|Zion National Park
I also stopped at the Four Corners monument that lies at the epicenter of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Of all the places I visited, this is the one that felt most like a tourist trap. Pay $5 to stand in line for half an hour and have your picture taken at the same place hundreds of others people are going to that day. 3/10, would not recommend.
|Look at me, I'm a tourist!
Quick side note on the "America the Beautiful" Pass. If you plan on visiting three or more of the big national parks within a year, this is definitely the way to go. For $80, you and anyone else in your vehicle (or you + three others when per-person fees are charged) are allowed admittance at any of the national parks (as well as other sites managed by the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management, among others) for a year. Considering admittance to Zion, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon was $30 each, this pass paid for itself just within a couple of days.
My first challenge was the Angel's Landing hike. My friend Dietrich had recommended it to me as a tough hike, but very rewarding when you got to the top. At about five miles round trip and ~1,500 ft of elevation gain, it is known to be one of the more strenuous hikes in the park. It is also one of the most dangerous, with the last half a mile or so lined with chains that you hold onto to keep from falling off either side of the mountain (see picture below for perspective). The park service is aware of "about five people" who have died accidentally on this trail.
|Angel's Landing (note hikers for scale)
|I'm a big fan of shade
|My turn around point
|Smoke on the horizon
|This is fine
|Wall of windows
|A beautiful day for a hike
|Selfies with tall things
|North Kaibab Trail overlook
|Bright Angel Point
|Bright Angel detail
|The South Rim
As I drove through eastern Arizona back into New Mexico I stopped at the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest National Park. One of my coworkers had brought his family out earlier in the year and had loaned me the CD audio tour they had purchased for the park. I listened to this while driving a large loop through the park, which took an hour or two. It was interesting, but definitely falls to fourth on the list of National Parks I visited.
|Lookit! Pretty rock
When my Uber driver dropped me off he asked, "Do you want me to stick around until you get inside?" I assured him I would be OK, as the host had told me to "just look for the bag of potting soil next to the front door" so that I didn't accidentally go into the wrong house. I reached through metal bars on the front door and let myself in. The first thing I noticed was the distinct lack of air conditioning on this hot summer night, which I didn't remember being mentioned in the listing. I wandered back to the bedroom and discovered the door didn't lock. No worries there, just set my pocket knife within easy reach of the bed. To their credit, the sheets at least looked clean, so I crawled into bed for a good night's sleep. Unfortunately, the mattress had a dip in it that kept wanting to dump me out in the floor, so I'm not sure if I ever really got any sleep that night.
When I got up at 4:00 AM to leave the next morning, I made my way to the bathroom and found a friendly cockroach feet up, twitching behind the door. So that was good. While waiting for my Uber in front of the house, the host actually showed up... at 4:15 AM. I asked no questions, gave him a nod, and moved on.
Thankfully, the rest of the trip home was relatively uneventful and I was back home around 3:00 PM the following day. Altogether an enjoyable vacation which resulted in some fun stories!