Our western swing has begun. After visiting family and friends in the midwest and on the east coast, we’re spending a little over a week in Utah visiting the great national parks out here. Mark’s parents have spent years telling us we should come out here, so now that we have time we’re finally doing it. And they’re here, too, acting as drivers and tour guides for us.It started with a flight to Las Vegas and “date night” for us after weeks of being with lots of other people. There’s not much you can say about Vegas that hasn’t already been said: over the top, artificial, a looming environmental disaster (a major metropolis and tourist center with hundreds of green golf courses in the desert?) But it’s a great place to start the Utah tour from and it’s always … interesting. We even made new friends, Ron and Ania, a wonderful London couple (she by way of Poland) who we met over lunch. They’re touring the U.S. from California to South Dakota and back, having put over 3,000 miles on their rental car in just a couple of weeks. Wow!
After a tapas dinner at one of the many good and great restaurants here, we got up the next morning and hit the road. First stop, Zion National Park. We stayed two nights there, and spent our one full day on an invigorating (!) hike up to Angel’s Landing. Here’s how Lonely Planet describes the hike:“Among the harder trails, the 2.5 mile [five miles round trip] Angels Landing Trail (1,490 foot ascent) is the one everyone’s heard of – and fears. At times the trail is no more than five feet wide, with 1,500 foot drop-offs to the canyon floor on both sides.” It goes on to describe the chain-assisted penultimate climb and the even steeper final push to the top. But then, the views. Lonely Planet doesn’t mention – but signs on the trail make very clear – that since 2004 alone, six people have died on the trail. Even more reason we had to try it, right?
So that was it, we have to try. One of the notable features of the climb was how many Europeans were on the trail; it seemed as though half the people were speaking French or German, with a smattering of Spanish thrown in. It occurred to us that the Americans were all on big bus tours that couldn’t remotely stop for a day to do the hike, and the vast majority were in no shape to do it, either. (When we asked at our hotel how to get to a store to buy water and food for the trail and then on into the park, we were told to catch the shuttle bus right out of the hotel, get off at the first stop to buy groceries, and then reboard the bus to get to the park. “Can we just walk to the grocery store?” we asked. “Well, I suppose,” she answered. Turns out it was a five minute walk – and she was recommending the bus. At that time of the morning we’d have waited 10 or 15 minutes to avoid a five minute walk.)
From here it’s on to Bryce Canyon. So far, at least, being a tourist in the U.S. is pretty good.