What goes Up, Must go Down

The view was mesmerizing and stunning.  We knew it would be beautiful, yet we were still awed, not only with the landscape but with ourselves. It took us nearly four hours of grueling uphill climbing to get to Observation Point in Zion National Park.

Zion Canyon

The view from observation point – breathtaking!

hiking zion

We hiked from the valley floor to the top of the mesa. Over 2,100 feet in elevation gain!

The high fives and exuberance were short-lived as we soon came to the realization that we still needed to hike back down to the valley floor. What goes up, must go down! At this stage of the hike, I would have gladly entertained any other way back down the mountain.

Observation Point Zion

Proof we made it to the top! Observation Point trail in Zion National Park

Hmm, as I glanced over the cliff edge thoughts of repelling, paragliding, or base jumping came to mind …. tempting but obviously not available options. So after one more photo-op showing proof that we indeed made it to the top (made it to observation point, known as one of the more strenuous hikes in Zion National Park) we slowly meandered our way back down the trail.

Zion National park hiking

Hiking on top of the mesa was enjoyable and relatively easy.

All was well and good that first mile. The trail was still pretty much on the mesa. The views were lovely and the trail easy, but once we started the decent …. well, let’s just say, Ashton and I were not a couple of happy campers.

hiking zion national park

Ashton hugged the wall, even when passing uphill climbers.

hiking Zion

She did great confronting her fear of heights, but she sure did walk fast going down.

Ashton’s pace quickened as the trail zig-zagged and offered staggering drop-offs. She knew she needed to get through this section of the trail without letting her fear of heights kick in. As for me, I stopped to tighten my shoe laces a couple of times trying my best to keep my toes from jamming into the front of my hiking shoes.

top of the mesa

Me taking a much needed break!

I’ve always been prone to cramps in my toes, especially if my shoes are laced too tight, but under these circumstances, I was left with no choice. After tightening up the laces, I managed to keep up with the downward trek at a somewhat reasonable pace until the balls of my feet started burning. My feet were hurting like never before and I’ll admit I was overcome with a little panic.  We were barely a quarter of the way back down the mountain and I was having trouble walking. “How in holy heck was I going to keep going another two hours?

hiking zion national park

Can you spot the hikers on this ledge portion of the trail?

Zion national park hiking

Ashton was a ways in front of me as her focus was getting beyond this part of the trail with the sheer drop-offs. Once I caught up to her and the switchbacks seemed less daunting, I sat down in a nicely shaded area. I was on the verge of tears as my emotions were filled with concern and pain. Thoughts of Reese Witherspoon flooded my mind ……..   A month earlier after my daughter and I binge watched Netflix’ the Gilmore Girls, I rented the movie “Wild”. This movie is based on a true story. Although, I thought the movie itself was merely ok, it did have a thought-provoking impact on me. What possesses a woman to hike 1,100 miles by herself? Would I ever entertain such a silly notion?

As I sat there on the side of the trail in Zion National Park with my shoes and socks removed attempting to ease the throbbing pain in my feet, scenes from that movie played in my head along with some very non-lady like expletives. Just then, I remembered the medical/sports tape and knife in my pack. Oh yeah, let’s tape up these paws!

First it was up and around the second toe wrapping the tape in two directions. That toe has been sensitive ever since I lost the toenail last fall from all the up and down hiking I did at the Sonoran Preserve. Then it was around the balls of my feet – round and round, I wrapped the tape around the front of my feet …  shoes and socks back on …. laces tied tight …. when I stood up, the discomfort was gone. I was overcome with relief and nearly (I said nearly) started to skip down the trail. Oh thank God I brought that tape!

photo-op

There’s always time for a photo-op

photo-op

Now we were making good time, rarely stopping and keeping a steady pace. After about an hour, we seemed to be somewhere at the half way point of the hike back to the trail head. It was at this point I thought I was out of water. I couldn’t suck any more water out of my camelbak, but I didn’t think that would be a problem considering we were getting closer to the trail head with each step.

light at the end of the tunnel

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Are we there yet? Oh, please Lord!!!!!!!

