Thursday, October 31, 2013

Southern Utah

Two weeks ago was fall break, and once again Christi was sweet enough to let me take Taylor, Parker and my dad camping in the desert of Southern Utah.  There is no more beautiful terrain in the world.  This year we went to Zion National Park.  I did some research before we went, trying to find an isolated place to camp.  Outside of the park there is a national scenic byway--a steep and rough dirt road that meanders past Smithsonian Butte.  We went up this about a mile and a half, then turned off onto an even smaller road.  A little way down that we found an amazing campsite.  We were right next to a narrow canyon and surrounded by bluffs and buttes.  There were amazing views no matter which direction we turned.  We only saw one other group on one night.  We heard a couple of campers, but overall it was extremely isolated--a perfect spot!

We spent two days exploring the National Park.  We did three significant hikes and saw spectacular views.  The first day we did the Canyon Overlook hike, and the upper and lower Emerald Pools hikes, each about a mile round trip.  The views at Canyon Overlook are unbelievable!

Ready to start out.  Taylor is taller than Grandpa now!

Throughout Zion you're surrounded by these huge monolithic escarpments.  Beautiful!

Yes, those are my boys looking down over a 1500 foot sheer cliff.  Actually, we found out from a different view a bit later that the rock they are on is actually a huge overhang.  Fun!

Then Emerald Pools hike took us along a small river into a more forested area and a narrower canyon.

The highlight of the trip was on Friday, when we hiked to the top of Angel's Landing.  This 6-mile round trip trail rises 1500 feet, mostly in the last mile.  It is the most exciting and dangerous hike I've ever been on.  The last half mile is very steep, with chains bolted to the rock for hikers to cling to.  There are spots where the slope is very steep to the side, and other places where the trail goes along a narrow cliff top maybe two feet wide with 1000+ foot drop offs on either side.  It was an amazing experience and at the top we enjoyed perhaps the best view I've ever seen.  I'm pretty sure that had Christi been there, she would have said there was no way we were going to the top:).

At the beginning of the trail with Angel's Landing in the background.

If you look closely you can see people hiking the switchbacks up this crazy section of the trail.  Believe it or not, the switchbacks up this are actually paved!

Taking a break with breathtaking views.

A bit like The Enchanted Forest in Oregon:)

Grandpa Green in his natural habitat

Waiting for the line of people coming down.  They are holding onto chains to their right.

Unfortunately my phone died at this point, so we were unable to get any more pictures.  It was an amazing hike.  I was quite impressed that my dad completed it at age 73.

This Southern Utah trip has become quite a tradition.  This was our 6th consecutive year.  We've been to five national parks and at least two national monuments.  We camp out for two or three nights each year and spend another night at Grandma and Grandpa Nelson's on the way back.  We've seen unbelievable views, visited ancient cliff dwellings, swum in Lake Powell and ridden a narrow gauge railroad along the edge of a steep cliff through the Colorado mountains.  But far and away the best part of this experience each year is the relationships we are developing.  I'm so grateful for the opportunity to get closer to my boys.  Grateful to be able to have time to teach them life lessons and help them grow closer to their Father in Heaven by experiencing His creations.  Grateful that they are getting to know their Grandpa better than they could just about any other way and hearing stories about his parents and family as well.  Thanks, Christi, for your sacrifices in making this possible each year!