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Old 03-22-2020, 09:23 AM   #1
DSettahr
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Utah trip last October (10/19), with visits to Zion et al.

I had the opportunity to spend a week in Utah last October. I've finally finished editing and uploading photos, so I figured I'd share some of my favorites here as well as some quick write ups of my travels. Hopefully this can facilitate some escapism among those (like myself) that are currently stuck inside.

Day 0: Kanab Dinosaur Tracks

Upon a late-afternoon arrival to my friend's apartment in Kanab, we took a quick nighttime hike up to a set of dinosaur tracks located along a ridge not far off of US 89, perhaps about a mile outside of town to the north. The hike was a bit rugged but short and the tracks were pretty neat to see. The trail doesn't appear to get much use, which was shocking- if there were a short hike to dinosaur tracks anywhere on the east coast, it'd be a pretty popular hike.

No photos unfortunately- as this hike was conducted entirely in the dark.

Day 1: Zion National Park: Angel's Landing, Emerald Pools, and the Narrows

Link to full photo album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/nsYnRTNmp7c3QDGY6

Day 2 I dedicated to the main Zion Canyon, which is the more popular part (by far) of Zion National Park. The main canyon is accessed via a shuttle bus system- you park at the visitor center and then hop on a bus which takes you up into the canyon, stopping at various points of interest and trailheads along the way. Even late in the season and on a week day, there was no shortage of shuttle buses- they ran every 5 minutes or so. There's also an interpretive audio tour that plays on the shuttle bus during the ride, pointing out various geographic and geologic features and talking about the history of the park.

There was also no shortage of visitors, either, although I never found the park to be overly crowded (at least not beyond my expectations and my accordingly tempered willingness to encounter lots of other visitors). I'm sure weekends during the height of the tourist season can be a different matter entirely, however.

My first destination of the day was to climb Angel's Landing. The first 3/4ths of the hike was fairly straightforward- decently uphill (enough to get the blood moving pretty good and to necessitate occasional breaks to catch my breath) but not all that challenging otherwise. Once you get to Scout's Lookout is where the real fun begins- the trail follows a precipitous ridge, with sheer drops on either side- easily 500+ feet on the right side of the trail, and 1,000+ feet on the left side of the trail. It was a puckering experience to be sure.

To be honest, though- I think it looked (and felt) a lot more exposed than it actually is. With one exception that I can remember where the trail is a mere 2 feet wide or so, for the most part any slip or trip is pretty unlikely to actually send you over the edge. There's steps cut into the rocks, and also a system of chains for added stability. However, given the hikes popularity bottlenecks do form along the ridge- and the really sketchy thing that I observed frequently was hikers who left the trail to scramble around particularly slow movers... and passing much to close to the edge for comfort, in my opinion. I did also pass a few slower moving hikers, but I waited for a good spot to do so each time, and announced to them that I was going to pass them so that they had the opportunity to at least be prepared to share the narrow trail with me for the second or two that it took me to scramble up past them.

The views from Angel's Landing were nevertheless spectacular, and it's easy to see why the hike is so popular. I guess the Park Service will on busy days limit the number of hikers by posting a ranger at Scout's Landing and only allowing a few hikers at a time to start further up the trail (and there's talk of a permit system in the future) but on my mid-day visit at least, the summit wasn't too crowded.












My next hike was to the Emerald Pools, a set of pools on the west side of the main canyon, beneath cliffs that turn into a waterfall if and when it rains. Honestly, the pools were kind of lackluster after Angel's Landing, but there were still some nice views from the trail to the pools.






After Emerald Pools I decided to check out Zion Narrows, another of Zion's quintessential hikes. Permits are needed to thru-hike the Narrows (generally a multi-day trip), but no permit is needed to day hike the Narrows from the downstream end.

Most who hike the Narrows rent dry suits and wear boots- so I certainly stood about a bit in my crocs. Still, the crocs gave good grip even on the wet rocks and even though the water was cold, I found it bearable for a few hours of hiking. At it's deepest it came up to just shy of my waist, but for the most part it ranged between knee and thigh deep. I traveled probably at least 1 mile up up the Narrows before turning back, but with all of the twist and turns it was hard to keep track of the exact distance.














My last stop of the day was a short hike out to Canyon Overlook on the east rim of the main Zion Canyon for sunset.







Day #2: Kanab Cliffs

Link to full photo album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/RZutZywXdGg6mqPx8

On my second day, I took a short hike up the Kanab Cliffs Trail just outside of Kanab. Apparently the Kanab Cliffs Trail is to Kanab what the Mt. Baker Trail is to Saranac Lake, or the Cobble Hill Trail is to Lake Placid- a short climb just on the outskirts of town that is frequented by the local populace.

