When most people think of visiting Utah in winter, chances are good that they are envisioning snow-capped mountains and world-class skiing. What many people don’t know is that some parts of Utah rarely see snow at all.
After my Valentine’s Day trip to Southern Utah’s Zion National Park, my impressions of Utah in February include 70 degree temperatures, blue skies, light crowds and spectacular red-rock scenery. The occasion was my 51st birthday, and a hike up the famous Angel’s Landing trail was a gift to myself.
I’d heard that Angel’s Landing was one of the most amazing hikes in a canyon known world-wide for its incredible trails. I knew that it was a steep 2.5 mile climb consisting of dozens of switch-backs, and that if the 1,500 foot ascent didn’t take my breath away, the view certainly would. But words cannot express the feeling that came over me when I reached the top of “Walter’s Wiggles” and peered over the edge of a vertical cliff to the Virgin River below. It didn’t hurt that “Stairway to Heaven” happened to be playing on my I-pod at that very moment. The song seemed perfect for the occasion, and so did the weather conditions.
But even though the view before me was well worth the heart-pounding effort, my adventure was just getting started. The end of the trail was a half-mile away, and between me and my destination was a path that looked like the training course for “The Flying Wallendas” tight-rope team.
Now was the moment of decision. Was I going to be satisfied with reaching the platform below the peak, or would I forever regret that I didn’t make it to the place where “only an Angel could land . . .”? I made a few quick calculations involving factors such as my age, the chances of dying on my birthday, the effort I’d already expended in getting to that point on the trail, and the likelihood that I would never do it if I didn’t do it now. The deciding factor was knowing that I couldn’t ask for more perfect circumstances. If I didn’t go now, I’d never forgive myself. I knew that it would either be the best, or the dumbest thing I’d done in a very long time.
I was happy to find that the National Park Service has embedded chains at critical locations along that half-mile trail which teeters on the edge of heaven and hell. I clutched it like a newborn clings to his mother. At least that’s how it was on the way to the “Landing”. I noticed that my confidence had increased on the return trip. I actually caught myself taking a one-handed photo two-feet from oblivion, not even considering the possible consequences.
Two hours later I was “cooling-off” with an ice-cream cone in Springdale, the convenient little town at the entrance of the park, thinking about my Valentine’s Day adventure and proudly congratulating myself for making it all the way to Angel’s Landing, on my 51st birthday.
What a gift!