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20 July 2018 / leggypeggy

Angels Landing—a challenge I didn’t try

Angels Landing, Zion National Park

Angels Landing is at the top of that cliff. Photo by Victoria Herman

Every now and then my common sense kicks in! Recently it was helped along by a hip that was complaining bitterly (recovered now).

This all happened in Zion National Park when I decided NOT to tackle the 2.5-mile, 5-hour hike to Angels Landing. I mean, seriously, what business did I have scaling a ‘mountain’ that rises almost 1500 feet and includes more than 20 steep, treacherous switchbacks?

Angels Landing, Walk, Zion National Park

See that narrow ledge (in the shadow) that runs along the cliff? That’s the walk to Angels Landing. Photo by Victoria Herman

Angels Landing hike, Zion National Park

It’s that narrow path along the rocks again! Glad I didn’t try. Photo by Fiona Haddy

The trail, cut into solid rock in 1926, has an especially challenging last half mile. According to one website, that section of the trail is ‘strenuous and lined with numerous sharp drop offs and narrow paths.’ Luckily most of that last half mile also has well-anchored chains to cling to until you reach the top at 5790 feet (1760 m).

In addition to being physically challenging, the hike tests a person’s mental state. One website advises that ‘people who have a severe fear of heights should not attempt the final stretch but can enjoy the trail all the way to Scout Lookout.’ When you look at the pics, you’ll agree that ‘severe’ isn’t the right word. I reckon ‘any’ fear of heights would apply.

Angels Landing, Chains, Zion National Park

Would you like to drag yourself up those chains? Photo by Fiona Haddy

But many in our group were keen to make it to Angels Landing (yes, it has no apostrophe). Maybe they were tempted by the promised views. I so appreciate that they’ve been kind enough to share their pics with me, so you can get a feel for the experience.

When Victoria’s pics came through, I replied that they reminded me that I was very pleased that I hadn’t done the trek. She replied, ‘I don’t know why I attempted it. My legs were like jelly. Was pretty scary.’ So proceed with care.

As a complete aside, on another walk Poor John encountered a fellow who did Angels Landing ‘by mistake’. This guy had two new knees and was halfway up before he realised his error. So he kept going.

P.S. Many, many thanks to Victoria and Fiona for sharing their pics. Two of the three Peters have also offered to share, but they are still sorting pics and I was keen to get this posted.

P.P.S. Poor John doesn’t carry a camera, but he also decided he didn’t need to do this hike.

P.P.P.S. Fellow blogger, Michael Andrew Just, visits Zion National Park regularly. Check out his recent post on the Milky Way.

View from Angels Landing, Zion National Park

Fiona captured the view from Angels Landing. Photo by Fiona Haddy

8 July 2018 / leggypeggy

Foolhardy behaviour in dangerous places

Grand Canyon, USA

Good view, big drop

One of the things that irks me most—whether travelling or at home—is how people assume that rules don’t apply to them.

I see it almost every day.

The most infuriating offence is a person who pulls into a disabled car space and then quite ably hops out to dash into the chemist’s or post office. When Poor John’s Aunt Esther lived with us (from age 89 to 97), I’d hop out of the car and let the offender know that’s why I couldn’t park in the only disabled slot in the local carpark.

Grand Canyon, USA

Get that selfie

There are plenty of other minor offences. Such as the car in front of me that does a U-turn at the sign that says ‘No U-Turn’. Or the person who plants their dirty boots on the bus seat opposite them, and under the sign that says you shouldn’t put your feet on the seats.

Of course, those behaviours reflect thoughtlessness. Every now and then you see the behaviours that stem from pure stupidity or maybe a death wish.

There were plenty of examples of that in the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon, USA

Grand Canyon, USA

Looking down from the rim. It’s a long way down

I’ll be posting many more pics of this amazing canyon (including some from the air), but I wanted to share these images of people who have climbed fences—that are emblazoned with warnings about how dangerous the cliffs are—simply to get ‘that’ picture.

No idea if any of them fell, but I’ve read that each year two or three people die in the Grand Canyon after over-the-rim falls. In most places the drop is about 300 feet.

As an aside, two fellows (Ghiglieri and Myer) have produced a book, Over the edge: death in Grand Canyon, that has accounts of all known fatal mishaps in this famous landmark.

