Thursday 4 July 2024

The Mighty 5 Road Trip: Zion

Want to visit the Mighty 5 in FOUR days? It's possible - keep reading!

Backstory: My friend and I had been talking about a hiking trip for a while. Six years ago, we went to Arizona together. We flew into Phoenix, drove to Sedona, and we visited Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and the Grand Canyon. It was a surreal trip - but it was also a whirlwind, we were there for three days. On our busiest day, we watched the sunrise at Horseshoe Bend, joined a guided tour at the Antelope Canyon (that's the only way in), and watched the sunset at the Grand Canyon. Ever since that trip, I was hooked. I wanted to visit as many US National Parks as possible.

This is the trip that made it out of the chat.

We flew into Vegas late Wednesday night and picked up our rental car (an AWD SUV). We picked up some groceries from Walmart and stayed overnight at the Luxor. I am a MGM Rewards member, which allows me to stay at select hotels for free. Luxor was one of the few select hotels. I'll admit if I had other choices, I would not choose to stay there. Our door had no lock and our bathroom door did not close. BUT we literally just needed a bed to sleep in so it was fine for the night.

The next morning, we made our way northeast into Utah. It took us about two and a half hours to get to Springdale. We had lunch, and picked up some snacks for the evening before heading into Zion. Entrance was a breeze as we had pre-purchased the America the Beautiful National Park Pass.

Our first trail was the Canyon Overlook. The trail is at the end of the tunnel when you're leaving Zion and it begins with a steep sandstone staircase. We didn't have any luck with any of the two parking lots nearby, they only had about six parking spots. We parked down the road and had to walk about ten minutes to the beginning of the trail. It was a humid day so it did get toasty during the hike. The views though were absolutely worth it. 

Canyon Overlook Trail from National Park Service
Shuttle Location: N/A, requires personal transportation.
Trailhead Location: Located near the east entrance of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel.
Distance (roundtrip): 1.0 mi / 1.6 km
Elevation Change: 163 ft / 50 m
Estimated Hiking Time: 1 hour
Description: Long drop-offs, mostly fenced. Rocky and uneven trail ends at a viewpoint for Pine Creek Canyon and lower Zion Canyon. To enter or exit the parking area just east of the tunnel, you must turn right. Parking is extremely limited, be prepared to try multiple times. There are pit toilets in a parking lot about 400 yards (a quarter mile) east of the trailhead.

Zion offers a shuttle bus that takes you along a scenic route. We hadn't paid too much attention to the schedule. After returning to our car, we drove shuttle stop #2 and hopped on a shuttle bus just after 5 PM. We had planned to take the shuttle back up the scenic route. Unbeknownst to us, the last shuttle up was at 5 PM, so we were stuck at shuttle stop #1. Luckily, an empathetic driver who was heading back to the scenic route was able to take us back. He dropped us off at shuttle stop #4 so we had a short glimpse of the scenic drive. 

Our plan was to hike the Watchman trail at sunset as I had read a few reviews that recommended it. We drove back to shuttle stop #1, where the start of the trail is. The weather had cooled down at this point, so I needed a light windbreaker. We reached the top of the trail too early, but the thing is you can't really see the sunset from that angle. The sunlight reflects on the Watchman but sadly, not that evening. So we enjoyed the scenery and tranquility for a little while before heading back down ten minutes before the sunset. There were a few drop-offs and we didn't feel safe hiking back down in the dark. On our way down, we encountered our first rattlesnake. We were also surprised to see people still making their way up as we came down after the sun had set. 

Watchman Trail
 from National Park Service
Shuttle Stop to Start from: #1 Visitor Center
Trailhead Location: Up canyon and across the road. Stay along the river to begin the trail.
Distance (roundtrip): 3.3 mi / 5.3 km
Elevation Change: 368 ft / 112 m
Estimated Hiking Time: 2 hours
Description: Moderate drop-offs. Ends at viewpoint of the Temples and Towers, lower Zion Canyon, Watchman Peak, and Springdale. Trail can be muddy when wet. Restrooms and water filling stations are available at the Visitor Center.

We drove to Kanab that evening and arrived around 10 PM. Not much was opened by the time we drove into town - even McDonald's was closed! But I managed to grab a pizza at Pizza Hut for dinner. Keep that in mind when you're staying at small towns in the area, and be sure to pick up extra food or snacks!

We stayed at La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Kanab for the night, and we were off again early the next morning!

Wednesday 1 May 2024

Asia Adventure 2023

Viva Mexico 2023


This is a placeholder for our Hawaii trip in November 2021. 

Our first trip out of the country since the pandemic hit was to Hawaii. The husband and I wanted to travel, and decided the safest option to stay in North America. 

Thursday 12 May 2022

One Last Hurrah

We travel often, at least two to three times per year. In 2019, we went on two big trips to Asia: China in June and Japan in October. So it wasn't unusual for us to plan a trip in early 2020. In early 2020, we found a great deal to fly down to Los Angeles, so we  booked the trip for the end of February into early March. It was a Disneyland trip. We were excited to visit Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. 

Little did we know this would be our trip for the next year and a half. 

Here's our COVID travel story. 

Our Disneyland trips are a whirlwind. We jump in head first, and we leave before we can get comfortable. We flew down to Los Angeles on Thursday night, and on Friday morning, we were at Disneyland's front door. Luckily, when we do Disney, we go hard. We start off running like the hare (like the classic telling of the Tortoise and the Hare), eating all the food we can, going on all the rides we can - and buying all the things we can. We slow down after a couple of days, but by Saturday night, I was not feeling well. I had a sore throat and I didn't know why. Nobody I knew was sick. I thought I just was worn out from work, and tired from not taking a breath before jumping onto the plane midweek. That evening, I even requested soup noodle for dinner (outside of the park). On Sunday, I had shortness of breath and I definitely was in no shape to be spending 12-hour days at the park. My body was aching. My husband teased me that my age was finally catching up and I was no longer a young spry. We left the park multiple times during the day so I could rest, and by the time the fireworks were on, I was in bed. I struggled through the next two days. Truthfully, I couldn't wait to go home. We were worried I would actually get turned away on our flight, because I had a terrible cough and I had lost my voice. I had no idea if I had a fever, but I was definitely very sick. To be safe, I masked up during the flight. We returned home late on a Tuesday night. 

The next day, I went to my walk-in doctor, who immediately said I probably had coronavirus (what it was known at the time). He did a swab test on me (excruciatingly painful, I might add) and sent it to the CDC for testing. Unfortunately, at the time, in Canada, the belief was that you would only be at risk if you travelled to/from Iran or China. The United States wasn't on the list. The CDC threw out my test, and I was never diagnosed. As a precaution, I stayed home for the next two weeks, and for the next eight days, I had the worst body fatigue, cough, hot sweats, and cold chills of my life. I had no appetite and I was in bed the entire time. I have never been so sick. My husband became ill a week after me. By the time I felt better, and was ready to return to work - it was March 16, 2020. The entire world had shut down. 

For context, I had been in close contact with international clients at work a week prior to my first symptoms. It's possible that I caught something from work or I could have caught something from someone on the flight to Los Angeles, or I just had a bad case of the flu. Regardless, I will never know if I had COVID-19 in March 2020. Between you and I, I think I did.

Here's a few pictures from our trip to commemorate the last trip we took before the world shut down.