Another Failed Hiking Attempt

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Palm Springs

Our route from Lost Dutchman State Park to Zion National Park.

Our route from Lost Dutchman State Park to Zion National Park.

We left Phoenix in mid-February and made the 300 mile drive to Palm Springs CA to meet up with my sister and her husband. They’re golfers and Palm Springs is a golfer’s paradise. We only stayed a week and even though we’re not golfers, we loved it. Palm Springs has lots of upscale RV resorts so I can see us spending future winters here when and if we start to slow down.

Lake Mead & Hoover Dam

Cindy and I are headed to Yellowstone for our annual winter “vacation” and this time we plan to leave the RV at a commercial RV park in Salt Lake City.  The route to Salt Lake takes us through Las Vegas, a city that doesn’t interest us but it’s close to Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, a place we’ve always wanted to see.

This photo was taken atop the Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Prior to its opening in 2010, traffic on Hwy 93 drove across Hoover Dam. You can still drive across the dam but forced to turn around on the Arizona side.

Hoover Dam with Lake Mead in the background and the Colorado River in the foreground – This photo was taken atop the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge on Highway 93. Prior to its opening in 2010, traffic traveling between Phoenix and Las Vegas was forced to drive across Hoover Dam. You can still drive across the dam from the Nevada (left) side but must turn around at a closed gate on the Arizona (right) side.

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This photo was taken atop Hoover Dam with the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge in the background (opposite the previous photo).

spillway

This is one of 2 spillways located on each side of Hoover Dam. They empty into tunnels originally dug to route the Colorado River around the dam site during construction in the 1930’s. The spillways have only been used twice, once for testing in 1941 and again in 1983 because of flooding.

Cindy and I camped at Lake Mead RV Village at Bolder Beach, a commercial full-hookup campground located inside the government’s fee-use Lake Mead National Recreation Area (NRA). Since I have a Senior National Park pass, we could enter the NRA for free but Cindy was unable to go to town without me otherwise she’d have to pay the entrance fee on her return.

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Next to the campground lies the old railway that was used to transport construction equipment and supplies between the dam site and the town of Boulder City.  The tracks have been removed and now it’s a hiking trail.

Return to Zion National Park

Cindy and I first visited Zion National Park in October 2015. I had only hiked the Narrows, a trail that proceeds up the middle of the Virgin River but didn’t hike up to Angel’s Landing, the most popular hike in the park. My hiking buddy Yun had hiked Angel’s Landing trail but stopped at Scout Lookout. Beyond this point, hikers must use anchored support chains to continue up the trail with sheer cliffs on both sides. I’ve always teased her about this and bragged that I would return one day just to outdo her.

Angel Landing

The start of Angels Landing Trail – Angels Landing, described as “difficult”,  is a 4.1 mile out and back trail with a 1600 foot elevation change. The weather can be iffy in late February and while the daytime temps climbed to 60º during our stay, there was scattered ice and snow throughout the park.

Two weeks before we arrived, I had called the park about hiking conditions and was told the trail to Angel’s Landing was free of snow. I was also warned this could change. And change it did. Despite the warm weather on our arrival, the ranger said most people hiking Angel’s Landing were stopping at Scout Lookout. She also advised the use of crampons, something I did not own at the time.

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The view back down the start of Angels Landing Trail – The first set of switchbacks took me up the sunny side of the cliffs with little or no snow along the way. I had no idea the trail would proceed through a canyon to the shady side of the cliffs.

The best part of hiking Angels Landing in February is the lack of crowds. I did see dozens of hikers along the way but I’ve read this trail can be packed with people during peak times.

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Much of Angels Landing trail is “paved” making for an easier hike. The paved sections make it possible to enjoy the views while walking instead of watching where to put your feet to avoid rocks and other obstacles..

Once I got about halfway up, the trail leveled off and passed through a shaded section known as Refrigerator Canyon. At this point, I encountered snow and ice on the trail and since it was level, the going wasn’t too bad. But then I got to Walter’s Wiggles…

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Walter’s Wiggles is a set of 21 steep switchbacks. Since they are shaded most of the day, they were covered by a layer of ice.

Without crampons, I was able to climb about half way up Walter’s Wiggles by hiking in the snow on the sides of trail.  I wasn’t the only one without crampons but all I could think about as I was going up was the greater challenge of coming back down. I kept thinking it might get easier as I got higher but this was not the case. Suffice it to say, I didn’t even make it to Scout Lookout so Yun gets to retain her bragging rights for now. (Message to Yun: “I now own a set of crampons and we’re going back in early April.”)

 

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