“Just follow the
blood trails, I mean ink trails, and you’ll find your poet.” ~M
Photo credit: pixabay.com
Photo credit: pixabay.com
Today is finally here. The day I have been looking forward to for months now! We will be hiking up to Angels Landing, but that isn’t the best part; we will also be renewing our vows and I am so excited that I just want to scream! The problem is, it’s 5:00 a.m. and so screaming isn’t allowed at the moment. I must be civilized and act like an adult, like everyone else. Who am I kidding…? I’m surrounded by three boys at the moment, so I’m probably the most mature person around right now.
This morning is much the same as yesterday. I am preparing lunches and packing everything that we will need for the day. We are leaving a little bit earlier today so that we don’t face as many crowds as we did yesterday. As we approach the shuttle, I notice that there are quite a few people here. Most seem to be prepared for climbing, as they are loaded down with ropes and all kinds of other gear that I suppose one might need for that sort of thing.
We arrive at the drop off point for the West Rim trail that will lead us up through Walter’s Wiggle’s; these 21 switchbacks look like a beast to climb. I am ready though and excited to see if I can make it up the 1488 feet that we will need to climb. The hike is 5 miles round trip and the hiking guide shows that it should take us about 5 hours to complete the hike. I am nervous about my 6 yr. old nephew coming with us. This is a strenuous hike and it isn’t recommended for children.
As we make our way up the steep sandstone incline, I start to wonder if I am crazy for attempting this. I have been a stay-at-home mom for several years now and so just walking around the block often wears me out. But I remind myself of our hike up at Mt. Charleston and yesterday’s hike was no cake walk either. It isn’t long before my nephew Levi starts to get tired and my brother David tells me that he may have to turn back if Levi cannot continue on.
Brian and I continue on without Levi and David, hoping that they will catch up to us after they rest for a while. I know that if I stop now, that I may never make it the rest of the way myself. There aren’t too many people on the way up. It’s still really early in the day and I am happy that we decided to leave so early. To my surprise, my brother and Levi catch up to us within a few minutes and I am excited to see them.
After finally making it through all of the switchbacks, we are now at Scout Lookout, which is the saddle that lies between the West Rim trail and Angels Landing. I am thankful that they have bathrooms all the way up here. I would hate to be the one that has to climb up here every day to replace the toilet paper though! Walking over to the beginning of Angels Landing trail, I begin to feel a little apprehensive. This is not for the faint of heart. I can tell by the posted sign that talks about how many people have died falling to their deaths because of the sheer cliffs.
Taking a deep breath, Brian and I proceed to hike the last .5 mile which is what will take us to the final lookout for Angels Landing. There are anchored support chains along the trail to help people climb the steep sandstone ridge. I am able to barely pull myself up the first few chains until I am resting on a large boulder that overlooks the entire park. Great White Throne Mountain is to my left and we are sitting at an elevation of 5,785 ft. The views are breathtaking and horrifying at the same time.
I turn around quickly when I catch something out of the corner of my eye. It turns out that Brian’s lens cap has fallen down from where he is sitting. He is higher up on the boulder than I am and as he reaches for his lens cap, he tears the pocket from the back of his shorts and his wallet begins to fall out too. This is not the place to be trying to catch things that are falling and I am beginning to become very nervous about going any further.
With nothing to hold onto, I start sliding back to one of the anchored support chains. It was hard enough getting up to this point and getting down seems a lot harder. I can’t quite reach the support chain and in front of me is a sheer drop-off into the valley below. If know the only way down is to sort of take a leap of faith from where I am and hope and pray that I can boost myself enough to grab hold of the chain.
It’s getting more crowded by the minute and there is no way to go around the other people that are coming up the trail from the other side. I am forced to hold my breath and reach out as far as I can to grab the anchored support. After what seems like forever, I finally grasp the support and hoist myself down onto the safety of Scouts Lookout below. I have never been so terrified in all my life and yet I am still glad that I am here, living this adventure with the man I love.
