Friday, May 20, 2016

West Rim O&B - Zion National Park - 5/15/16

West Rim Trail along Telephone Canyon

Angel's Landing from West Rim Trail

Cliff View from West Rim

Virgin River lower on Last Day
 After 4 days of hiking in Zion National Park, six hikers were ready to do their 5th hike on the West Rim Trail going out and back to the bottom of the switchbacks just below Cabin Spring. It was better that we didn't realize that the 2000 foot gain was really 2500 feet until the end! And, even though we were tired, we still wanted to enjoy every minute of our time in Zion hiking the beautiful terrain. We took the shuttle on an unusually quiet Sunday morning up to the Grotto Stop and began our familiar climb up the switchbacks to Scouts Lookout, the saddle just below Angel's Landing.

Switchbacks up to Refrigerator Canyon
 We hiked up at our own pace agreeing to meet at the saddle for a group hike up the West Rim.

Leaving Scouts Lookout
 At Scouts Lookout, we turned to the left onto the West Rim Trail and immediately escaped the crowds that were queuing up for their classic Angel's Landing climb.

Sandy Saddle bordered by Cliffs

Climbing from Saddle
 We still had a lot of climbing to do before we would get a little relief. As we gained altitude, our view behind us was of the Angel's Landing fin and 1000 foot cliffs. Although the West Rim Trail offers "edge of the cliff" views, there is plenty of space away from the cliff for "exposure handicapped" hikers to feel safe. The trail was very clear but was also very uneven. It zigzagged up to the top of the sandstone peak offering gorgeous views in every direction.

Interesting Trail Marker
 The top of the peak was bare sandstone. In lieu of cairns, the park service has planted footstep signs to mark the trail. Rozie wondered if that meant we had to walk pigeon toed!

Trail over Bare Sandstone
 There were about 3 or 4 of these signs that led us up and over the bare peak. Then, we began a descent that we knew we would meet again in the other direction.

Crossing a Deep Wash

Beginning the Next Long Climb
There is a bridge over a deep wash at the bottom of the descent and then the fun really began! A long ... long ... long gradual climb began up the stone trail and through a wooded area. The coordinator's memory of the climb was not so relentless! But, the trail's saving grace was that the scenery of Telephone Canyon was distractingly beautiful. Finally, we reached our destination and took an extended break in some shade. Happy.

Trail at Left - Telephone Canyon at Right
 We passed a few hikers on the return down to the bridge. Some of them were through hikers from Lava Point as told by their backpacks.

Still Climbing
 After crossing the bridge, we began the climb back up to the bare peak. We took a very short rest at the end of each switchback which made the whole climb fairly easy.

Our Turnaround Point - Cabin Spring Up a few Switchbacks

West Rim Sandstone
 We hiked over the bare peak passing some yoga enthusiasts and following the footstep signs. The descent back down to Scouts Lookout was even more beautiful than the way up earlier. At the saddle, we signed out of the hike so that the men could move on down the trail at a faster speed. The ladies stayed together until the end. We all enjoyed our excursion in Zion National Park for 2016.

8 miles; 2500 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Returning over Bare Trail

Dropping Back down to Scouts Lookout

1000 Foot Cliff below Us

Left Fork of North Creek - Zion National Park - 5/15/16

 Six hikers were lucky enough to win the National Park Service lottery to hike up the left fork of North Creek (usually just called the Left Fork).  This is one of the most stunningly beautiful areas in Zion NP.  We arrived at the trail head at 9am after stopping by Zion Adventure Company to pick up some neoprene socks (really wetsuit booties).  We had to hike about a mile from the parking area down into the canyon before we started hiking up the Left Fork.

  After a couple of river crossings in a quarter of a mile we realized that we should probably slip on our neoprene socks.  Some hikers wore the 3mm socks while others wore the 5mm.  It turns out that for this day 3mm would have sufficed.  We hiked up about a mile when one of our hikers hit his head on an overhanging rock.  Luckily we had a former medic and several first aid kits along.  The injury was very slight, just an abrasion, so we continued on.

  After about 3 miles the scenery changed dramatically and we were hiking up terraces of water falls.  After about 4 miles we reached the bottom of the Subway, so called due to the rounded sides of the slot canyon.  This area was very beautiful and subject of many professional photographers.  At this point the river was basically impassible, so we stopped and had our snack break and hiked out.  The only bad part of the hike was the 400 ft of elevation gain needed to get back out of the canyon and back to our vehicles.  But it was worth it!  A great hike to end our Zion NP outing on. ~ Jerry

8 miles; 1500 feet elevation gain; 6.25 hours

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Checkerboard Arch - Zion National Park - 5/14/16

Checkerboard Arch

Behind Checkerboard Mesa - Arch Located at Top of Center Peak

View from the Saddle

Starting Up among the Pools
 Another Zion National Park wilderness hike is Checkerboard Arch. Twelve hikers drove east past the long and short tunnels and stopped just short of Checkerboard Mesa. There was just enough room for our three cars in a crowded pull-out and we crossed the road. The hike begins by dropping into the wash that is between Checkerboard Mesa and the sandstone mountain to its west. There are several pools in the sandstone on the approach. The day was cooler than the day before and there were a few clouds. ... Good.

