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Zion National Park, Utah (Part 2 of 2)

The gift of waking up early is priceless. Slowly seeing the incredible mountains surrounding us come to life is so magical. What a way to start the day!

By 7:15, the parking lot is almost full. As we climb up the trail, the sun is also starting to rise, but not enough to melt the snow. Half an hour into the climb, we must put our spikes on. I ask some hikers on their way down about the conditions of Angels Landing. I realize I am still hoping for a miracle. Unfortunately, it turned out that it was so icy, most people chose not to hike Angels Landing.

We pass the intersection of Angles Landing and continue on the West Rim. What is wonderful is that most people don't continue on the West Rim Trail after the intersection of Angels Landing. Please don't stop there, keep going. The trail is beautiful, and the view is stunning. We still climb up in elevation, wrapped in the mountains' silence, almost at eye level with this giant beauty. Five miles into our hike, we decided to turn around, as the snow was getting deeper.

On the way back, we find ourselves again at the intersection of Angels Landing. At this point, we took a few layers off since it is nice and warm. The sun is shining a smile on us. Again, I ask for conditions of Angels Landing from a young couple that just returned from there. It is still a bit icy, but the sun is melting it a bit, and it is slushy and durable with spikes. And... no one is checking for the permit. We are still in the off-season, so there is no ranger to check it out. Betty and I look at each other and, with one voice, decide to try it.

The good thing is the trail has only a few people on it. Most of the time, it is just Betty and I. I can't believe I am here giving this trail the respect it won in my heart and soul. I stop at one point to write this: "I try to understand my emotions; it's definitely not fear at all, but I can't put my finger on it. It's a mix of so many beautiful feelings: pride, love, a huge sense of accomplishment, and a badass feeling of I am doing it! I make sure not to be cocky; after all, it is a challenging and dangerous hike. However, I make sure not to let go of the chain. It provides me with much comfort.

I can't believe I made it! I am on the top of Angels Landing! When we reach the end of the trail, there are only two other people. Julia and Levi, a brother and sister share this amazing adventure. Now we feel like a group, even though we never met before. When we have the opportunity to share our love for nature, we get the opportunity to meet wonderful people.

One section made me uncomfortable on the way up, and fear jumped all over me, knowing I would need to face it again coming down. I'm concentrating so intensely on the "now" which is an excellent opportunity to practice living in the moment. Luckily I can bring my heartbeat a few notches down.

As we descend, things are not as I wish they could be. Panic is taking over me; going down is far from what was coming up. I freeze briefly, but know I can't let fear take over me. I took a few deep breaths and decided that I literally need to take this challenge in small steps, one after another. Knowing Betty is with me was a huge comfort. (Thank you, Betty) Betty describes my experience well: "The Gila that went up is totally different from the Gila that came down." I learned from this experience that life would take me through terrifying moments, and the only way forward is in small steps and deep breaths.

Fear stripped me of my confidence. I am sure if I weren't afraid of heights and had another four inches on me, coming down wouldn't be so terrifying.

I am glad I challenged myself, even though that was not the emotion I experienced in the most frightening sections.

As we hiked down, we bumped into Julia and Levi again and learned we were staying in the same campground. We make plans to have breakfast at our site the next day.

After a day full of excitement and 9 miles of hiking, Betty and I are heading to take a shower just outside the park. We both feel we earned the right for dinner and a drink as well.

The morning brings rain, and breakfast in the rain doesn't feel attractive. However, a local coffee shop will be perfect for meeting Julia and Levi for breakfast.

Zion was an epic adventure! Sharing it with Betty was a treasure! I know we will meet again.

We share contact information and say our goodbyes. I have two days of travel before I get to Joshua Tree National Park. I am meeting with Susan, who I met at Quartzsite, and Carrie, who I met at Tucson. Susan's friends Lori and Sandra will join us as well. I am so looking forward to boondocking with them all!

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