the-narrows

Zion – The Narrows in Winter

You may be going into this post thinking… The Narrows in the Winter?? It must be freezing and well you might be right… It would be cold without the proper gear.

We were recommended Zion Outfitter by a local for having the best Narrows Gear. Like I mentioned in my previous post – the staff is super friendly here, they fixed a crampon that I didn’t even buy from their store! Great service.

Another important tid bit is that you need to start as early as possible… I know its hards but it will make your experience so much better! Towards the end of our hike icicles were dropping which is terrifying.

The park ranger told us that a man got a perma dent in his head from an icicle falling on him. So set your alarm, get your booties in gear and get in the water early. You will also see way less people. We saw maybe 10 total while we were in the Narrows and a whole slew of people were coming in as we were leaving.

Falling icicles, no thanks…Get an early start – no melting ice!

Also… an amazing resource was a post from Just a Colorado Gal about her experience hiking The Narrows in the Winter. Great inspiration!

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We found this map super helpful … well super helpfulish. I think we were walking faster than it guestimated. At any rate helpful to have!img_2901img_2902zionnationalparkpuxg5473zionnationalparkwhiw6512

All geared up! So cute and so dry!zionnationalparkoskk4427zionnationalparklwjd8993zionnationalparkimg_8415zionnationalparkimg_8414zionnationalparkrzvt0001zionnationalparkimg_8392zionnationalparkimg_8393zionnationalparkimg_8391zionnationalparkimg_7825zionnationalparkimg_8428zionnationalparkwvzm6915

I wasn’t expecting how much walking there would be outside of the water… many areas you could walk on dry ground.zionnationalparkimg_7836zionnationalparkimg_7838zionnationalparkimg_7837zionnationalparkimg_8448zionnationalparkimg_8445zionnationalparkimg_8452zionnationalparkimg_7840

Another potentially helpful tip would be to bring extra gloves… I fell in within the first 5 minutes so one of my gloves were wet the entire time. Actually, not terrible but if this would be a deal breaker for you… and you are falling prone than bring extra gloves. I think I fell a total of 3 times … maybe 4. hahazionnationalparkimg_7839zionnationalparkimg_7843zionnationalparkvyak6145zionnationalparkimg_7865zionnationalparkimg_7867

The views were truly unlike anything I have seen before. It was outer-wordly. zionnationalparkimg_7860

They say the camera adds 10 pounds… but I might say 20 lbs in this photo!zionnationalparkimg_8459

The best hydro sneaks – kept our feet SO dry!zionnationalparktaxt8745zionnationalparkimg_8454zionnationalparkimg_7886

Beautiful!zionnationalparkimg_7888zionnationalparkimg_7895zionnationalparkimg_7892zionnationalparkimg_7891zionnationalparkimg_7890

If you prepare for The Narrows in Winter you will have an amazing experience. This will be an experiencing I remember for the rest of my life.

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Zion – Angel’s Landing in Winter

Our first full day in Zion and we needed some fuel so we stopped at Cafe Soleil .  I ordered the breakfast burrito and dirty soy chai latte ( chai latte with shot of espresso! ). Very filling and great. zionnationalparkimg_2227

Next we headed to Zion Outfitter to inquire about hiking the Narrows the following day. How much for gear rental, weather conditions etc. This place was recommended to us by our bartender the night before as having the best equipment for the Narrows. I don’t have anything to compare it to but I had a great experience with everyone who worked here. I highly suggest purchasing your crampons beforehand ( much cheaper!) but they also had the good crampons not just yak tracks.

