Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Little Zion (aka The Park) - 10/18/11

The Super Tuesday Hike, today, took the Around the Bend Friends up behind the Red Rock Canyon escarpment via Lovell Canyon Road. After turning onto the small road, we turned right at .9 miles from Highway 160. This road, as seen to the left, is a deeply graveled, narrow, high clearance road that has only a couple of places that require 4WD. About two miles of this and we came to the end where the fun was about to begin.

Eighteen hikers began hiking up a wash with many cairns and it was thought that this was the standard route. Four more hikers who had arrived late, began hiking up the standard route. It wasn't until the first group had arrived at the escarpment edge above Bonnie Springs and Spring Mountain Ranch that they became aware of the location of the 4 missing hikers. They called on the radio from the edge above Little Zion to say they saw us from afar and were embarking on their own exploration of Little Zion.

Little Zion, which is also known as The Park, is a very large area of yellow sandstone between Sandstone Peak and Monument Peak of the Red Rock Canyon escarpment. After reaching the edge of the escarpment, we began travelling around the edge to the south passing the wash normally used for this hike. To our left were gorgeous views of the large sandstone canyon below. The faint trail undulated relentlessly until we finally reached the last and steepest short ascent.

Moving quickly over the three miles from the trailhead to the sandstone, the eighteen hikers peaked at the Edge near a very large cairn which marks the trail that leads around the precipice on the limestone layer for hikers climbing up from the sandstone park below. Then, down we went on a steep slope for about an hour of break and play time in the beautiful sandstone surroundings. Some of these surroundings are seen in the collage of photos below.

We sat for a few minutes to eat a bite or two and recover from the trip. Then, our hike coordinator announced that we had a half hour to do some exploring and meet at that large cairn on the Edge. Several hikers followed him down to the top of a waterfall that flows when there is water over a very high cliff. Two hikers climbed up to get photos of the large closed arch on the north side of the park.

From the arch, the two hikers continued their climb up the sandstone until they reached a chute that would put them on top of the escarpment. Going there anyway, they scrambled up the steep chute and began hiking around to the meeting place arriving last but energized for their adventure.

When the last hiker arrived, the entire group of twenty- two hikers began their return around the limestone of the escarp- ment. This phase of the hike was very fast as one of the fastest hikers in these parts took the lead. The group was up for the challenge and kept together pretty well. We turned left at the wash of the standard route and descended quickly stopping only once to regroup.

As we neared the cars, we veered off trail to take a look at a nearby spring. After climbing into the cars, we turned around on the narrow road one by one and began our trip back out to Lovell Canyon Road when, up ahead, one of the cars had stopped and opened their doors. We all got out of our cars to see a very large, old ten-point elk! He was magnificent! We stood there next to the gravel road taking our photos and gawking until the elk tired of us and turned to lope up the hill. As he swung his rack around to avoid the trees, a collective gasp of admiration emanated from just above the side of the gravel road.

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