A family week in Utah

The girls were super excited to go pick up Grand-maman Claudette and Serge (JF's mom and her partner). We hadn't seen them in almost two years!

We went to eat lunch at LYFE Kitchen in Vegas. So good!

We spent the first night at Las Vegas Bay Campground and the second one at Sand Hollow State Park, near St. George. We were so happy to swim in this beautiful (and freezing cold) water, surrounded by red rock cliffs and black volcanic rocks.

We then spent two nights in Zion National Park. Here they did the Riverwalk that leads to the entrance of the Narrows (the Narrow hike that I did with Martin was closed because there was a risk of flash flood and the water level was too high).

On Tuesday, Mathide decided to spend the day with her grand-parents while JF, the twins and I hiked Angels Landing and a part of the West Rim Trail (this picture was taken on the West Rim Trail).

Our campsite in Zion.

We then drove from Zion to Bryce Canyon through the tunnel. The view is absolutely stunning!

The girls (and Java!) were pretty excited to see snow! Bryce Canyon is located at 8000 feet and there were still many patches of snow on the ground.

We hiked Queen's Garden Trail and Part of the Navajo loop with Claudette and Serge, for a total of 6,5 km with lots of ups and downs. They did great! We were impressed!

We had a huge campsite in Bryce and the girls built a zip line. They had so much fun!

We went to celebrate the girls' birthday (and our last night together) at the Bryce Canyon Lodge with a delicious meal.

We had a great time playing cards at night and chatting by the bonfire. It was great to see the girls reconnecting with their grand-parents. Six days went by pretty fast.

Hiking Angels Landing and the West Rim Trail, Zion NP

Going up the Walter's wiggles.

At the Scout Lookout on Angels Landing trail (where many people end their hike) we decided to go check the West Rim Trail since there was a line-up at the beginning of the last section of trail for Angels Landing Peak. After a few switchbacks, we were by ourselves! Incredible! Angels Landing is such a busy trail (one of the most popular in the park) and we decided to keep going for a couple of miles on the West Rim Trail.

The West Rim Trail was simply stunning with views of Angels Landing and Observation Point.

After a few minutes, the red slick rock becomes yellow, then white and the trail takes you across large expanse of slickrock. The view was breathtaking. And there was not a soul in sight... even the morbidly obsese squirrels that have become a serious pain in the park do not come here. I really don't know why this trail is not more popular!

Since Mathilde had decided to not join us on the hike (she spent the day with her grand-parents), JF had the wonderful idea to ask the twins if they were up for the challenge of getting to the top of Angels Landing as a kind of 12 years old rite of passage. JF had done it 3 times in the last few years and knew it well enough to judge that they would be safe on it (but maybe scared).

I had never seen something like it before. You walk on a thin fin with big drops on both sides in places and a breathtaking view.

We made it to the top! It was much less scary than we expected!

It's funny that quite often, when Americans see and hear us, they thing we are Portughese. On that particular hike, 3 different persons asked us if we were. But one man kept speaking to me in broken Spanish even after I told him we were French Canadian... Some people are a little too eager to practice their second language...

                                                                                                 We went all the way to the top!

It was a really beautiful moment that we will remember all our life. It truly felt like a rite of passage, for us as much as for them. Watching them go so confidently, their stong bodies working up and down the rocks, agile and comfortable where many adults weren't.

I remember that when they turned 10, I could see the little girls and the women at once when I looked at them. Now, not so much. I see the young women they have become. I enjoy their presence so much and all the discussions we have. Something strange happens when your children become as tall as you. You litterally start seeing them more like an equal. And I feel so very fortunate to share my days with such amazing partners.

**If you are planning to come to Zion, check out the great post our friend Ching wrote about the hikes in the park. She is the one that suggested to combine Angels Landing and part of the West Rim Trail (which is approx 20 miles long, all the way to the west entrance of the park at Kolob Canyon).

Hiking Hidden Canyon Trail, Zion National Park, UT

Sunrise over Zion


                                                                                         Bouldering Gagnam Style!


Delicious birthday lunch prepared by Jen: quinoa salad with roasted red onions, sweet potatoes and kale. YUM!

That's only the beginning of the trail!

It's our third time visiting Zion National Park and honestly, we thought we had seen everything there was to see. Then, we came across that link about Hidden Canyon and decided it would be the perfect birthday hike. I'm so glad we did because it was nothing short of breathtaking! It starts with a long climb up (the same one as the Observation Point hike we did last year) and veers right. There is a pretty exposed section of switchbacks with chains (where some people turn around) and then it's the end of the trail, but you can enter the canyon and scramble your way in as far as you feel comfortable. We left very early to beat the crowd and we rewarded by having the trail and canyon almost to ourselves!

