you to “come follow and see the treasure of my caverns.” Honestly, by this point I was so tired and concerned about my ability to hike back out again, that I almost resisted the beckoning. I’m so glad I didn’t.

Keep going. Don't quit now!
Keep going. Don’t quit now!

Following deeper in, you come upon a series of pools, each in a small cavern of it’s own, until you arrive at the waterfall. At least in April, the water is cold, but still worth calling up your courage and wading in. On our visit the water level was low, so the water in the pools didn’t go higher than anyone’s waist (except for one surprise spot for the people who wanted to stand next to the waterfall), so you could take in a camera and keep it dry. In wetter years, you might want to bring a waterproof camera for this part – but DO take photos.

The pools in the back of the Subway.
The pools in the back of the Subway.
At the waterfall. It's a refreshing surprise.
At the waterfall. It’s a refreshing surprise.

Hiking out was hard. We went back the way we came, and I wish to never climb another boulder again. I believe this valley was the site of ancient rock monster wars. I’m pretty sure there must be some level of Dante’s Inferno that forces people to hike through boulder-filled valleys. BUT THEN. THE MOUNTAIN. The mountain goat path you followed down looms overwhelmingly large and appears impossible to safely climb. I had to continually remind myself that, even though I was certain that it would only take one strong gust of wind to blow me over and back down the mountain to my death, now was not the time to become hysterical. I fought tears, and put one exhausted foot after another. And another. And another. Forever later, I was certain that I could go no further and that I was going to backslide and fall head over heels back down to the rock monsters. Then, I pulled my mind away from imagining my own death and thinking of ways to get vengeance on my husband for this “adventure”, and  I prayed. I knew I needed hope and divine help. The thought, “Faith is the antidote for fear,” took hold in my mind. So I prayed for something to hold in my mind and keep my mind on  faith. I asked for something short and easy to repeat to myself. What came to me was, “I will go before you and be your rearward.” I held to this thought like a lifeline. “Heavenly Father will make a safe way for me and He’s got my back. I will be okay.” And you know what? He did. And I made it to the top safe and sound.

Fourth day –

We all slept a little better that night. Utter exhaustion does that. When we woke in the morning though, I had no doubt in my body that I could not hike the Zion Narrows. I thought I could manage an easy, paved riverwalk though. Happily for me, Mei Guo was to one who voiced this feeling first and it was rapidly echoed by the rest of us. So we did the lovely riverwalk and will just have to save the Zion Narrows adventure hike for another time. Whew.


Gratitude #2 – The Astounding Beauty of Nature.

See #1 and the photos.

Gratitude #3 – Feet to Carry Me.

This week I put my feet through fifteen-and-a-half HARD miles. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was fifteen miles of pushing my limits. My feet carried me through it all and came home and kept carrying me as I took care of Miss Electric (who missed the trip for her university finals week) after she had her wisdom teeth removed the day after we got home.

Gratitude #4 – Desert Rivers.

Nothing makes you appreciate the preciousness of water than hiking alongside life-giving rivers and streams in the middle of the desert. The contrast between the two is captivating and vivid.


Gratitude #5 – Shelter When the Wind Blows.

The days in Zion National Park were beautiful and not too hot. (Thank you, Father.) At night, the temperatures dropped significantly and the wind kicked up to shake the tents with strong gusts from the canyon. Mr. Hot Stuff and I were in a sturdy Kodiak canvas tent that is super durable and holds up in heavy wind. Mei Guo and Casi were in a tent that had a “mended” pole. The weakness of this pole was shown in the middle of the night as the winds caused it to flex, rather than resist the wind and hold the tent steady. When there was no opposing force, it held the tent just fine, but when it met resistance it caved. (I think there’s a metaphor here.) We ended up tying that pole to a tree, which worked, but when we were done camping this week, that old tent, with it’s various weaknesses, went into the big trash bin at the campground. We’ll get a new tent that does its job properly, thank you.

Gratitude #6 – Getting There.

When we first arrived at the opening of the Subway slot canyon, I was so shaking and weak that I almost didn’t follow it all the way back to the pools. I was afraid of getting too cold and becoming unable to hike back out of the canyon. I’m so glad I stuck it out to the very end of the canyon. The sight was amazing and beautiful. It would have been a tragedy to go all that way and miss the last glorious bit because I was afraid. (Another metaphor?)


Gratitude #7 – And Back Again.

In spite of my fears and mutinous thoughts, I did this. We all made it back safely with memories that will outlast the scrapes, bruises, and twisted ankles that we acquired on this adventure trip. It is good to do hard things sometimes. It reminds us to rely on God, and that when things in life get tough, we can get through it with faith, prayer, and a never-quit attitude.

So here’s my wish for you all who read this:

Faith vs. Fear

When you have hard things to do, remember God’s greatness, His gifts, and His love. He will go before you and be your rearward (rear guard) – Isaiah 52:12 . He’s marked your path and He’s got your back.

Happy Adventuring!

winner-winner, veggie dinner 🙂



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