However with only about fifteen more minutes to go and the shuttle bus stop in clear view, my legs started shaking uncontrollably. Sure they felt a little weak but not falling down weak. I found it humorous but Ashton was seriously concerned for my well-being.

She grabbed my pack and started fiddling with it. Low and behold, there was still some water in the pack. After a healthy slug, the shaking subsided and I responded with, “Thank you, mommy”.  Which daughter swiftly responded with, “Oh be quiet and keep walking. I really don’t want to have to carry you down this hill, and as tired as I feel right now, just be glad I don’t roll you down”. 😆

hiking Zion

Yes, we had hiked up there!

With the shuttle bus stop mere minutes away, we moved quickly down the remaining switch backs. Once on the bus, we snatched one of the last remaining seats and plopped ourselves down. A huge aaaahhhh escaped our mouths simultaneously. Our heads turned to look at each other and we burst into laughter and shared another high-five.

camp cooking

Spaghetti for dinner!

During the entire twenty-five minute bus ride back to camp, we sat in a silent and exhausted state. We exited the bus at the visitor center and still had to walk back to our campsite which resulted in a few ow, ow, ow’s with each step.

Along with our sore muscles, we were famished, and the homemade spaghetti waiting for us in the cooler, begged to be heated up. Over dinner, we discussed the events of the day. There were so many highlights, but what impressed Ashton most were the friendly folks who’s paths we kept crossing on the trail along the way to the top of Observation Point.

hiking zionWith the steady uphill climb, there was a lot of stopping to catch a breathe by everyone… young and old. One minute we’d pass someone along the side of the trail only to have them a few minutes later pass us as we were stopped to catch our breathe.

We engaged regularly with a family of three; mom, dad, and teenage son. They enlisted our help when they had trouble finding the trail head for Hidden Canyon. When we pulled out our map and informed them that they had passed the spur an hour ago, they laughed and decided to go in our direction. The stopping for air had us passing each other regularly which resulted in smiles and chuckles.

When we passed them as they were having lunch sitting on the side of the trail, the mom wanted to make sure we brought our lunch, because if we hadn’t they had an extra sandwich we could have…. complete strangers willing to share their lunch. How awesome is that? A little while later once we had all reached our goal, we took turns handing each other our cameras for those special photo-op moments.

We also engaged with another couple along the trail who visit Zion National Park regularly. This was their second attempt at hiking observation point. Right before the serious zig-zag, cut in the rock portion of the trail, we noticed the wife sitting along the side of the trail by herself. Her fear of heights kept her from continuing yet again, and she sat waiting while her husband went on to complete the hike. We sat with her for a little while and visited. It was amazing how much she and I had in common. We literally could’ve sat there and talked for hours.

Sometimes it’s these little encounters that are like adding a cherry to an ice cream sundae. It’s the topping to an already amazing adventure.

camp cooking

We enjoyed a wonderful homemade meal back at camp.

According to Ashton’s Fitbit, we hiked 11 miles, climbed 249 flights of stairs, almost 25,000 steps, and burned over 2,800 calories. She received a bunch of Fitbit awards that day!  Observation Point Trail took us almost four hours to hike up and two hours to hike down. I’m sure our socializing on the way up, impacted that time 😉

hiking zionShortly after we were done eating, our two neighbors returned from their hikes and we once again shared a campfire together. The three families all met while waiting in line for a campsite and we ended up camping together.

There was the couple from Germany traveling in a rented Class C motorhome with their two small children, and then there was the retired Canadian couple from Quebec traveling in a Class B Van and then Ashton and me in a tent.

This camaraderie with complete strangers that we encountered on the trail and at camp was new to Ashton and added a unique fun element to our overall adventure.

Ashton also became familiar with the term “RV time“. Whenever she’d ask me a question regarding our plans for the day, I’d usually respond with, “Doesn’t matter. Whatever we feel like. We’re on RV time”. Which basically means, we might have a tentative schedule, but if one of us wants to change things up, no problem. If one of us didn’t sleep well or is hungry or doesn’t feel well, we’ll adjust the plan.  We roll with the flow and change directions on a whim if we need or want to. There’s no time clock, no rules, no schedule, and no competition = living on RV time.  Her biggest goal now, is to figure out when she can start living every day on RV time.

