Friday, May 21, 2010

Observation Point

The guide for the Observation Point Trail states “This is a long strenuous trail with many steep sections and unprotected drop-offs. Not for anyone who is out of shape, or has a fear of heights.” An apt description, I might add! It ascends 2,148 feet in four miles, making it an eight-mile round-trip. Observation Point provides another view of the Zion Canyon, including Angels Landing, from above.

When I was about one-third of the way up, I began to be passed by small groups of kids. They just kept on coming. And passing me. Finally, several of them had stopped to take a break and I took that opportunity to talk with them. There were 63 kids (ranging in age from 11 to 13) and 12 adults from a satellite school in Houston, Texas. They had been at Zion for eight days and had gone on a hike every day, each hike being progressively more difficult. The day before they had ALL made it to the top of Angels Landing! In fact, each and every one of them had completed every hike they had done. Pretty impressive. However, I was extremely glad that they weren't doing Angels Landing at the same time as I was. It's not that they were terrible kids, because they were the most well-behaved group I think I've ever seen. It's just that there were so many of them!

A short time later I began to play leap-frog with a fellow, probably in his 30s, and asked if he was with the group of kids from Houston. Turns out he was the husband of the principal. We talked for a while as we slowly walked along the trail. He told me that each of the kids had earned their way during the school year by “doing the right thing” as much as possible. They have a system using baseball as an analogy, hits for the good things and strikes for the not so good. Sixty-three kids had enough “hits” to make the trip while 42 were back in Houston.

Anyway, by the time I got to Observation Point I had been passed by nearly everyone in their group, as well as a few other hikers. But I got there! And again, the views from the top and along the way were well worth the effort.

Part way up the trail, eyeball to eyeball with Angels Landing (with the help of the 7x zoom). It doesn't look quite so “bad” from this angle.

After you go up a series of steep switchbacks you enter a narrow canyon that has a stream running through it, but there wasn't much water actually flowing. This was one of the neatest parts of the hike, in my opinion!

There were pools of standing water but we didn't get our feet wet.

The sky and the walls of the canyon are reflected in one of the pools of water.

This was taken on the way back down, entering the canyon from the east.

The trail has exited Echo Canyon and is progressing up the east side of the canyon wall.

I'm still going up, but they are going down.

The destination, Observation Point, is just above the red “lines” in the center.

This last uphill stretch seemed never-ending.

Finally, the plateau. But there is still a ways to go to get out to the point.

Part of the group of 63 kids. A very well-behaved group they were.

The lower portion of the trail, coming up out of the Zion Canyon floor. The Observation Point trail goes off to the left (top center of photo). The three topmost switchbacks belong to the Hidden Canyon Trail, which goes off to the right.

The top of Angels Landing ranges from 20 to 40 feet in width. There are people up there...

As I was promised by my camping neighbors, Maryann and Rob, the view from Observation Point is spectacular. The Virgin River flows through the valley, Angels Landing is in the Center, and then the eastern wall of Refrigerator Canyon. Fantastic.

1 comment:

Barbara Poole said...

Superior photos. Thanks once again. Lucky you, you had two weeks, and I had two days, sob.