Day 14 of our 21 day adventure

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I am so excited right now! It’s 5:30 a.m. and I am preparing lunches for our early morning hike up to Emerald Pools. We will also be hiking the trails of Kayenta and Temple of Sinawava. The day looks like it will be beautiful. The forecast is calling for a high of 84° and will be a much needed break from the average 110° weather that we had been experiencing in Las Vegas.

IMG_1234The hotel that we’re staying in is only .5 mile away from the entrance to Mt. Zion National Park, which makes it easy since we don’t have to drive anywhere and can just walk to the entrance of the park. After gathering up all of our gear for the day, we head out for the quick walk over to the entrance and to catch the shuttle that will take us to our first hiking location.

IMG_1248As we walk along, I notice a statue of a fawn right outside a local hotel and find it curious that it looks so lifelike. It doesn’t take us long to realize that it is indeed a live fawn who has apparently misplaced her mother. I am amazed that we are this close to her and yet she doesn’t seem alarmed in the slightest. Eventually the fawn gets tired of us looking at her and moves along into the brush from which she came.

IMG_1262We have now entered the park and the shuttle has just arrived. It’s 6:30 a.m. and we are only about 30 minutes from the hiking trail that will lead us up to Emerald Pools. I have seen pictures of this place and I’m hopeful that it won’t be very crowded since we are getting a fairly early start. After boarding the shuttle, I notice that it is really crowded and I am surprised that so many people are up at this time of day.

IMG_1293As we ride along in the shuttle, we see several small animals along the way. What I am most impressed by, are the deer that are grazing right next to the road as we pass by. We are literally a few feet away from them as we go by and the deer don’t even seem to notice us. It’s amazing to me that animals would act this way and I wonder how much more we will see of this.

IMG_1274As the shuttle makes its way through several stops, we finally reach our destination. It’s still a bit chilly out, but I have a feeling that I will warm up as soon as we start hiking through the mountains. The hiking trail to Emerald Pools is beautiful and as we make our way up to the top, the valley below offers breathtaking views. There are several areas that have naturally formed steps and we also come across a small waterfall the covers a small area on one of the trials.

IMG_1303Winding our way back further into the landscape we cross a brook and then head higher up into the mountains where we finally reach Emerald Pools. It’s beautiful here and there are quite a few people exploring the pools by way of the rocks that surround this alcove of emerald colored waters. The rocks cast shadows upon the water and the reflection is a magnificent sight. The beauty that lies within these rock walls is incredible and takes my breath away.

IMG_1323We stay for quite a while, immersing ourselves in the serenity and peacefulness of this place. Even with other people nearby, it feels as if we are the only ones here. Everyone seems to be respecting the tranquility of this lovely place as if it were a sacred shine that should not be disturbed.

IMG_1295The next trail we take is called Kayenta and it’s a short trail that leads us back to shuttle stop where we began earlier in the day. Hiking back down the mountain is a little bit trickier, as it has become more crowded now and we are taking a different path that is narrower and offers little protection from the cliffs edge. After a taking a short break to eat our lunch in the picnic area, we gather all of our gear and climb back onto the shuttle to our final destination which is a trail called, Temple of Sinawava.

IMG_1363The trail is beautiful, but very crowded. There are chipmunks and squirrels scurrying between our feet as we walk along the pathway. There are so many times that I have had to stop myself from nearly stepping on one because there are so many running about. The trail is beautiful, with the Virgin River running along one-side and a sheer rock face on the other. Water is trickling down from the rocks in various places and small ferns and moss are growing in abundance.

IMG_1434It’s strange to me to see this many types of different plants growing all together in the same habitat. I am amazed that all of these different plant species can grow here. I have never seen moss and ferns growing within a few feet of cacti and pine trees, and yet here they are. It reminds me of what the Garden of Eden might have been like. Especially because the animals here are completely tame and seem to love being around people.

IMG_1433Toward the end of the trail we come to what is called the “Narrows” which is a place where many people hike along the river for miles and miles. It seems like a beautiful place to go, but unfortunately we aren’t prepared to be hiking through water and so we immediately make a plan to come back here and hike another day when we have the proper gear to do so.

IMG_1408After such a long day of hiking, we all agree to head back to town. The shuttle takes about 45 minutes and when we finally arrive back at entrance to the park, walking back to the hotel seems like a long ways away. After stopping back at the hotel to freshen up, we all agree that we still need to plan something for dinner. Not wanting to spend a fortune on food, we all agree to walk down to the local supermarket to buy something to make. We visit a few local shops along the way and enjoy the local art and rock shops.

IMG_1382We finally make our way back and eat dinner in our room. It has been a great first day at Mt. Zion National Park and we are all eagerly awaiting tomorrows hike up to Angels Landing. Excited for the challenge, but knowing full well that we will need plenty of rest beforehand; we all turn-in early. It has been a wonderful, exhausting day and one that I will never forget.

