At 11:00 a.m. on May 7, I finished my final with a sigh of relief and got in the packed car with my boyfriend Sean. Our first destination was ten hours away in Memphis, Tennessee from Savannah, Georgia. We left our two dogs and house behind (who were taken care of by my dad) with our last destination in mind: the Grand Canyon.
It was a trip of many firsts.
Mesa Verde: This National Park in Colorado was like taking a step through time. Our campsite was so quiet. The only sounds I heard were the birds chirping in the morning.
Mesa Verde, Spanish for Green Table, is an ancienct site dating from 1200, where Ancestral Puebloans built amazing cliff dwellings straight from the rock.
To get to it, we had to climb down then back up via three ladders up the cliff face. It was only occupied for a generation or two.
Zion National Park: Located in southwestern Utah, this park is surrounded by desert but the looming cliffs were ironically carved out by the Virgin River. Different rock layers painted the cliffs, making it easy to see how the passing of time shaped the towers. The red sandstone combined with whites and browns were a dark contrast against the green trees that lined the river. Early Mormon pioneers loaned Biblical names to major landmarks, such as the Three Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
We hiked up the Emerald Pools Trail, one of the contributers to the river in the valley. It was one of the popular, easier trails in the park.
The harder, less popular trail in the park is Angels Landing. It was a grueling 4-mile hike consisting of steep switchbacks up to a ravine. From there, we hiked further into the ravine away from the valley, then up MORE switchbacks up to the top of a ridge. This trail gained 1,440 feet in elevation.
The views were incredible. We could see on either side straight down. The Visitors Center and shuttle busses looked like children’s toys.
The trail continued further, on the top of the ridge. All we had to hold on to was the rocks and a chain. We scrambled across for maybe 200 feet, then made it to another outlook.
But we weren’t there yet.
There was another half mile of trail, where hikers only had a chain to protect you from the sheer dropoffs on either side of the trail. Did I mention that six people have died on this trail since 2004?
We didn’t go any farther past the second outlook.
This was one of the switchbacks down, once you get out of the ravine:
Next up: Las Vegas!