David and Levi are waiting for us on Scouts Landing and David decides to see how far he can make it on the Angels Landing Trail. As we wait with Levi, Brian and I begin to set up the camera so that we can film our wedding vows here at the entrance to Angels Landing. Sitting down next to Levi, I am surprised when a chipmunk decides to climb up my back. The squirrels and chipmunks are everywhere, always looking for food.
We haven’t waited very long before my brother returns. He wasn’t able to make it all the way to the end either because there are too many people crowding the paths and making it impossible to reach the end. It’s disappointing, but I think we all are just glad to have made the attempt and we proceed with setting up everything so that we can renew our wedding vows.
David helps steady the camera on the tripod and we take out the vows that we have written to each other and begin the short ceremony. Brian goes first and because of the noisy groups of people in the background, I can hardly hear what he is saying. Once he is done saying his vows, a bunch of people begin to clap. I am surprised that people have actually stopped and are watching our little ceremony. Feeling flustered by the onlookers, I begin to read the vows that I have written to Brian.
We have had a very hard year. The hardest year of our marriage so far. These vows mean more to us than anyone else will ever know or understand. Because of the problems that we have recently faced in our marriage and in our family, we knew that we needed a fresh start. To be able to start over and begin anew has meant the world to me.
When I first met Brian and when we were married 21 years ago, Brian wasn’t a believer and I wasn’t sure if he ever would be. It didn’t matter to me though, I loved him and that’s all I knew at that time. I didn’t think that his beliefs would ever be an issue in our marriage and honestly, I didn’t really care one way or another at that point. I just wanted to be with someone who cared about me and loved me, and who would be by my side for the rest of my life.
Years later, I would come to realize what this decision would cost me and my family more than I would ever know. I finally understood what being unequally yoked meant and certainly paid the price because of it. Do I regret my decision? No, of course not… but life would have been a whole lot simpler had we spoken about our religious views before we were married and if we had worked on that first.
God has been gracious to us though and it has been 9 years now since Brian became a Christian. It has made all the difference in our marriage and even though things will never be perfect, we can now get through the hard times a little bit easier because we have our heavenly father who ties us together even in the worst of times.
To be continued…
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.
The 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.
As 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.
We 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.
As 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.
As 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.
Winding 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.
We 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.
The 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.
The 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.
It’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.
Toward 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.
After 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.
We 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.
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.
We 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.
I 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.
I 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.
I 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.
After 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.
I 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.
Back 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.
We 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!
The alarm goes off, it’s 4:00 a.m. I am eager to start another day and so is Brian. After getting ready and packing the car, we head to the front desk to check-out. The staff is friendly here at the Comfort Inn and they offer to serve us breakfast early. It’s only 5:00 a.m. and my stomach doesn’t quite feel like it’s ready for food yet. But how can I really pass up a free meal? We sit quietly in the dining room; eating and catching a quick news update from the small television over in the far corner.
It’s 5:15 a.m. now, and our final destination of the day is Idaho Falls. The first thing we do is stop for gas and pray for safe travels as we begin our twelve-hour journey. Before long, we pass through Cody, WY. This is the city that I had originally wanted to stay in and I notice the Buffalo Bill Museum is located up ahead. I consider stopping at the museum, but I know that we already have so much planned for today. I shake the idea out of my mind and continue on. As we near Big Horn National Forest, we come across the city of Sheridan. The view of the mountains from here is unbelievable and I wonder what living here would be like. Just as we reach the base of the mountain, we find ourselves in a small town called Dayton. I begin to file away these places in the back of my mind as potential retirement communities for when we are eventually old and grey.
As we head up the mountain pass, the towns below become mere specks off in the far distance. It feels like we are the only people who exist on the earth right now. The view is breathtaking from up here and we stop several times to get out and take pictures. I am mesmerized by the tranquility and the views of the valley below. I don’t understand why the mountain is so void of people and I wonder if it’s like this all the time. We wind our way along the tree-lined mountain pass. The pine forest completely covers the landscape for as far as the eye can see. I have never seen so many perfect looking trees in one place before; the colors are bright and vivid, and each one is like a delicate piece of artwork created by a master artist.