Day 10 of our 21 day adventure

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It’s 6:00 a.m. and stifling in our room! After checking the thermostat, I realize why it feels so hot in here; it’s 80°! I quickly call maintenance and a man shows up within a few minutes to check everything out. It turns out that our room needs a new condenser unit and until then, we are without AC. Lovely… I think to myself. The good thing is, we aren’t going to be in our room very long today and the maintenance guy promises that by the time we get back, everything will be fixed.

IMG_0950We hurriedly get ready so that maintenance can come and do their thing. We escape to the bagel shop to pick up a few sandwiches to take with us for lunch. After ensuring that we have plenty of water and supplies for the day ahead, we make a beeline for Red Rock Canyon where we will be hiking for the majority of the day.

IMG_0946I am surprised to see that the temperature has dropped about 20 degrees and I notice storms on the horizon that seem to evaporate as quickly as they appear. After driving for about 30 minutes, we are finally at our destination. The rock formations are filled with color and radiant in their beauty. As soon as we find the first look-out site, we stop and begin to explore. The first area is steep and there isn’t much of a trail. The valley below us is full of large boulders and there are quite a few people climbing down into the deep gorge. Brian and I begin to climb down the rocky path over-looking a large ravine. We’ve only been here 10 minutes, and already the rain has begun. We find a shallow cave to crouch under and wait for the rain to quit. It isn’t long before it’s bright and sunny again.

IMG_0896I am excited to see what’s next and we travel further up the road. After finding a quiet picnic area and finding a place to park, we take a look around. We spot some potential trails, but nothing that looks like they are very well traveled. After closer inspection, I spot what looks like a trail leading back through some brush and rocky bluffs. The trail is hard to follow and at one point the trail seems to come to an abrupt end. I scoot myself up over a large boulder to get a better look and notice a small trail continues just beyond the thick brush and boulders that are blocking our way. Up over the boulder we go; tree branches dangle down all around us and it’s a tight squeeze through the low lying limbs. Eventually we manage to find the narrow trail and follow it until we reach a narrow enclave that now really does end abruptly.

IMG_0974I notice how beautiful the walls of the rocks are here and looking up I can barely see the sky because of the narrow rock walls that surround us. I notice some pegs that are hammered deep into the stone and realize that we are standing in the middle of what must be a very well-known climbing spot. There are climbing pegs everywhere. I wonder how anyone can scale these walls. The way the walls curve inward, would make it hard for anyone to get a foothold. The stone is cut so smooth, that without the pegs, I am sure nobody would be able to climb these walls. After spending a few minutes soaking up the scenery, we decide to head back to the picnic area to eat our lunch. It’s starting to sprinkle again and the rain feels refreshing.

IMG_0981After eating, we find our way back to the car and stop several more times to get out and take pictures. Eventually we spot a place that looks like a great hiking spot and opt for the 2.5 mile hike. The trail is narrow and very steep; weaving its way up and down through the valley. Before long, we realize that we have been hiking for quite a while. The trail has been forking off into different directions and we are convinced that we have lost our way. The only thing we can do is to find another trail to take us back. Unfortunately every way we turn, just seems to take us deeper into the valley and away from our car. With no other ideas and unsure of which trail we originally took to get us this far, we decide to go off the trail and walk back in the same direction in which we came. It’s slow going because the sand is soft and heavy. With every step we take, we sink further into the ground. Fortunately, we can see the road from where we’re at and so we are able to find our way back using the road as our guide. At last we return to the car, beaten down from the sun and tired from walking through the heavy sand.

IMG_1004I surprise even myself when I suggest that we stop at one more look-out. We stop at a place that overlooks the entire valley of Red Rock Canyon. The area is very open and treeless, with just a few small bushes scattered about. I decide to climb down from the look-out area to see what else can be found. All of a sudden, I notice several rocks stacked up in various places. I realize quickly that we are in what appears to be a memorial area. There are several rocks with names carved into them, with smaller rocks stacked on top. I decide to participate and gather up some stones to create my own rock sculpture. I feel sad for the people whose memories cover this place. I even wonder to myself if there are actually people buried here. The way the rocks are set up everywhere, it looks like there very well could be people buried beneath them. It’s an eerie thought. After contemplating such things, we are now heading back to the resort.

IMG_0988Back in our room, I notice that the temperature is now even higher than it was before we left. The maintenance guy assured me that everything would be taken care of, but obviously something is still wrong. I inquire at the front desk and learn that the problem was never reported by maintenance and so nobody had done anything to remedy the situation. The maintenance guys are great and fix the problem right away. Now everything is working again and we are happy to have a break from the warm Nevada air. The staff is very kind to us and surprises us with two boxes of chocolates for being such good sports about the whole thing.