Finally headed into the park, lines get longer the later it gets. Loved this ‘RL GOOD’ license plate!  After stopping at the visitor center and getting information about trail closures etc…  we decided to start hiking at Lower Emerald Pool Trail and see how we were feeling. We had NO.. I repeat NO intention of hiking to Angel’s Landing. The park ranger specified how dangerous it was and that if we were to fall there would be no rescue party – yowzaaaa so we decided we would just build our own hike and see where it would take us. zionnationalparkimg_2230

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PC : John Thomas

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From Lower Emerald Pool Trail to The Grotto Trail and Kayenta Trail then finally towards Angel’s Landing Trail itself. Once we were there we decided to just see how far we could go.. we all had crampons and hiking poles which made ALL the difference. People were hiking without but I don’t know why you would.zionnationalparkimg_2243zionnationalparkimg_2249zionnationalparkimg_2254zionnationalparkimg_7679zionnationalparkimg_7681

MADE IT TO THE TOP! WOOHOO – Amazing feeling, can not begin to describe! Don’t think I would do it again but it was invigorating. I almost feel that in the winter it might be better… this is because with the crampon you really dig into the snow instead of just climbing on rock.

I would definelty reccomend Angel’s Landing in winter but you 100% should have crampons and hiking poles! zionnationalparkimg_7682zionnationalparkimg_7686zionnationalparkimg_7689

Someone even took the time to make a snowman!

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PC : Chelsea Thomas
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PC : Chelsea Thomas

Heading back down – on the way up this trail was full of people… now it is deserted.

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SO many switchbacks! I don’t know how I would have survived this without my poles or crampons.. I will keep saying it.. they were lifesavers!! zionnationalparkimg_7698zionnationalparkimg_7703zionnationalparkimg_8293

Felling really amazing after this hike!zionnationalparkimg_8298

Spotted some wildlife!zionnationalparkimg_2255

Now headed to Zion Mountain Ranch… our home for the next two days! Time to relax. zionnationalparkimg_2389

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From Bryce to Zion (Springdale, UT)

We woke up to negative degree temps in the morning so none of us were all that interested in getting outside for sunrise!  We did however attempt to make coffee outside on Chelsea’s campstove… not the best idea… apparently propane does not work well under these cold temps. The propane was sputtering out which lead to huge flames. We decided to pack that up, get hotel lobby coffee ( not bad if you take a bite of peanut butter granola bread first) and head to Bryce and the visitor center to learn of any trail closures.brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2134

If you have snowshoes this would be a good place to bring em out, alternatively you can rent them out in town at the hotel/restaurant/store.  Side note : Bryce has the best looking park rangers I have ever seen… not sure why they all ended up in Bryce but it was a nice surprise.  brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2141

Again we started at Sunrise, walked down to Queen’s Garden then to Navajo Trail, side stepped to Wall Street, then on to Peekaboo Loop, Bryce Point and back up to Sunset then across the rim to sunrise.  There were a lot of people around the rim but once you started hiking the trails were pretty desolate.  We ended up hiking for about 6/6.5 miles 4/4.5 hours. Again, layers are a great idea. We got really warm while hiking but once we got into the shadow of a hoodoo it would get chilly.brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2142brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2144brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2145brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2146brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2147brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2148brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2150brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2152brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2153brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2154brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2155brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2157brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2162brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2163brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2166brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2167brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2170brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2171brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2175brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2180

Another day of crampons and hiking poles! Highly reccomend. 100% needed these for the way up sunset! People were slipping and falling left and right.brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2186brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2188brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2190brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2200brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2202brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2204brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2205brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2220

Bryce is 100% one of the most amazing places I have ever been. It is beautiful beyond comprehension. Just looking back through these photos I am shocked that I experienced something so amazing… these aren’t photoshopped. They were taken by me on an iphone it is pretty remarkable.

Once we were done with our hike we decided to head towards Zion so we could start the next morning in Zion. On the way we made guacamole in the car… not the most driver friendly snack! brycecanyonnationalparkimg_2219

No campsites at Watchman Campground in Zion! Every other campground we had been to was empty.. but Zion was fairly warm, somewhere in the 40s, so everyone was out in droves. If coming around new years I would highly reccomend booking ahead or being able to wing it like us!

