Wednesday, May 18, 2016

East Rim - Zion National Park - 5/13/16

Angel's Landing in Echo Canyon Notch

East Rim Trail along Lower Echo Canyon

East Rim Trail near Zion East Gate

Twelve Hikers at the Trailhead
It took a good part of an hour for twelve hikers in three cars to be shuttled over to the east side of Zion National Park where the East Rim trail started near the East Gate. Huge thanks to John, Ben and Clare for driving. The cars left and there we were with 11 miles in front of us. (An unusual feeling for us.) So, we took our "Before" photo and off we went along the East Rim Trail. The first three miles were often covered in deep sand but the trail was well worn and very navigable.

Beginning in the Sand
 We headed around the cliffs to our left and switchbacked up to the top. This brought us back to an overlook where we could see Checkerboard Mesa and the wash we would hike the next day.

First Overlook - Checkerboard Mesa (Far Left)
 At the third mile, we reached Jolly Gulch, a nice overlook of a deep canyon. We took a few photos of the canyon and the group standing at the top of the cliffs.

Jolly Gulch

Standing at the Top of Jolly Gulch
 Next, the trail started up a hill with a nice view to the left and a couple of switchbacks. This was a slightly steeper slope than what we had yet experienced that morning. The trail just kept climbing! Usually, the slope was gentle but up and up, it went. We got away from the cliffs and dove into the light shade of a pine forest. There were many flowers blooming up here. And, the weather was very comfortable in the higher elevations of the park. (It was a different story down in Zion Canyon where other club members were hiking.)

Through the Woods
 The trail led through the forest, through manzanita groves, and up an old logging road. Finally, we found the high point of today's hike where we saw a large group camping up on a knoll.

Down the Hill to Stave Spring
 The trail started down and we were all ready for an extended break. Stave Spring came into view at around 5.75 miles and we sat on the ground in some shade for our break.

Stave Spring

Across the Plateau
We took our time to get refreshed before the next half of the long day. The tough stuff was out of the way until we hit the major descent at the end. ... But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. ...  We enjoyed the next mile along the flat plateau passing two major trail junctions. The first junction led to Deertrap & Cable Mountains. The second junction led to the backcountry trailhead, a shortcut to the mid-point of the East Rim Trail. A sign indicated that we were still 4.5 miles away from the Weeping Rock shuttle stop, our destiniation.

Along the Rim of the Top of Echo Canyon
 Soon, we connected with the rim of a top portion of Echo Canyon. Echo Canyon is the canyon that culminates in a slot mid-way up the Observation Point Trail. Views were very nice.

Starting Steep Drop
 In the distance, we saw Zion Canyon with Angel's Landing rising up in the middle of the "gunsight notch" that Echo Canyon made. See the first photo.

Switchbacks down the Sandstone

Still Descending
 We came to a slope down to the bottom of the canyon (instead of a cliff) and the trail began steep switchbacks down. This was a very enjoyable part of the hike with many views and interesting sandstone terrain. Most of us had to really concentrate on our steps since the rock was very slippery when covered with sand. A century of hikers (maybe more) have smoothed the stone surfaces. Near the bottom, the trail headed in the direction of a cone-shaped mountain of sandstone. Our world had changed from woods to stone!

Almost Down with a Nice Overlook
 Once down off of the plateau, we began seeing other hikers coming our direction.

Another Cone Mountain
 It became important here, to search for the directional cairns to keep on the trail route. Sometimes, the trail simply crossed bare slickrock.

Hiking Along Echo Canyon

View Down Echo Canyon
 The trail led up and down with some scrambling thrown in here and there. Cable Mountain came into view up to the left. Another group of club hikers were up there but we didn't see them. They were probably already on their way down. But, we could see the cable works frame sitting at the edge of the cliff about 1000 feet up from where we were hiking.

We found a log lying next to the trail and decided to take a second extended break here. It never hurts to sit and enjoy your surroundings. Refreshed again, we continued on our way following cairns until we came to the Observation Point trail junction. Here, we saw a small group of hikers sitting in the shade of a tree up above. Apparently, one of the hikers had likely heat exhaustion. ... And, so it begins. ... One of their group had already left to descend for help.

Following Cairns Up and Down
 On the very next curve, we ran into our "welcoming committee" of two hikers in our group. Sok and Hock had timed their extra hike to Observation Point just right and were there waiting for us.

Junction with the Observation Point Trail
 At the small iron railed bridge, we stopped in the shade to do a sign-out from the hike. This would allow the faster downhillers to descend the formidable switchbacks and be on their way.

View Up Echo Canyon

Someone got Overheated
 One hiker stayed back to accompany the writer and we enjoyed the slow descent taking multiple photos especially in the Echo Canyon slot where there was a large pool of water. Several members of the rescue crew passed us (including their one-wheeled stretcher) to attend to the guy back at the junction. (I'm sure everyone got out okay with all that competent help.) We were quite proud of our comfortable fast hike. We completed the 11 miles in around 4.5 hours without even trying.

11 miles; 2200 feet elevation gain; 4.5 hours

Echo Canyon Slot

Coming Out of Echo Canyon Slot

Switchbacks Down (and some to Hidden Canyon)

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