Stepping Down the Grand Staircase

Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
Trip End May 2010

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Flag of United States  , Utah
Friday, May 15, 2009

A welcomed respute from our motivated climbing schedule and related injuries, Lindsey's parents drove their RV down from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to visit us in southern Utah's Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. They brought with them Joie, their pug. We met Allen and Elly in Bryce, a beautiful higher altitude park at the top of what is known as The Grand Staircase.

We woke at sunrise and drive into the park before the park opened. In stark contrast to the near 100-degree temps we were facing in Red Rocks, we took a 3-mile hike into the hoodoos (a tall thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland. Hoodoos are composed of soft sedimentary rock and are topped by a piece of harder, less easily-eroded stone that protects the column from the elements) while the sun rose to warm the 25-degree F landscape.

Views from Sunrise Point at sunrise

The colourful hoodoos of the Queen Garden hike

Ben being a dork in one of the hoodoo tunnels

Natural Bridge, which is really an arch

Rest of the photos from Bryce:

After cruising through Bryce, we loaded up and drove down into Zion National Park. Zion makes up the middle of the Grand Staircase and is a spiritual place, as much to the early settlers as to those today. In fact, even the word Zion means a place of refuge or sanctuary. Cut in some places nearly a mile deep, the various red and golden layers of sandstone make the valley a very impressive place to be.

Driving through the 1.1 mile-long tunnel built in 1930. Because this is still the original tunnel, we had to purchase a $15 permit for the RV to pass through, single land, the the center of the tunnel. The light you see here is one of the several windows you get to look out of at the amazing cliffs during the drive!
We awoke on the moring of the 10th and made a Lindsey/Mike Hopp specialty for Mother's Day: apple, cinnamon, cardamom pancakes. Then, we headed out on the park's wonderful shuttle system to explore the park.

Lindsey and her mom, Elly, standing in front of Court of the Patriarchs

Lindsey and her folks on a hike up Weeping Rock

Water running off the cliff into the Lower Emerald Pool

If you go to Zion and take the Emerald Pools hike, definitely make the extra effort to walk all the way up to the Upper Emerald Pool--it's by far the most spectacular! This is just one of the walls that surround you and you're sitting on a sandy beach near a pool, listening to miniature frogs!

We did get a day of climbing in as well!

Lindsey on The Headache, 3 pitches of stellar and unique 5.9 and 5.10 face and crack moves. The Headache cruises up just the outside of the 1930's tunnel. She loved it so much she had to give the obligatory, cheesy fist pump to prove it!

Ben's parents also graced us with a spur-of-the-moment visit! Driving all the way from Vancouver Island, BC, Det, Sally, and Smithwick (their chocolate lab) joined us in Zion for fun and adventure. It perfectly completed our miniature family reunion!

Sally getting vertigo on the Angel's Landing hike

Angel's Landing is perhaps the best way to experience the park. Lindsey and her dad, Allen, enjoying one of the summits of the hike. Most people end their hike here, as getting to the summit in the background requires scrambling up narrow ledges that drop off hundreds of feet on either side.

Lindsey made it to the true summit of Angel's Landing, however, and was rewarded by the breathtaking 360-degree views of the valley!

The pic isn't that great due to low light, but we were super lucky to spot a Mexican Spotted Owl on our hike up Angel's Landing!

The rest of the photos from Zion:

We left Lindsey's folks at Zion, but continued on our journey with Ben's down to Flagstaff where we encountered all kinds of car troubles on the way over, including oil, ball joints, asymetrical tire wearing, new tires, rotation, alignment, car dying while driving, slow leaks in other tires, and more! It's impressive that just a few thousand miles ago we spent a few hundred dollars to get everything checked out on the Jimmy to be sure we didn't run into this very situation but alas here we are. Oh well...I guess it's just all a part of the adventure!

Regardless, we rolled into Flagstaff and have spent our time around the area since. Lindsey went with Det and Sally to Sedona for a day while Ben climbed with our friend, Keith, whom we met at Indian Creek (more about this guy and the Flagstaff climbing in our next entry!).

We finished our trip with Ben's folks at the Grand Canyon, the bottom of the Grand Staircase, stepping our way all the way down. It was a wonderful end to a spectacular trip with both sets of folks. Moms and Dads: we can't wait to see you again later in the summer in Jackson and Courtenay!

Our camera was on the fritz, but we were able to snap this one shot of the Grand Canyon that day. It's hard to believe that the Colorado River gushes a whole mile below where we were standing!
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