Switchback Kids: Zion National Park
The adventurous couple from Kansas City with ambitions to visit all 59 US National Parks are back with another trip update. Elizabeth and Cole have paused their careers, packed their bags, and hit the road to fulfill their dreams. This time the Switchback Kids visited well-known Zion National Park in Utah. They had an unforgettable journey with a little help from their Garmin products. Here is Cole, in his own words, recounting their exciting journey in the Beehive State.
Today we navigated from the Grand Canyon to Zion with our Garmin nüvi. We gathered our bearings at the Visitor Center and Museum before setting up camp at Watchman Campground. Zion was packed for Labor Day weekend so we steered away from the crowds and hiked to Observation Point. It is less known and more strenuous than most trails. The hike took over 8.4 miles and went up 1700 ft. This point gave us an amazing first look at all of Zion Canyon. Along the hike I was tracking our mileage with the vívofit 2 and Elizabeth was gauging our altitude gain and mileage with the fēnix 3. Later that night we learned how the American Condor came back from the brink of extinction at a nighttime ranger program. After the program, our watch read 10:00 pm and that meant it was time to get to bed for an early morning.
To beat the crowds we got up and out early. Our first stop was to the Wilderness Desk to ask about the coveted first priority hike permit – The Subway. Somehow a group had just canceled and we were able to get "walk-in" permits for that day. We left the Zion Canyon area of the park and went into a northern section where we hiked the Left Fork Trail (AKA The Subway). The trail was unmarked, but followed the bottom of a canyon. We used the Hiking GPS mode on our fēnix 3 as we crossed streams, scrambled over boulders, and walked up waterfalls for 4.5 miles. We then came to where the canyon turns into a narrow overhanging tunnel (that looks like a subway) and there were huge pools of water you had to wade through to reach the end of the trail at the "waterfall room". At dusk we drove the scenic Mt. Carmel Hwy and hiked the short 2 mi Canyon Overlook Trail to get a great view of the sunset over the canyon peaks. We also saw some desert bighorn sheep bounding along the far cliff.
We got out to the Narrows early to beat the crowds again. We hiked 4 miles up the Narrows slot canyon as the walls gradually closed in on us for total of 8 miles. Trekking poles and sturdy shoes were a must as the hike was almost 80% in the river. We hiked 2.5 miles round trip to the Upper, Middle and Lower Emerald Pool Falls. At sunset, we hiked 2.7 miles on the Watchman Trail and came back in the dark with our headlamps. In total the vívofit 2 logged around 14 miles.
For our last day at Zion we saved the famous Angels Landing hike. Again we got up early to beat the crowds, biked the no-cars road to the trailhead and hiked 2.75 miles up a series of switchbacks, including the iconic Walters Wiggles. From there we braved the .5 miles of exposed trail along the narrow rock fin leading to Angels Landing that required plenty of rock scrambling and chains for safety. The point at the top gave you a 360-degree view that made you feel like you were suspended in the middle of the canyon. I really enjoy heights, but Elizabeth can't say the same. The hike back down flew by, just like our entire stay at Zion.
The US National Parks attract outdoor adventurists from all over the world. The Switchback Kids will be experiencing most, if not all of them. Learn even more about their one-year adventure here and stay tuned for another post from Cole and Elizabeth in the following weeks. Don’t forget to share with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and use #HaveNoLimits.
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