So what thoughtless/stupid behaviours really irk you?

P.S. Not all the pics have captions.

Grand Canyon, USA

2 July 2018 / leggypeggy

Breathtaking hoodoos of Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park

Hoodoos everywhere you look

Bryce Canyon National Park

Looking out over a bit of Bryce Canyon

Sorry to have been silent for so long. I’ve actually followed the wise advice given by those who said to enjoy the adventures and not worry about the blog until I had enough time and a better internet connection.

It’s given me the chance to savour all the sights and think about how to share them with you. So let’s start with one of the most unusual—Bryce Canyon.

Located in southwestern Utah, Bryce Canyon is actually a collection of giant natural amphitheaters running along the east side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau.

Bryce Canyon National ParkBryce Canyon National Park

Named after Ebenezer Bryce (a local settler) and designated as a national park in 1928, the canyon is a product of the weather.

Many millions of years ago, the area was filled with water. But after the water subsided, the transformation began with the limestone canyon walls (also called fins).

Over time (and still today), snow and ice settle on the fins. Then the sun comes out and melts both, and the resulting water seeps into cracks in the fins. When it re-freezes, it expands and cracks the rocks around it. Bits fall off, and this has happened again and again for millions of years. The process, called frost-wedging, is especially common in Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon National Park, UtahBryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Frost-wedging ultimately creates holes (or windows) in the fins. As the windows grow, their tops eventually collapse, leaving columns/pillars of rock. Rain further dissolves and sculpts these limestone pillars into bulbous spires called hoodoos.

Poor John reckons hoodoos look like the creations made when kids dribble wet sand onto columns on the beach. They remind me of stalagmites, the rock formations that rise from the floor of a cave because of water that drips from the ceiling.

Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Poor John thinks the hoodoos look like dribbled sand

But enough about how the hoodoos came to be. As an aside, hoodoos occur on every continent, but Bryce has the largest collection in the world.

We arrived at Bryce early in the morning, before the hordes came along and the temperatures rose.

Natural Bridge, Bryce Canyon

The Natural Bridge makes a fine picture frame

Our first stop was at the Natural Bridge, which isn’t a bridge at all but an arch. In geological terms, a bridge is created by rushing streams. Arches are formed by frost-wedging and a combination of other weather processes. This arch beautifully frames the Ponderosa forest behind it. 

My left hip was still bothering me, so for the rest of the day I wandered along the rim from Inspiration Point to Sunset Point and Sunrise Point. The walk is mostly level, but all three points are at an elevation of 8000 feet (2400 metres) or more. Some of parts of the rim rise to 9000 feet (2700 metres).

walking trail, Bryce Canyon, Utah

You can walk down, down and down

walking trail, Bryce Canyon, Utah

See walkers on the trail on the lower left of the pic

Poor John descended into the canyon as far as the Ooh Aah Point—what a great name for a lookout. Others in the group descended even farther. I felt I didn’t have enough time to go down and get back. Oops! I misremembered this—Poor John says the Ooh Aah Point is in the Grand Canyon. I might have remembered if I’d done it! 🙂

I have to say that even though my hip (which is fully recovered by now) limited some of my expeditions, I never felt like I missed out on much—except one place that I’ll cover in the another post.

P.S. I haven’t added captions to all the pics. They speak for themselves.

P.P.S. Fellow blogger, Michael Andrew Just, features many national parks on his site. Here’s a link to some pics he took in Bryce Canyon in winter.

Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Sunrise Point, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Heading up to Sunrise Point

 

11 June 2018 / leggypeggy

Zion’s popular Riverside Walk is postcard material

Temple of Sinawava, Zion National Park

The Temple of Sinawava starts the Riverside Walk

Riverside Walk, Zion National Park

Poor John is dwarfed by the sandstone walls of the Riverside Walk

One of our favourite outings in Zion National Park was the leisurely and picturesque Riverside Walk, starting at the Temple of Sinawava, a massive stone amphitheatre that unofficially marks the beginning of the canyon.

The temple and the trail that runs alongside the Virgin River have become one of the park’s most popular destinations. Some of the gorge walls rise 1000 feet.

With lush green foliage, humbling views of towering sandstone, gurgling water and wildlife, the walk is pure postcard material.

