Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Up the Narrow Fin

Friday June 17, 2011
Zion National Park
Watchman Campground Site B

Today we decided to do what is consider the
park’s premier and most difficult trail, Angel’s Landing.

The trail is a very steep climb pretty nearly straight up
to a set of steep and short switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles
after the man who original designed the trail I believe.
That is followed by steep and narrow climb up the
back side of the mountain with sheer drop offs on either side
and chains to help you pull yourself up and keep yourself
stable.   I, for one, was not at all sure about this.
But David could hardly wait.

So here is where we are going.
To the top of this.

1. Off to Angels Landing



The trail started out innocently enough
along the river

Angel's Landing 017

We were serenaded along the way by
this Western Towhee who was just singing his
little heart out.  One of my favorite
birds in Virginia was the Rufus Sided Towhee
and his “drink your teeeeee” song.


But soon the trail started UP


And it got steeper as we climbed.


Here’s a better perspective on where we’d come from.
See the tiny trail on the right?  That’s the one
shown above.  The river is in the center of
the picture below.


We hiked around great rock formations


And through narrow spaces


Finally we got to “Walter’s Wiggles”
a set of short, steep and seemingly endless switchbacks.
Not sure I remember exactly what Carrie told me
but I think she said that these were named for
a former park superintendent who
planned out the west rim trail of which this is a part.


So at this point, here’s looking down
from where we are.

Angel's Landing 034

And here’s where we are going.
Not the first peak but the one behind it.
Well, actually both.
First one and then the other.



The last half mile is across a narrow sandstone ridge.
Sheer cliffs at high elevation while hiking on a narrow fin.
OK now we have to get up to the
top of the peak by climbing
that narrow fin on the right.



It turns out that we don’t have
any pictures of the most
precarious hand holds where
you are pulling yourself up by the chains.
Guess that must have been because
we were too busy making sure we didn’t fall
off to take a picture.  :-)
Here’s one of the safer spots.
Drops off on both sides of me.


Not there yet
but getting closer


Almost there


But we made it from all the way down
there to all the way up here!!


We met a very nice trio of German folks,
Carsten, Miriam and Laura.
Carsten had hike this trail multiple times
and even guided it.  He
was very helpful to me especially
in pointing out which particular steps might
be easier for someone of my height.
He was over 6 feet and believe me, that was an advantage.

Laura had just finished 10 months as an exchange student
in West Texas and her mother Miriam and Carsten had
come over to visit for 3 weeks before she returned
to Germany.  Laura had really enjoyed her time in Texas
and had made many friends she was sad to leave.
Miriam was gracious enough to say that she
too wanted to take this whole thing “slowly”
so she and I were often at the end of our “group”.
It was wonderful hiking with the 3 of them.
I hope they are reading this and will
get in touch with us so I can send them
some of the pictures I have of them on the trail.

This picture was taken part way down.
But I’m ahead of myself.


We spent a fair amount of time enjoying the
views in every direction from the top of Angel’s Landing

Angel's Landing 066

 Angel's Landing 084




Although we didn’t see any angels.
we saw plenty of  these guys who had figured
out that there were crumbs to be had
in this location.  There were at least a half dozen
of them scurrying around checking out
every one and every pack.


Getting down was actually more concerning
than getting up as it turns out since
when you are going up, you are looking up
but when you are going down……..well

Here’s the start of the trail back down.
Notice the chain on the left.

Angel's Landing 091

Chains on the right this time.


There were a lot of TALL steps for
me both coming and going.


Oh dear….



The funniest thing that happened on the
way down was when we passed a slightly heavy set
young man who said “I sure hope I can
still do things like this when I’m your age”.
Guess that’s a compliment?

The all important chains…


We finally arrived back at Walter’s Wiggles
which looked pretty cool this time especially
if you take teeny tiny steps to save your knees.


Safely down, we started playing around.
We walked through what is known as
Refrigerator Canyon and found this cool
little hidey hole, as my Great Aunt Carrie,
would have called it.  We both climbed
in to see how cool was it?


David could almost stretch out his legs.
I could lay down although he didn’t
get a picture of me in full recline it appears.
From here we could watch all the silly
folks huffing and puffing up the trail
at nearly noon.

Angel's Landing 096

Almost down!

That’s Angel’s landing in the background.

Angel's Landing 015 

On the walk back to the campsite we go by a
mulberry tree where we have been snitching
mulberries for days.  Today we saw this
fellow on that tree.  He was really huge
although it’s hard to tell from this photo.
I wonder if he eats mulberries too??


Nicely colored isn’t he.


Got back, had lunch.
David took his usual nap.

I went down to the river again.
Different site still fabulous.

Down by the River 003

Young folks with tough skin I guess
actually playing in this freezing snow melt water.

Down by the River 004

David eventually showed up with his chair
and took a shot of me sitting in mine.

Down by the River 019 

For the past few days, we have been checking
recreation.gov hoping to find a couple more
days in Watchman before we go back
to Kanab and then on to the Grand Canyon’s
North Rim for 3 nights.  But so far, no luck.
Perhaps we will move over to South Campground
depending on the weather since there is no
electricity there.

This evening’s Ranger Program was especially
good.  It was done by a special speaker, Chris Parish,
from the non profit Peregrine Fund which is
heavily involved with restoration of the California Condor.

Humans nearly decimated the Condor population
which by 1982 was down to 22
of America’s largest flying land bird.
The Peregrine Fund has been a major force in the
restoration of these birds over the past 29 years.

They are planning another release of birds into the
wild in September of 2011 at Vermillion Cliffs
which we passed through on our way from Arizona
to Utah.  That would be a wonderful thing to see.

The current threat to condors stems from
the use of lead in bullets by hunters and the
ingestion of that lead by scavenger birds.
Until this problem is solved, it is unlikely that
condors can be a self sustaining population
in the wild.  The link above has more information
on this interesting subject.

Chris Parish has been working on
the condor restoration since 1997 and has
been the Peregrine fund’s Condor Field Project
Supervisor since 2000.  He was an excellent
speaker who knew his subject and the research
being done thoroughly.

Tomorrow’s plans include running and
hanging out.  I’m definitely looking
forward to the latter.  :-)
No hikes, sorry.


  1. WOW! Great pics. Got myself a little dizzy sitting here looking at them. Good thing it was you climbing the rocks, LOL! Cheers! ~M

  2. Wow, every day the pictures amaze me! You guys are terrific hikers :)

  3. A wonderful, wonderful post! We have been enjoying your adventures and certainly the great photos. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences in Zion!


  4. Wow. Wow. Wow. You are braver than I! That must have been exhilarating when you reached the top. I have a hard time going down, so I'd have had to just stay there :)

  5. Okay, now my hands are sweating after that hike. I'm just a big ol' chicken when it comes to heights -- especially when they're accompanied with hazardous terrain and cliff exposures!

  6. You guys ROCK!!! What a fabulous hike!!! We are about ready to give the house away and come find you two;o)) Bill (Mr. Afraid of Heights) even said he would like to try this hike!!!

    You are just having such a wonderful time and you'll never know how much we appreciate the time it takes for you to blog all this. You make our day...day after day!! Thanks so much:o))))


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