At a height of six feet, three inches, my acrophobic husband has often been heard saying that he gets scared every time he stands up. So it came as no surprise to me when he expressed reservations about hiking Angels Landing at Zion National Park on a hot and muggy August morning in southwest Utah.
Touted as one of the most dangerous places to hike in the southwest, Angels Landing is a rock formation around six thousand feet tall with a trail that has a number of sharp drop offs and narrow paths. Our second day at the national park started with a free shuttle ride to the trailhead leading to Angels Landing, courtesy of the national parks services. The well intentioned shuttle driver’s cautionary warnings about hiking Angels Landing added yet another component of fear to my already tremulous husband.
I could see his pupils dilating and I swear I heard his heart beating faster as he listened to the driver’s reporting of a number of unfortunate mishaps on the very trail we were soon to embark on.
As we drove the first part of the six mile long road into the Zion Canyon, we were treated to spectacular views of massive red and pink sandstone cliffs which were both comforting and aesthetically pleasing. This relaxing drive soon came to an abrupt end as we reached our stop located near the trailhead for the Landing. After a two mile strenuous uphill hike, we had reached the last leg of our journey.
A larger percentage of hikers ended their day’s adventure at the two mile marker, opting to experience Angels Landing at a distance. Very few bravely proceeded to the remaining, extremely dangerous half mile journey. With a swig of lukewarm water and a pinch of courage, my dear husband led the way to the last leg of our hike, holding very tightly to a chain that seemed to be our only saving grace from certain death. He would not be dissuaded by his fears today despite the adversity of fighting off extreme fatigue from a 14 mile hike the day prior and the force of the mild to moderate winds which challenged our very equilibrium.
With the goal of completing the hike and with a continuous focus on our balance, we pushed forward to an uneven and rocky area of the trail no more than 5 feet wide and without any protective chains on either side. Despite our better judgment, we did sneak a peak to better evaluate the perils of our hike should we veer off to either side of our determined path. Looking on to the left and right of the rough terrain we were about to traverse, we could see a drop in height on the order of thousands of feet.
Initially crouching, my husband was now firmly seated with his buttock gently gliding over the uneven terrain and guiding us ever closer to the end of our hike. It was at that very moment, when I could no longer control the shaking of my legs that I decided that I could proceed no further. My recommendation to turn around was met with very little resistance by my husband who only half-heartedly assured me that he was still up for the challenge and asserted that he would be fine to continue to the very end;even as he immediately started changing course, allowing me little time to reconsider my proposal.
We reflected on our morning hike on our way back to the shuttle station. Even though we stopped just short of our goal that morning, we had done our best and were able to face our fears head on. And despite our hesitancy to complete the remaining less than a quarter mile hike that day, we would be returning shortly to complete our mission;even if I have to drag my husband who may very well be kicking and screaming all the way up to the top of the Landing!