On our way back, we decided to hike up to the canyon on the Observation Point trail since it is so spectacular. We had lunch in the sun just outside that canyon and the sun felt so amazing on our skin.

That night, my amazing friends had prepared a surprise dinner potluck. The kids worked hard to help prepare it and were great at keeping it a secret. The next day, we were all parting ways for a few weeks, or so I thought... but they had another surprise in store (next post!).

Canyoneering in The Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah

Very early morning coffee making outside, so as not to wake up the others.

                                                      A side-trip into Orderville canyon

The ray of light that I mention later.

Looking for rocks to bring back to the kids.

The current was very strong in places.

The Narrows is a very popular hike in Zion, and we made sure to be there as early as possible to beat the crowd and were rewarded by having the place pretty much to ourselves.

The sun only enters this very high canyon around 1 pm, so we hiked the 5 miles upstream without seeing any sun. Since we were pretty much alone, the experience was completely awe inspiring. At one point, we came to a bend and saw one ray of light falling all the way down to the water. It felt completely magical. We hiked as high as possible up to Big Springs, where the current is too strong to keep going and chose a spot on a river bank to eat our lunch. As we started heading down, there was more and more sun entering the canyon and the experience felt completely different. It almost felt like an entirely different place. We passed a few people, but most of the hikers stayed in the first few miles (and missed Wall Street, the narrowest part of the canyon, and the most beautiful).

Since the water in the canyon is at 44 degrees F at this time of year, it is necessary to wear a drysuit and neoprene socks with special river hiking boots (available for rental in many shops in Springdale). We saw a few brave souls in wetsuits and some crazy Spring Break kids in shorts and sandals. The probing stick saved us many falls in the icy cold water.

When I came back, Mathilde told me: Woah! You walked 16 km in a canyon full of water?! Mom, I didn’t think you were *that* crazy! I looked at her perplexed and she quickly added: but crazy is good! Ahahahah! That’s my girl!

Observation Point and other hikes in Zion National Park, Utah

The wind was howling when the alarm rang at 6:30 on Saturday morning. We had decided to get an early start and beat the crowd on the hike to Observation Point, one of the most scenic hike in Zion National Park. It was an 8 mile hike with a 2100 feet elevation. We had packed lots of food, water and warm clothes the night before and were ready for another exciting adventure. When we got off the shuttle bus, we looked up at the many switchbacks that were cut in the very steep rock wall ahead of us and smiled! We love a challenge! 

We were pretty much alone on the trail as the sun rose in the canyon, illuminating the top of Angels Landing, a hike we had done a few days earlier and that some of us had done again the night before at sunset. We walked into a beautiful canyon and were greeted by the warm morning sun on the other side. We kept on pushing up, switchbacks after switchbacks, mesmerized by the ever changing colors of the rocks. At the top, the view was simply incredible.

As we started going down, we met more and more people. Huffing and puffing, some of them congratulated the kids for their accomplishment. The children kept on skipping to the bottom of the trail, smiling, proud and happy.

During the 5 days we stayed in the park, we hiked many other shorter trails: the River walk that leads to the entrance of the Narrows, a very popular hike in a canyon that require wearing waterproof pants/bibs, socks and shoes, and carrying a big stick to keep your balance in the areas of the canyon where there is more current. The water was at 45 degrees, so going without this equipment was not an option. In the summer, it is possible to do it in sandals and shorts (something we plan to do at some point). We also hiked up to Upper Emerald Pool and down to Lower Emerald Pool (the photo of the little waterfall and chain along the wall is from that hike), as well as to Weeping Rock. It is a fascinating phenomenon that in the limestone rock layer called travertine, a more porous formation, plants grow and water seep through.

Zion is simply a majestic place that one must see (and hike!) in its life to really appreciate it. If you plan to visit and are in shape enough for a moderate to challenging hike, I highly recommend you do Angels Landing and Observation Point for a total Zion experience.

Zion National Park: Hiking Angels' Landing trail

Zion National Park is well known and the amount of people in the shuttles (you are not allowed to drive your own vehicle in the park) and on the trails only confirmed its popularity. But of course, there is a good reason for it: it is a spectacular place and the hiking trails are epic. We hiked Angels' Landing, a beautiful steep climb full of switchbacks that leads to a breathtaking viewpoint. But the magnificence of Zion can only truly be appreciated if you keep going after the overlook (not recommended for kids) and take the challenging path to the very top. Once there, you understand why they call it Angels' Landing. It is that grand!

As we started our hike, we met a French-speaking family that was from my hometown! We quickly found out that we had more than our birthplace in common and stuck together for the whole hike, chatting away as old friends. Their two girls quickly grew attached to Mathilde, who loved being in the big sister position. Thanks to the energy of the group, their 3 and 5 yo girls hiked all the way to the overview and back!