Friday, May 29, 2015

Angel's Landing

Today was a Bucket List day; the hike to the top of Angel's Landing in Zion National Park.  The top is 1,488 feet from the valley floor.  Hike length: 5.4 miles.  Estimated time: 4 hours. I really want to do this?  Oh, what the Hell, you only live (or die) once!

I arrived via the shuttle at the trailhead at 9 a.m. A "four-hour hike" should put me back there at 1 p.m.  My gear consisted of a good pair of Merrell hiking boots, my walking stick, and my day pack, which included about 48 ounces of liquid refreshment.  Then, I hit the dusty trail, along with a bunch of other people.

It's a popular hike for the young and adventurous.  Lots of 18 to 25 year-old flatbellies, not too many 26 to 50 year-olds, and very few folks over 60 years-old, at least that I saw.  At 67, I was one of the few qualified geezers on the trail.  People tended to group up: I seesawed back and forth during the day with one group of college-age girls, and another group of 40-50 year-old men.  I think the guys were from the South.

The first part of the trail goes from river level (at around 4,000 feet) and slopes up to maybe 4,300 feet.  That's the part that a lot of out-of-shape day hikers/old folks/and wannabes "climb", and then crap out and go crying home to Mama.

Then begins a number of fairly rigorous switchbacks, where you might do three or four of them before taking a breather.  The fair-weather hikers have bailed by this point, which is maybe one-third the way up the mountain.

The next 500 feet (approx) is gut-check time.  Lots of steep switchbacks, each one gaining maybe 20-30 feet.  Part of this torturous pitch is called Willie's Wiggles, because some guy name Willie Something built a zig-zag staircase up the side of a vertical area to keep the hike from becoming a climb.  Thank you, Willie!

Once you get atop Willie's Wiggles, it isn't that far to Chicken Out Point.  That's the point that the weak-hearted throw in the towel, because the last 1/2 mile of the trail to the top involves some scary dropoffs.  The view from Chicken Out Point, toward the top, looks something like this.

Yes, In order to get to the top, you must negotiate that skinny saddle, where there is a 1,000 ft dropoff on either side.  It is very rugged, very vertical, and there is no real are scrambling from one rock to the next.  Thank goodness that some extremely thoughtful mountaineer rigged the goat path with heavy chain, anchored to the sandstone cliffs, enabling hikers to hang on for dear life.

Courtesy and chivalry play a role here, as most of the route can handle one hiker at a time.  So, if someone is coming at you, you need to hug the cliff or hang on to the chain cable while they attempt to pass you without knocking you into the chasm.

Finally, the summit is reached.  It's a sublime view and a welcome rest stop for the weary.  I had an Arnold Palmer and some leftover pizza from last night.  Tasted like Champagne and Filet Mignon.

Yeah, I got documentation that I was there.
Everyone laid around up there, basking in the view and the sunshine, with their feet hanging over the edge of the abyss.  There were small squirrels running all about, not afraid of humans in the least, probably because those hikers bring up goodies like bread, trail mix, granola,!  One of them liked my pizza crust.

Some hikers have to leave evidence that they made "trails end".  Lots of people have erected miniature rock cairns right on the edge of the precipice.
Different strokes for different folks, I guess.  Which reminds me of some odd things that I saw on the climb:  (1) a young 20-ish looking couple hiking up the trail BAREFOOT; (2) hikers bringing only one bottle of drinking water with them...STUPID; (3) two snakes that crossed my path, not worried about me in the least; and, (4) several middle-aged Japanese hikers with two $150 aluminum hiking poles are they supposed to climb the cabled pitch?

The trip down was an exquisite pleasure, compared to coming up.  On the way down, I told a few guys coming up that there was free, ice cold beer at the top, or lied about how far they still had to climb.  I know, what an Asshole I am!
It took me 3 hours and 15 minutes to do the hike, up and back.  That included many photo ops and rest stops, mostly on the way up. I have endured more grueling hikes (like Mt. Whitney, 20 miles round-trip, 6,000 feet vertical to the 14,495 ft), and a few shorter, steep hikes (like Yosemite Falls and Half Dome).  But, this hike had it all: rugged trail, danger, camaraderie with other hikers, and spectacular beauty.  I handled it today, but I don't know if I'd be able to do it in, say, five years.