I won’t get into details… but we ended up having to finish cooking our dinner in a parking lot. Some of the best food I have ever eaten! Once we finished dinner we decided to head into Springdale and try to figure out where to stay.

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Much to our surprise, right outside the park we encountered a shining sign with the words ‘Brew Pub’ – we looked at each other and Chelsea pulled in the parking lot. Our server was really nice and gave us tons of helpful advice. Such as trails we should go on, where to rent our Narrows gear etc. All the beer on tap is less than 4% per Utah law, but for 4% it ain’t half bad!zionnationalparkimg_2223

Our server also told us we could head to the Bit & Spur if we wanted some higher alcohol beers… so off we went and were pleasantly surprised by the local beers we sampled.  zionnationalparkimg_2224zionnationalparkimg_2226

Looking forward to a good nights sleep before a day of exploring Zion. Since we arrived at night we were looking forward to what we would be greeted with upon sunrise.

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From Kanab, Utah to Bryce Canyon

What a beautiful view to wake up to! Driving out of the campground during sunrise was another one of those wow, beautiful, amazing moments. img_1973

Only 19 degrees, we sure got cold packing up our campsite! img_1976img_1979

From our campground we had another 45 minutes to Kanab, Utah to see about getting a Wave Permit. I highly reccomend getting your permit online. You just need to know 4 months in advance and best case scenario be slightly flexible. If you are planning on trying to get a walk in permit get there at 8:30 – the lottery starts at 9 on the dot. They have 10 permits per day for the next day. Look at all these people hoping for a day of permit! Yowza – DEF reccomend trying to get one online.

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Fortunately/Unfortunately we did not get the lottery but it was an interesting experience and I still want to do the wave but will plan in advance next time!

We decided to hang out in the parking lot and make breakfast while we chose what our next plan would be since we didn’t get the wave permit. A few guys got their car stuck o on a rock so my friend and her boyfriend helped them jack up the car and get them off the rock! Quite the scene!

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Despite or maybe because of the crazy circumstances of the morning this breakfast was especially good!img_1983

We decided we would end up that night in Bryce Canyon National Park and on our way we would try to find another canyon called Peek – a – boo Canyon. It is off highway 89 N and there is a large sign that specifies a turn off for Peek – a – boo Canyon on the right hand side if leaving Kanab, Ut headed toward Bryce. If you park your car in the parking lot you will walk along the road towards the Canyon and end up with a 6 mile round trip hike. If on the other hand you attempt to drive to the canyon you will need a lifted 4w/awd vehicle. I would not reccomend attempting otherwise, at least when there is snow/mud.

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We may have tried to dig out the car tires with our camp cups… Definitely needed a beer after that undertaking! img_1996

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When hiking in a Canyon you should always wear layers as it tends to be colder inside the canyon than hiking around it. img_2001img_2002img_2005img_2006img_2014img_2020img_2019img_2047

Once we hiked around the canyon we drove back out to the highway and made our way towards Bryce to catch the Sunset.

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Once we hit Bryce we went straight to Sunrise point and parked. Walked along the ridge to Sunset Point and back to the car. It was chilly but breathtaking! Those hoodos are one of a kind and covered in snow they are very magical. Not too crowded, perhaps because it was so cold!

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We decided to book a room because the temps were getting into the negatives over night. We stayed at Bryce Resort in their last room! Not much open in Bryce this time of year! Very friendly staff and comfortable, clean rooms. The high season here in Bryce is April – October.

Looking forward to another day exploring in Bryce.

