Zion Part 4: Angels’ Landing and Emerald Pool

I have been putting this post off for sooooo long.  So long that the vacation happened in 2010, and now it is 2012.

Remember my vacation?  Zion National Park?  Summer of 2010?  So long ago that I don’t remember what month…it may have been June.

If you would like to review:  Zion Canyon Part 1,   Zion Canyon Part 2,   Zion Canyon Part 3

Are you caught up?

So, the reason that I have been procrastinating writing part 4 is that I have a few memories from this day that scream and drown out all the good memories.  I remember bits and pieces of my not-so-great experience of Angels Landing with such detail…  You will read about a French girl that I talked to.  I remember how her hair was fixed!  The feelings that I experienced on the Angels Landing trail are so loud, if I think about this day, that I don’t want to think of it.  It’s so easy for me to pretend the bad memories don’t exist.  But part of life is learning to feel bad, to sit with it, and to let it run its course and pass.  For me in particular, this is a lesson that needs to be learned, over and over again.  So I’m going to post the pictures, and my usual little vacationy comments, for two reasons:  One, it was awful.  Ignoring it won’t change it.  And it’s time to sit with those feelings and let them have their way.  Two, after Angels’ Landing, the rest of the trip was very, very good.  My favorite part was the next day, and will be in part 5, and I can’t show you that until I show you this.

So, the second day in the canyon started with a hike up Angels’ Landing.  It is a 5.4 mile hike roundtrip, and you gain 1488 feet of elevation.  Once again, we started in the dark…

...but not so very dark as the previous morning!

Here we go!

Of course, during our “rests” we found some more random little side adventures, off the trail.

Next came Wallace’s Wiggles, an intense series of about 20 switchbacks up the steep side of a cliff.


After a short break at an overlook, some of us ventured on to the next part of the trail.  This is where things got miserable.

It says right there, “cliff exposures.”  I didn’t know I was afraid of cliff exposures!!!

How could I possibly know that?  I’ve never BEEN on a cliff!

I mean, I know I’m afraid of heights.  But I took a rock climbing class in college, and it was one of the best, most empowering experiences, to overcome that fear every week, and to make it to the top more times than I can count.  So my goal for Angels’ Landing was to do it once, so that I would never have to do it again.


I’m absolutely mortified to find myself crying my way through the experience at this point.

And trying not to look at the sheer drops on either side.

And between holding onto the chains for dear life and wiping the tears, I’m beginning to worry that I’m ruining it for everyone else.  You see, this is how I get through things that terrify me:  I cry, and I do it anyway.  But I have to cry.  As long as I’m crying, I’m really not as miserable as you think, and I’m overcoming fear in a way that seemed impossible to me just moments before.  As long as I’m crying, I’m probably feeling really, really good about the experience.

If I try to make myself stop crying, I freeze.  I feel nothing but terrified.  And once again, it feels impossible.

Just to clarify, there are a few rare events in life that truly make me THIS terrified.  I can only think of two.  Needles.  (Luckily, in that situation, they go on with it whether or not I’m frozen in fear.)  And apparently, Angels Landing.

In this situation, I was torn between feeling really good about myself for tackling something that I found so scary, and feeling really embarrassed and guilty about appearing to be so miserable.  If they were all having fun, they should have fun.  I didn’t want them to remember this experience as going with their stupid sister who wouldn’t stop crying.

Not to mention some stupid woman from Switzerland who was telling me that if I was this scared, it was dangerous to go on.  Thanks, lady.  That really helped.  I really felt better.  Stupid woman.

So I tried to stop crying.

Big mistake.


And I froze.  I sat my ass down under a tree, with a sheer drop on either side of me, and I stayed right there until they got back.

This was my view in the direction of the rest of the trail. You can even see a bit of my tree in the top right corner.

I didn’t have a watch or anything, but we estimated that there was probably a mile or mile-and-a-half left.  I’m looking at a map of the trail right now that makes me think there was only about a quarter mile to go.  In any case, sitting still, it felt like a really, really long time.

I watched and listened as the entire world went by me.  When the others came back, I remember telling them how many languages I thought I had heard, but right now I don’t remember how many it was.  Specifically, I remember so many people asking, without judgement, if I was all right.  I remember a few people saying they were tempted to sit with me because they were scared, too.  (I don’t know if they were just lying to be nice, but I’m going to pretend they were honest.)

I remember two groups of people really distinctly.  There was a group of four guys with what I think were Scottish or Irish accents…really HOT guys, by the way!…who tried to convince me to go with them and “surprise your friends” by showing up at the top.  I should have gone.