A few more memorable days like this, and I'm going to start to forget the crappy days that preceded it.

Next week, I'm going to tackle the Narrows.  That Bucket Lister is a five-hour, five mile hike up (and, IN) the Virgin River.  It's probably just as grueling as this one, but at least I will be wading through 50 degree water to cool me down.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Garden of Eden

I drove up to Zion National Park this morning to reconnoiter the joint for future endeavors.  My day started out great when I arrived at the main gate.  Vehicular admission was $25 for regular slobs, but I bought a $10 LIFETIME pass, good at all National Parks.  I earned the privilege because I am over 62 years old.  Like the ranger at the gate noted, "We figure you've paid for this park."  Finally, I'm getting some return on my income taxes, I thought.  "God Bless America!", I told the lady as a drove through.

There is a very fine, free shuttle that services the Zion Valley.  It stops at eight locations on the way up the valley, and the same stops on the return to the Visitor Center.  The shuttle takes about 80 minutes for the round-trip, so I hopped on board.

The first thing I noticed was that the Zion Canyon didn't look anything like the hundreds of miles of crappy Arizona and Utah lands that preceded it.  Much like driving into Yosemite Valley, there is a complete transformation, from dry, dusty, inhospitable desertscape to...a lush river valley, with deer wandering about, and enormous, colorful rock sentinels framing the wonderland.

The valley floor sits at about 4,500 feet above sea level, with the tallest peaks reaching about 7,000 feet in elevation.  The canyon is carved (by the Virgin River) from Navajo Sandstone.  I found it to be more impressive than  Yosemite Valley, because of the varying color of the rock cliffs, from bright red, to vermillion, to cream, to bright white.

There are some very smooth and tall escarpments that are famous worldwide for rock climbing.  We saw some climbers half-way up the two-day ascent.  They sleep in hammocks hanging from the canyon walls!

The end of the line, at the back of the Valley, is the Temple of Sinawava stop.  That is where the Riverwalk Trail starts, into the Virgin River gorge.  Charlie and I are going to do this trail later in the trip...after I do the Narrows hike.  More on that later.

Coming back down the Valley, I got a real good look at my challenge tomorrow morning: Angel's Landing.  It's a 2.7 mile hike to the top, ascending 1,488 feet vertical.  Round-trip is supposed to be about 4 hours hiking time.  Up, up, and away!
At Canyon Junction stop, I got off the shuttle and walked the remaining 1.5 miles back to the Visitor Center via the Pa'rus Trail. It is a trail that our friend Jason recommended, and it winds back and forth across the Virgin River maybe eight times.  Charlie and I will do this hike next week.

Charlie and I enjoyed a Date Night this evening.  We dined at a place recommended by Charlie's client, Greg Segaar, called "Pizza & Noodles" in Springdale.  We enjoyed some very good pizza (Charlie) and noodles (Craig).

After dinner, we took the 80-minute shuttle ride up and down the Valley, so that Charlie could actually get some "vacation" out of the day.  I think she was impressed by the beauty of the place and by the deer who were abundant along the sides of the road, foraging for dinner.  As we left the Park, the setting sun shined brightly on some west facing cliffs.
It was an extremely wonderful day, relatively speaking.  Saw some beautiful things, Charlie put in some important time with client Greg, and the two dogs got to chase lizards until their tongues dragged on the ground.  Life is good again!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Computer-Printer War

We wasted  virtually the entire day trying to get our printer to talk with our computer.  The printer was made in Japan; unfortunately, the computer hails from China.

At our last stop (Sedona), we had no problem with the printer.  We were using our Verizon mobile WiFi hot spot.  Thus, the printer was programmed in a "WiFi" mode.  Here in Zion, not only can we not use our Verizon hot spot, but the resort's WiFi is not satisfactory, either.  Evidently, the signal can be strong one moment, and then non-existent the next.  Very common in RV parks.

I spent most of the morning trying to make the WiFi connection work, to no avail. In order to access our computer tech guy (Chris Bradshaw) in Murrieta, I had to leave the coach and go over to the office to either send a message or to talk mano-a-mano.  Normally, Chris would remotely "go to my computer" and fix the problem.  Because of the WiFi issue, he couldn't do that, either.  After several trips back and forth to the office, and consulting with Chris (and, throwing a Hail Mary pass to another tecchie, Chris Doubleday), the hours ticked by.  Finally, we decide to go "old school", and connect the computer to the printer with a USB printer cable.  Screw the fancy WiFi and Bluetooth shit!