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Grand Canyon to Horseshoe Bend

Sunrise in the Canyon! One of the most special sunrises I have ever experienced. Very few people out on the rim and for good reason… it was an icy tundra out there. Our phones kept turning off because they were so cold, we kept trying to warm them up so we could take some photos! grandcanyonthumb_img_1724_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1727_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1733_1024

Don’t mind my sweatpants… we literally jumped out of our sleeping bags, packed up the car and bounced.grandcanyonthumb_img_1737_1024

Photo Cred to the random foreigner smoking a cigarette. Thanks.grandcanyonthumb_img_1739_1024

It is so hard to capture in a picture the shadows and shifts in light and color. It is such a unique and beautiful experience.grandcanyonthumb_img_1743_1024

Naturalist John Muir described Grand Canyon: ” In the supreme flaming glory of sunset (Can I impose… sunrise?!) the whole canyon is transfigured as if the life and light of centuries of sunshine stored up in the rocks was now being poured forth as from one glorious fountain, flooding both earth and sky.”

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P.C. : Chelsea Thomas

I look very bundled and it was cold but probably not that cold!grandcanyonthumb_img_7285_1024

Once you leave the Park at Desert View you enter into Navajo Land. You will see many road side stands and also paths for lookouts and paths. Get off the road and explore – another adventure awaits!

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P.C. : Chelsea Thomas
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P.C. : Chelsea Thomas

Stopped in Cameron. Basically, a couple buildings one of which was a massive gift shop with a fine dinning restaurant in the back… since that looked like the only place to get coffee we asked if we could sit at a table and write our post cards. They obliged and we spent a lovely time in their beautiful dinning room. Great view of the surrounding landscape.

We set our GPS for Antelope Canyon to check out and see what all the hype is about. From our online research it appeared that you had to pay a fee to take a tour to the slot canyons at Antelope both Upper and Lower.

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Information at one tour company.

We are not tour people so we knew we weren’t really interested in that but we were hopeful that we might be able to pay to go onto the Navajo land but make our own tour!

If you are a professional photographer OR fancy yourself one maybe it would be worth it for you to go, but for myself it just wasn’t worth it. There are a few different companies but a gentleman working at Kens Tours told us about ‘Waterholes Canyon’. Two miles south of Horseshoe Bend – if you have gone over the bridge you have gone too far. There is a fence with opening and it is likely you will see other cars parked to the side of the road.

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There were maybe 5/6 other people milling about so we were able to see where to head down into the canyon. We spent about an hour walking through the canyon – SO awesome! Very few people around which made for a cool, meditative experience.

About thirty minutes before sunset we headed back over to Horseshoe Bend. Woah! What a difference – a ton of people were surrounding the famed bend. We guesstimated a couple hundred. The sign at the front specifies that no drones are allowed but of course a few people had them out buzzing around.

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Amazing!

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A photo of Laura taking a photo of Scott! 

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Despite the buzzing of the drones and women taking glamor shots on the edge it was still a must see and I would go back 100 times over. It is so amazing to see how water has shaped the landscape. I think if you tried to hit it at sunrise you would luck out with less people, just because people like sleeping in!

After sunset, we drove about 45 mins closer towards the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument to a campground called White House Trailhead and Campground in Kanab, UT. We got there at dark, turned off the highway and drove two miles on a dirt road. Five dollars a night per spot – what a deal!  We set up camp in the dark, with only the stars and headlamps as our guide. We decided to tent camp tonight because it was pretty nice out ( 39 degrees). Chelsea built an amazing fire and we enjoyed some time together looking at the stars and drinking a beer.

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We planned to get up early in the morning to drive the rest of the way, another 45 minutes, to the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument to see about getting a wave permit for the following day.

 

Despite the cold temps overnight we were warm and toasty! Well rested for a day of adventures.

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From Vegas to the Grand Canyon

We set out for the Grand Canyon a little after 6 am and chose not to stop at Hoover Dam, I hear its cool if you are into that sort of thing… There are a couple big towns between Vegas and GC that have a Safeway/Vons in them. If you must have Trader Joes or Whole Foods you will have to wait until they open in Vegas.

The Road from LV to GC is beautiful, you will go from the desert to snow and travel parts of historic Route 66.grandcanyonthumb_img_1596_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1607_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1606_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1603_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1602_1024

A stop in Williams, Arizona will drop you to two… that is right… two, Arizona based Breweries. Historic Brewing Co and Grand Canyon Brewing.

