25th May- Flew to the Sincity for the second time, again because of cheap airfares. This time again we ignored the phenomenon called Vegas, the glitz and glamour of the strip, the enticement of the casinos, the world famous shows and infectious enthusiasm of the people. We yawned at it all and slept in our hotel room that we booked just for one purpose- to sleep. We got one cheap-ass motel (save where you can) right on the strip with MGM Grand’s grotesque shiny green expensive exterior mocking its poorer neighbor. From this motel we could see most of the casinos crying out for attention, trying to outdo one another in their pompous exhibition of wealth. I shuddered, jumped into bed and slept soundly in the middle of a grand party.
26th May- Woke up early and the four of us headed eastbound in our rented Chevy Impala to
Our plan was to hike from Lava point to Grotto on the west rim trail. On the first day, we were to hike 10 miles along the west Rim trail and reach campsite # 1.
Second day, without moving base from campsite # 1, enjoy the vistas provided around this place.
Third day, head back to civilization to Grotto Point. Take a detour to Angel’s Landing.
We also saw a stuffed mountain lion inside a glass case with warnings on how to deal with one of you saw it in the forest. It was the size of a mid-size dog that looked like a domestic cat. Not one bit scary. Of course the stuffer (guy who stuffs animals) got a little carried away with the canines to make it look formidable. Snigger. We come from the land of tigers and real lions!
Lot of flash flood warnings, lightning warnings and pointers on LNT (Leave no Trace) were scattered around. Beautiful pictures of
Sorry, she said plainly. We would have to abandon this plan or start from another point (Wildcat Canyon Trailhead) south of Lava Point which would eventually meet up with West Rim Trail. The downside being, we would have to add 5 more miles to our trek on that day. Our Campsite being 10 miles from Lava Point was an ambitious plan to start with. Being in dessert country (fragile environment), we are not allowed to camp anywhere we want. We have to reach a designated campsite (general clearing in the wild for camping use- no amenities). No one would know, but it is backcountry etiquette that we follow fiercely or be admonished by Pi. Only 8 permits are given, which means only 8 small groups can camp in the whole backcountry area and the demand is so high that we booked our campsite early February, the day the online booking was activated by the park authorities.
We took the option. We weren’t ready to turn back for a measly 5 miles. 15 miles before sunset with 40 odd pounds in the back. Better start early, says hubby. Better alert the rescue workers, say I.
The ranger threw more disappointing news as a bonus. The Narrows was flooded and there is no way anyone should take that route unless destination is unknown. We were completely shattered. The whole premise of this trip was to hike the world-famous (not heard of it? Ok, now you have)
That day we did some day hikes (hikes for which are relatively shorter 2-4 miles and the need for a backpack doesn’t arise) around the park and saw some great views from Overlook point, touched the waterfall at Emerald Pools and walked along the river with loads of people on the River Boardwalk that led to the narrows, marveling at the rocks and colors. Even as we did this and enjoyed the place, our excitement was reserved for backpacking (the next day) where we knew the views would only get better.
27th May- Woke up like a lark and showered (this shower would have to last us 3 days). Nai and Poo (another couple that joined us from Philly) were going to stay back in the hotel and enjoy the park doing day hikes (Zion has many wonderful day hikes) while the four of us (Dee, Ady, Pi and I) were adjusting the straps of our heavy backpacks and wondering why they weren’t getting any lighter. Poo and Nai were really sweet to drive us and drop us off at the trailhead where we would resume our journey by foot.
We were literally in the middle of nowhere, just had to follow the maps and figure out our way upto the campsite. The only sign we would see is after 8 hours at the campsite saying Campsite#1. For the first 5 miles we didn’t have any great views, just one of the valley, which seemed breathtaking at that point, but on retrospect the views just got better. We had a stream crossing in the middle where we had to remove our shoes and waddle through knee-deep water making sure the currents didn’t carry us away. It was the most exciting thing we did all morning apart from the fact that I drank a Snickers bar that got completely melted. We were getting stung by flies. The houseflies just don’t know how to bite, whereas the wild ones have a 7 course meal just sitting on your bare hands. The mosquitoes are relatively tame in Zion.