Virgin River, Zion National Park

Views along the Riverside Walk

Virgin River, Zion National Park

The beauty of the Riverside Walk

Just over a mile in distance one way, the path is paved and mostly level. We set out in the early morning and there were almost no other walkers. Then traffic picked up.

A lot of people were outfitted in wet gear (special closed shoes, chest-high waterproof pants and long walking sticks) so they could wade into the waters of the Zion Narrows that stretch beyond the Riverside Walk. Apparently late spring and summer are the best times to tackle the narrows. That’s when the water is lowest and warmest.

Of course, we didn’t have any of the necessary gear, but after seeing that everyone was dressed almost identically, I realised it was possible to rent the gear. Maybe another time. One of our group had ventured into the narrows on a previous trip and said how breathtaking the views were. I think it’s possible to hike about two more miles into the ever-narrowing canyon.

We took our time, walking to the water’s edge a couple of times and me photographing everything around me. We got to the end in time to see some people heading into the narrows. It was a clear day and almost no chance of any flash floods, so I reckon they had an amazing outing.

The Narrows, Riverside Walk, Zion National Park

Walkers head into the Zion Narrows

There was a special treat on our return walk. I’m always scanning the distance for wildlife and I spotted a deer—as it turned out it was a female mule deer. She was drinking at the river’s edge and had her bum to us. But slowly she turned and made her way across about 50 yards of grassland.

She came right up to the fence along the path beside us and then slipped through the gap. She was aiming for the delectable leaves on a tree right in front of us. Miraculously, no one else came along to disturb the experience. We moved on after about 10 minutes, and just then she made a leap up the hill. Perhaps we were the only ones to see her.

I later learned that people often see mule deers on that walk, but we felt special and rewarded anyway.

 

Riverside Walk, Zion National Park

Sandstone walls rise up to 1000 feet

3 June 2018 / leggypeggy

On the road to another USA national park

on the road from Death Valley to Zion National Parkon the road from Death Valley to Zion National Park

Life has been a little unpredictable lately. We’re still camping and most of the recent campgrounds haven’t had internet. One had no amenities at all—no electricity, no running water, no toilets—but the most gorgeous setting imaginable. More about that place soon. Another had its internet knocked out by a bush fire in the area.  Yet another simply didn’t work.

on the road from Death Valley to Zion National Park

But the scenery has been amazing every which way that we looked. So I thought that until I have a better and more stable connection, I’d share some of the incredible and diverse views we saw as we drove from Death Valley to Zion National Park.

As an aside, it took me almost an hour to get this posted. Life on the road can be challenging and rewarding. It took me about the same amount of time to take all these pics.

on the road from Death Valley to Zion National Parkon the road from Death Valley to Zion National Parkon the road from Death Valley to Zion National Park

 

 

30 May 2018 / leggypeggy

Time for a run in Death Valley

Badwater Basin, Death Valley

Poor John ventures off the end of the boardwalk at Badwater Basin

Our tour has introduced us to some of California’s extremes. After the lush green landscapes and grey granite cliffs of Yosemite National Park, we headed to Death Valley National Park. It is the largest national park in the lower 48 states, as well as the lowest, driest and hottest in all of the USA.

In fact, on the afternoon of 10 July 1913, the US Weather Bureau recorded a high temperature of 134 °F (56.7 °C) at Greenland Ranch (now appropriately named Furnace Creek) in Death Valley. This temperature stands as the highest ambient air temperature ever recorded at the surface of the Earth.

Badwater Basin, Death Valley

Don’t drink the water at Badwater Pool

Instead of Furnace Creek, we headed to a different record maker—Badwater Basin. At 282 feet below sea level, it is the second-lowest depression in the Western Hemisphere (behind Laguna del Carbón in Argentina, which sits 62 feet lower). Interestingly, Mount Whitney is only 85 miles to the west of Badwater, and rises to 14,505 feet.

We parked at Badwater for two main reasons—to let the group venture out onto the salt flats leading from the small spring-fed pool of water that’s so bad it’s undrinkable, and to let Fiona have a run.

Fiona is one of four Australians on the tour and a passionate marathon runner. She was keen to sprint 4–5 kilometres across the salt. I can’t remember how hot is was that day, but I’d have to be out of my mind to want to run even 40–50 feet on the salt flats.

