Staff Rendezvous in Escalante: Coyote Gulch, Spooky and Peek-a-Boo

As the busy summer season approached for us here at Zion Adventure Company, the idea of doing a two day backpacking trip with eight staff members in an area outside of Zion felt like an unrealistic prospect. This, however, is exactly what eight of us accomplished Wednesday, April 30th and Thursday, May 1st out in Escalante (about 2.5 hours East of Zion). We spent two quality days backpacking through Coyote Gulch and literally running through both Spooky and Peekaboo Canyons all of which can be accessed down the infamous “Hole-In-The-Rock” Road.

The Crew.

The Crew.

For four of us, the trip started a couple days early as we traveled out before the rest of the group to do the technical canyon, Neon (a popular route in the Escalante area for both backpackers and canyoneers). The rest of our group arrived at Water Tanks the following morning around 9:30am fully energized and amped after their 5:00am departure from Springdale. Before hitting the trail, we savagely consumed several strawberry banana muffins Rich had baked, jokingly trash talked one another for a few minutes, refilled our water from the cars and car spotted our second vehicle at the Forty Mile Ridge Trailhead.

From the Left: Rich, Claudia and Kat at Fortymile Trailhead.

From the Left: Rich, Claudia and Kat at Fortymile Trailhead.

We set out for Coyote Gulch around 10:15am and headed North West from the Water Tanks Trailhead across open slick rock and sand. Chimney rock stood far in the distance and acted as a nice waypoint for us to gauge our progress and direction. Coyote Gulch started to come into view and it quickly became apparent that we were going to get cliffed out if we continued in our Northerly direction. We followed the rim of the canyon along rolling slick-rock hills and shallow drainages West meanwhile looking for a weakness in the canyon wall for a way down. Kat commented on a beautifully patterned snake nearly a foot away from her that turned out to be a coiled rattlesnake! It was quick to say hello by frantically rattling its tail at us and disappeared under a lip of the slick-rock. With the snake at a safe distance behind us, we finally spotted a way into a side drainage that would feed us into Coyote Gulch.

View looking into Coyote Gulch

View looking into Coyote Gulch

Once in the canyon and hiking along the canyon floor, we cruised. Most of us started out trying to find ways across the shallow water course by hoping from dry spot to dry spot however we soon succumbed to the fact that we would be hiking through the watercourse for most of our hike through the gulch. Many of us threw on our Chacos and a few kept their tennis shoes on. The canyon was absolutely stunning and the water course was primarily smooth, rockless sand. The canyonʼs soaring orange, streaked sandstone walls accented against the lush Cotton Wood trees and blue sky was beautiful. Each bend and turn of the canyon presented huge, carved out alcoves and overhung walls.

Views of upper/middle Coyote Gulch while hiking down canyon.

Views of upper/middle Coyote Gulch while hiking down canyon.

After only a few hours of hiking, we turned a bend in the canyon and arrived, to our surprise, at Jacob Hamblin Arch (or Lobo Arch named for an old desert wolf). The arch was enormous and was located in a very tight bend of the canyon. There was some pretty incredible camping just below the arch on either side and we were tempted to stay there however it was still so early in our day, about 1:30pm.

Jacob Hamblin Arch (or Lobo Arch)

Jacob Hamblin Arch (or Lobo Arch)

Instead we snacked, dropped our packs and proceeded to climb the arch. There was a low 4th class scramble up the side of the arch that allowed us to escape up out of the canyon and look down canyon from above. We took in the view from the top, soaked up some sun, down-climbed back the way we had come up and continued on our way down canyon.

The view from the top of Jacob Hamblin Arch.

The view from the top of Jacob Hamblin Arch.

After another hour or so of hiking we came to a stunning natural feature called Coyote Natural Bridge.

Robby standing under Coyote Natural Bridge

Robby standing under Coyote Natural Bridge

Coyote Natural Bridge ended up being our camping spot for the night – and what a great spot it was. Despite some obnoxious wind throughout dinner that resulted in some pretty gritty grub, the area had a nice sandbank for camping and relatively clear water for filtering. Our entertainment for the evening included chocolates from Zack, taking in our beautiful surroundings and of course a good game of “throw the rock into the can” which enthralled us for much longer than youʼd think and we’d like to admit.

The crew at Coyote Natural Bridge.

The crew at Coyote Natural Bridge.

