Week 13: Angel's Landing
I wasn't expecting myself to do this.
It did help me embody "focusing on the next step alone," something I've thought about in theory -- both in life path and in exercises like meditation or yoga. And the views were beautiful, and the sense of accomplishment filling, and the tiredness achingly sweet. I also don't think it was an intelligent thing to do, in the end, even though I do not regret it.
Angel's Landing is a hike in Zion National Park, Zion which is known for its massive, brilliant sandstone cliffs, its slot canyon, its wildlife, and its winding emerald river. Angel's Landing Trail is a half-mile trail accessible only at the top of a wide, two-mile hike up a cliff.
The two-mile hike is tame. The last half-mile is not.
Not at all. The 1500-foot-high landing is known for its otherworldly views at the top and for occasionally delivering people to other worlds people who fall to the bottom.
Although I like physical exertion, I don't like heights...or at least, being anywhere near a drop-off. The thought of them makes my hands clammy. Show me a picture of say, Plank Walk in the Sky, and I can actually hear my heart thumping...actually.
On Monday, after climbing up the two miles to the beginning of the Angel's Landing Trail, I plopped down at 'Quitter's Corner,' an aptly named plateau where hikers take a peek (you can't actually see what's coming from that vantage, or it might be even more of a quitter's corner) at the next bends of trail and decide to stop.
My cousin was going to hike up to the second-level peak and I was going to wait. I waited about 45 minutes before making a different decision than I thought I would. I waited while hikers came to the plateau and either passed me or decided to stop. I saw a lot of human nature in those minutes, and I don't think that those who decided to stop are cowardly, or weak, or fearful. They might just be very intelligent.
Besides not liking heights, my running shoes had no grip and from the little I could see of the continuing trail, the sloping sandstone was in some areas covered with sand, with only a chain offering any solace from sheer drops and two-way traffic.
When I got up to continue, feeling torn and tired of waiting, I meant only to go to the second-level peak, around the corner. I was getting too mental about the next section of chain-hiking that I could see and wanted to get over it, so I gathered myself and did it. When I rounded that turn, I overheard a group of hikers saying the part I had just done was the most challenging (it truly was) of the entire trail.
That was when I saw the actual hike to the landing, pictured left, which looked a lot worse than what I had just done. I had never seen pictures before - had only heard about it - and wouldn't have thought about attempting it if I wasn't right there. Now I realize it looked so impossible because I took in that vision in its entirety, not step-by-step.
I decided to continue for the next 10 yards, and the next 10 yards, and then the next 10 yards; although I like a challenge, I don't want to unnecessarily flirt with life. I never thought I would reach the landing until I actually reached the landing. I hate germs, but that chain was a good friend.
Aside from not pressuring myself to top the peak, two things helped me: reminding myself to only focus on the next step, and sketchily adopting myself into a father-daughter duo climbing at a similar pace, with the father reminding his daughter of the same step-by-step advice. Thank you to whoever you two are.
And crab-walking. Thank you, crabs.
I found my cousin, who also chose to continue, at the top, and yes, the views were beautiful.
(PC: all Angel's Landing photos, except the illustrations and the one of the peak itself, are taken by my cousin. But Google for yourself, these pictures don't show nothin' of that trail!)
I thought the descent would be worse, but the ascent actually put me in a little-by-little frame of mind, and it stayed with me until the bottom. The difference that mentality made was everything.
This was my greatest lesson: we can do anything if, in some way or another, the next step remains before us. It might take creativity to see it. And if it isn't there, turn around!
I thought that if I went up again, I would probably not be half as freaked as I was in the beginning of the ascent. LOL. JUST KIDDING, that was not about to happen!
I have never loved good old solid ground so much. We humans are delicate little creatures, capable of so much strength and yet frail in the face of nature.
If you ever do something like this, PLEASE don't approach it casually, even if you don't resort to crab-walking like me. Too many people were nonchalant about this: jumping from rock to rock, doing yoga near the edge of the trail for pictures, taking up infants, impatiently trying to get up or down as fast as possible amidst two-way traffic. There is nothing brave and there is everything foolish about this.
Even deer have fallen off, and the head park ranger said those that are so casual about this have never seen a body fallen from that height. Please respect life, including yours.
Until next time, Angel's Landing.
And next time = admiring the landing from the river.
More photos of the area, including some cuteness overload...