As we near a bend in the road, we start to see the beginning of a lake coming into view. We notice signs for a picnic area and decide to pull over and take a look around. The climb up to the lake area is easily accessible, and when we reach the top, we are thrilled to find that we have the entire lake to ourselves. The lake is completely still and eerily quiet, except for an occasional fish releasing ringlets on the surface of the water. The tranquility of this place reminds me of what I imagine heaven will be like. A soft breeze blows gently across the water and gives me goosebumps. I sense the presence of God all around us; it’s surreal and indescribable the way that this place is making me feel right now. I am tempted to ask Brian if we should renew our vows here. We have been planning to renew our vows somewhere along the way, and it seems like there could be no better place on earth. Something holds me back though and I remain silent, lingering in deep thought. The enchantment is soon broken though, and I remember that we still have so many more places on our agenda. Grudgingly, we walk back to the car and say goodbye to one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth. We vow to come back someday, perhaps eventually to live out the rest of our days.
After driving a little farther down the road, we are now at a place called “Shell Falls.” I can hear the roar of the falls up ahead and run to get a better look. I am now standing in front of the 120 ft. high falls. The water is hitting the granite rocks in the bottom with such force, that the water is spraying back up into the air, forming rainbows in the streaming sun-rays. I didn’t think that anything could compare to the beauty of what we had just seen by the lake, but now I am not so sure. We look around and notice some short hiking trials and decide to explore even more. After taking a million photographs, we head back to the car to continue on our journey. About an hour has passed and we decide to stop at a visitor center. It feels good to stretch our legs after our long journey and we walk up to a large dam that overlooks a beautiful lake. After a short tour through the visitor center, we are on our way once more. Shortly after, we drive past a strange looking house, overlooking the road from the top of a hill. The house looks abandoned and Brian decides to take some pictures. The house leaves us wondering about the history behind it.
After several hours of driving, we are finally nearing Yellowstone National Park. A restaurant up ahead seems inviting and we stop for lunch. After relaxing in the lodge style atmosphere and then perusing the gift shop after a hearty meal, we finally make it to the entrance of Yellowstone National Park. I am excited because I have been here before, and I begin to reminisce about vacationing here with the girls when they were little. As soon as we head through the gates though, I realize that I am not seeing what I remember. Apparently Mother Nature has played a cruel trick on us. Wildfires have completely ruined the spectacular views that once graced this magnificent place. I am shaken by the devastation that is rapidly unfolding all around us. The farther we drive, the worse it gets, and I wonder if the park will ever be able to recover the beauty that was once here. After reveling in such beauty and splendor earlier today and comparing it to what I am seeing now, I am in disbelief and wishing that we hadn’t come here. I am suddenly reminded of a graveyard and sadness begins to overtake me. We keep hoping that around the next bend, we will see some sign of beauty that hasn’t been lost, but unfortunately, that isn’t what we find. After driving around for a couple of hours, searching for a part of the forest that isn’t scorched, we find a hiking trail near the lake and decide to stop and explore on foot. Unfortunately, we are greeted with a warning sign that bears are in the area and so the trail has been closed. After getting back in the car, we decide to drive a little bit further to see if there is anywhere else we might want to explore. After a little while longer, it becomes apparent that the devastation is never-ending and we decide to head out toward the Grand Tetons.
As we continue on, the Grand Tetons come into view and I am relieved that these mountains are still as beautiful as I remember. Along the way, we find a stopping point near a lake and hike up above a small beach to get a better view. The mountains look hazy in the background, because of the humidity. People are laughing and having a good time; some are standing over by a small dam, taking pictures and playing in the water. Then there are a few people down below on the beach, playing in the sand. We have found our own little spot, up and out of the way, but I still find myself wishing that we were alone again, like we were this morning at the lake. It has been such a long day and the hours of driving are starting to wear on us.
We head out for the last time today; making our way to Idaho Falls where we will stay for the night. After getting a bit turned around, we finally find our way to the hotel and are pleasantly surprised to find that they are offering us a free dinner. We only have about an hour before dinner ends, so we quickly unpack the car and head down to the dining room for dinner. Soup and salad are what is being offered and I am glad that I am not very hungry, since the food on the buffet is almost gone. After such a long day, we talk about the things we have seen so far and the places we’ve been. We’ve had enough memories already to last us a lifetime.