Tentless, we sprawled out on the sandbank for the night and enjoyed some beautiful star gazing. We were lulled to sleep by Erin fire dancing beneath Coyote Natural Bridge. Luckily the wind had died down a bit by this point and we had a relatively calm night. We had a 6:30am wake up and got moving by 7:30am.Many of us opted to wear neoprene socks (smart choice) for this next section of hiking since it was still pretty chilly first thing in the morning to be romping through cold water. Those of us who did not use neoprene socks definitely enjoyed the sensation of numb feet for most of the morning. As the day warmed up though, we were reminded that we did in fact still have toes. Continuing down stream from Coyote Natural Bridge, we came to a wider part of the canyon and spotted Cliff Arch, another sizable feature worth some “oooing” and “awwwing”.

Hiking through lower Coyote Gulch.

Hiking through lower Coyote Gulch.

Leading up to Cliff Arch and further down canyon, the water course traveled down a few waterfalls making for some photogenic areas to stop at and enjoy. The only thing that got our spirits down was coming across a campsite littered with tin cans, TP and gross trash – we were disappointed to see such blatant disregard for LNT practices in such a beautiful place. We begrudgingly picked up and packed out the campersʼ trash hoping there was a good reason for leaving so much waste behind but couldnʼt think of a reasonable excuse.

En route to the Escalante River from the mouth of Coyote Gulch.

En route to the Escalante River from the mouth of Coyote Gulch.

We arrived at our exit trail out of Coyote Gulch that would take us up and out of the canyon through “Crack-in-the-Wall” around 10:00am. We dropped our packs at the exit trail and continued down canyon a little further in order to see and meet up with the Escalante River. After another game of throwing rocks, this time in the form of skipping them across the river, we hiked up the Escalante maybe a quarter mile around the next bend and were rewarded with views of massive Stevenʼs Arch – a huge hole in the canyon wall very high up. This short diversion was certainly worth the extra mile or so to see Stevenʼs Arch from the canyon floor.

View of Steven's Arch from the Escalante River.

View of Steven’s Arch from the Escalante River.

We threw a few more rocks and then made our way back to our packs for the final ascent out of the canyon. The hike up to “Crack-in-the-Wall” was up a giant sand dune – thereʼs really no better way to describe it – deep sand and uphill. Luckily, as we climbed out of the canyon bottom, we could smell the blooming flowers on the hillside and the views looking across the canyon out at Stevenʼs Arch became amazing.

Hike up to "Crack in the Wall" with Steven's Arch in the background.

Hike up to “Crack in the Wall” with Steven’s Arch in the background.

“Crack-in-the-Wall” was literally a crack in the cliff band that allowed us to get up and out of the canyon and back to Forty Mile Ridge Trailhead. Often times people haul their packs up this section due to some 4th class climbing that is required. We managed to keep packs on and pass them up to one another through some of the narrower and steeper sections. Once we were all through Crack-in-the-Wall it was pretty mellow hiking back to the trailhead minus some deep sand every now and then. We made it back to our car at Fortymile Ridge by 1:30pm. In appropriate adventure form, we proceeded to throw rocks from the parking lot into a box while Rich and Erin fetched our second car from Water Tanks Trailhead about 3 miles down the road.

With our surprising good time through Coyote Gulch, we decided we had just enough time to make a quick visit to Spooky and Peekaboo Canyons before Nemoʼs (our source of burgers and shakes and all things greasy in Escalante) would close at 5:00pm. We safely high-tailed it back down Hole-in-the-Rock Road to the Dry Fork Coyote Trailhead where we parked and set out to conquer Spooky and Peekaboo. With burgers and shakes on the mind, we all ran the approach down to the mouth of Peek-a-boo and started our ascent of the canyon from the bottom. Many of us rose to the challenge and played “Hot Lava” up the canyon where no one could step on the ground and if they did they suffered a slow and painful death via molten rock. This resulted in fun scrambling and stemming with very low consequence if anyone were to actually slip to the ground. The rest of us trotted our way up the canyon enjoying its narrow curves and short scrambles around carved out shoots and drop-offs.

Robby, Hayley and Zack in Spooky Gulch.

Robby, Hayley and Zack in Spooky Gulch.

