A chain and a single foothold are the only thing keeping me from plummeting a quarter mile to my death. My hands are starting to sweat and I think I have to vomit. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m having a panic attack or because I’ve been drinking for four days straight. I’ve jumped out of planes, off of bridges and into quarries. I once took 10 shots of 151 in 5 minutes on a 10 dollar dare.
The Angels Landing hike is the most scared I’ve ever been in my life.
I haven’t gone home for Thanksgiving in a few years. I typically go to Sacramento to terrorize the Bird family or maybe Chicago as an excuse to rip it up with some old college friends for a few days.
This year, my family wasn’t even celebrating Thanksgiving and I decided I didn’t need to finish the entire back stock of Jager at San Francisco’s Bar None for the third time in four years. It was looking like I, like many LA transplants would be celebrating the holiday here, perhaps with some other misfits who were too lazy (or poor) to make the trip home.
My roommate had planed to go see his family in Salt Lake City and had extended a cursory invite to me, but after doing a 1000 mile road trip with my dad the previous December, I wasn’t too keen on driving 1400 miles to Utah and back.
But then my roommate suggested we make a journey out of it, add in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. The trip started to become a bit more intriguing, and maybe I could do a day at Snowbird? The place I learned to ski 20 years ago. After a beer or two, the idea of spending almost a full week in Utah sounded appetizing. Fuck it, I’m in.
4am Wednesday morning came shockingly early as with the anticipation of the trip I was only able to fall asleep a couple hours before, but it was paramount to get out of Los Angeles before the traffic situation became unbearable.
Seven coffees, a five hour and 40 mg of Adderall later we arrived in Bryce Canyon. After eight hours in the car, the last thing you want to do is hit a long hike in a National Park. Fortunately, at 36,000 acres Bryce Canyon is one of America’s smallest National Parks.
Even better most of the vistas of the world famous Bryce Canyon Amphitheater are easily drivable and if you have only a couple hours you can take a quick hike to the bottom by way of the Queen’s Garden trail that begins at Sunrise point. It’s a fairly easy 1.5 mile down and out (3 mile RT) that displays lots of beautiful hoodoos that were created by very specific geological conditions that occurred over millions of years.
After a quick sunset at Bryce Point we got back in the car en route to sunny Ogden, Utah. We arrived around 9pm determined to find a place to celebrate black Wednesday. I realize the whole night before Thanksgiving thing is a little pathetic at 30 years of age, but I was more so curious of what type of people we would find in a largely Mormon area. Turns out, it’s a bunch of people that don’t take too kindly to Cali bros treating their place like a playground, and they don’t think it’s funny when you call their 3.2% beer Mormon water.
Thursday morning my roommate’s father Dudley and his sweetheart of a wife Kristina cooked us a Thanksgiving feast that was served at the uncharacteristic hour of Noon, which I now realize is a heroic move as it maximizes the potential of grazing throughout the day. After four plates and maybe two dozen Mormon waters my roommates and I decided to head out into Ogden to find a karaoke bar. We were three of eight people (including staff) in the entire establishment, we went on to treat the night as a personal concert for the help. They were only slightly amused.
Friday morning I woke up with grand plans of driving to Snowbird and getting first tracks but shockingly after drinking constantly during the preceding 36 hours I wasn’t feeling too motivated. Instead, we decided to do what anyone does in a shithole town, hit up the local b dubs for four hours then come home drunk and shoot music videos in a basement. Look for The Dudley Sessions EP coming soon.
Saturday, while experiencing what I can only hope was food poisoning, I piled into the back seat for the six hour trek to Zion. As much as I love camping, the idea of it sounds much better when you’re fresh and you haven’t been sleeping on the floor for three nights and chasing around Weber State chicks asking them if they want to touch my hair.
Alas, after twice driving in the wrong direction for an hour and realizing we hadn’t actually reserved a place to stay, we happened upon the Zion River Resort, which was essentially a fancy RV camp, replete with a pool, hot tub and bar. If I grow up to be an RV guy, I don’t think I’ll be mad about it.
Finally, Sunday we made it into Zion, I was feeling…ok. Ok enough that I thought I could attempt a hike. I grabbed a guidebook at the Visitor’s Center and saw the listing for Angels Landing. It is rated at 5 stars – Extremely strenuous and ‘Half Day’ 4-6 hours.
There is also a warning about the 6 deaths since 2011. To which I replied FUCK THAT I CLIMBED WHITNEY. (Which is what I say to justify ANY activity even though I did that when I was A. In much better shape due to triathlon training and B. Not on the tail end of a 4 day bender.
Alas, with a liter of Smart Water, a stick of Beef Jerky and some 20 dollar Reeboks I got at Costco I started trekking up the trail.
The first mile isn’t too bad, there are some easy to moderate switchbacks that are more annoying than anything else. The views are pretty solid throughout, I generally hate switchbacks so I try to run up them as fast as possible and then reward myself with a break.
Mile two I got to this hell on Earth, sprinted up the whole thing and proceeded to with great effort NOT vomit on a 13 year old girl who offered me some water.
Around the third mile marker you get to a plateau called Scout’s Lookout. It provides a beautiful panoramic view of the park and is probably where I should have stopped.
BUT FUCK THAT I CLIMBED WHITNEY.
I left the roomies behind as I started climbing up the chains, with no gear or real energy left mind you. I saw scared hikers spinning around by the dozen, others slipping and just grabbing onto a rock or chain to avoid becoming the seventh such fatality in as many years.
As I said in the intro, it was scary AF.
I finally ascended to the top, pulse pounding, and really too nervous to take any real pictures at the top. I just wanted to get down fast.
And I did, completing the hike in 2 hours and 40 minutes. (Still got it)
As we departed Zion I reflected on what I’m thankful for. Friends, family and health sure…But my God what a gorgeous country we live in. I say it all the time, but I really need to get out more, especially with so much of it my backyard.
Nearly ten hours later (Sunday Vegas Holiday traffic…kill me) we pulled to the front of our Venice Beach condo. In five days we had put 1700 miles and 30 hours in the car. In addition I had probably gone through 14 bags of gas station chips, 19 Rock Stars and God only knows how many bags of beef jerky. I limped into my room and collapsed into bed, my eyes shut before my head hit my pillow.
And today? Today was a struggle. But would I do it again? In a heartbeat.