Of course, I had no USB printer cable.  But, through the Internet, I found a computer scrap yard about 20 miles away that had one.  Come and get it, he said.  So, Charlie and I and the dogs headed off for Hurricane, Utah.  Actually, the guy's business was located out in the boondocks, seven miles beyond Resume Speed.  This computer recycler guy had ten-foot high piles of computers, printers, and such scattered over his lot.  He mentioned that every bit of the scrap is rendered down to its elements, be it iron, aluminum, precious metals, etc., and there are folks who re-use that stuff to make new products. He just happened to have an intact USB printer cable, he said.  Oh, Boy, here it comes!  He's  going to bend me over a log for it!  "How much?", I asked, with trepidation.  "One dollar", he replied.  I gratefully paid him and tipped him an extra buck.  "But, does it work?", I asked.  "Money back guarantee", he responded.  Of course, it was probably a $20 trip to pick up the merchandise, but...what the Hell!

We used the opportunity of escaping the RV park to grab some goods at WalMart, gas up, and munch down some Taco Bell fast food.  It was the highlight of the day!  That's what our life has become, I guess.  (Maybe I can call that our Date Night feast, and save some money?

Back in The Beast, I connected the printer to the computer with confidence, booted everything up, and...Voila! didn't work. Four-letter words filled the coach.  Back to the office, to talk to my tecchie, Chris.  "Hey, that expensive USB printer cable didn't work!", I cried.  We both lamented this development, until Chris suggested that I uninstall all of the Epson (printer) software from the computer, download new drivers from the Internet, and then re-boot the thing.  Gosh darn, after a whole day of futzing with the sucker, it ran as slick as grease through a goose.  Hooray for technology!!!  And, Honey, get those adult beverages ready, because I'm f-ing done with this sh.t!

Communication and hardware issues aside, this is a nice place.

At the main building, there is a game room, a general store, a swimming pool, a jacuzzi, a Grill, a movie room, and, of course, that 1'x2' area in a separate room where a Verizon customer can make a phone call.  The park is situated by the Virgin River, where I assume the native Indians sacrificed many maidens.  There are lots of places in the park where dogs can roam (on a leash), there is a fenced, leash-free dog run, and there is an entry point where the dogs and I (or Charlie) can go over the levee, down to the river itself.

The dogs love it here.  Of course, they don't use cellphones or computers.
Another rough day for them.  Only 18 hours of sleep, plus naps.

We enjoyed rib eye steaks this evening, cooked on our propane griller that our son, Tim, and grandson, Josh, attempted to incinerate last Fall.  The contraption looks like shit, but it cooks pretty well.  Nice try, Fellas, but the thing takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'.

Charlie is behind on her work, because of the communication and tech issues that we have grappled with for two days.  I want to go up to Zion tomorrow morning to scout the place. I'm hoping that we can just take the free shuttle around the valley to get our bearings.  Besides, we need to get out of this coach...we're getting cabin fever!

The RV park is 13 miles east of the National Park entrance.  If we get up early, button-up the rig and turn on the A/C (for the dogs), and quickly run up to Zion, we may be able to get a parking place at the entrance.  The in-park shuttle makes eight stops on the way up the valley floor, and eight on the way back.  Hopefully, we should be back to see the puppies before lunchtime.

At least, that's the plan.  If it works, it will be the first successful plan of the trip.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Where do I begin?  Hmmm...well, we're here in Virgin, Utah at the Zion River Resort, and it looks to be a Class A mobilehome park.  That's the good news.  But, on the scale of 1 to 10, this day ranked somewhere between 1 and 3.  And, I'm being generous.

Yesterday, Charlie and I noticed that our water system wasn't working right.  We didn't have significant pressure in our shower, even with the water pump running.  As a matter of fact, the water pump sounded wrong, and we were getting air in the water system.  This morning, before leaving Sedona, I checked out the system and it seems to me (an admitted rookie) that the water pump isn't working correctly.  So, we've got that problem to deal with.

Today was the day that I was going to determine if the Patriot booster braking system worked or not. Well, it did its job...until about 100 miles from Sedona, when it went lame.  I got out and checked it. The readout said, "Low battery".  Uh oh, I know what that means.  Sure enough, my car battery was dead.  So, I disconnected the Patriot and headed off, knowing that I would need to jump start my Hyundai when we got to Zion.