IMG_0991We are finishing up the night with a quick trip to Red Rock Casino. It’s a short distance from where were at and the place seems less crowded than Las Vegas Boulevard. Still… we’ve been here an hour now and our luck isn’t panning out. It’s time to head back to the resort and call it a night. It was a great day, but an exhausting one too and I am thankful to God for air-conditioning right now!

Day 2 of our 21 day adventure

IMG_0174 copy for WPIt’s 6:00 a.m. and we’re headed for the Badlands in South Dakota. There isn’t much to see yet and I’m getting anxious for the possibilities of the day. After driving for a short while though, we spot a rest stop and decide to stop and stretch our legs. It doesn’t take us long to realize that we have found a beautiful place that overlooks the Missouri River. I start to get excited because this is our first panoramic view that we have come across and I excitedly tell Brian to go get his camera. There are a few kids riding skateboards up and down the cement pathways and a European family is posing for a picture under the flags that are swaying gently in the cool morning breeze. Everyone around us seems to be just as excited as we are and we walk out to the lookout point to take some pictures. Of course after about 10 minutes, I realize that we have so much more to see and so I know that we must move on. I linger for just a moment taking in this picturesque place and then resign myself to the fact that we still have hours of driving ahead of us.

IMG_0195 copy for WPAfter about another hour of driving, the scenery starts to change. I’m now viewing some small grey rock formations that seem to be sprouting up sporadically, growing in abundance the farther we go. Brian and I decide to pull over at a scenic viewpoint to get a better look. We head to the top of a small hill and smiles grace our faces as we are mesmerized by what we are seeing. South of the hilltop is a vast area of rock formations that seem to go on for as far as the eye can see. IMG_0192 copy for WPThere are cattle grazing in front of us at the bottom of the hill, and looking to the north is a tree that is standing all alone on the open prairie. The humidity is starting to rise and the landscape seems hazy in the far distance. Brian starts to take a few pictures and becomes oblivious to the fact that he is being eaten alive by the insects that live here. I yell over at Brian to look at his legs, which are completely covered in black biting insects. He begins to quickly brush them off and leaves behind trails of blood running up and down his legs in the process. We both look at each and know that it’s indeed time to go. Another poor man rushes past us, apparently eager for the view. I feel awful because I don’t warn him about the pests that are lurking up ahead. We finally reach the car and are relieved for the Cortisone spray that we brought with us.

Photo Credit:  www.tripadvisor.com
Photo Credit: http://www.tripadvisor.com

Heading out once more, we see the exit that we need to take for the Badlands. After turning off, we notice a sign that says, “Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, .5 miles.” We decide to take a quick look since it’s on our way. As we enter the building, we are flooded with videos, photographs, and detailed descriptions of this historic place. I quickly learn that the purpose of this site, is to tell the story of Minuteman Missiles, nuclear deterrence, and the Cold War. We walk around the crowded site taking in as much as possible, knowing that we need to head out soon in order to reach our ultimate destination. As we leave, I am feeling excited that we have already seen so much today and yet we haven’t even seen the best part yet!

Down the road a little way we see a gas station and know that we should fill up our tank, since it looks like this could be the last gas station for a while. I look around and find some postcards that appeal to me, when all of a sudden a man comes up to me and asks me if I have any bug repellent. I tell him that I do and he starts to point out a young Asian woman who is in need of some. Apparently the store is completely out of bug repellent and I notice that she has numerous bug bites all over her legs. I run up to her and tell her that I can help. She quickly pays for her things and I motion her to follow me over to my car. I feel funny, like I’m luring her out of the store. She barely speaks English and I feel like I am teaching her to do something that she shouldn’t be doing. Trusting a complete stranger that wants to take you over to their car is never a good idea. But I know that she needs the bug spray and I can’t help myself. I must help her if it’s the last thing that I do! Yes, secretly I am Superwoman, and I have come to save the day with my super bug spray! I show her the bug spray and she lets me spray her down with it. She wants to pay me, but of course I refuse. After all, it’s only bug spray. She is all smiles and proceeds to tell me that she has just come here from another country and is working at the Badlands for the summer. We try to converse as much as possible, but her English is lacking and I do my best to answer her questions. I find myself motioning with my hands to explain half of what I am saying. She is so sweet and I instantly feel a connection with her. If there wasn’t so much of a language barrier, I am positive we would exchange phone numbers and become good friends. I finally say goodbye and wish her well. A part of me feels afraid for her, like I am leaving a small child to fend for herself. The feeling nags at me as we head out once more. I wish I could have done more for her. My motherly instinct tells me that she is all alone in a strange place and should have someone around that she can trust. I try to put the nagging feeling aside and continue on. I know that I have to trust God to take care of this young woman and I say a silent prayer that the Lord will keep her safe.

To be continued…