Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Zion National Park Adventures

Hopefully you know the hubby and I were out of town last week (but let's give a HUGE round of applause for the bloggers who wrote guest posts so you had something to read while I was off-the-grid.... cause they were AWESOMESAUCE!).
We decided we wanted to visit Zion National Park for Thanksgiving a few months back (the hubby had never been and I'd only been for a few hours after the St. George Marathon). Last year we did Yosemite and wanted to do something similar. 

Hard to believe this was already a year ago!

Since campsites within the park fill up SUPER fast, we set an alarm the day the spots became available for the public and made sure to book our site as soon as it opened. (We asked some friends to join us and they booked the site across from us.) {FYI: We stayed at Watchman Campground, which is right inside the South Entrance of the park and LOVED it!}

We splurged and got the annual pass for National Parks! Now to take advantage of it!

If you follow me on Instagram {@CarleeMcDot} and watch my stories, you may have seen some of the adventures we went on... but I still wanted to share them here too. I do want to warn you, this post will be FULL of photos - ENJOY!


We hit the road Tuesday morning by about 5am. The game plan was to meet our friends (who left Monday evening but were staying with family in Vegas that night) in Vegas by 9:30am. Since the Seven Magic Mountains have been on my list of "must do" things for a while now, I made sure that the hubby and I made a quick pit stop to check them out. (The sign says they are only commissioned through May 2018, so if you haven't had a chance to see them, I'd suggest going soon!)

If you know me, you know I love COLOR, so this was right up my alley!

We pulled into Zion National Park around 2:30pm (we lost an hour due to the time change, had stopped for an hour for lunch and had to wait for an hour for our friends to show up before hitting the road, so technically we didn't do too bad with time). For the rest of the afternoon/ evening, we set up camp and hung out with our friends. I did get scolded for being on my skateboard because apparently they're not allowed within the park and since our campground was inside the park they're considered illegal (but for some reason inline skates and gas-powered scooters are totally acceptable). Other than that we spent time chillaxin' with our framily (friends who have become family) and enjoying the beauty around us.

And just in case you were wondering... This skateboard is also a #CarleesTreasure!

Sunset over the Virgin River... not too shabby if I do say so myself!

Wednesday morning the hubby and I decided to hit up some hikes before our friends got up. The park shuttles weren't running yet (they'd be going on Thursday through Saturday), so we got the Adventure Mobile ready and made our way to the trail heads. Originally we wanted to hike Angels Landing, but when we pulled in the parking lot at 6:30am (mind you, the sun doesn't rise until 7:15am) it was full... BOO! We decided to hit up Weeping Rock. While there, we noticed some signs for Hidden Canyon and decided to check it out. We are so glad we got detoured because this hike was AMAZING! It was off the beaten path a bit (I think we maybe saw 3 or 4 people the whole time we were on it) and the views were awesome. At the end there is a bit of a "choose your own adventure" because there is a decent stretch of un-maintained trail before you reach the end - but we had a blast! And on the way back we even saw a bighorn sheep!

Some of the different terrain on the Hidden Canyon Trail

We did all the climbing and traversing we could and finally came to this sign! #TheEnd

On the way back to the campground we figured we'd see if there were any spots open in the Angels Landing parking lot. We thought we saw one so asked the rangers who had closed the lot if we could sneak in. He told us the spot was actually handicapped, but if we could squeeze in to another one a few feet away he'd let us have it. SCORE! (Apparently many folks had been pretty upset due to the traffic congestion, lack of shuttles, construction, etc and were being rude. #EntitledBrats The ranger thanked us for being so nice and let us in. #KindnessForTheWin)


One of the benefits of not having the shuttles running was the traffic on the trails was kept at a minimum (the only people hiking were those who found parking spots before the lots closed and I'd say most trail heads had a max of maybe 20-25 spots). We were able to get to the top of Angels Landing fairly quickly (the last half mile or so where you have to really climb and hold onto chains is where it bottle-necked and slowed down). The views from the top were stunning! I would say it definitely was not as tough/ scary as Half Dome in Yosemite (and with the round trip being a little over 5 miles, I'd say it was much more doable as well). Ryan and I both said this was one of our top three hikes that we did in Zion (but because it's so popular we expected it to be pretty amazing, which is why it didn't take the top spot as our favorite).

The views do NOT suck!

We ended up running the way down (once we got off the chains that is). I don't know about you, but we have found it much easier (and faster - DUH!) to run down a trail. Momentum is helping you out and you don't have to fight gravity to stop yourself as much as if you were just hiking. We were stoked to have been able to fit in Angels Landing even though originally we thought it was going to be a bust with the parking situation! Just reminds you to always be nice to everyone!

Had to snag a couple pictures proving we did it, right?!

After lunch we hit up Canyon Overlook with everyone. The kids had a blast exploring (they thought it felt like Mars) and the views weren't too shabby either. (Not to mention, it was about 2 miles round trip so very doable for everyone with us.)

A pretty flat trail that everyone could enjoy ;)

Hubby was playing around with "portrait mode" on a friend's phone

We capped off the day with one of my favorite things about camping... S'MORES! (Last year, after Halloween, I found some White Chocolate Reese's Peanut Butter Cups {in the shape of pumpkins} on sale and had tried them in my s'mores. They were AMAZEBALLS! Now any time I see them I snag a bag for when we go camping.)