Wash Pool - Trail goes Left of Pool
 The wash begins with a rather flat slope so the sandy bottom didn't faze us. We stayed in the wash as much as we could.

Wash along Checkerboard Mesa Wall
 The first time we had to exit the wash for an up and around trail to the left was to avoid a pool and non-negotiable dry fall.

Hikers Scramble Up at Right Turn

Pondering a No Go
 Back in the wash, we hiked comfortably until we came to a junction. It isn't obvious but the trail continues in the wash by turning to the right. There is a trail heading up the hill on the left. (You don't need to do this but you will get there that way as we learned later.) The wash hits another large dry fall of boulders. Circling around the left side of this does the trick. The next fun part also offers an up and around that is not needed. See the photo below for the solution!

Either Up and Around this Way or On a Trail Other Side
 Finally, we could see the necessary saddle in the distance through the trees. The wash connects with the sandy trail that climbs up to the high point on the right side.

Deer and Flies in Center of Wash
 Look for a few deer bones in the wash here. He had not been dead long when we waded through the flies.

Climbing Up to Saddle

Bruno Enjoys Saddle View
 The saddle climb is steep. Near the top, the sand gets so deep that for every step you make, you slide 1/2 step back! As we struggled, a group of four young men hiked up past us like we were standing still .... Well, we were standing still. Anyway, the view back at the top of the saddle is worth using as an excuse to rest. The saddle is narrow and extends from wall to wall. After our rest, we immediately began dropping down the other side on a trail that continued on around to the back side of Checkerboard Mesa. (With the exception of a few feet in the wash.)

Back in the Wash for a Minute
 We kept seeing these beautiful purple flowers throughout our hikes in Zion NP. We think they are bluebells but are not sure.

Bluebells ... or Not
 The trail left the shade of the narrow wash and we began following a few cairns along with the sandy trail. There are two parallel trails that lead to the same place back here.

Trail Circles Around Back of Checkerboard Mesa

Trail - Parunuweap Canyon in Distance
 In the distance to the south, we could see the rim of the Parunuweap Canyon. All of the few hikers that passed us were headed to a slot canyon that feeds into this larger canyon called Fat Man's Misery. The name speaks for itself.

As the trail circled around the large mesa, the peak that holds the arch came into view. It is located on the middle peak of the three peaks on the other side. You cannot see the sky through the arch until you are very near the wash on the other side of the mesa. Keep looking!

Checkerboard Mesa
 Interested in exploring a little further than the maiden hike of 2013, we dropped into that wash and turned to our left.

Hiking Up Wash
 This is an interesting wash with sandstone features in the rock. We followed the wash until we found ourselves next to the wall of the mesa.

Wash next to Checkerboard Mesa - Alcove in Background

Climbing Up to Alcove
Still exploring, we followed the wash as it became more narrow. Finally, the wash was taking a turn to the right. But, up above us on the left side, there was a very interesting looking alcove. A small scramble up and we found ourselves inside a dry fall inlet. Without technical equipment ... and skills ... we could only go up a short way before the steep sandstone stopped us.

Snack Break in Alcove
 A few of the hikers tried their hand (and feet and legs and skinned elbows) at climbing up to the next level but we were already in the shade where we were.

Exiting Alcove
 We enjoyed a snack break in the cool shade of the alcove then made our exit. There were several different methods used during the exit!

Last View back at the Arch

Following Cairns on Return
 On the return, we went back down through the wash and found the tiny cairn that we had noted when we dropped in. This is the trail out. Climbing up on the sandy rocks and through the sand, we followed cairns and retraced our steps. It was beginning to get a little warmer so we didn't waste much time getting back around to the shady wash between the sandstone mesas.

Trail back to Saddle
 We were tired when we began climbing along the trail that approached the saddle. There is more elevation gain here than we noticed on the way down.

Saddle Climb
 Finally, everyone made it up to the saddle celebrating the completion of the last ascent. Well, sort of.

Happy to be Up on Saddle Again

Sok Photographs Wayward Hikers
 On the way back, we mistakenly took the trail that comes down that long sandy rocky hill at the junction where we had turned earlier. In the photo to the left, Sok is standing in front of the correct route as we are coming down that hill. Other than that, it was a smooth return. Checkerboard Arch is a nice hike that will likely remain in our repertoire for Zion NP.

5.5 miles; 1100 feet elevation gain; 4 hours

Don't Worry! There is an up and around for this one!

Returning Down by the Pools

Bighorns Spotted on Drive Back - Or, did they spot us?