During our desert southwest road trip, on the day we took a break from golf, my husband decided we should take a 14 mile hike to the Kolob Arch. Yes, you read that right, Fourteen Miles!
Zion National Park is huge and the main event, so to speak, is the famous part of the park where the Virgin River flows through, it is called the Narrows. There are shuttle services and many hikes to take from Springdale at the entrance to the park. Angels Landing and Observation Point are classic hikes but we did those 20 years ago when we were younger and in much better shape.
With COVID protocols in place, the shuttles in Zion were limited to half the passengers, and tickets needed to be purchased in advance. We met many travelers who were disappointed they were not able to gain access to the park.
We opted to take the “road less traveled” to the northwest corner of Zion and go to Kolob Canyon. We stopped there to go to the observation area and took in sweeping views of the canyon as well as the north rim of the Grand Canyon from our car on our way to Saint George and were hooked. Just driving in the gate is breathtaking.
The Kolob Arch is one of the largest natural arches in the world but it is seven miles in and seven miles out to see it. We got up at 5:30 a.m. and arrived at the trailhead at 7 a.m. There was no one else around until we came to several small campsites (advance reservations required) for people who hiked in the day before and spent the night.
The morning was cool and the wind was coming up so initially, hiking was comfortable. It is hard to describe the beauty of this canyon as the sun came up over the rim. Words like, “breathtaking, awe-inspiring, gorgeous” don’t really do it justice.
The hike starts up high and the first half-mile drops down to a valley floor along a river with a few ups and downs. Around every turn, I was snapping pictures each more beautiful than the last.
Finally, we made it to the arch, and still, we didn’t see any day hikers. We shared our packed lunch, took a few pictures, and turned to make our way back to the car. This is when we started seeing day hikers along with those staying in the canyon for the night. The temperature was rising and the wind was whipping up. There was even a “red flag” warning in case of wildfires.
I’m much older than I was the first time we came to Zion and not used to hiking this far. I can still do a 5-7 mile hike fairly easily but this was double that. We made good time until we started the steep ascent out of the canyon.
I used up all my water and had to share with my husband the last mile. The last half-mile of the hike was a test of my fortitude because after 13 1/2 miles I was tired. We had been hiking for nearly 8 hours. I was dehydrated, my heart was racing and I felt nauseous. My husband said don’t stop, just keep going, put on your “big girl pants” and quit whining. Really??
I finally made it to the top with quite a few broken blood vessels on the back of my calves. There was cold water and ice-cold watermelon in the car and I felt better once my hiking boots were off and my flip flops were on.
I’m realizing that I’m not as young as I used to be and not in the greatest shape, especially post-pandemic. We hiked over 39,000 steps that day and I’m glad we made it out. In the car on the way home, we talked about the hike and how awesome it was.
Then we had a really candid conversation about our “bucket” list. Where are the places we’ve always wanted to see? How difficult are these places to get to? Will we be physically able to get to them in the future? When will our “last” hike be?
This hike and the conversations later are causing us to rethink some of our retirement plans. The idea of “we aren’t getting any younger” is making us prioritize the activities and places we want to go to first before we can’t anymore.
Prior to the hike, I was really reluctant to hike that far in the hot sun. Happily, the experience and the views were so amazing that I don’t regret it at all. Now I’m motivated to make plans for those places we’ve only dreamed about. The sand in the hourglass is dropping and I don’t want to miss these incredible experiences.
I just need to keep moving and put one foot in front of the other. Oh and put on my big girl pants and stop whining! Thanks for the encouragement sweetheart!