Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Zion National Park Excursion - 9/8/11 thru 9/11/11

Forty Around the Bend Friends Hiking Club members attended the Zion National Park Excursion over the weekend. There were a total of thirteen official club hikes and various other impromptu hikes thrown together when the mood struck. Zion is absolutely a beautiful, majestic park filled with towering sandstone mountains and pinnacles. Add the rushing and unpredictable Virgin River and we have a tremendous area for hiking, backpacking and photography. This weekend, we did our best to cover as much of the park as possible in only four days!


Thursday
Checkerboard Exploration
The weekend began with an exploration on and around Checker- board Mesa. Almost immedi- ately, we were confronted with the reality of what a "strenuous" hike at Zion means. Twelve hikers rounded the base of Checkerboard Mesa and began the climb up the wash to its left.

The fairly easy beginning gave way to an extremely difficult climb almost vertically up the side of the wash in the sandy dirt. "Hold onto the roots!" Kay said as she fearlessly forged ahead! Unfortunately, it became clear to all of us that this part of the hike which was supposed to terminate at the summit was simply more of a challenge than was anticipated. Determined to keep the group together, the hike up the wash was aborted and nine of the twelve hikers decided to continue the hike and see if we could salvage a view of a "nearby" arch.

As we rounded the base of Checker- board Mesa, we caught a glimpse of a few big horn sheep heading up the sandstone. We would see them again as we began climbing the wash on the west side of the mountain. Following a fairly good trail in the wash, we hiked along between two gigantic hardened sand dunes. The trail became more and more narrow and, soon, we found ourselves having to climb around obstacles again. This time, the detours were not as nerve wracking, however, the sun was very high and the heat began to take its toll on everyone.

Coming to a point where we could see the end of Checker- board Mesa, it was again made clear to all of us that the distance we had to go combined with the heat of the day was too much of an elephant to chew. Again, we aborted the hike. Even though the three mile hike did not turn out as it was planned, knowledge of the Checkerboard area was gained, gorgeous views were seen and blood was shed ... a sign of a hike that will not soon be forgotten!




Canyon Overlook Trail
The second event of the day began with a drive over to the Checker- board Mesa parking lot. Picking up two members of the club, seven hikers took photos and drove back to the Petroglyph Canyon turnout. Confident that they would be able to find the ancient scribbles on the wall, they walked down under the highway and began a search in the wash on the other side. The elusive petroglyphs on the wall immediately to the left were not found so back in the cars, they drove to the Canyon Overlook trailhead.

Here, the seven hikers climbed the steps and hiked the short interesting trail which terminates on the cliff over the Zion Arch, a huge closed arch that can be seen from the highway as you climb up to the 1.25 mile long tunnel. The hike was one mile out and back.




Pa'rus Trail at Sunset
That evening, six hikers gathered at the Visitor's Center for a sunset walk on the 1.5 mile Pa'rus Trail. Photos such as the one above were being taken by several walkers and by a string of photogs standing on the highway bridge near the end of the trail. All but one hiker opted to take the shuttle back to the Visitor's Center. Tomorrow would be another day of hiking. Better get some rest!



Friday
Zion Narrows
Today included the much- anticipated hike into the Zion Narrows. The partici- pation had been limited to twelve hikers and, after much adding and subtracting, eleven hikers showed up with various fashion statements adorned. With John acting the role of the Pied Piper, off they went for an experience they will probably never forget! At the end of the Riverwalk, a photo of the group was taken and cold water baptized their feet. The first big pool was chest deep and shirts were removed in an effort to save dry clothing for the trip back on the shuttle later.

They waded and hiked up past Orderville Canyon and on through Wall Street tucking 6 miles out and back under their belt. Suffice it to say, this entire group had a blast! Excitement tickled their feet every step of the way. Another pool near Wall Street was chin deep and watching some of the hikers enter this pool made the onlooker think that soon there would be just a hat visible above the water! The group arrived back at the hotel after around six to seven hours exhausted but very happy.