By noon we reached the point where we would have had to start if there was no snow at Lava Point. For all that extra work we did, the
More walking, snake sighting, potato hollow-very creepy place with charred trees in ghostly white), lovely views at every turn, might have crossed seven hills, still no trace of our campsite, check contour map to see how much more elevation we would need to gain, seems like quite a lot, didn’t waste time fretting but just enjoying our time, water running out, saw a stream, filled water bottles up, continued hiking upwards. (I was out of breath at this point and hence my sentences have come out in gasps.)
I had to go pee and found a spot away from the trail behind a tree. A captive mosquito escaped from my shorts and as I was in the midst of my job, a snake was happily slithering near my legs. I was in a precarious position and couldn’t move, let alone run. Usually people pee in fright… what do you do when you are already at it?!
Next I related my heroic deeds to my fellow hikers and they seemed vaguely impressed. We continued onward without a word. All of us were too tired to say a thing of importance to anyone. It was nearing 4 pm. We reached another clearing with charred trees, this time black. This happened due to an illegal campfire someone had started was back in the 90s and it cost the tax payers $50,000. The vegetation was just beginning to show signs of emerging. It must have been a lush forest at one point with more snakes springing out of bushes. There was no view at this point, only the think jungle with fallen trees and sparkling springs. We saw lightning and then heard thunder. We counted the gap between the two and decided it was safe for us to proceed. The dark clouds encompassed the area and it soon became very gloomy. I took out my raingear and wore them and covered my backpack with a rain cover. In case of severe thunderstorms we are supposed to stay away from conductors of electricity like metal or water sources, try to find a thicket or trees and camp there. If we have no choice but are stuck on top of a mountain or a mesa (like in our case) and there is a huge clearing, we were to sit on an insulating pad and scrunch ourselves into a ball apart from each other to avoid being struck by lightening. Luckily for us, the thunderstorm was just passing and left us in no time. It hardly even rained.
We crossed another tiny stream with unsubstantial water and climbed uphill for half a mile when we hit a sign that said ‘Campsite # 1. Yipppee! We reached in daylight and just looked around. Gasp! This is the best view we’ve had so far and we get to camp right in front of it. Holy cow! Just look at that valley to the east. So majestic…(this is where I become speechless for a little while)
I love it. I love it. I love it! Yooohooo!… It echoed.
We set our tent and had dinner. Dee and I went down to that insignificant stream (our only source of water) and filtered enough water to last us for the night. We were too tired and slept early (by 9 pm) as the sun went down behind us. Sleep didn’t come easily as I was so worn out. In spite of taking a painkiller, I probably also needed a pill that would make me deaf. Pi’s snores were competing with the winds howling around the canyon walls and made for interesting background music for my future dreams. Thank God for his snores, I actually felt slightly safer… don’t ask how. Suddenly in the middle of the night, just bored of staring at the tent ceiling I decided to sit up and stretch. I turned on my headlights (a lamp fixed literally on the head and not to be confused with anything else) to see Ady and
We decided to play some cards and made a lot of noise. Ours must be the only lit up tent in
Getting filtered water uphill was an ordeal and we felt like village belles that had shorts instead of saris and Platypus bottles instead of earthen pots. That day all we did was laze around playing cards, exploring the neighborhood to find exciting views. We even went to the edge of the cliff and sat there gulping the view to our heart’s content. There were many peaks and plateaus and mesas that I’m glad had no name or a sign pointing out which was which. We felt like we discovered this place and felt that we had the rights to name them all- Sumountain, Deepeak and such. I am scared of heights and would not budge from my position around 6 feet from the edge where as the other two were like dare devils peering down the cliff while standing and sitting down dangling their legs into the vacuum that filled up a space immeasurable. They were also overdoing it as I was petrified. I yelled and screamed at them to stop showing off and that’s when they realized I was not kidding about my fear. I had to crawl back to our campsite for the fear of skidding to the bottom of the canyon. My fear actually comes from lack of railings, safety belts and the fact that we are liable for everything we do here.
