If there's one word I would use to describe how I felt while visiting Zion National Park it would be 'small'. Actually 'small' might not even be the right word. A tiny speck on the earth might be a better way to describe how I felt while visiting these massive canyons in the park. On Wednesday, May 11th we left Las Vegas and headed north. From Las Vegas it's about a two and half hour drive to Zion. We headed north on Interstate 15 and drove through an amazing part of Arizona!
When we arrived we parked in Springdale, The town of Springdale is right next to Zion National Park. It's a beautiful town with a few hotels, shops and restaurants. If we ever get to return to Zion I would love to spend a few days here. We found parking along the street and there is a shuttle that will take you to the park entrance since the parking lot was already full when we arrived.
We thought this shuttle would take us into the park but instead it dropped us off at a bridge where we walked to the pedestrian entrance of the park. We paid our admission and then headed to another shuttle stop that would take us into the park. There are nine shuttle stops in Zion and we decided to get off the last stop to hike along the river. Part of the hike can actually be completed in the Virgin River. The day we visited, there was a warning for a flash flood so hiking in the river was not permitted,
This hike was pretty easy and there wasn't much elevation change along the way. It was a bit crowded at times. The canyons on this trail are so tall that you feel like you're standing next to a sky scraper.
Once we reached the end of the trail we turned around and headed back to the shuttle stop. The shuttles in Zion arrive every 15 minutes and they are really efficient! We never had to wait very long. Our next stop was the hike to Angel's Landing. Before even starting this hike I was nervous about it because I could see the cutout in the canyon from the road. Could I really hike up there?
We figured we would hike a far as we could and then turn around when we felt like it. As we hiked upwards the narrow path and heights didn't seem to bother me much, but the elevation did! I was huffing and puffing the whole way as we made the climb! Only being a week and a half removed from running the Pittsburgh half marathon this kind of surprised me but we really don't have elevation changes like this in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
After climbing the steep front face of the canyon, the trail leveled off and went back into a wooded area. This was a nice flat walk compared to the steep trail we just climbed. I was also glad that we did this hike in late afternoon. The entire trail was shaded, which was really nice. If the sun would have been shining on us, I think it would have made things much more difficult. Bringing water and a little bit of food is a must for this hike, as well as being in decent shape. It was a pretty strenuous hike.
After making it up the front portion of the canyon I thought the steep climbs were over. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. After this nice long path in a 'wooded' area we found another steep climb of switchbacks. At this point I felt really annoyed with this hike and the climb in elevation. I was starting to think that I really wasn't cut out for hiking but figured I had made it this far and I didn't want to turn around now.
Eventually we made it to the top of the switchback's to a portion of the trail called 'Scout's Lookout'. It was here that I started to realize just how far we had climbed. I also looked in front of me at the remaining portion of the trail where I saw people climbing down rocks or scooting on their butts down the rocks, while holding a chain.
There was also a sign posted on this portion of the trail that said six people had died from falling while trying to climb it since 2004.
Um. No, thanks,
The heights were already starting to bother me just being at Scout's Lookout. I was afraid I would 'freeze' going up the Angel's Landing. Plus I really wanted to go home from vacation and I can always just look at photos of Angel's Landing on Instagram.
We decided to head back down and call it a day for hiking. Going down was certainly easier than going up. We found that it was actually easier to run down the switchbacks than to walk. When we walked we had to hold ourselves back and it just made things harder. Running back down was actually kind of fun!
As soon as we got back to the shuttle stop a bus showed up to pick us up. My feet felt like they were on fire, my calves were super tight and my knees ached, but I felt very accomplished after that hike. After these two hikes we were super hungry! When we made it back to Springdale we immediately starting looking for food. Fortunately there is a grocery store right outside of the park. We bought some turkey wraps and had an impromptu picnic outside. Even just having a picnic in Zion is extraordinary!
After our picnic, we took the Springdale Shuttle back to our rental car and headed to Cedar City where we were staying for the night. The next day, we came back to Zion after visiting Bryce and drove the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway on our way back to Las Vegas. I will include that ride in another blog post. Zion is just too big for one post!
Last week my husband and I vacationed in Las Vegas but we also decided to venture around the Southwest to see something new. Neither of us remember exactly how we decided but we picked Utah. We decided to visit two parks: Zion and Bryce. We actually ended up visiting Zion twice - blog post coming on that park. Following our first day at Zion we stayed overnight in Cedar City, Utah. From Las Vegas, Cedar City is about two and a half hours north on Route 15. Most of the people staying at our hotel were also visiting the parks and we compared notes with them. To get to Bryce from Cedar City we drove through the Dixie National Forest which had some amazing sight-seeing in itself!
As we drove up the mountain we were surprised to see snow! The temperature near the top of the mountain was around forty degrees.
Once we arrived at Bryce Canyon we parked near Sunrise Point. You could spend many days at the park but since we only had one day we picked the Navajo Trail which is one of the shortest but still a very impressive trail.
When we got out of the car and started walking uphill I immediately noticed I was breathing heavier than usual. I'm no stranger to hills, but once I saw an elevation sign for 8,000 feet I knew why this felt harder than it should.
Bryce is a little bit cooler than you would expect in May. On average it seems that Bryce is 15 degrees cooler than Zion. When we started our hike it was in the high 50's with a light breeze at the top of the canyon. I wore a light jacket, long pants and my running shoes. I also took my camelback full of water which was much needed on this hike.
The hike was breathtaking! I think this is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Although we were there for only a short visit, I would love to return and see what else Bryce has to offer.
