Doug's Diggings: Bumpy flight, Zion hike highlighted tripA recent trip to the Southwest included stops in Las Vegas and Zion National Park, but the most exciting part of the trip was probably the flight home from Denver to Minneapolis.
By: Doug Stohlberg, Hudson Star-Observer
A recent trip to the Southwest included stops in Las Vegas and Zion National Park, but the most exciting part of the trip was probably the flight home from Denver to Minneapolis.
My wife Jackie and I flew to Las Vegas with my wife’s sister Sandy and her husband Tom Wells from New Richmond. In order to get some better pricing, we took flights that had stops – on the way out we went through Dallas; on the way home we went through Denver.
We left Las Vegas later Saturday afternoon (July 17). After a short stop in Denver, we boarded the plane to Minneapolis. Probably 30 minutes or less from landing in Minneapolis, the plane went through a violent thunderstorm that tossed the plane up and down and sideways like a toy in a washing machine.
Luckily everyone was belted in or there would have been plenty of us hitting the ceiling. We were a bit surprised. In this day and age, it seems that planes fly around storms, or mostly over the top. My brother-in-law asked the pilots on the way off the plane if they were scared. The answer: “You bet we were!”
Of course, I know nothing about navigating an airplane, but my guess is that we had already begun our descent into Minneapolis. The storm probably developed much quicker and was much more violent than expected and it was probably too late to make any drastic changes. I think it was the first time I was on a plane where the nervous passengers applauded when we landed.
The highlight of the trip itself was a hike at Zion National Park. In the past I have hiked several trails at Zion, including what’s called Angel’s Landing — a high peak off the floor of the park’s valley. On this trip we did exactly the opposite — we hiked a canyon that winds between high cliffs of rock on both sides. The catch is — most of the hiking is done in water.
One website calls the hike “one of the most touted and breathtaking adventures in America. The Zion Narrows deserves its reputation as one of the best, if not the best, hike in the National Park System.”
I can’t disagree with that description. The Virgin River winds through perpendicular walls. If you forget to look up, you’d think you were in a cave. I’d seen pictures of this area in the past. I assumed that the dramatic photos probably depicted a small part of the hike — maybe a few hundred yards of sheer cliffs rising on both sides of the water. What we discovered as we wound our way up the river is that beauty goes on and on.
The canyon is 16 miles long, rock walls up to 2,000 feet deep and at times only 20-30 feet wide.
There are portions where hikers are out of the water, but most of the hike is through water, ranging from ankle deep to waist deep. The water is also moving quite fast in most areas. If anyone ever attempts the hike, be sure to rent the special socks, shoes and walking poles. Those items are available at various businesses outside the park. Believe me, the shoes make the difference of enjoyment versus potential misery.
We hiked about five miles in the gorge (two-and-half each way) and saw spectacular scenery. Remember, however, hiking in moving water is much more difficult than walking on dry land. At the beginning of the hike we saw people in bare feet, tennis shoes, sandals and other various sorts of footwear. As you get into the gorge, it’s the people with the right equipment that get to the spots of real beauty. We also noted as we progressed into the gorge that we seemed to be among the oldest of the hikers — might not want to wait too long before tackling this adventure.
Covering the five miles took us about 4.5 hours – that included some rest stops and plenty of picture stops. With high cliffs on both sides, the only sky is a small slit overhead. It is important to stop and view the beauty because as a person walks in the water, the tendency is to keep a close eye on your feet and the next rock on which you will step. One writer said “walking the narrows is like walking on wet bowling balls.”
Like all hikes, the dangers of this one include, among other things, flash floods. Hikers don’t usually begin going up the river if rain is expected. The day we hiked it was very hot (nearly 100 degrees). The water keeps you cool, but you still need to bring food and plenty of water. On the other extreme, if the weather is cool, they warn of hypothermia.
If a person is really ambitious, the entire trail goes for 16 miles. Some hikers start at the northern edge of the trail and cover the entire length, although that usually takes two days. Most, like us, start in the Zion Canyon and hike upward for a few miles to places like Orderville Canyon, Wall Street and Big Springs.
It’s quite an adventure.
Our time in Las Vegas included two shows. We saw Love at the Mirage. The show combines some aspects of Cirque du Soleil with the music of the Beatles. I thought the show was entertaining — I’m not too sure the rest of our group was impressed, however.
The other show we attended was Barry Manilow at the Paris. I’ve never been a Barry Manilow fan, but the show was very entertaining and the guy can still belt out a tune for a 67-year-old.
The hike in the Zion narrows, however, was the highlight of the trip — thinking about it now makes me forget about the bumpy plane ride home!