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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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!
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.
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”. 😆
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.
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.
With 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.
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 😉
Shortly 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?
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail