Last few days have been a bit of a downer, but today was everything I could hope to find!
After driving the scenic highway from south to east gate at Zion (updated my last post with more photos too), I headed back to the main visitor center and was lucky enough to get a parking spot so I didn’t have to take a shuttle bus. Made my way to the visitor center for a map, then hopped on the inter-park shuttle which is the only way to get to main trails. Before leaving I also switched my pack from that huge North Face monstrosity back to my Eberlestock X2 which I only intended for elk hunting. That pack is much smaller and made the whole day more enjoyable. I don’t have a scale but with water my pack weight is probably about 20lbs.
First stop was the Emerald Pools hike. This is a relatively short one (maybe 2 miles round trip?) with moderate elevation gain (only about 200ft if my memory is accurate). I wanted to do this first as a test of the pack and my other clothing/gear. So far everything works well! Some good views here, but the main downfall is how crowded it gets due to being an “easy” trail. I probably spent 2 hours here only because I had to wait for groups of 10-20 others to pass by when the trail narrowed, and that often took a very long time. Otherwise and enjoyable hike. All those years fishing with my grandpa jumping large boulders in the Kenosha marina area payed off here!
After this, I wanted to do a more strenuous/dangerous path called Angels Landing but crowds at the bus stop were huge so I passed. Instead, I took the shuttle all the way to the end of the route and chose to hike The Narrows. Much less crowded here especially once it required wading through moving water above knee level. Lack of sunlight prevented me from completing the entire run, but I did get to a cool waterfall coming from the side of a cliff. Water was cold but not unbearable, and the views were spectacular.
Leaving the park on the shuttle, I stared a conversation with a fascinating woman named Julia. She came here from Europe and is doing some longer hikes that make me a bit jealous. We continued talking over a tasty bowl of tofu veggie soup at a local cafe before she headed back to camp for the night (stay warm in the cold tonight!). Amazing, kind people are everywhere you look, and very pleased I met her.
No idea where I am going tomorrow, but have a few suggestions from Julia and others. Likely either to Bryce Canyon / Escalante, or otherwise towards Vegas. Will see what the weather does and go from there.