This is a piece I wrote about 5 years ago that I just found, going through my files on my laptop. It’s about one of my experiences in Zion National Park in Utah! It’s a nonfiction piece, 100% true!
I looked at the treacherous path that lay ahead of me through squinty eyes. The small rocky trail glistened as the blazing sun burned through the morning fog to warm the park. We were surrounded by towering sandstone cliffs that ranged in color from cream to pink to red. Big boulders and gravel were strewn in every direction as people slowly conquered the tough and thrilling hike to Angel’s Landing, in the Zion National Park in southern Utah.
I took a deep breath and firmly grasped the silvery chain that was hung precariously along a vertical cliff. Baby steps, I reminded myself as I walked forward, each step taking me closer to the glorious plateau that awaited the tired hikers. Each additional step strengthened my confidence and almost made me forget the story I had read in the morning newspaper about a woman who had fallen off this path to her death a few weeks earlier. An occasional pebble that tumbled off the tiny path into the valley a thousand feet below reminded everyone how narrow and malignant the hike was. I kept my head up the entire time to avoid looking at the deep valley below. The seemingly bottomless crevices on either side of the trail were too scary for an amateur climber like me. The thick rusty chain seemed like my protector and gave me a false sense of comfort. But even as I hung on to the chain for my dear life, it was another play day for the birds and squirrels around me in their natural world as they carelessly hopped from one tree branch to another.
It was mid-August, and I was with my family, touring various national parks in the Western United States during the summer break. That morning we had no desire to hike the daunting trail to Angel’s Landing. Instead, we took a leisurely walk along the river that snaked its way through the canyon. Mid-morning, after listening to a park ranger, we decided that we couldn’t leave Zion without making a go at the Angel’s Landing trail. At the time, we didn’t realize that we should’ve started the hike at sunrise, like most hikers, to beat the heat, for it was a long steady climb under the scorching hot sun. When I reached the rest stop before the final treacherous leg of the trail, I was relieved that a majority of long tedious hike was over, but I knew that what lay ahead of me was the most challenging part. I was more nervous than excited, even though Zion National Park is known for its stunning views of the canyon that knocks the breath out of everyone who comes for a visit. As I cast my eyes on that dangerous trail, I was terrified because I knew that with one wrong step I wouldn’t even survive to tell the tale.
As I was debating whether or not I should go on the trail, I looked up to see a fragile, white-haired old woman clutching the metal chain as if she would never let go. I wasn’t the only one who had noticed her. My father decided to talk to this woman and her escort, a young man in his fifties, about the view at the top. I went over to listen as she talked about how she felt the name of the mountain, Angel’s Landing, was so germane. Once you reached the top, it felt as if an angel had built this place just for you. As she described it, it seemed as if anyone who did not complete this hike would regret it for rest of their life. This woman was in her seventies, yet she did this hike every year. Her determination and courage inspired me. The moment her words reached my ears, I was no longer apprehensive. I felt ready; I wanted to reach the top of Angel’s Landing to accomplish a goal and prove myself. I knew that months from now, I would never forgive myself if I had passed on this challenge.
When I took the final steps to the top of Angel’s Landing, I sank into a puddle to calm my nerves and my racing heart. When I finally looked around, I was sure that I had never seen anything quite as beautiful. The lush green forest dotted the valley, while pale sand peeked out from small pockets. Small streams of clear water streaked across the valley simmered in the vivid palette of colors. A park bus winding its way on a black ribbon of a road in the middle of the valley made the park come alive. The sunlight reflected off of the pink and red sandstone mountains, giving them a natural glow. The colored layers, which resulted from the accumulation of sediments over thousands of years, stood out very clearly on each canyon wall. Thousands of years of Earth’s history filled the vast canyon that stretched out in front of me. Standing on the top plateau, and looking over the entire national park made me feel as if the entire world was in my clutches.
I could hear the old woman’s inspiring words ringing in my ears and was so glad I listened to her. I understood now why this difficult trek meant so much to her. I had pushed my limits to accomplish a challenge that so many hikers shy away from. After hours of hard work, I had received my reward: the Angel’s gift. In larger sense however, the real gift was the confidence I developed which helped me realize that if I stay focused and try hard enough, then I can accomplish something meaningful even if it seems quite impossible at the first glance.
I hope you enjoyed this! I wrote it a while ago so my apologies if the grammar is a bit off 🙂
Picture Courtesy of: https://www.zionnationalpark.com/