I had a favorite place near the stream where I would just sit for hours together all by myself and reminisce. I loved every bit of the time spent with the trees and the little stream gurgling away breaking the comfortable silence I shared with myself. Rarely do I get this kind of solitude and laid-back life back in the city. I was going to make the most of it, fiercely protect it from infringement. Just then I saw a paw print, the size of a kid’s palm on the moist ground near me. A freaking Mountain Lion! Mummmieeeeee! I sprang up and ran to my companions almost tripping on the grass. I prefer crowds now.
In the afternoon after lunch, we were lying outside the tent and our discussion went religious. Pi was wondering how Lord Rama decided to create such a beautiful place as
While we were loitering around, we saw a man. He screamed in utter amazement, ‘Woah! Human Beings!’ Even we jumped out of our skins having seen no one for ages and getting too comfortable with the fact that we were the only homo sapiens around, Dee was about to perform a desert dance for my camera. The guy was looking for water source and had walked 2 miles from his campground (Site # 3). We gave him general directions of our stream and he walked away panting and puffing doused with sweat. We thought he had completely run out of water and offered some of ours lest he collapse. He politely refused and said he had a reserve knowing very well how precious this commodity is even to us in a desert.
We reached our camp before sunset, played a round of cards, cooked dinner, had some dehydrated ice-cream (strangely, it was yummy) and went off to sleep.
29th May- Saw the sunrise again, this time with
On the way to our base, we were taking a small detour and checking out the 360 degree view from a cliff called Angel’s Landing which is a trademark of
We reached the base of Angel’s landing (Scout’s Lookout), left our heavy backpacks in the care of no one (quite sure that not one sane person would run away with a fifty pound backpack containing stinking clothes and garbage for the most part and of course fart filled sleeping bags) and started the ascent. Here we saw other people than just the four of us. It’s a popular day hike for people with nerves made of steel.
Let me explain to you that this was no easy feat. It's much more mental than physical. It’s a mile climb almost vertical for the most part. So you climb or scramble on all fours and in some precarious dangerous places, the park authorities have provided chains. After the second landing you will start climbing on the spine of the mountain which is only 3 feet wide and has drop offs on either side 200 ft below. Your foot with is mostly on the edge of the cliff, as it had nowhere else to go if you want to stay alive. A wrong step (say 3 inches left or right) could have you reaching the bottom way before your party. And I guess I have also mentioned about my fear of heights.
So we start off on a wrong foot (not literally, thank God!) right behind this hyperventilating lady who seems to be worse off that even me. ‘Oh My God..Oh My God..Oh My God! This is soo scary. My head is going in circles. Heeeelp, I can’t move!’
What?! Please God, don’t let her fall on me now.
Her husband somehow managed to get her to the second landing where she almost collapsed and refused to budge. I felt slightly better about my own confidence seeing her. I even offered her some kind encouraging words to get her up there as my life was at stake too. I was not rearing to go or anything like that, but I wasn’t as bad as this lady.
As we were proceeding with caution, a lady coming back from the very top looked completely hassled and in a trance. “Please don’t go if you have any fear of heights. It’s seriously not fun. It’s extremely dangerous and stupid.” She shuddered.
‘That does it! I think it’s utter stupidity. I’m not going! You three go up. I’ll wait right here. I am content with the views I have seen so far. View of hell is not appealing at this point. I am not trying to prove anything here.’
They didn’t force me, knowing very well that it’s not a good idea. Saying that they will meet me in 2 hours, they started scrambling up. I looked up at the peak..it was scary. I looked at them leave me alone… it was depressing. Now they’ll come back and gloat about this, bunch of show offs! I thought about this for a minute more and decided I must go.