Ashton learns more about RV time the next day when the road we want to take is closed due to a landslide …. which way do we go, which way do we go?

hiking zion

Look who took our picture!

zion national park

There’s always someone on the trail willing to help take a photo!

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

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82 thoughts on “What goes Up, Must go Down

  1. Absolutely beautiful story and photos of your adventures! By comparison, I feel like a little old man in an armchair – but there’s hope yet – I recently purchased a really good pack – “Osprey” to do some overnite hikes and we are getting serious about buying a couple kayaks.

    • I keep telling my daughter, “this getting old thing sucks. I don’t recommend it” LOL. I love paddling and being on the water. We used to frequent western Ontario with our canoe and camping gear. Alas, a neck injury has curtail my paddling. Enjoy those kayaks!

  2. Hey, send me the business card of your photographer, he is so cute!
    I can relate to your exhilarations, the Observation Point Trail was our best top hike while in Zion. It has all the requirements of a great hike. Both of you did a great job and holding off on egging each other.

    • Isn’t our photographer a cutie? We were both laughing at that sight. She and I are both glad we challenged each other to complete this hike. I still have a sore toe though 😏 Oh well, par for the course.

  3. Congratulations of conquering Observation Point. My knees give out on me during long downhill hikes. I was thinking a zip line or one of those flying squirrel suit would get you down pretty quick!

  4. My toes (sports tape is key) and knees are sympathizing with you on the descent. I am always super hungry after a grueling hike – food, relax and then shower for me. The views are so worth it though – beautiful photos of breathtaking views! I have hiked multiple times in Yosemite and this one hike I had a heck of a time on the descent – come to find out I sprained my knee. Happy Adventuring- Enjoy!

    • Wow – a sprained knee? Thank goodness daughter and I returned to camp unscathed. The views and experience were so worth any pain. And of course, we now have an amazing adventure to talk about.

  5. Such an amazing feeling when we overcome our fears & feelings of not being able to complete something. What an incredible experience between mother & daughter, spurring each other on, resulting in a successful hike! I am sure you will be sharing this story for years to come Ingrid!

  6. What a wonderful day, and the story is shared in a lively voice with crisp photos. Wonderful day that you and your daughter shared together. Thank you for sharing with me.

    • You welcome and I appreciate the kind comment. Zion National Park is such a beautiful place and I’m glad I was able to share it with my daughter 🙂

  7. Amazing!!!! Way to go and kudos to you both! What a fabulous hike and a day you will re-live forever. Beautiful pictures. We sure can relate as we did something similar but our problem is that we miscalculated and our trip back was so much tougher than going “up!”
    I’ve had problems with two toenails since before hiking….I think I need to get me some medical/sports tape! I did do as Pam suggested above and bought a larger size but I still have an issue from time to time….

  8. Holy corn pads and bunions!!!! I am pretty sure I couldn’t do that climb..I do have a fear of heights, and my feet have been compromised by falling off our Hiker steps and nearly breaking both feet…You two are tough women….and I totally admire your spirit!!! “I am woman , hear me roar!”

    • Thanks Donna and I sure had my doubts about completing this hike unscathed. I did carry bandages with me as well as the tape. In rugged country, one never knows 😉 We’re still patting ourselves on the back!

    • There were so many trails that we wanted to explore but with limited time we had to pick. This is when I rely on my fellow bloggers for top picks. Kolob area was on my radar but time constraints didn’t fit our schedule… next time!

  9. What wonderful memories for the two of you, along with beautiful photos, and a well written story! Zion is such a magical place and you are absolutely right about RV-time 😁

  10. Great job accomplishing this hike. Everyone must do it at least once:) If you should chose to visit the Point again, take the East Mesa Trail. You can drive up to the Mesa and then do a three mile hike that meets the Observation Trail at the top. Then you do the flat part of the trail across the mesa. Much. much easier!!! And no steep climbing. We’ve done both. You miss all the neat stuff coming up the main trail, but it was fun for the second time and something different and there is no crowd. You are right about meeting a great group of friendly people along the way. Everyone suffering together:) Glad you had spaghetti waiting for you. I went to a full size larger in my hiking boots and shoes after a few bruised toenails the first year. Now I never hit my toes on the front with steep grades. Hope your feet recovered all right.