Unfortunately, GC Brewing wasn’t open since we were rolling through on Monday they opened at 2pm, but we weren’t too broken hearted because Chelsea spotted a little gem on the corner, Historic Brewing Co. Very thankful for keen eyesight and being flexible with our schedule!

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Side note: You can take the train from Williams, Az to the Grand Canyon… how cool would that be?!grandcanyonthumb_img_1617_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1616_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1621_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1618_1024

A little map planning and beer tasting.grandcanyonthumb_img_7210_1024

Oh wow! We have arrived! Since we were getting in around 2:30 we quickly geared up with Crampons, Trekking Poles, Headlamps ( just in case ), and layers. We took off down the Bright Angel Trail and each switch back produced more awe inspiring views.grandcanyonthumb_img_1643_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1652_1024

We encountered a few individuals who had camped at the bottom of the canyon and told us that they had a great time! No snow and warmer temps at the bottom… good to know for next year!grandcanyonthumb_img_1672_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1698_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1702_1024grandcanyonthumb_img_1714_1024

After this amazing, lung and bunz burning hike we headed to meet up with our friends, find a camp site and have dinner! We decided to eat inside at their cafeteria ( don’t let the name fool you… it is really nice! ) Chels and I split the tamale dinner and had a few more local brewskis while our friends got soup and salad, they were very pleased with the salad bar selection!

We stayed at Mather campground which was empty and covered in snow. The bathroom was luxurious and heated. Since we didn’t have a shovel we chose to car camp and decided to wake up to catch the sunrise the next morning before heading to Page, Arizona.

Really LOVING my new camo camp mattress ( Thanks JER! )

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Once we were settled into the back of Chelsea’s car we popped open the popcorn tin for a little dessert. Don’t worry, we did brush our teeth afterwards!

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From LA to Vegas

You may not believe this but until this trip I hadn’t been to Vegas… it just isn’t my steeze and after going to Vegas I can safely say I don’t need to go back.  The drive from LA to Vegas is rather beautiful. Lots of snow capped mountains and even some cool art instillations. lasvegasthumb_img_1559_1024

We all love Food Network and thought it would be fun to check out Giada’s restaurant. Her menu looks great with lots of smaller dishes to try and share. My favorite was probably the side of broccolini… delish! I also enjoyed the Tangerine / Tequila drink. lasvegasthumb_img_1565_1024lasvegasthumb_img_1566_1024lasvegasthumb_img_1567_1024

Really amazing parmesan crackers. Can I get those to go?lasvegasthumb_img_1568_1024lasvegasthumb_img_1570_1024

I have been to NYC twice and still haven’t made it to Serendipity so when in Vegas we finally had a frozen hot chocolate! I reccomend sharing with friends as it is extremely rich and sweet. lasvegasthumb_img_1572_1024

I was beside myself when I saw this Dolly slot machine. If I was a gambling lady I think this machine would have brought me luck!lasvegasthumb_img_1573_1024

The Bellagio botanical garden was decked out for Christmas and while it was extremely crowded it was also really beautiful.lasvegasthumb_img_1574_1024lasvegasthumb_img_1576_1024lasvegasthumb_img_1577_1024

This Joker was a little creepsville. lasvegasthumb_img_1578_1024

We then hit the Chandelier Bar in The Cosmo. Ironically, my friend, Chelsea, had been telling me about a drink she tried with a flower that made her mouth numb…say what? Then, our waitress told us about a drink they have with this same flower. It was a really crazy feeling. I did a little research and the flower is called, Acmella oleracea. Super fascinating and I highly reccomend trying this flower if you get a chance. lasvegasthumb_img_1579_1024

Not your typical Christmas Day but it was fun to see the strip lit up (more than usual) and the fun Christmas decor. lasvegasthumb_img_1581_1024

Off to the outdoors bright and early.