Firstly, I apologise for any typos which appear in todays update - it's me (Tony) updating the site (under instruction from Rachael, of course - who is laid up in bed resting after a hard days hiking !)..........
We packed our cases & left the Villa at 5am on Sunday - with an extremely nervous Tony, who had just "twigged" that his life was now entirely in MY hands, me being the only responsible adult remaining in the travelling party and flew to Vegas.
Despite being able to see The Strip from the runway, our arrival at our Hotel was delayed by a further 90 minutes courtesy of a 32 mile detour which was suggested by TomTom - thanks for the loan by the way Dad!
All that I will say about Vegas at this point in time is WOW!! We did hit the strip & visited a couple of bars & casinos, but after a couple of buds (lime variety for Tony of course !) I was ready for bed as our time zones had been adjusted by a further 4-hours.
The following morning we checked out of Planet Hollywood and hit the road for our 3-hour drive to Zion National Park. It is an absolutely awesome place. Words can not begin to describe the beauty and majesty of the entire area and it is difficult to comprehend the vastness of the Canyons.
We took an 'exploratory trek' to lower, middle & upper Emerald Pools and somehow we managed to get slightly lost on route. This led to an extended 4-mile hike and we returned at dusk, only a matter of minutes before the area was submerged into complete darkness. The sun appears to set really dramatically & suddenly in these parts, and once it is below the canyon walls all heat & light immediately vanishes.
Before returning to our Lodge (which is a fabulous log cabin situated on the 1st floor with a balcony offering views of the Canyon Walls) we booked ourselves in for Dinner at Zion Grill House at 7:15pm.
After a brief rest, scrub up & change of clothes - we headed over to the Restuarant. On our arrival we were slightly concerned to note the "Restuarant Closed" sign being displayed at the bottom of the stairs leading to the restaurant. Following a brief discussion with the Restuarant Manager, it became clear that we had transversed another time zone during our drive from Vegas & were now an hour late for Dinner! He kindly offered us soup & salad, however in his wisdom, Tony declined this offer as he was ravenous after a hard day's hiking.
He insisted that we head out of the National Park in seach of "Man Food" !
Unfortunately, upon driving into Springdale, it was clear that the bars & cafes kept the same hours as the Lodge's Dining Room (just like I had suggested to Tony before we left the park!). Bar after bar, restuarant after restuarant and cafe after cafe was closed. At this stage I was growing concerned that "road kill" was becoming a genuine eating option for Tony, however we were fortunate to happen upon The Spotted Dog Bar & Restuarant and we begged a meal from them before they closed their kitchens for the night. The meal was delicious - this is an establishment I can fully recommend should you ever find yourselves in this neck of the woods (or Canyons) - tell them that Rachael & Tony sent you!
Today we decided upon one of the most strenuous hikes the Park had to offer, "Angels Landing". This hike is in the "STRENUOUS" (not to be undertaken by anyone out of shape or with a fear of heights) category with an estimated duration of 5 hours (we are allowing ourselves 8 hours). The route ends at the summit high above Zion Canyon. The last 1/2 mile follows a steep, narrow ridge with a drop-off of 1,500 feet (on either side). Pretty treacherous & scary stuff, particularly with a Californian Condor swooping down at us as we gingerly made our way across the "saddle". But we did it - we may even get the T-Shirt in the gift shop tomorrow !
My entire return journey descending back across the 1/2 mile rock-face was undertaken on my derriere (I quickly realised that this was the best technique to ensure my survival). Only once I felt that I was approaching "Terra Firma" - the altitude does strange things to your mind, Scouts Lookout stands at a height of 1,070 feet - I returned to an upright position to take the final step down. And wouldn't you guess it, it was at this exact moment that I twisted my ankle! But being conscious that a number of fellow hikers had seen the incident, I gritted my teeth & attempted to walk on through the pain as though nothing had happened. In truth, it caused me no discomfort whatsoever as we made the descent to the Canyon floor.
After returning triumphantly from the hike, we took a drive to a viewing area at the base of the Canyon and will post some photos of the rock we scaled in the next couple of days (subject to internet/wifi availability in these remote parts!).
We then rested up for a couple of hours to ensure that we were suitably prepared to make our 7:15pm Dinner Reservation at the Zion Lodge Grill. It was only upon standing again that my ankle began to cause me some discomfort and I was, as usual, extremely brave & Tony, as usual, was extremely unsympathetic to my painful plight! (It's me, Tony again & I think it's only right to defend myself and state that after carrying Rachael to the Restuarant, I was not expecting to be forced to endure her miserable face & constant whinging throughout the entire duration of the meal !)
Tomorrows agenda is to pack up & head across to Bryce Canyon - hopefully I will be able to accompany Tony on his hikes.
Updates to follow..............