stories series webworks weblog who-is

Stories / Transcript

Woman descending cliff

Angel’s Landing {format} {format} {format} 5:10 Scott Carrier

A trek along the Grotto trailhead.

Broadcast: Feb 14 2007 on PRX Nature Stories Podcast; Jul 6 2006 on NPR Day to Day Subjects: Travel, Environment

A Hundred Bucks of Gas: Angel's Landing

July 6, 2006 from Day to Day

MADELEINE BRAND, host: This is DAY TO DAY. I’m Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host: And I’m Alex Chadwick. Coming up…

Unidentified Man: All right, ready and swing! Good swing. All right.

CHADWICK: A program to get urban kids interested in playing tennis. First, though…

(Soundbite of traffic)

BRAND: This summer, we’re presenting a travel series we call A Hundred Bucks of Gas.

CHADWICK: We’re sending riders to interesting places with just one rule: get there and back home on $100 worth of fossil fuel.

BRAND: Today, we hear from Utah-based producer Scott Carrier, who traveled from Salt Lake City to Zion National Park for a hike up a spot called Angel’s Landing.

(Soundbite of a child crying)

SCOTT CARRIER reporting:

You used to be able to drive right to the base of Angel’s Landing, but now you have to take the caterpillar-like shuttle bus from the new visitor’s center.

Unidentified Man #1: This little stone building on our right was the first visitor’s center in Zion National Park. We had about 15 visitors per day then. Now we have about 2.7 million visitors each year.

CARRIER: The road follows the Virgin River up Zion Canyon. The sides of the canyon are like the cliff faces of Yosemite, only the rock here is yellow and red sandstone, 2,000 feet high, and sometimes arched at the top. It feels like being inside a huge body – the canyon are the rib cage spread open, and Angel’s Landing – where we’re going – is like the heart.

Unidentified Man #1: Angel’s Landing is a difficult hike to some. It takes about four hours round trip. (Unintelligible) plenty of water if you do go on this hike.

CARRIER: From the river, we look pretty much straight up and see where we’re going. The top of a thin, red mesa that stands alone in the middle of the canyon 1,500 feet above our heads. The people walking up are sweaty and doubtful. The people coming down are smiling and happy.

Unidentified Man #2: Hey, there.

Unidentified Woman #1: Hey, how’s it going?

Unidentified Man #2: Pretty good.

CARRIER: What’s it like getting up there? What’s the trail like?

Unidentified Man #2: The first part’s just kind of steep and hot, and the last part is – you got a drop off on either side. And as long as you have good balance you can make it.

CARRIER: We pass two couples from France and two couples from Japan, as well as the guy who operates the elevator at the Shalimar Hotel in Las Vegas. We leave him trying to decide whether he wants to go up or down. The trail from here is more like climbing up the edge of a knife, so the park service has installed a chain you can hold onto to keep from flying off the mountain. We get passed on this part by four BYU coeds, followed by a young man quoting Henry V.

Unidentified Man #3: …rather, but claims throughout my host that he which hath no stomach for this fight, let him depart.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man #3: This passport to remain (unintelligible)…

CARRIER: There are good, wide steps chopped into the sandstone, but if you tripped in certain places and let go of the chain, it would be like falling off the Empire State Building. Far below, the Caterpillar shuttle bus inches along the river road.

(Soundbite of choir singing)

(Soundbite of crowd chatter)

CARRIER: There’s a crowd on top, a party of people who don’t know each other and will never see each other again, all high on gravity. Mostly half-clothed college students, but also a Bavarian hiker with leather boots worn out in the Alps, and a nurse from Belgium carrying a copy of Desert Solitaire in her backpack. It seems entirely possibly standing on top that this is a place angels would land. It’s an altar, 1,500 feet on the air, surrounded by the yellow and red walls of the canyon that are another 500 feet higher. It feels like all the energy coming off these walls is focused on this spot. It knocks you over just looking at them.

(Soundbite of music)

CARRIER: The sun starts setting, the people leave. We stay and wait for a sign from the supernatural world. When we listen closely, we think we hear the sound of the canyon humming, and then realize it’s the sound of the shuttle bus resonating against the walls of the canyon. Then we remember we have to ride that bus. We pack up and run down, barely making the last bus of the day.

(Soundbite of bus engine)

Unidentified Woman #2: This bus is headed back to the visitor’s center.

CHADWICK: Scott Carrier is part of the radio collective,

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: Some of Scott’s pictures of Angel’s Landing are at our Web site, And our series, A Hundred Bucks of Gas, continues throughout the summer.