We all had smiles plastered to our faces as we popped out the top of Peek-a-boo. We ran East over to the head of Spooky and continued our speedy pace through this even skinnier canyon. Spooky presented some stunning, tightly carved, narrow sections and a fun rabbit-hole to down-climb. We got spat out into a wide sandy wash and all proceeded to jog our way back towards the trailhead. We ran back up some steep sand and slick rock to arrive at the parking lot in about an hour round trip. We made it to Nemoʼs by 4:30pm to learn that they had recently extended their hours to 8:00pm. After a good chuckle, we ravenously ate our cheeseburgers and shakes until we felt sufficiently bloated and happy. Our trip felt like the epitome of the perfect backpacking trip – rounded out by just the right amount of hiking, beautiful scenery, laughing, scrambling, rock throwing and most importantly, good company. It will surely make for an excellent addition to ZACʼs offered backpacking trips!

Campsite at Jacob Hamblin Arch

The Crew at the base of Jacob Hamblin Arch.

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Oh Henry’s

What I really like about National Parks (and ZAC, the company I work for, for that matter), is that they make the concept of “adventure” very accessible, regardless of what people’s level of adventure is. That to say, what really inspired our staff outing to the Henry Mountains was how very inaccessible those mountains are. Bordered on the West by Capitol Reef’s Waterpocket Fold and on the East by Utah Highway 95, they’re far enough beyond the middle of nowhere that it really is no wonder that they were the last explored and geographically mapped mountain range in the lower 48. In fact, to get there, we first had to drive many hours from anywhere to the middle of nowhere, make a right, and drive far enough that where we had previously thought was nowhere began to really feel like it was… somewhere. And then we kept driving. Mostly up.

Hang a right towards that ‘road’ down there, keep driving through the canyons and up and down the mesas until you get to those mountains in the distance. Then keep driving.

Henry Pic 00…But not before a stop at Hell’s Backbone Grill for breakfast and coffee. If we were going to leave civilization behind, we thought it best to be civil about it.

Henry Pic 01Now obviously the right crew was imperative. Naturally, I picked a motley one of sorts (plus Claudia). Left to right, B.J., Gerard, Brian, and Claudia.

Henry Pic 02And for the rugged terrain, a tracked vehicle (like a tank or snowcat) would likely have been the most appropriate choice, but “JOURNEY” (the most tank-like of the fleet) came in as a close second. We knew that if conditions got really serious, we were at least equipped with JOURNEY’s plethora of self-rescue equipment plus Claudia’s very serious stare.

Henry Pic 03The first part of our mission was to check out a ‘mythical’ yet supposedly amazing climbing area. Mythical in that rumors of it and much hype about it exist, but when confronted, nobody (at least on the internet) had any actual information. Well, we found it, and I don’t mean to perpetuate the secrecy (except that I sort of do), but what I’ll at least say is that the rumors are indeed ones of much credibility. Turns out that it’s less hidden, more just hard to get to. To prove its existence, behold one of the only known [internet] photographs of the legend. Happy hunting.

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I’d heard the Henry’s were pretty, but sometimes it’s nice to be pleasantly surprised.

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Ultimately, every once in a while, it’s nice to trade the desert for some mountains…

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and go for a hike…

Henry Pic 07…and just get to hangout with your very upstanding friends/co-workers.

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…Ultimately, it was great to get into the Henry’s. But as important as the destination may have seemed, we couldn’t have gotten there without [the] JOURNEY.

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Staff trip to Neon Canyon

First time down Neon Canyon.

The ZAC Neon crew consisted of Elana, Hayley, Erin, and Robby. We had a quick breakfast and an early start. It was a cool, windy morning with a stunning desert sunrise. We crossed the Escalante River at the confluence with Neon in cold knee-deep water and exited the canyon on a popular social trail.

After some rim walking, we arrived at the north fork of Neon in 2.5 hours from the trailhead. DSCN0877

As we were exploding gear from our packs at the “first rappel”, we saw a short stemming section just up canyon from our yard sale.

 

DSCN0863  We finished packing up and walked in above the sweet side drainage. It reminded me of the brief pods encountered in Shenanigans (north wash) but in a shallow canyon. The side canyon ran into a fault and we were onto to the short, sweet, and easy, stemming section- it was maybe 15 ft off the deck.  Continuing down to Neon proper we traveled through a wonderfully tight and sculpted canyon. Those in the group lugging behemoth Heaps packs found this section to be very physical.

Shortly we were into Neon and the water, it didn’t take long for me to discover the shops 7mm wetsuit is almost as good as the drysuits, if you fill them out properly (aka I need more doughnuts in my life). Neon proper offered beautiful, playful narrows interspersed with increasingly deeper and longer wades. The down climbing was fun and straightforward. I found myself attempting to play hot lava and was only somewhat successful, but thoroughly amused.