Thursday was Thanksgiving and since we weren't at home for the Oceanside Turkey Trot, we decided to do a little McDot Tofurkey Trot of our own. We threw on our running gear and started the day with a 5K on Watchman Trail. The trail had a lot more elevation than we were expecting (which meant a little more hiking than running), but the views made every step worth it! We even found a trail chair to take a quick break on ;) We are BEYOND BLESSED to be able to enjoy nature the way we do (running/ camping/ hiking/ adventuring) and did our darnedest to stay present and extra thankful on our run.

Not a bad way to start the day!

Some of the trail conditions we were dealing with (PS Doesn't the picture in the middle look like a volcano exploring?!)

Please tell me we are not the only ones who enjoy doing panoramic "magic" ;) 

A rock chair to sit down at so you could enjoy the views!

Once we got back to camp we grabbed breakfast and got everyone ready to head out for some exploring. We ended up tackling the Lower and Middle Emerald Pools and the Grotto. The kids were troopers, especially since by the end of our excursion we had covered about 6 miles. (We even came face to face with some deer on the trails.)

A shot of the middle pool

A couple scenery pictures I snagged along the way

And because the hubby and I can't seem to sit still for too long, once we dropped everyone off at the campsite, we grabbed his bouldering gear and made our way to some nearby rocks so he could get his climb on before dinner.

Some awesome bouldering within a half mile walk from our campsite

Since the hubby and I are vegetarians, traditional Thanksgiving food isn't our jam, but we did make some pretty delicious pasta and "meatballs" while everyone else enjoyed their turkey and gravy. And we ended the evening with Rummikub.

I don't use sauce, but Nutritional Yeast and Trader Joe's Everything But The Bagel Seasoning is a MUST!

Friday morning the hubby and I jumped on the shuttle early to make our way down to The Narrows. With the weather being as cold as it was, we didn't want to hike in (even with the dry suits you can rent), but since the hubby has never seen it, we wanted to at least check them out. Let me tell you, I know for sure we will be back to Zion and hiking The Narrows is definitely on our list of things to do (I was lucky enough to do them with friends last October and it's amazing).

It was pretty chilly but thankfully we packed some warm weather gear

A local friend was planning to come grab us all at 10am Friday morning and give us a little personal tour, but when our friends woke up that morning they were feeling sick. They decided to pack up and head out early - BUMMER! With a now wide-open day in front of us, I flashed my best "please oh please" eyes to the hubby and asked him if he wanted to tackle Observation Point. You see, this hike is 8 miles round trip and considered strenuous (and after all the activity we had done the previous couple days I knew the hubby was a little beat up from the feet up). Originally we were going to put it off until our next visit (because there will be another visit), but my charm worked and the hubby agreed to hit it up with me.

Back in the shuttle line we went (I'll be honest, at first I was a little annoyed at the long line of people, but then I realized I'd much prefer them all to #OptOutside on Black Friday than be in a line at a store buying something they didn't need so my mood and perspective quickly changed). I think we waited maybe 20 minutes, but soon enough we were on our way!

When we jumped off the shuttle at our stop we noticed the crowds hadn't followed us. There were definitely more people than there had been when we went to Hidden Canyon (you follow the same path for the first quarter mile or so), but the "strenuous" classification must have kept folks away. I was even able to meet a sweet follower on the hike (thanks for saying HI, Clara)! It ended up taking us about an hour and a half to get the 4 miles up to Observation Point (we climbed a little over 6,200 feet) with photo and water stops. Once we got to the top we had to take in the views - they were AMAZEBALLS! Remember when I mentioned Angels Landing wasn't our favorite hike... well, that's because this was! Yes, it was longer. Yes, it was tougher. But man oh man, were the views worth every step! It was sort of like you were on top of the world (or at least a plateau above the canyon floor about 7,000 feet above sea level ;)).

The start of the hike and the views from the top!


Similar to Angels Landing, we decided to run down. It took us about half the time (a little under 45 minutes), even with more photo ops and water breaks. It was fun to say hi to all the hikers we had seen on the way up (and we promised them that we weren't ultra athletic, but it was easier to let momentum pull you). Some of the spots were a little hairy to run down (loose rocks, steep cliffs, etc), but we took our time and had a great time. We smiled and chatted about how 3 or 4 years ago we would have never thought about running down a mountain but now we wouldn't have it any other way.

There was a slot canyon on the way down we had to check out

I guess you could say we did our best to #OptOutside on Black Friday (and all of the week leading up to it)... We capped off the evening with some homemade pizza made in the Adventure Mobile and, of course, more s'mores!

Some of the yumminess I was enjoying while camping!

The weather while we were in Zion was pretty amazing. It got down in the high thirties or low forties in the evenings and got up in the seventies during the day. A large chunk of the hikes we were doing were in the shade so we wore pants and a long sleeve or jacket for the majority of the time - but it actually felt like fall (unlike the 90 degree temps we were getting in San Diego over the Thanksgiving week). I'd say we definitely lucked out - it was GORGEOUS! #ThanksMotherNature

Although this was our first time staying in Zion, we both agreed that it would not be our last. In fact, we are already looking at the calendar to see when we should head back next (as well as thinking about where to go for next Thanksgiving). We tackled a lot on this trip, but there is still so much to explore (especially over near the Kolob Canyons).

How did you spend your Thanksgiving holiday?


Kerry Schultz said...

I think I will ask my wife to stop phd dissertation writing services on this weekend and go to this place with me. I am sure both of us are going to have an amazing adventure.

San said...

Amazing! I just spent a few days in Zion in September and was blown away by Angel's Landing... but I guess now I have to go back and hike Observation Point, if you say that this hike was even better!