Observation Point
Eleven hikers showed up for the Observation Point hike, an eight mile hike that begins by climbing switchbacks up the canyon wall. At the terminus of the hike, they were rewarded with a view south of Zion Canyon which included a look DOWN on Angel's Landing. This hike has a gain and descent of 2154 elevation feet.



Riverwalk to Weeping Rock
Four hikers opted out of a more strenuous hike and decided to take a hike along the canyon floor. We began at the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop in Zion Canyon. Hiking the one mile Riverwalk trail, we saw a family of mule deer nibbling along the trail, squirrels that seem somewhat more wild than previous years, hanging gardens with an abundance of dripping water and beautiful river scenery.

We took photos of ourselves at the end of the trail where, just a half hour earlier, the Narrows hike had begun. The air was humid as rain would be in the area that afternoon. We enjoyed the hike back to the shuttle stop and continued on a river trail down canyon. This trail took us along the river to a waterfall full of water that seeped out from the rock after a 10,000 year journey through the sandstone.

We continued down the trail near the river and on the river bed that was now partially dry ... our own little narrows hike! We arrived at the Big Bend shuttle stop and took our snack break. After the break, we took the next shuttle to the next stop down canyon called Weeping Rock.

We hiked up the short Weeping Rock trail and stood in the mist of hanging gardens for a few moments. When we returned to the shuttle stop, we had hiked 5.5 miles along easy terrain. This was an extremely pleasant day hike in Zion.




Our Accommodations
Kudos to the Bumble- berry Inn. Most of us enjoyed our stay in the large rooms that had plenty of room for up to four people to move around with their hiking gear. For the most part, the hotel was able to keep up with the many additions and subtractions of our roster for the trip. When things got confused, the hotel staff did a great job of making sure that our accommodations were found and rectified. The restaurants around town were plentiful and pleased everyone's palate. Zion and Springdale do a great job at handling the millions of guests that they have every year.

This is Ellie! She won the hat contest that was held at the wine and cheese soiree thrown by Edwina and Carlton in room 200 of the hotel. There were so many people in the room that there was very little room to get to the food! We all had so much fun that the next day's hikes were less attended than anticipated!



Saturday
East Rim Trail & Jolly Gulch
Early Saturday morning, nine hikers left the hotel in two cars and drove over to the east side of the park to the East Rim Trailhead. Five of these hikers would turn around at a point named Jolly Gulch and the remaining four would complete the East Rim trail arriving at the Weeping Rock shuttle stop 5.5 hours and 11 miles later. The trail began easy on a gradual ascent. Near the beginning of the hike, the Jug Handle Arch could be seen in the distance on the left.

We were surrounded by colorful sandstone rock and the skies were blue. Gradually, we got high enough to get an immense view of a canyon out toward Checkerboard Mesa as seen in the photo below. At almost three miles, we arrived at Jolly Gulch which was announced by a small sign and a very very large ravine. With no fencing to stop us from falling to our death, we carefully danced around the edge taking photos. After a few minutes, the four hikers left the five hikers there and continued on up the trail. The five hikers took a relaxed break and returned to the cars after hiking almost six miles in the out and back.

The four hikers continued their gradual ascent through the pine forest that was once logged. The logs were lowered into Zion Canyon via a pulley system which still perches atop Cable Mountain. The trail was wide and clear with only a few areas that were threatened by over-growth.

Along the trail, we followed fresh footsteps and wondered who was ahead. Soon, we overtook another hiking club from Greeneville, Tennessee. At 5.8 miles, we found Stave Spring where we would have our snack break. The spring water flowed from a pipe freely but would need to be treated before drinking. Nearby, there was a plant with interesting red berries.

Two trail junctions were achieved briefly after the break. One went to Cable and Deertrap Mountains and the other went to the outer bounds of the national park. The correct trail to Weeping Rock was clearly marked. We hiked through a beautiful meadow and noted the darkening clouds above.