Eventually we came to a pothole that could be stemmed over. Wanting to stay low, our group opted to swim across.  Erin made short work of the beached whale maneuver and helped Elana up with a counterbalance using his tether. Elana in turn helped Hayley defeat the pseudo keeper with the same rope trick. As I was about to enter the pool, my unlocked Pirana, which was attached to my harness’s hard point, unclipped itself as I squeezed through a flute and fell to my feet! Had it fallen anywhere else, I would have certainly made a canyon donation. Fortunately, Neon was in a good mood and I was able to force myself to be flexible and reach my toes and Pirana successfully. This led me to wonder, do you get to make a wish if you drop gear in a pool like pennies in a fountain?

More cold swimming followed, the 7mm wetsuit was barely adequate.  Once this section of canyon relented, we hung out at the “normal” entrance to warm up via sunbathing and snacking! We found Moki steps that led out of the canyon to a bench opposite of where we hiked in.  On the way down we had an opportunity to practice sliding and capturing. This diversion generated enough warmth for us to rally and finish the canyon.

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We entered the final narrows via handline down a committing but doable down climb-be ready to belay the first person and capture the rest. More cold narrows and another unnecessary handline and we found our selves taking our separate route through the cheese rock to the stance above the keeper. The showstopper keeper was a bit of a let down; we were able to swim right over it.

Onward to Golden Cathedral (or the Monster, depending on who you ask), an 80ft rappel through a blown out pothole and into a pool of water. Down a flute and into space, the canyon opens dramatically and you have a front row seat to view two blown out potholes as you descend into the final pool and terra firma. The final rappel in Neon is among the prettier I have done. We pondered the Golden Cathedral for a solid half hour as our cold-water gear dried out in the sun before packing up and “bee lining” the hike back to Egypt trailhead. The hike out has lots of loose sand but the uphill sections are quick! On the way back we rim walked parts of Fence Canyon, which seemed to be an enjoyable non-technical canyon.

We made killer canned chili by adding our burrito leftovers to the pot…. Then again, hunger makes great seasoning. We ate our dinners, listened to reggae, and then watched the sun mostly set on Neon Dome before we packed up and drove to the water tanks trailhead for more fun on a scouting trip in coyote gulch but that is a story for another blog!

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Robber’s Roost Canyoneering Trip Report

So what does someone who canyoneers for a job day in and day out do when they get time off?  Well, they go canyoneering.  I often get asked that question, and I tell people my days off look a lot like my days on, only I really try to seek out somewhere new so it’s more of an adventure.

This last ‘weekend’ Jon (another Zion Adventure Company guide), my girlfriend Julie, and I went on an ‘adventure’ to the “Robber’s Roost” area of Southern Utah.  It can be found roughly here:https://www.google.com/maps/@38.2947151,-110.32026,12z on a map.  Don’t see much?  Exactly.  It’s out there.  In fact, it’s about as ‘out there’ as one can get to in Utah by any sort of somewhat conventional transportation.  By ‘conventional’ transportation, one really needs a reliable high clearance four wheel drive vehicle to navigate the 50 something miles of rocky dirt roads.

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The nice thing about a Toyota Land Cruiser is that they’re rugged yet reliable

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The other nice thing about Land Cruisers is that they’re pretty easy to fix when they break down… even with whatever you happen to have in your canyoneering backpack.

 

The day we arrived, we went into a canyon called High Spur.  If it were less technical and more accessible to the masses of photographers who can fairly easily google their way into Antelope canyon, I’m sure pictures of High Spur would come standard as your default desktop background.  Since it’s not, and since Seth Hamel was otherwise occupied photographing Coyote Gulch, you’ll have to settle for a couple of pictures of a place way too beautiful for our little point and shoot camera to capture.  It’s worth seeing for yourself anyhow.

IMG_0705Quite possibly, it was prettier around every corner

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Unlike Antelope Canyon, you don’t need a guide to tell you when and where to take a picture.  Even having never been there, that part seemed pretty self-evident.

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High Spur even made Jon look good (by backlighting him).

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There have been a few times when it’s been funny that my name happens to be “B.J.”.  This so happened to be one of those times.

 

Our second day we went into Blue John.  Yeah, the one from the movie (and the one every canyoneering guide has gotten asked about nearly everyday since).   However, the ‘one’ pictured in the movie, though technically still in Utah, was a little closer to Hollywood.  That said, it wasn’t the sensationalizing of this canyon that made it…sensational.

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If it were easy, everyone would do it… without having to cut their own arm off.

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Seen here is the last known picture of John Ritze’s left arm.  He recently told me he’d give his right arm for a movie/book deal.

