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  • Thursday, October 9, 2008

    The Grand Staircase, Part Nine
    - Numbers 27, 47, 93, 111, 130, and 131 on my life list.

    Friday 
    Click Here for Part One

    We rose to our final full day at Zion. We agreed on a hike to Observation Point, high on the east rim, 2,148 feet above the canyon floor. First, we got off the shuttle at Zion Lodge and crossed the street to hike to the Emerald Pools, three small ponds that reflected emerald green with trickling waterfalls.

    The trail to Observation point begins near Weeping Rock, an eroded cliff face where water seeps out nourishing hanging mosses, ferns, and wildflowers. The path is steep, gaining elevation quickly, making it one of the most strenuous of the popular hikes in the park. Most of the trail is on carved slickrock in full sun.

    Every few minutes of hiking, we’d look around at a gradually higher view, slowly increasing in magnificence with each step. The trail was nearly always gaining in elevation. Knowing of Randy’s exhaustion, I told him I thought we were getting close. I wasn’t positive but it seemed like we had to be nearing the end of the 4-mile hike up. Soon I came to a sign that said 2 miles to Observation Point. I thought about not telling Randy, but I did, and he proceeded to shit a brick (his words). 

    The trail flattened out through Echo Canyon, probably the most beautiful section on the trail. That is saying a lot when you consider where we were. The trail coiled around ensuring we’d see every angle.

    Much too soon, we were leaving Echo and winding our way up once again. When stopping for a break, a fit middle-aged woman was hiking passed me at a quick pace, breathing heavily. “We’re almost there,” I said thinking she’d be relieved. “I wish we weren’t,” she said, reminding me that the journey, not the destination, is where we find happiness; effectively putting me in my philosophical place. We reached the top at Mount Baldy, the trail flattened out on an outcrop of land with shear drop offs on three sides overhanging the canyon. 

    The view up here rivaled any other in the country, even those seen just days ago at the Grand Canyon. Angel’s Landing was visible at a distance and six or seven hundred feet lower in elevation. We sat on the deep-red rocky ground near the edge, looking straight down Zion Canyon, feet dangling 2,148 feet above its thin winding creator below, the Virgin River.

    After dozens of photos, we both found a spot to pull out our packed lunches. We ate while gaping at one of the best panoramas we’ve ever seen. Zion is my favorite place that I’ve ever been to, I decided while sitting atop this, another scratch in the blue cue ball’s surface.

    The four miles back, going downhill, was much less strenuous. I hoped to get a photo of observation point from the canyon floor before the sun went down but I was running out of time. I went on ahead, jogging down the trail, and got my photo with only a sliver of sunlight still shining on it. 

    At the end of the trail, a mother Mule Deer was leading her young around, as we waited for the next shuttle. We got off at an area with scattered picnic tables called, the grotto. Randy was ready to call it a day, so he went back to camp and headed into town for another pack of Nathan’s hot dogs for later that night. After realizing we forgot another hiking pole at the grotto, I got on another shuttle heading back north to retrieve it and to hopefully get one last hike in before sundown. I was happy to see the shuttle heading south to pick me up, was Jim’s.

    < Part Eight | Part Ten >