It was a short but nice climb with some decent views. The trail could use a little more maintenance in spots but generally speaking it was in pretty good shape.










Continued in next post...
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Old 03-22-2020, 09:24 AM   #2
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Days 3 and 4: Pine Creek Box Trail

Link to full photo album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/NYeEHNSNWHrrLpmH9

I wanted to get in an overnight during my trip and was able to make it happen on the weekend. I was joined by the friend that I was visiting for this trip; we selected the Pine Creek Box Trail in the Dixie National Forest's Box-Death Hollow Wilderness. A 2 hour drive from Kanab got us to the trailhead.

The hike was pretty easy, although the trail does cross Pine Creek multiple times- sometimes several crossings even within a few hundred feet of each other. Most of the crossings were pretty easy, however- simple rock hops. We hiked about 3 miles up the canyon and then found a very nice campsite for the night. Before dark we did some easy scrambling up the east side of the canyon to take in views from higher up. I also spent some time the next morning exploring further up the canyon before returning to camp to pack up for our hike out.

The area seems like there's enough to explore that it could keep anyone busy for a full week at least. I was mostly in awe of the fact that we only saw 3 other hikers the whole weekend- 2 day hikers on Saturday and a single day hiker on Sunday. If a trail like this, with this amount of scenic value (and potential rock climbing in the form of rock outcrops) existed in the Adirondacks, it would get absolutely mobbed every single weekend. There'd be campsites every 200 feet along the creek- as it was, the site we saw about 3 miles in was the first one we came across.




















Day 4: Red Canyon

Link to full photo album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/DKmZTaRraA7muwXS9

After leaving the backcountry in the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness, we decided to stop at Red Canyon on the drive back for short hike. Red Canyon is like Bryce Canyon National Park just up the road- lots of neat rock formations (including hoodoos)- but on a smaller scale, and with no entrance fee which suited us as we only had an hour or so to visit the area. There's a bunch of short interpretive trails here that wind and weave through a hillside covered in all sorts of rock formations, gullies, and shallow canyons that definitely invoke one's imagination. Apparently longer hikes are possible here also, including some opportunities for extended backpacking trips across extensive distances.












Day 5: Zion National Park: Kolob Canyons

Link to full photo album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/f7na94hG5dnWbeHJ8

National Park passes are good for a week, so it was a foregone conclusion that I'd return to Zion for another day of hiking. For my return visit, I selected the quiet side of Zion- the Kolob Canyons area on the far northern end of the park. A roughly 14 mile round trip hike took me past the Kolob Canyons and up the La Verkin Creek drainage to the Kolob Arch- one of Utah's largest natural arches. Indeed it was quiet- in contrast to the hundreds (if not thousands) of other hikers I encountered during my first visit to Zion a few days prior. I only encountered 3 other groups on the entire hike- a pair of hikers early in the morning, a group of 4 or 5 guys camping out in one of the sites along La Verkin Creek, and a solo hiker near Kolob Arch.

Some of the campsites on the La Verkin Creek Trail were nice. You do need a permit to camp in the backcountry in Zion, and all waste needs to be carried out, including waste of the human variety. Fires are also not permitted. At some point I'd love to return to hike the Zion traverse, a 50 mile backpacking route that traverses the breadth of the National Park.






















Continued in next post...
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Old 03-22-2020, 09:25 AM   #3
DSettahr
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Day 6: Cedar Breaks National Monument

Link to full photo album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/vApuwdUk46szZkAD7

Cedar Breaks National Monument had also piqued my interest, and as it was about an hour and a half's drive from Kanab, I decided to devote a full day to it. Cedar Breaks is a series of deep gorges and gullies, with impressive rock formations abounding, that all drain west off of a high plateau and eventually congregating into a single drainage. There's a road that traverses the rim of the gorge, with multiple short trails to viewpoints, so much of my day was spent hiking these various short stretches of trail to take in the views. I also visited the summit of Brian Head, which at 11,307 feet is now the tallest spot on the planet on which I've stood (dwarfing my previous high point prior to my Utah trip: North Carolina's Mt. Mitchell, which I climbed on a backpacking trip in 2014).

Indeed, the whole area was high enough that I started to feel the altitude- some of the short hikes forced me to stop more frequently than usual to catch on breath any uphill stretches. Even using the pit privy at the campground left me feeling a bit piqued and winded.

It was also quite cold at that elevation. The small pond that I visited (Alpine Pond) was already frozen over. Exposed areas on the rim of the gorge were subjected to the wind, and the wind chill was pretty intense. It even started to snow before I left.






