Making good time down a very gradual descent, we arrived at Echo Canyon feeling like we had only just begun our hike. The trail lead along the rim of the vast sandstone canyon until we reached a switchback where the trail began a sharp descent. Just as we were starting down, two of our club hikers appeared climbing up the trail. Very surprised, we learned that the two women were planning to hike the East Rim backwards and hope to find a kind sole to take them back to the Visitor's Center! We heard the whole story later that evening. Quite a tale; just ask Edwina or Susan what happened!

Our trip through Echo Canyon proved to be a favorite part of the hike. Even though there were thunder rumblings just over the ridge, we enjoyed a dry albeit fast hike over the sandstone. We forfeited our second snack break and soon met up with the turnoff for Observation Point.

From the junction, the hike was simply a descent through the "slot" part of Echo Canyon and the steep switchbacks down to Weeping Rock. We made good time and arrived at the shuttle stop at 1:45pm. Rain would hit the Springdale area again this evening but the skies made very dramatic photos!




Zion Narrows
At one time, there were up to six hikers signed up for this second day on the Narrows with John. After all the changing around and sleeping in, John was left by himself and he actually did the hike anyway! Sometime during the long hike, it started to rain. At the same time, the sun was shining. The photo above is one of the beautiful pics that he took.


The Watchman Trail
The fourth hike of the morning was attended by two hikers. They climbed up the short 1.5 miles to the Watchman Overlook. Their report was that they had a fabulous time. The photo above is a shot of the Watchman in evening sunlight.



Sunday
West Rim, Angel's Landing & Upper Emerald Pools via Kayenta Trail
Hike attendance revved up again on Sunday. There were five hikers on the West Rim Trail, five hikers on the Angel's Landing hike and nine hikers on the Upper Emerald Pools hike. All of the hikes left at the same time and all of the hikes returned between noon and 1:30pm.

Angel's Landing hike is legendary for its unusual and dangerous 2.5 mile route up the crest of a sandstone fin. For four of the five hikers, this was a new and exciting hike that uses chains to hold onto to keep from falling around 1000 feet.

They were able to get to the top before a light rain began to fall. The dangerous descent was made quickly before the rock became too wet.

The nine hikers who ascended to the Upper Emerald Pools made it all the way up and partially down before the rain began. They were detoured away from the Upper Emerald Pools trail by trail maintenance so the hike began at the Grotto shuttle stop on the Kayenta Trail, followed by the Middle and Upper pools. Then they returned via the Lower Emerald Pools trail.

The longest hike of the day was almost eight miles on the West Rim Trail. With just under 2000 feet of elevation gain, the five participating hikers struggled with the ascent on this fourth day of hiking. Two hikers turned around before the expected turnaround point.

The remaining three hikers were able to reach the point at which the trail begins a steep switch- backed climb up to a campsite area with a spring. At the end of our break, the light rain began to fall. We were in for a real treat of beauty on our trip back down into the canyon.

The wet sandstone exaggerated the colors around us. The mist shrouded the distant peaks. We hiked quickly as the rain began increasing to a steady rate. Unbelievably, hikers were still beginning an ascent onto Angel's Landing as we passed by, ... not a good idea in the rain. Our mantra became, "I just want down off this mountain!" Finally, we stepped onto the shuttle like wet rats. Along with fifty of our best friend wet rats, we took our final trip back to the Visitor's Center.

Kay and John would like to thank everyone who participated in this excursion. It was because of you and your enthusiasm for hiking that everyone had a lot of fun. So, until next time, adieu!

Angel's Landing Hike

Upper Emerald Pools & Kayenta Trails

West Rim Trail to base of cliff below Cabin Spring

1 comment:

Jerry T2 said...

Wow, I made it through the blog entry without one drop of coffee! Great job Kay! ;->