Ooh, Ahh, and Ugh – Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (part II)

The names of most of the viewpoints in Grand Canyon National Park are of Native American origin. Hopi Point, Yavapai Overlook, and Mohave Point, to name a few. Whoever named the rest was apparently not feeling very creative. Case in point: when we hiked down into the canyon, we found ourselves at Ooh Ahh Point. Yes, that’s its official name.

It’s an unspoken rule that when you arrive you have to look around at the view and say, “ooh, ahh.” I’m kidding. I’m pretty sure I just made that up. But it should be the unspoken rule. Regardless, once you turn around and see how far you have to climb back up, you’ll most definitely be saying “ugh.” Continue reading

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A Vast Expanse – Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (part I)

It’s difficult to describe the Grand Canyon without using the words enormous and spectacular. And while both adjectives are correct, I couldn’t really fully appreciate the immensity of the canyon until I saw it for myself. And so, after 2 days in Zion National Park, we headed south to see it for ourselves.

We began on the south rim of the canyon, the most popular area to visit. The canyon itself is 277 miles long and the National Park spans most of that. However, only a small portion is accessible by car. From Zion, we took Highway 89 south to Arizona Route 64, the main road into the park. The first stop was the Desert View visitor center, tower, and overlook, which provided us with our first views of the canyon, both from the viewpoint and from the top of the tower. As you can see, enormous and spectacular is a pretty accurate description. Continue reading

Angel’s Landing – Zion National Park, Utah (part II)

I like to make lists. Maybe a little too much. Packing lists, grocery lists, travel lists. I usually make a list of exactly what pieces of clothing I’m going to bring with me about a week before I actually have to start packing for a trip. What can I say? I like to be organized and I like to categorize things. Pat just jokingly asked me if I have a list of all the lists I want to make. I don’t, but now I kind of want to make one.

You may have already noticed my propensity for list-making if you’ve stumbled across my lists of Places I’ve Been and Places I Want to Go. Well this post is also part of a list – that of my All-time Favorite Hikes.

Not only is Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park one of my favorites, it also has to qualify as the most extreme hike I’ve ever done. It’s classified as strenuous, and rightly so. We encountered thousand-foot drop-offs, chains drilled into the side of the mountain, steep switchbacks, and a step called the “leap of faith.”

Angel’s Landing is a red rock mountain rising 1,500 feet above the floor of Zion Canyon. Which means that we had to climb 1,500 feet to get to the top of it. In about 2.5 miles. However, we were rewarded with spectacular views of Zion Canyon in all directions, as well as the bragging rights of having made it to the top. Continue reading

Virgin River Canyon – Zion National Park, Utah (part I)

I talked briefly about Zion National Park in one of my initial posts, but that was from a trip that took place about ten years ago so my memories were pretty hazy. One thing I did remember, though, was that Zion National Park is home to Angel’s Landing – a red rock mountain that can be summited only via an extremely steep and treacherous trail. As my dad had recently had knee surgery, this was not a trail we had attempted.

However, my mom, sister, and I were not about to give up so easily. And so, when it came time to plan summer vacation 2009, we made sure to leave space in our itinerary for a return trip to Zion to hike Angel’s Landing.

From our house in Montana, Zion is about an 11-hour drive. Rather than driving it all in one long day, my mom took a half-day off work; we left mid-afternoon and spent the night at a KOA outside Pocatello, ID, about 4 hours from our house. It’s not the nicest KOA I’ve ever stayed at, but it was just for a night so it didn’t really matter. And it meant that we only had a seven hour drive the next day, allowing us to spend the early evening doing a little bit of exploring in Zion. Continue reading

“You can lead a horse to water…” – Drinking Horse Mountain, Montana

“…but you can’t make it drink.”

Or something like that. I’ve never led a horse anywhere, nor have I tried to force one to drink water, so I can’t really vouch for the accuracy of that saying. I really only bring it up because there’s a mountain in the Bridger Range east of Bozeman, MT called Drinking Horse Mountain, so somehow it seemed applicable. I also have no clue why it’s called Drinking Horse Mountain. Maybe from a certain angle it looks like a drinking horse? Who knows?

This is a fairly new hike, as the trail was just completed in 2009. It’s also rapidly become a very popular hike due to its proximity to Bozeman (the trailhead is located off Bridger Canyon road just east of town) and relatively short distance. It’s only a 2.2 mile loop in the shape of a figure eight, though it’s a rather steep hike, climbing about 700 feet in the 1.1 miles it takes to reach the summit. Though not a tall mountain by Montana standards (elevation at the top is 5,539 feet), views from the summit extend down Bridger Canyon to the east and across the entire Gallatin Valley to the west. As for the trail itself, since it’s a figure eight, it’s nice to be able go up by one route and down by another. The left route is substantially steeper than the right; I prefer to go up the right and down the left. Continue reading

A Montana Summit – Sacagawea Peak

For someone who spent 18 years of her life (plus summers while in college) in southwest Montana, I’m a bit embarrassed at how many hikes in this area are still on my to-do list. Granted, MT is a big state. But I also just didn’t like hiking as much when I was younger. Probably because when my dad was involved, fun was typically not. But once I had the option to hike with just my mom and/or sister, I remembered how much I love it! I still don’t think I could spend months hiking the Appalachian trail, but I’m definitely much happier when I get a regular dose of nature.

Okay, so that got a bit off topic. As I was saying, there are a lot of hikes I still want to do in southwestern MT. But if I had to pick my favorite of the ones I’ve done so far, it would have to be Sacagawea Peak. It’s not terribly long. I got to stand on top of a mountain. There are views in all directions. And I got to really experience the ruggedness of the Bridger Mountains. Continue reading