After the hike we made our way back to Las Vegas via Zion National Park. All that hiking made us extremely hungry and we knew we wanted to visit In and Out Burger. We plugged it into our GPS and hightailed it to North Las Vegas. There is also an In and Out Burger in St. George, Utah if you need one sooner!
The 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon was held on May 1, 2016. Unlike the past few years, weather become an issue in this year's race when thunderstorms and rain was predicted. I didn't really know what to expect with the conditions on race day, so I just told myself that whatever happened would happen and everyone would have to deal with the same conditions.
Fortunately the weather conditions kept changing for the better as it was updated throughout the day before the marathon. When I awoke at the wonderful time 4:45 AM on Sunday it wasn't even raining!
Mile 1: We start! Excitement is in the air. The rain is falling but it’s not too bad. I can deal with this. I look at my watch. Normally I would hold myself to certain pace but I just want to go with what feels good today.
Mile 2: The rain is really starting to come down right now. It’s just giving me flashbacks of the Rock and Roll DC Half Marathon last year when I ran in a monsoon. I hope that this isn’t going to be the weather for the rest of the race.
Mile 3: The rain is letting up. In fact, I barely notice it. This is a good sign, but my left foot has fallen asleep. I remind myself that his happened last year too around Mile 3.
Mile 4: I see someone wearing a shirt that says, “You’re getting beat by someone who had open heart surgery.” I run next to him and tell him that he’s doing a great job. I show him my American Heart shirt. A few seconds later I feel a tap on my shoulder. It’s my friend Josh! We chat for a while and run together before getting separated at the water stop. I run over the bridge back in downtown. This always a favorite part of the course for me and yet again it does not disappoint.
Mile 5: Woohoo! I’m almost to mile 5 and I feel great. It almost scares me how good I feel, but I tell myself to just go with it. We climb cross back over the bridge to the North Side and it’s a tough climb but the Urban Impact group is at the top of the hill. They inspire me to get to the top.
Mile 6: We continue through a park on the North Side and then make a left onto a side street. This side street is new to the course this year and boy does this hill ever suck. What kind of awful human puts this hill into the course? Then I remember the finish line was moved back this year to get rid of a small hill at the end of the race and I just have to deal with this hill sooner than later. I forgive the awful human.
Mile 7: I hit up the water stop and take my gel before crossing the bridge. At this point I know the honeymoon is over and things are going to get serious. I push myself slow and steady to the top of the West End Bridge and cruise into the West End neighborhood.
Mile 8: The West End neighborhood makes me forget all about my aches and pains. Cheering! Bands! Screaming! This place is awesome. It’s so awesome, I really want to stay instead of climbing up the next hill.
Mile 9: This hill climb is no fun. My breathing is heavy and I’m struggling. It also doesn’t help that I’m in the land of office buildings, inclines, strip clubs and retaining walls. Not exactly inspiring stuff. I just need to get the heck out of here and make it to Station Square and the South Side.
Mile 10: This is getting crappy. I’m not sure how much longer my legs or my pace will hold up. Out of the corner of my eye I see a girl in a pink shirt bouncing ahead of me like the start line of a 200 meter sprint. Who the heck looks this good at Mile 10 of a race? I see a ‘relay’ bib attached to her back and immediately feel better about myself.
Mile 11: After pink girl passes me, I look for my friend Suzy who is on the South Side. I see her and my spirits are uplifted. Maybe I just can hold this all together. Even though I’m excited to make a left off of Carson Street I’m scared of what’s next; the Birmingham Bridge. I tell myself to just keep moving. Slow and steady is okay right now.
Mile 12: I’m almost over the bridge, but more trouble is ahead; the dreaded uphill to the Boulevard of the Allies. The trek up the bridge has completely gassed me and I’m totally out of breath, as evidenced by another runner turning back to look and see who is hyperventilating behind him.
Off the bridge ramp and to the hill we go. I decide to walk a bit to begin the hill. I start running. I stop. I start walking. I run. I walk. My…legs… will…not… go… At this point my body was protesting and the uphill is not helping. I tell myself that I need to get to the top of the hill and then gravity will help me on the other side. Also, I know that Bobby is waiting for me on this mile and I don’t want him to see his wife wimping out on the last 1.5 miles of a half marathon.
I was mad and even perplexed that I was having this mental battle with myself
This is your 10th half marathon! You know how to do this! Move!
Mile 13: Finally between walking and running I get to the crest of the hill. I start pushing myself down the hill. I was falling apart, but I just needed to hold it together for a little over half a mile. I heard Bobby yell my name and felt relieved he didn’t have to see that walk/run mental breakdown. The downhill is fooling everyone into thinking I was feeling awesome at this point.
I look at my watch. I know I’m in reach of a 2:10 half marathon and if I let it slip away I will be so angry with myself. I dug down as deep as I could and ran as hard as I could to the finish. “That’s the way to finish a race!” I heard someone yell from the crowd.
I crossed the finish at 2:10:16. A new personal best!
This race ticked off a lot of boxes for me. I was able to achieve a new personal best. I ran my 10th half marathon and I was also able to raise $1,050 for the American Heart Society. This was my first year running for a charity and it really made the race all the more special for me. Thank you to everyone who donated!
For some reason, it also stuck out to me how wonderful the volunteers are that help make this race possible. Every time I grabbed a water a smiling and encouraging face on the other side handed it to me. Maybe it was in contrast to the damp, dreary day but the people who volunteered and cheered for the runners really stood out to me during this race. The community always comes together on this day and I'm always proudest to say that I'm from Pittsburgh on Marathon Sunday.
Author: Sarah Warman
I like to run, take pictures and write. I've combined all three in this blog.