Badwater Basin, Death Valley

Fiona (in turquoise shorts) finishes her 4-kilometre run at Badwater Basin.

I got a pic of her returning. She limited her run to 4 kilometres, so she had enough time to take pics and a few swigs of water. Fiona said no one was walking on the salt beyond 1 or 2 kilometres from the start, and she found the texture of the flats changed quite a bit as she ran.

Other things change the texture of the landscape. Every now and then, major rainstorms flood the valley, covering the salt with a thin sheet of standing water. Any newly formed lakes evaporate very quickly. In fact, Death Valley’s evaporation rate is so high that a 12-foot-deep lake could dry up within a single year.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley

Our group scatters across the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Joshua Tree National Park, California

The largest specimen in Joshua Tree National Park

On the way to Badwater Basin, we had the chance to stop at Joshua Tree National Park and the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, which sprawls across 14 square miles of Death Valley.

The pictures below show the drive from Yosemite to Death Valley and then beyond. I think the terrain is stunning and oh-so colourful.

California scenery

Going to Death Valley

California scenery

Going to Death Valley

California scenery

Going to Death Valley

California scenery

Leaving Death Valley

 

27 May 2018 / leggypeggy

Beautiful and varied views at Mirror Lake and Cook’s Meadow

Mirror Lake, Yosemite

Finally we reach Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake and granite cliffs, Yosemite

We loved the scenery looking north

There are two ways to get to Mirror Lake in Yosemite National Park—we took the wrong way. I’m kidding. We took the southern trail, which just happened to be longer and rougher than the paved trail that goes along the northern side of Tenaya Creek.

As it turned out, we were quite pleased to have stayed on the southern side because it is much more scenic. The path is rocky with quite a few ups and down, and runs through beautifully treed areas with a few glimpses of wildlife (click pics to enlarge). The north side is just a paved service road.

 

Our trek to Mirror Lake began at the park’s shuttle stop #17. At first it’s a single path, that soon divides to either side of the creek. We’d read that it was possible to do an entire loop, and assumed we could start from either side. We chose to avoid the crowd on the paved road, so instead of crossing the stone bridge over the creek, we veered to the right.

We expected to walk a couple of miles and then find a crossing.

Southern trail to Mirror Lake, Yosemite

The southern trail is much more scenic

Southern trail to Mirror Lake, Yosemite

All the walk is beautiful and some is even flat!

Turns out, there is no safe access from one side of Mirror Lake to the other, except via bridges at each end of the trail.

Even though we hiked for quite some time, we never found the far bridge that would have taken us to the other side. We weren’t alone because all the hikers coming towards us had gone on for a long ways and never found the bridge.

Southern trail to Mirror Lake, Yosemite

See how much prettier the rougher trail is

The website, which we didn’t read until long after the walk, warned that ‘hikers often spot what appears to be an easy way to rock-hop across Tenaya Creek, either just for fun, or as a way to shortcut the loop and rejoin the trail without doing the entire loop. While this crossing is only ankle deep at first, it quickly becomes thigh deep, and, all too often, hikers are swept into dangerous whitewater and pinned against rocks. Don’t be tempted to leave the trail, and always remember when approaching moving water to look at the conditions downstream.’

Mirror Lake, Yosemite

It might look shallow enough to wade across, but don’t be fooled

We didn’t see a shallow enough spot to even think about crossing. That’s probably because the creek runs highest in spring and summer. Funnily enough, Mirror Lake is often referred to as Mirror Meadow in late summer due to the lack of water and the influx of grasses and sandy areas. Maybe you can cross then?

Yosemite Fall from Cook's Meadow, Yosemite

Looking at Upper Yosemite Fall from Cook’s Meadow

View from Cook's Meadow, Yosemite

Another view from Cook’s Meadow

In addition to the Mirror Lake hike, we did a circuit of Cook’s Meadow. It’s almost in the middle of Yosemite Valley and gives wonderful views of the surrounding granite cliffs, including the Half Dome. The meadow is named after John Cook, a New York businessman, who ran a hotel in the valley in the 1880s. His livestock used to graze where we walked. I hope they appreciated the views. 

P.S. Speaking of cooks, I hope you’ll take time to check out my cooking blog.

Cook's Meadow and Half Dome, Yosemite

A cow’s eye view of Half Dome (on the right) from Cook’s Meadow