Zion: Take the Path Less Traveled

Continuing on day 5 after leaving the beautiful Antelope Canyon, we head North 2-1/2 hours to an RV Resort Campground called Ponderosa Zion.

4.UtahAlong our route, we discussed what we would do once we got to Zion. The original plan as discussed in Utah was to conquer Angel’s Landing. This was the first of all ideas thrown out by my travel companions! While I was not surprised in the least by this decision, I was surprised by what became of this day…

My favorite part of the entire road trip!

Come, let me take you down the path less traveled…

Zion National Park

We made it to our campground around 3 PM; got our site and chatted with the Resort staff in the near by barn to inquire about getting to the Park and other amenities they had on site.

They told us it would take almost 2 hours to get to the main entrance of the park. about 1 1-1/2 hours to the East entrance (due to traffic and the time of day).

Zion Ponderosa ResortPonderosa Zion RV Resort is located near the East entrance of Zion in a small town called Orderville. The resort has access to private trails that lead into the park and include: Observation Point and East Rim Trail.

At this point, I was getting frustrated because I knew that no one else wanted to make the drive to the park as we had just driven 2 hours to get here. Not to mention that it would be getting late and we wouldn’t get a chance to do much when we finally got to the park. The staff was pleasant and explained that they had a trails that were only accessible to their grounds. Brad wanted a short and level hike and so did Keenon and Leah.

I didn’t want to express it, but I was fuming inside. I had these grand ideas of making it to the top of Angel’s Landing which is a vigorous hike and now they were being crushed!

The only thing I could do (other than cry) was to accept that we would take this small hike to the Observation Point. It was a 1.5 mile/3 mile RT hike, they said. They also explained that we could take this trail into the park and that they could pick us up. So, we mapped out a meet up point with the staff. They explained to ride the bus to get to the meet up point and told us it should take but 3-4 hours to get down there.

8:30 PM was the pick up time.

After parking the RV in it’s spot, we walked back down to the barn to take a ATV ride to the trail head.

{Though I was still upset, I was ready to just get hiking. Brad knew my frustration but did not compromise. I was having all the emotions from skipping Santa Fe rushing back and now tacking on the disappointment of not being able to fully explore Zion}

At the trailhead we look briefly at the giant map sign before continuing down the trail (not thinking to take a photo of it). We had our packs ready, we felt prepared-even for a small hike with paper maps from the staff in hand.Observation Point Trailhead

Half way down the trail an explosion (of emotions) happened. I blew up at Brad for what was going on. I was crying (in the middle of this gorgeous trail). Why on earth would I be so upset, I asked myself. Brad didn’t make anything better by saying stupid things… but none the less we kissed and made up (eventually-like 20-30 minutes later).

Brad_panoramaWhat felt like an hour of walking, we hit a look out point. We assumed this was the spot but there wasn’t sign and no indication where the hell we were. After taking a few photos and looking over the cliff side we continued on the trail. Most of the initial trail was forest with big trees and tall grasses; then it opened into a sandy field with rocks and smaller patches of flowers. The sun was bright and golden. The weather was moderate-not cold and not to warm.

 

terrainAs we started to decline a little along the path, we hit a fork and a SIGN! One way took us to Observation Point, one took us to the Park Boundary (2.5 mile hike). We made our way up to the point. This view is unimaginable. Literally, You cannot imagine such views. From here, you can see the entire park! Below us was the Narrows, a winding path through a channel of water that many people hike through for the views. Most people view it from the bottom up.

Infront of us, is a view I still vividly remember!

Observation Point

Leah and I hung out on the ledge of the point, we took in the view and snapped a few photos before heading back down to the fork. At this point, we had 3 options: head back, head down to the Park Boundary or head north to another point (which didn’t have any information/ direction). To the boundary we hiked!

It wasn’t but a few hundred yards that the path clung to the edge of the mountain… the boys didn’t like this idea-AT ALL, but this was the path we chose! There was only one way to go at this point-Down. {by the way- there are a bunch of chipmunks running around here}

After about 30 minutes of traversing the side of the mountain we began to wrap around it, there was a moment of hesitation

  • where are we?
  • how long will it take to reach the bottom?
  • do I have cell service?
  • will we make it to the meet up point on time?
  • will we make it to the bottom before sun down?

Then I began to answer my own questions and worry began to set in, more or less I felt as though taking this path into the park was my idea and now its on me. Whatever is to come of this hike is on me…

moon riseAn hour later, we were still traversing and wrapping around this mountain. Switchback after switchback after switchback, we hike down. I stop every 5 minutes or so to let everyone catch up; the boys taking the rear. Brad starts to complain that his feet hurt {because he didn’t wear the correct shoes} and he and Keenon are struggling with the semi narrow trail with a cliff edge on one side. At this point I’m really feeling bad. {thinking: what did I get us into? I’m going to have to get us down and out of here. This is all because I needed to hike, I wanted to get into this park and here we are}

Finally! We find a sign.