    • Good to know about the East Mesa Trail. May take that next time although I did love all the stunning scenery along the way. I did buy a second pair of Merrells in a half size larger and that seems to work much better. Your new Keens sound intriguing. You’ll need to post how they are working out for you.
      We did some great meal planning for our trip and it made the adventure that much better.

    • Yeah Sue, there are certain hikes a lot more fun hearing about while sitting comfortably in a chair with a cocktail in hand 😆 Gorgeous country though worth exploring low and high!

  11. Well now that it is all done you can look back with awe at yourself and the fact that stamina can take you places. I remember that scene from ‘Wild’ distinctly. It made me squeamish to even watch it. Getting back to the camp – oh what a relief! 🙂

    • I too found certain parts of that movie squeamish and I recalled those moments on that hike. It was definitely a relief to get back to camp unscathed and wiser 😉

  12. Way to go! That is an amazing accomplishment. And an amazing view! Your photos are wonderful. Thanks for sharing. When I was closer to Ashton’s age, we hiked 12 miles to the top of the Smokies and back to our tent and I was counting my steps to focus and make the last stretch. It was an epic hike I’ll never forget. Congrats on your epic hike.

    • I’m thrilled she and I were able to share this epic hike together … special memories that we won’t forget, similar to that hike you took in the Smokies. The views AND the accomplishment were worth the pain we felt the next day 😲

      • As with childbirth, the pain memory fades. Otherwise we’d never do it again! lol So I tackled Pikes Peak with my elementary school age daughters and a couple friends many years later. And you are right, you feel all the muscles you don’t normally use after going down

        • PS We did stay overnight at Barr Camp since the girls were young and too much snow on the trail meant we didn’t get all the way to the top, but that steep trail from Manitou Springs is grueling. Love looking back at the pictures of our “women only hike”. The guys were not invited

          • I always wanted to try hiking the ‘incline’ but never got around to it… working too much. The last year we lived along the front range, we played tourist and saw more those few months than we did in the fifteen years we lived in the area. My fave was horseback riding through Garden of the Gods.

        • Ah, you are so right with the childbirth analogy and I almost used it in my post, but it didn’t quite jive. After many years of living with a view of Pikes Peak, can you believe I never made it to the top ☹ I did do Mt. Evans though.

  13. What a hike and what a funny photo ending! Sometimes hiking down is harder than up (especially with bad knees). Camaraderie along the trail is so amazing! “RV time” sounds like “Caribbean time”! 🙂 It is very beneficial to have a flexible mindset!!

    • Flexibility is even more important with boating. RVing/land is much easier. We took some great photos during our Zion visit but that one with the squirrel tops’m all.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post and I could entice you to take the observation point trail. It’s too bad you had to cut your stay in Zion short, but there’s always a next time 😊

  14. Good job for both of you for overcoming, and finishing a great hike. Congrats all around. What a fun story, and the memories will last forever.

    • We definitely shared some memorable experiences on this trip. We’re already talking about our next adventure and how we’d like to focus more on photography.

  15. Another fantastic hike you and Ashton will always remember! I could relate to the woman whose fear of heights had here wait for her husband to return. Meeting people along trails and in campgrounds is one of my favorite things about camping. Again you have left me on the edge of my seat. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

    • Yes Beth, it’s a hike she and I will talk about for years. Ashton works in a stressful customer service environment and the folks we encountered during this trip renewed her spirit in humanity… five glorious days of people being extremely nice to her instead of yelling at her. She could use a few more trips like this!

    • It was an amazing trip – one for the books. Zion NP is such a beautiful place. Next time I want to focus on the flat trails and photography. We’ll see how well that goes 😄

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