Day 7: Moqui Caverns

Link to full photo album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/JbHRRb6CmCeLYRPQ9

A good chunk of my last day was spent packing and driving back to Las Vegas in preparation for my flight back to NY, but I was able to slip away for one more short hike. Just north of Kanab along US 89 is the Moqui Caverns- a short hike and scramble up to a series of tunnels in a sandstone outcrop on the side of a hill. All sorts of legends abound about how the "Native Americans dug the caverns out by hand," but apparently the most plausible explanation is more contemporary- the tunnels were dug to mine the sandstone for the purpose of glass making. It's still a pretty neat spot to check out nonetheless.













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All in all, it was an excellent trip. The sense of scale especially dwarfed any of my prior experiences, with the possible exception of maybe standing on the summits of peaks like Marcy and Algonquin. I've noticed since my return back east that I'm slightly less phased by steep drop offs in our eastern mountain ranges- it's as if my frame of reference for heights has been somewhat altered by the experience.

And again, it was also weird to be in areas that if they existed with those scenic qualities in places like the Adirondacks or Catskills, would be absolutely swamped with hikers on any nice day, yet in the context of rural Utah they see relatively little hiker traffic. The National Parks can get very busy to be sure, but the National Parks also only constitute relatively little of what Utah has to offer.

For that matter, my visit only barely scratched the surface of what is available in Utah for the outdoors-minded. There's so much more there that I would like to have seen but with only a week I had to pick and choose. To be clear, I'm pretty satisfied with what I was able to see during my visit, but I'd definitely like to return at some point to explore more.
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Old 03-22-2020, 10:34 AM   #4
Woodly
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Wow! Absolutely gorgeous photos and I haven't even dove into the albums...but I will. Great descriptions too.
I almost moved to Moab once...maybe I should have.
Did you see any wildlife?
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Old 03-23-2020, 11:03 AM   #5
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Spectacular!!!

I regret never visiting any of the Utah parks when we lived out west
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Old 03-26-2020, 05:07 PM   #6
DSettahr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodly View Post
Wow! Absolutely gorgeous photos and I haven't even dove into the albums...but I will. Great descriptions too.
I almost moved to Moab once...maybe I should have.
Did you see any wildlife?
Thanks. Yeah, lots of mule deer in Zion, plus also some very healthy looking (and very unafraid) chipmunks on the summit of Angel's Landing. Plenty of birds of prey (even other kinds of birds) everywhere. Lots of little lizards as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tick Magnet View Post
Spectacular!!!

I regret never visiting any of the Utah parks when we lived out west
It's absolutely worth a return trip if and when you can make it happen.

As an aside, I got around to updating my map of every primitive campsite I've camped in. Now including one lonely campsite way out in Utah, in the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness! I'll have to get back out west again myself at some point to add more.
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Old 03-30-2020, 08:10 AM   #7
Dave Bourque
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Excellent photography, thanks for sharing. Angel's Landing is one of my all time favorite short hikes. I agree, it looks a little more precarious than it is. The chains and steps help a lot. Seeing hikers on top wearing flip flops doesn't help send the message that you should be careful on this hike.
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Old 03-30-2020, 09:32 AM   #8
DSettahr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Bourque View Post
Excellent photography, thanks for sharing. Angel's Landing is one of my all time favorite short hikes. I agree, it looks a little more precarious than it is. The chains and steps help a lot. Seeing hikers on top wearing flip flops doesn't help send the message that you should be careful on this hike.
It's definitely not a spot to fool around by any means, nor one to treat with less attention, care, and preparedness than is appropriate for the situation. But as long as you're careful and attentive, the chances of suffering a serious accident are, I think, less than would seem apparent.

Still, the sign at the start of the the hike that mentions the number of people that have died on at Angel's Landing is sobering. Even more sobering is the fact that you can tell that the number has been re-painted repeatedly over the years as the amount of fatalities has increased over time (the paint is starting to build up on the sign).

I can definitely see that it would be necessary to physically limit the number of hikers on Angel's Landing during periods of high use. As I posted above, during really busy days apparently the park posts a ranger at Scout's Landing, whose job is to queue hikers so that the total number on the ridge traverse doesn't exceed a certain level. And I've heard that there's talk of a potential future permit system for day hiking visitors to Angel's Landing during periods of high use also.

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Old 04-02-2020, 12:33 PM   #9
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Great pics!

Stunning photos! Thanks for sharing. We were in Zion in July of '95. It was 107 degrees, but the Virgin River was still very brisk. It must have been pretty chilly in the fall.
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