2 miles signWeeping Rock 2 mi.

Confused and excited, we’ve finally gotten a point that located where we are (on a map). There is no where else to go except to continue the 2 miles. We catch up with each other and take a moment to breath and note the time: 7:15 PM.

I know that sunset is at 8:40. I’m now setting the pace faster to get us to 2 miles before sunset. My friends were kind enough to let me continue setting the pace ahead (hoping I would be able to complete the task). Our hamstrings were beginning to become sore and our toes were feeling it as this hike was a complete decent in elevation. Brad is hurting the most, because of his shoes so we offer him one of our walking sticks (which helps).

bridge

We reach a small bridge that crosses over a canyon and as we round the corner of another part of the mountain the space widens into a dry river bed and we see a cavern like hole in the rocks. This is really amazing, but also a little scary because on one side was a drop off into a slot canyon that seemed to go down forever. The dried river bed was uneven but smooth terrain to cross. I wondered what this area would look like with water and how high it would rise and if this space would even be crossable.

On the other side of this little cavern we exited into a sandy path again. Brad and I had caught up to one another in the cavern to take photos and look at it all. I told him to try and hold our friends back a few minutes because I needed to pee (there is no where to hide). I trotted along a few yards ahead to get my business done. As I was finishing I had noticed that there were some hoof tracks in the sand. I called Brad to look and he too was fascinated. In my mind I thought “man, these tracks seem pretty fresh.” Turns out, they were extremely fresh tracks! As we came around another side of mountain I heard the trampling feet of animals; they were mountain goats! Once they saw us, the goats scampered up the mountain and turned back to watch us before continuing up the mountain. {so amazing!}

Narrows overview

Along the path here, we could look down and see the countless switchbacks below. There was a sight of the river ahead and we knew the bus pick up area was getting closer . We could see little glimpses of the bus bench, a parking lot and the black paved road. Needless to say, we got excited to see the end. Time check: 8:30 PM.

Though it was still somewhat light out, we knew sunset was coming quickly and we wanted to get off the trail before dark. Those switchbacks were such drag! Every turn seemed like we would be getting closer and then there would be another set of switchbacks. Keenon had pulled out his head lamp in preparation for night fall (behind me). It wasn’t until I almost got hit in the face by 3 bats that I decided maybe I should get my head lamp out. {the bats would probably steer clear of the light!}

The river was rustling heavily and the moon was rising quickly behind us. The trail was getting darker and we were all ready to complete this trail.

Weeping Rock TrailheadOnce we finally reached the bottom, we found a sign that told us about this trail. We glanced over the sign and were astonished to find out that we just hiked 6.6 miles! Also on here was information about how they formed these trails in the 30’s. Very interesting!

Now that we had made it down, it was time to figure out how to get to our meet up point and nobody had cell service! I figured there should be an emergency phone down here… since people tend to get lost in parks. Nothing! There was a parking lot, a bathroom and the bus bench. We headed over to the bench to see what time the bus picks were; turns out the last bus pick up was an hour ago!

It was nearly 9 PM at this point and on the bus map there was information about a lodge (1.5 miles) near by. Since none had service, we only had one option- Hike the 1.5 miles!

Down at the bottom the temperatures dropped, we took a minute to bundle up with a few extra items we had packed in our backpacks to stay warm. There were strange sounds of wild turkeys and deer walking by. In the middle of the paved road, we walked toward the lodge.

Some where maybe 1/4 mile down the road Leah got cell service! Excited, we all stopped and hoped that a call would go through. I gave Leah the number to our pick up crew from the Ponderosa Resort. Sure enough, we got a hold of our girl and she said she was on her way to us.

At this point, we were overwhelmed with excitement that we almost forgot how tired we all were. We sat there in the middle of the road and took out snack and water, stretched and waited. 15 minutes had gone by and we had not seen any lights heading our way, but we noticed lights flashing behind us on the mountain face across the river. We flashed out headlamps back to make sure they were not sending S.O.S signals. Seemed like they were just hiking or climbing, we only hoped that they were OK.

Finally around almost 10 PM our pick up arrived to us! We were more than thrilled!

Though it got a bit scary at some points, this was everything. The views, the wild life, the hike- all of it.

I was super thankful to have made it back to Ponderosa, the ride home was terrifying. The guy driving nearly ran us into 3 cliff face walls driving through the park to get out the East entrance. That evening’s shower was glorious.

The next morning we woke up to do some laundry and eat breakfast before heading off to Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef. We discussed yesterday’s adventure and while everyone else was ready to go, I wanted to go back.

decending zion

If you have the chance, take this same trail! Only, make sure you get out there early! Have you taken this trail? Tell me your experience!

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