Then there was a group from France, and one woman was trailing a little behind her friends because she was nervous about heights and just wanted to go slowly.  She actually sat under my tree for a little bit, and we chatted, and she said, “Okay, I think I’m going to go on.  Do you want to come?”  And I wanted to, and I almost went.  And I should have gone.

More than heights, more than needles, I have a horrible, horrible fear of being a burden to the people around me.  And in both those moments, my worst fear was not the sheer drops on either side of the trail.  I was afraid that I would start going, I would meet Sarah and Megan and Jon coming back, and that they would feel like they had to turn around and go with me to the top.  I wanted to go, but I felt like I had long ago lost my chance to do the hike in a way that wouldn’t be a burden to those around me.

Pardon this next part, but I’m already crying as I type, so if I’m doing this, I might as well go on and get it all out.

As I sat there, I saw people walk past who looked prepared, looked like they were in great shape, and looked and sounded like they were enjoying themselves.  And I saw people who were breathing like they hadn’t exercised a day in their life, who were wearing flip flops, who carried no water or snacks, who I judgmentally thought had no business being on such a strenuous, dangerous trail.  And that day, I felt like one of them.  You see, I know what it feels like to be in great shape, to be running and doing yoga and feeling like my arms and legs can take me anywhere in the world.  And I’m sorry to say, I know what it feels like to be out of shape, to feel out of balance and at the mercy of gravity and weather.  And I know that when I feel the latter, it’s my fault.  It’s my choices that put me in either of those positions.

It was judgmental and wrong for me to make assumptions of other people’s ability to safely and happily navigate that trail, and I’m truly sorry for those thoughts.  My point in sharing them is that, on that day, I felt like a person who would be unable to safely and happily navigate the trail.  My sisters’ skinny-ness and cardiovascular health was reminding me that I felt inadequate in both areas.  And then, seeing people who I thought looked more like me than my sisters going on up that trail…I am certain that is the worst I have ever felt about myself.  There was this little nugget of hope, confidence, motivation…  One tiny part of my soul was nagging me:  “You can do this, you know.  Just go.  Just go by yourself.  It will feel so good to accomplish this.”

But I didn’t.  Because the ugly, insecure part of my mind was screaming:  “If you wanted to be able to do this, you should have been making choices that would make you look and feel more like your sisters!  It is your own fault that you feel this way, and it is your own fault you are sitting here.  You are fat and ugly and SCARED and they are better off going on without you.”  That insecurity and self-doubt is the ugliest part of my soul, I know it is.  And I spent the rest of the day faking happy like I have never faked it before, because for the rest of the day, that self-doubt was screaming at the top of her lungs and I couldn’t drown her out.

Their well-deserved break at the top of Angels Landing.

Back down the wiggles we go...

The heat is getting to us! 🙂

On our way to the Emerald Pools.

Water falls from above...

You can see all the mossy green stuff that grows in the moisture.


Blessed coolness of shade and being near water!

If you’re still with me, thanks for reading.  More than a year later, I had no idea it would be so helpful to talk about this and really just sit with it and get it out.  Whether on vacation or at home, I battle my demons.  Some battles result in more emotional bloodshed than others.  My favorite blogs to read are those where the authors talk about their battles honestly, and I hope you appreciate that here as well.

But stay tuned, because now that we’re done with that…my favorite hike is coming up in the next part!!!  🙂


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. doris
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 14:11:22

    Sometimes it is best to read and follow the signs of “Hazards Ahead” it is ensuring your long term survival just like following your gut when you feel good on your healthy diet and activity plan. When the message comes from so deep with in and shouts so loud you MUST follow the advice of the inner voice.


  2. Irishgal4HIM
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 09:44:42

    Psalm 139: 1-3, 7-10, 13-14

    LORD, you have probed me, you know me:

    you know when I sit and stand;
    you understand my thoughts from afar.

    You sift through my travels and my rest;
    with all my ways you are familiar.

    Where can I go from your spirit?
    From your presence, where can I flee?

    If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;
    if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.c

    If I take the wings of dawn*
    and dwell beyond the sea,*

    Even there your hand guides me,
    your right hand holds me fast.

    You formed my inmost being;
    you knit me in my mother’s womb.

    I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
    wonderful are your works!
    My very self you know.

    Thank you for sharing this piece of your soul.
    Much Love


  3. Trackback: Fear | Dawn's Place

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