We returned from a long weekend in Zion National Park on Monday night and I’m still in awe of how incredible it was! This post would be way too long to write a race recap and a summary of the weekend, so I’ll start with the weekend and write the recap next!
A group of current and former employees from my husband’s company suggested the race last Fall and Mike and I jumped on the bandwagon right away. We recruited Mike’s sister Claire, her husband Josh and our friend Brooke (who also works at Mike’s company) to join us and we found an awesome house near the start line. Brooke, Mike and I drove up on Friday and Claire and Josh flew into Vegas and rented a car and met up with us in Zion on Friday afternoon. The drive from San Diego is about 7 hours (more like 8 with gas/food/bathroom breaks) and you cross 4 states (CA, NV, AZ and UT)!
After exploring our eclectic VRBO rental home in the city of Virgin (fun fact about Virgin: it’s a law for every household to own a gun. Seriously.) on Friday afternoon and unpacking the massive quantity of food we’d brought with us, we went for a walk and then headed into Springdale to pick up our bibs. The 14 or so mile drive from our house to the finish line of the race was spectacular (it also happened to be the race course) – road cuts through spectacular red Navajo sandstone mountains. Packet pick-up was easy and we took some time to walk around the park afterward. That night we made a pasta dinner and then made a fire in the fire pit in our backyard and roasted s’mores. I went to bed very full and not at all nervous like I normally would be before a race. The Zion Half was about fun, not racing!
The race took place on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. and since our house was only a short drive to the start, we didn’t have to wake up til 6 a.m. Staying near the start line is a luxury I’ve never been afforded and I loved it. I’ll write a full re-cap about the race soon, but the summary is: epic views and good times.
After the race we stayed in town (Virgin, the town we stayed in had just one little restaurant in it) for lunch and then headed back to the house to get showered and take a nap. We had intentions of going into the park in the afternoon but we were all zapped from the race and ended up just taking a long walk from our house instead. We stumbled across some friendly horses and later friendlier citizens of Virgin at the only restaurant in Virgin, which specialized in the buffalo burger. We didn’t stay for dinner – instead we later headed into town for dinner at the Bit & Spur!
Sunday morning we slept in, made pancakes and eggs for breakfast, and then headed into the park. Claire and Josh had to catch a flight out of Vegas that evening so we did a shorter hike with them to some beautiful pools. We hiked for about an hour or an hour and a half and then ate our picnic lunch with them before they took off. Brooke, Mike and I then set off to conquer Angel’s Landing. The Zion Half Marathon offers a 50% discount for next year’s race for those who complete the half marathon and then hike Angel’s Landing within 72 hours of the race. You must take a photo of yourself at the top with your bib and medal.
We didn’t really know what to expect out of Angels’ landing. Despite it only being a 5 mile hike, the guides all said it would take 4-6 hours. So we certainly knew there was some climbing. I believe the climb is about 1,500 feet over the 5 miles. We certainly felt that as soon as we started to hike – there wasn’t much in the way of flat ground on the hike, it was all up up up. There were lots of switchbacks but there was enough variety in the hike that it didn’t get monotonous. We had heard that once we were 2 miles in, we’d arrive at a look out called Scout Lookout. Scout Lookout is for those who do not want to make the final 0.5 mile trek to the summit.
Rather than calling it a trek, I’d call it a rock scramble. Essentially, you climb over a very steep, narrow ridge where one wrong step by you or a person above you could result in you careening off the side of the mountain to your untimely death. Most of the perilous drop offs have chains for support, but it was still pretty frightening. To make things worse, despite starting the hike late in the day, it was jam packed with fellow human beings. The route is definitely single track so we spent quite a bit of the 45 minutes or so that it took us to get to the summit dodging oncoming traffic or perilously clutching a rock as someone passed us. To say we were relieved when we reached the summit was an understatement!
Luckily the views were worth the fretting and we sat at the top for a while and soaked it all in before heading back down. Luckily the way down was less crowded since it was now later in the day and fewer people were starting their trek up. On the way down the switchbacks we spotted three deer. They weren’t scared of humans at all! We later spotted even more friendly deer at the picnic area near the shuttle stop.
We were absolutely famished when we got off the mountain and had a delicious dinner in town before heading back to the house for drinks and chatting before bed. Monday morning we packed it up and headed out for the long drive home. I definitely will be returning to Zion – there is so much more to see and we loved it! We also already started plotting our next Vacation Race! There are several to chose from…..Grand Tetons is calling our name.
Have you ever gone on a Racecation? Would you consider doing the Zion Half or any of the other Vacation Races?