Has anyone ever read Arizona Highways magazine.  Back in the day, it was a very popular glossy magazine that featured beautiful photos of land forms, flora and fauna that one could find in Arizona. God's Country, it is. Well, I'm sure that's true, but today we drove through some godawful stuff for   hundreds of miles. Much of the route traversed Indian Reservations.  I'm sure Congress was proud of itself when it approved relocating Indians from decent lands (that the White guys could develop) and marooning the poor redskins on some of the most uninhabitable places in the Southwest desert.

We spent most of the day on US 89-A, a narrow, two-lane highway that, in some areas, resembled a washboard.  Charlie and I noticed that we had about 1 foot of clearance from the shoulder on the right and the double-yellow on the left.  At 55 to 65 MPH, the MH driver (and the guy coming at him) need to stay fairly alert.  In addition, we ran into several construction zones, where that 1-foot leeway on either side was essentially non-existent.  After the days travel, I noticed some striping on the passenger side of the MH, down low.  I must have scraped some cones on the way through slalom course.  Sonofabitch!! That will cost me.

On the way, at almost exactly the Arizona-Utah border, we passed through Colorado City.  I had mentioned to Charlie that this hellhole is the bastion of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints.  We had both watched a "60 Minutes" episode this year (and, also, a "20-20" special report) where the polygamous sect was investigated.  Women are basically possessions of the older men who run the sect, and children are worked in the field at a very young age.  Anyway, we were on the lookout for women in "prairie dresses" and long hair, and we spotted them immediately upon entering the community.  The whole sordid mess there makes my skin crawl; I feel so sorry for the women and children who are trapped there by those horny old bearded geezers.

Not long afterward, we pulled into Zion River Resort.  After unhitching my Hyundai, and jump-starting it, I checked in.  Space 17, a pull-through, was assigned to us.  Great, I love pull-throughs!. That is, until I neared Space 17.  Some doofus had his truck hood infringing on the road right-of-way almost directly across from my entrance to Space 17.  Rather than being able to swing wide, I had to just miss his truck, then take a poor angle into the space.  If it weren't for Charlie and a good-guy named Jack helping me jimmy the rig into the space, I would still be out there making a fool of myself. After pulling in and squaring things away, a lady came up to me and said that I had actually "hit" the guy's truck.  I noticed a fella fussing with his truck bumper, so I walked over to apologize.  He was actually very nice, and admitted that his truck had been a bit "into the street".  (No shit!)  Anyway, I couldn't see any damage to his bumper, but I gave him my information in case there was a damage issue.  When I went back across the lane to my rig, I noticed a nasty gash on the left rear bumper area...where I must have brushed his car.  C'mon, Man, will this crappy day ever end!

Well, not yet. After setting up camp, we decided to have an adult beverage or two.  It was at about that time that we noticed, to our dismay, that we had NO VERIZON TELEPHONE SIGNAL at our site. Charlie had a mini-breakdown at the thought, and I was just plain mad.  I had confirmed, over the phone, when making the reservation, that we could receive Verizon service in the park.  This would definitely not do, since Charlie must use a variety of communications each day to serve her clients.  We immediately homed-in on the worst-case scenario, that we might have to move on from this beautiful spot and there was no weeping, but a lot of gnashing of teeth.  I went to the office to confront...the liars. The response was, "But, we have a room here in the office, with a Verizon booster, where you can make calls."  I told them that this was going to be a big problem for us.  The manager said, "Even though it's our policy not to make refunds, I will give you a full refund if this doesn't work for you."  So, I retreated to the rig to console Charlie.  We started to go over options, all of them crumby, and we both got pretty upset.  Then, I decided to check out the park's free Wi-Fi. Usually, MH park Wi-Fi is useless for serious work.  To my amazement, it was a very good Wi-Fi, which allows us to send and receive e-mails and text messages, and also access the Internet.  The only issue we really have is voice calls...we would have to go to the office (where they have the Verizon booster), or save our voice calls until we go into town, which will probably be every couple of days or so.

We think we can do this.  Charlie wants to give it the old college try, because she likes the park and knows that I want to do a few fun thing in Zion.  So, here we stay...until the next shoe drops.