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Angel's Landing Because My Girlfriend Made Me
By David Aintablian
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Angel's Landing is a beautiful sounding name for a hike with beautiful scenery, and that's just what it is. I remember weeks before the adventure's initiation, sitting in my girlfriend's house with her family talking about that very thing. Her mom would try and scare me a bit with images of narrow ridges and long drops, but her dad rebuked such talk. He told me that it was not as terrifying as it sounded. "It's not so bad," being his exact words. I couldn't help but think that with a name like "Angel's Landing," it would really be heavenly.
We woke up early on the day of the hike and drove a long four hours, which I assumed would definitely be worth it. When we reached Zion Park the sun was high, but every once in a while a nice breeze would cool the sweat on my face. We started trekking up the side of the ridge on the sandy walkway; the beginning of the Angel's Landing hike. Sometimes it could get kind of steep but for the most part the first section is casual. I remember looking up and saying, "I need to keep my head up so I don't miss these gorgeous views." Little did I know how gorgeous it was about to get.
The switchbacks increased the intensity of the walk, but it was easy to stay at a nice pace. Such a steep ascent made for a very nice reward as I was able to look out over what I had just hiked and feel somewhat victorious. I couldn't help but feel like I was in the tale of The Lord of the Rings, where, though we were on manmade paths, we were exploring untouched land as we gathered for a final battle against the dark forces. Even walking between the first and second set of switchbacks seemed epic because a tunnel-like walkway is covered by a huge ominous ledge high above, protecting you from possible rain. After the second set of switchbacks I was slightly exhausted and very proud of what I had accomplished. There was a gathering place at the top just as I imagined there would be. I seemed to me that it was the end of the hike.
I was wrong. Ahead of me lied a thin and jagged piece of Earth that seemed like it enjoyed jutting out from EVERYTHING like a toothpick hanging horizontally out of a cake. What lied ahead of me did not look logical and definitely, undeniably did not look safe. It was like a thing one could expect to see in movies. My eyes focused on the thin line of land and they struggled to comprehend the void on either side that followed it out. However defiantly beautiful the view was, it was something I wanted to observe from a distance.
Once again, I was wrong. Somehow my girlfriend convinced me to proceed. I struggled across the first 50 feet and then I had to turn around. I cannot express the embarrassment that comes with shying away from a hike, while my girlfriend of half my size practically skips along the path. She went ahead and I stayed back like a beaten dog. But being the loving boyfriend that I am, I decided against every notion in my body to continue on. I started the suicide march and forgotten words from the house of my girlfriend sprung back in my head: "Angel's Landing: It'll scare the Hell out of you."
And that's exactly what happened. It seemed to me that were I not one slip from a 1000 foot drop, it would be quite fun. The actual climbing and crawling was straight out of a child's fantasy. Its just too bad it wasn't really a fantasy, because I might have enjoyed it! Everything that was pleasant about the hike before suddenly turned on me. The cool breeze turned into cold fingers grabbing me and trying to throw me off the edge. The wonderful views from high up were now gaping wholes of vastness that kept echoing "you are going to die!" In fact I remember thinking "Stare at the ground! DO NOT keep your head up!" My thought process had completely changed from beginning to end. The whole reason that I was even partaking in such a ridiculous adventure was for my girlfriend. I did it to impress her and to let her know that I am willing to try things that she likes. The irony is that because of the climb, I was sure I was going to die. I was going to die to show my girlfriend how willing I am to live with her. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Despite feeling I had little chance of surviving, I finally made it. After holding on for dear life to the chains that were placed, and scurrying where there were not chains, the journey was over. There was this semi-flat rock near the top that made for a nice resting place. It was the only place on the climb that allowed me to move one foot left or right, without nearly falling off. Even with that safety it was hard for me to look out over the edge. With all the will power I could muster though, I took a gander. Wow! There was no feeling of victory that compared. Someone once told me that all the things worth having in life can't be seen. Well I basically couldn't see a thing and it was beautiful. My head was dizzy and my eyes were having trouble focusing on anything! It felt like I was balancing on a needle. The view was majestic. Looking out from where I was sitting somehow let me know how small I was, and how big the art of the Earth is. It really just looked to me like a big bowl, waiting to be filled with milk and my favorite cereal!
After I had my fill I came back to reality. Now I had to go back. The descent was actually, surprisingly, a lot easier, and unquestionably faster. It almost felt like a staircase. Though let me be clear, Angel's Landing is definitely not a stairway to heaven. I made it back safe. I had just finished the most dangerous hike I had ever been on and I raised my arms in the air. Only seconds later did a plethora of preteen girls walk by giggling and talking about how fun it was for them.