Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Now I Know Why They Call It "Angel's Landing"

I hadn't been sleeping well. I wanted to spend some quality time with my little sisters, since I haven't seen them very often while I lived in Austin. Also, I decided that I needed to be more active and be a little more adventurous, so I offered a plan to hike to "Angels Landing" in Zion National Park. Surprisingly, all three of my sister's eagerly agreed, and we immediately planned our expedition.

I had completed the hike a decade ago on a date for a high school dance. I don't remember the hike being extremely difficult, but because I'm older now and perhaps feel more responsibility, I couldn't help but be a bit apprehensive about leading my young sisters up a mountain 5,790 feet above safe ground, with the last leg of the hike only possible with the aid of intimidating steel cables plunging into the ground.

I decided to google Angel's landing. We all know this is a bad idea. Haven't we learned that whenever we see that tiny rash on our left elbow that the last thing one is supposed to do is google it? Photo after photo of the most gruesome elbow infections known to man pop up along with a lot of scary words and scary diseases. So of course, before I even finished typing "Angel's La-" into the google search box, "Angel's Landing DEATHS" came up first.

I ask my father, "Um, dad, do you think that the girls will be o.k. You know, because the trail is really... REALLY high up there?" I know I'm a fully grown adult woman who should be using her own judgement, but a little reassurance couldn't hurt, right? "If the path ever becomes to difficult, you can simply turn around." Thanks. Thanks for that dad.

The next morning we all wake up at the crack of dawn. My mom packs us a sushi picnic. (That's what you get when your mother's Asian. No PB&J for us!) I pack my sisters into my little white car along with pillows, books, and snacks. I turn The Shin's new album, "Port of Morrow" up, and we begin our drive to one of the most renown National Parks in the country which we are lucky enough to have in our own backyard.

My sisters are tough. I still didn't want to tell them about the "deaths" that I had read about the day before, but a sign, obvious and loud, right at the front of the entrance to the trail laid out the details of the dangers we were about to face." 6 Deaths since 2002. This trail is not recommended for small children, or anyone afraid of heights..." And then there was a small stick figure of a person falling to their death.

O.K. I might have made that part up...

The trial up to Scout's Point, which wikipedia describes as "generally the turnaround point for those who are unwilling to make the final summit push to the top of Angel's Landing" proved difficult. We huffed and puffed our way up the steep incline, passing wild chipmunks and cacti growing straight out of the red rock.

We passed a lot of foreigners repeating the same one or two English words over and over again in their thick accents. "Suuuppeh, Graate!" I muttered to my sisters, "If I ever make it to Paris, I'm going to make sure to learn other words in their language besides "super" and "great". Surprisingly, we passed a few husbands on their way down the mountain, who had swallowed their pride and refused to attempt the final hike up "Angel's Landing", later meeting up with their wives not really minding to continue the rest of their hike on their own with only the gorgeous views to accompany them.

There are a lot of reasons people choose to hike "Angel's Landing". For some, they hike to the top to get over their lifelong fear of heights.

Others hope to prove that they are capable of accomplishing great feats.

Some brave the trail to spend quality time with family.

I've got to tell ya, after all the sweat and exhaustion, once we finally made our to the top, I've never felt such peace. My sister's and I sat at the top in awe with the hippies who had found their way their only moments before us. No talk of the latest "tie-die methods" or "proper dread-lock cultivation", only silence in our rare, shared moment with nature.

I closed my eyes and felt the wind brush my face. All my problems, worries, concerns melted away into the majesty of the gorgeous view I soaked in. I could stay up here forever. But alas...

"Should we head back down now?" my youngest sister asked, shielding the eyes from the sun high overhead. I lugged my backback over my left shoulder as I grinned at my sister with a triumphantly. "Yeah, let's go."



  1. Awesome blog i want to get over my fear of heights now. And i was surprised that u have that many sisters.

  2. What a great way to spend quality time with your sisters. I bet they were really excited to spend time with you since you and Dia are out of the house so much. Are any of them interested in making music/starting their own band?

  3. Awww what a good older sister :)
    I love the picture of your little sister with the chipmunk! Were the chipmunks really tame? All of the pictures are really pretty, and the scenery looks gorgeous!

  4. Wow, is EVERYONE in your family gorgeous? What a nice gene pool you have there! :)

  5. haha that's really cool! i've actually been up to angel's landing! i went with my dad and grandpa, and we basically had to carry grandpa up the last leg. they told me about some guy committing suicide by jumping off, so naturally i got as close to the edge as i could just to freak them out...:P

  6. haha that's Awesome to see your smiling face.This time is real to you.enjoy the vacation of your life.not all the people have this opportunity.
    PS:If you have a plan to travel round the world.Don't miss china,I can put lots of Chinese Buffet in your purse:)

  7. did you guys wave from such great heights?

  8. When you say "sushi" do you mean kimbap? I'm Korean also, and my mom does the same thing for my friends and I when we're traveling to far places. lol

  9. It's really great that Angel's Landing has provided you with a memorable experience in nature and with your family, but I think it is very misguided and irresponsible to claim that it is an appropriate hike to take for someone to "get over their fear of heights".

    As you mentioned at the beginning of the article, Angels Landing IS dangerous, with the fatalities to prove it. It is absolutely not a hike to take someone on who is fearful of heights, as discomfort and vertigo contribute to poor decision-making on the trail and can contribute to persons losing their balance on some of the narrower (and scarier) parts of the trail.

    If someone has a fear of heights, a good way to overcome it is by going to the rock climbing gym (or something) under the supervision of a professional and with a safety harness to break their fall, NOT on a treacherous hike that ends with a Class 5 climb (Class 5 means that a fall without safety equipment would be fatal).

    People attempt this hike and many others who are not physically or mentally prepared for the risks which contributes to dangerous behavior for themselves and others. Please do not encourage people to "get over their fears" by taking this trail.

    The National Park Service and other entities has actively tried to discourage people and guidebooks from listing Angel's Landing as a "must-see!" experience for Zion because there are plenty of other ways to enjoy its beauty and to spend quality time with their families. You do NOT have to negotiate narrow ridges surrounded by 1400 feet of air over a sheer drop in order to feel more connected to your family or to nature.

    On a final note, it is well-signed throughout the park that feeding wildlife is illegal and warrants a $100 fine. Little chipmunks might not seem like a big deal, or might not feel very "wild", but the squirrels and chipmunks absolutely harassed me on my lunch at the top when I did this trail a few days ago. I don't really want to be approached and possibly bitten by aggressive animals who carry diseases simply because tourists keep feeding them against park regulations.

    Our National Parks are not a Disney thing. Dangerous trails are not for everyone, and a respect for wildlife and their habitat is our responsibility.