Angels Landing at Zion National Park in Utah


I'd like to give a shout out to the anxious and the overwhelmed. To those of you (us) who wake up thinking about a full day ahead and think, "I just can't," but then go ahead and do it all anyway. To those who take on seemingly impossible tasks, regardless of their seeming impossibility.


A couple of months ago, I was sent a copy of America's Best Day Hikes by Derek Dellinger. It's full of outstanding photography and well-written descriptions of 50 trails located in every region of the country, and of course, every trail listed immediately made it onto my bucket list.

As it turns out, there is one trail in the book that I have already conquered. And when I say "conquered," I'm not being facetious. Dellinger writes of the hike, "Many mountain trails feature exposed sections with dangerous cliffs, but few hikes are known to induce vertigo quite like Angels Landing. Yet this dizzying perch is not found on the top of a mountain: in fact, it's not even the highest point in the canyon it overlooks."

Angels Landing is a 4.8-mile trail with an elevation gain of 1,490 feet located in Zion National Park in southwestern Utah. "The path to Angels Landing skirts the top of a massive, fin-shaped protrusion of rocks jutting out into Zion Canyon, making for a trail so daunting that even many serious hikers decide to bail once they're staring down the path ahead of them," Dellinger writes.

Friends, if I had read Dellinger's description before deciding to take on Angels Landing—way back in the early '90s on a combined road-and-backpacking trip around the Southwest—I'm fairly certain the knowledge of what was to come would have been so overwhelming and anxiety-inducing, I never would have taken the first step.

"The final and most daunting obstacle of the hike is a spine of rock only a few feet wide, with a chain running along the spine to offer a scant assurance of balance," explains Dellinger.

As it turns out, what you don't know is scary can't scare you. Oh, sure, when I got to that last bit of trail and looked forward, I was terrified. I'm pretty sure I was shaking in my shoes and grasping that chain for dear life the whole way out to the amazing overlook of the canyon. But I did it. In Birkenstocks, no less. (Seriously. The trail was a last-minute decision, and we hadn't planned to do anything more than an easy stroll that day.)

So, when I am confronted with a seemingly impossible task, or overwhelmed by the weight of work, or frightened and anxious that I just can't do it, I have this reference point. I think back to the reward of getting to the end of the Angels Landing trail and the awe I felt at the beauty of the place, and at my own ability to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. RM

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