Jackson and I got married in June 2016, and since then we’ve had a tradition of going camping to celebrate our anniversary. In 2017 we lived in Texas and ventured to Hill Country for our anniversary trip. This year, we almost thought we wouldn’t be able to go camping because Jackson was in a wedding in Utah the day before our anniversary.
But to our surprise, this worked in our favor. We were stoked to find out Zion National Park was conveniently on our way home from the wedding location. Jackson booked us a campsite and I started looking up Zion hikes on Pinterest.
The day after the wedding, we were up at 6 am and ready to roll. Five hours later we arrived, checked into our campsite, grabbed our hiking packs and wasted no time hopping on the park shuttle.
We only had one day at the park so we had to make the most of it. Angels Landing was at the top of our list. It is a world-renowned hike equipped with steep drop offs and sharp switchbacks. It’s 5 miles round trip with a 1,500 ft elevation gain. On average, it takes 4-5 hours to complete.
Ever since we booked our campsite I had been telling Jackson I might chicken out when it comes to hiking Angels Landing, especially after hearing multiple people have died doing this hike and to get to the top you have to hold onto chains because there are sheer drop offs on both sides.
But when we got on the shuttle, I knew we had to do it. We were going to hike Angels Landing—clammy, nervous palms and all.
The shuttle dropped us off and we were on our way. Not too far into the hike the sharp switchbacks began, or Walter’s Wiggles as they’re more famously known. We zigzagged our way up the trail. Just when I thought we had finished the switchbacks, another more condensed set began.
At the top of the windy path was Scout’s Lookout. We looked around for a bit until starting the trek to the top.
The first stretch was a steep path accompanied by black chains linked together to guide hikers.
“Ready?” Jackson asked.
“No, but let’s do it anyway.” I said.
We said a quick prayer and started our way up—holding onto those chains for dear life. Jackson was a fantastic guide. He knew when to go and when to let others pass. He navigated the way and made sure I felt comfortable to keep moving on. I don’t think I would have done it without him.
When we made it to the top I finally let myself look out from the path. The view made every foot of elevation, switchback, and narrow stretch worth it. We marveled at the vastness of God’s incredible creation before us. We took a seat to enjoy it a little longer, along with a much needed water break.
We stayed as long as we could before heading back, but eventually we knew we needed to make our way down so we could explore the park some more. Going down was harder and easier all at the same time. It was easier because I was confident about having made it up already, but harder because it’s easier to slip and slide when hiking downward.
Slowly we made our way back down. We felt the steep elevation in our knees but were able to enjoy the view from a different perspective on the descent.
When we made it to the bottom we had to decide between Emerald Pools, Observation Point, and The Narrows. We figured we wouldn’t have enough time to do Observation Point and had heard such amazing things about The Narrows that we figured we better go. We didn’t bring any water gear, but my shoes were crappy to begin with so it didn’t matter.
The Narrows is a super popular hike at Zion National Park. It can be as long or short as you make it as it stretches about 15 miles long. This hike involves walking through a beautiful river between canyons. It’s a lot colder than the rest of the park, which made it perfect post Angels Landing.
We arrived at The Narrows and began walking through the water in our beat-up hiking shoes. It felt funny at first, but refreshing at the same time. It was surreal going from a top-down view of the canyons to walking in water through them. We went a ways before turning around as our stomachs started to grumble and we still had to set up camp.
When we got back to the campground, we popped up the tent and Jackson got to cooking on his new camping stove which he had been dying to try out. We devoured the brats, green beans, and baked beans with big smiles looking at the view from our campsite. It was such a gift to celebrate marriage in God’s beautiful creation.
Later that night, we sat around the picnic table and talked. No phones. No books. Just each other. It didn’t take long before I hopped up on the picnic table though—two gray toads were very interested in our campsite. Jackson, my knight in shining armor, continuously chased them away, along with the lizard and mouse that also appeared that night.
The next morning we woke up with the sun shining through the tent screen and a beautiful view of the canyons. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend our two year anniversary and are already excited to see where we’ll end up next year.