I was at the heels of this crazy guy who was using his camcorder to take a video of his ascent while I couldn’t even get myself to stop and breathe. Silly man! He even had running commentary going on, ‘There’s the top from where people will fall to their deaths and hence it’s called Angel’s Landing.’ That’s all I needed. Thanks for the positive motivation and calming my nerves, my friend. Next thing I know, he asks me about life insurance and bungee jumping without cords. Wokay! That does it..I couldn’t even overtake this fellow in this narrow strairway to heaven. This guy’s sense of humor was misplaced, at least to me. I guess he realized how uneasy I was and he started telling me that as long as I had good footing, I was safe. Very profound indeed. My eyes were riveted on his shoes. I looked neither up or down, just his shoes (to think of it, I don’t remember the brand... it never did register). Every time I saw chains, I grabbed on to it and at places where there were none, I was praying. We reached another landing where I held on to a tree for dear life, three fourth the way up where I met my comrades. They expressed glee on seeing me, but didn’t overdo the part… luckily for me. Pi asked me to pass him the waterbottle. I took the bottle from his pack with shaking hands and it fell to its doom. ‘Don’t asked me to do such things ever again!,’ I yelled obviously disturbed. Other people might have thought I had a severe case of PMS.
Finally we reached the top in one single piece! We met Poo and Nai on the top as planned. They were here an hour earlier and were enjoying the views. Poo came to hug us and I gingerly hugged her laughing nervously, ‘Wow! You made it up too?’ She felt insulted. 'No, seriously this is not me..it's my soul..my body departed long ago!' I was sure. I heard
I sure was glad I made it to the top, but I don’t think I realized that it meant going down the same way. ‘How much does a helicopter lift cost?’
I managed to come down too. Surprisingly that was easier… maybe coz I had got used to it by now. But I still refused to take pictures or pose for any (which I regret now, coz I don’t think I will ever do it again). On her way up, one lady asked me, ‘How many people in your group fell from the top?’ ‘I was counting at first and then the numbers got high. It’s easier just to let you know only six of us reached safely to the bottom,’ I grinned smugly.
(check out Joe's photos of Angel's Landing)
We reached Scout’s Lookout, picked up our bags and started on our way down the Walter’s wiggles, the most unrelenting switchbacks I have ever seen. We passed refrigerator canyon, a cave in the canyon that is really cool and finally reached Grotto Point and civilization where I almost got hit by a bus while crossing the road aimlessly. Wouldn’t it be ironic if I died like that after climbing a freaking cliff and having a close shave with a mountain lion!
30th May- Next day we went to
|Jordan 11 Bred Price |
April 20, 2013 02:38 AM PDT
Nice, and thanks for sharing this info with us.Good Luck!
July 13, 2005 08:01 AM PDT
toinks, this post was not about maids..
Yogu, Thanks ji! You know I bet he would have done that if he wasn't scared himself, holding on to the chains for dear life.
July 12, 2005 10:39 AM PDT
Awesome writing! Very well written...and what a brave soul you turned out to be?!? Although Pi missed his only chance to get a new wifey with more dahej...shucks...men just never learn *shaking head sideways*
July 12, 2005 01:35 AM PDT
You had a great time.. it seems .. Loved the photographs.. .:) and mountain lion... wow ... SIGH its time to go for a ride.. I am bored of the same old concrete jungle here !!
July 12, 2005 12:02 AM PDT
You survived! Damn... its so difficult to get good help these days ...
July 11, 2005 01:25 PM PDT
ricer, thanks for saving yourself from drowning..
ash, comon..I heard Patty's dad is rich..just bake a few upside-down pineapple cakes for him and you'll be on the flight to nebraska.
July 11, 2005 08:54 AM PDT
Wow ! Awesome posts and an awesome-er trip :)
Shucks, can't wait to save up money and spend it travelling, man ... shucks, mera number kab aayega ?! :(
July 11, 2005 08:53 AM PDT
Wow ! Awesome posts and an awesome-er trip :)
July 11, 2005 07:55 AM PDT
See ... I came and read ... cant drown ... swim ;)
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