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Even for someone who goes into canyons most days, this certainly wasn’t my everyday.

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After a good long physical day, it sure is nice to have a cozy tent awaiting us back at camp… oh wait…sandstorm.

 

Before the long drive back to Zion, we wanted to get one more canyon in on our last morning.  With a relatively brief hike in and out, and a shorter but concentrated technical section, we found Smallcatraz a great ‘one more for the road’ objective.

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Jon and Julie squeezing one more canyon into the trip.

 

 

 

…For those looking for more info…

 

Day 1: High Spur Canyon 3A II PG.

More beta and info found here on the canyoncollective.com website here:

http://canyoncollective.com/betabase/high-spur.35/

In addition, of all the roads along the way, we found the last ten or so miles into High Spur the most rugged (high clearance 4WD only).  In addition, we purchased USGS topo maps for this and our other canyons at the Hans Flat ranger station en route.

 

Day 2: Blue John Canyon (“Squeeze Fork into East Fork) 3A/B III.

We referred to Tom’s information from his website found here:

http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/utah/roost/bluejohn-canyon/

We thought the Squeeze fork start was certainly a highlight, but as the sign in the above photo indicated, it’s not recommended for everybody.  Indeed it contained some very physical sections and technical maneuvering to negotiate.  The “long pool” referred to on Tom’s map was indeed wet and FREEZING, but only about as deep as our waist (which wasn’t exactly a comfort).

 

Day 3: Smallcatraz 3A II

We referred to the canyoncollective.com info/beta found here:

http://canyoncollective.com/betabase/smallcatraz.31/

Our one discrepancy was that on the driving directions, we found the initial mileage from the “Y” a few tenths of miles too far.  From the Y, if you cross a cattle guard with a barbed wire fence on both sides, you’ve gone too far (the intersection is the nearest turn behind you at that point).  Also, “the drill hole” referred to is simply a short stubby capped pipe coming out of the ground.

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ZAC Staff Backpack Grand Canyon

In an ongoing pursuit to further explore, appreciate and acquaint ourselves with the beauty and mystery of the Southwest, a backpacking trip in the off-season seemed both appropriate and necessary. Over the course of 4 days from January 7-10, 2014, four of us set out to conquer or be conquered by the great and vast landscape of the Grand Canyon.

Upon our arrival at the South Rim (about a 5 hour drive from Springdale through Kanab and Page) we found ourselves eagerly greeted at the backcountry desk. Winter crowds and weather at the Grand Canyon are far more mellow than those in the Summer. Attaining the appropriate permits for our planned route was quite easy. Grand Canyon permits cost a bit more than those at Zion ($5 per person per night plus an additional $10 processing fee).

Having acquired our permit, it was time to visit the viewpoints at South Rim. We participated in “ooohing” and “ahhhing” at the expanse that unfolded before us. We had one final logistical detail to take care of. Our beginning and ending trailheads for the trip were approximately 5 miles apart, so we stashed a bike in the woods near our destination.

For our one night of car camping prior to the backpack, a backcountry desk ranger directed us to free camping just outside of the Park on Forest Service land. We spent this first night frozen atop the South Rim shivering. Nighttime lows were in the mid-teens. Our minds drifted toward the warmth tomorrow’s trek into the canyon would bring us.

The next morning we drove to Laipan Point, a beautiful viewpoint and trailhead on the South Rim, where we would begin our descent into the canyon via the Tanner Trail.
Due to some lingering snow and ice along the first mile, we slipped Kahtoola Microspikes on our boots. These provided much-needed traction for our descent of the steep switchbacks. The Tanner Trail is categorized as a primitive trail meaning it does not see a ton of foot traffic and is not maintained by the park. It is a trail intended for experienced hikers who are prepared for loose rock, some exposure, and basic route finding or cairn following at times. It is about 8 miles from rim to canyon floor. This type of trail is capable of convincing skeptical hikers that trekking poles just might be the best invention in the world.

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Our descent into the canyon and to our stopping point took about 6.5 hours. We encountered one one other group of three hikers. We literally had the canyon to ourselves! We camped beside the Colorado River and enjoyed balmy temperatures in the 30ʼs that night. Stage one of the journey, hike the Tanner Trail, was complete.

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Next, we planned to hike the 12 mile Escalante Route along the river to the mouth of Red Canyon. Seems like it could be be a leisurely stroll along the river. Don’t be fooled. This Route, originally used by the Escalante Exploration, is quite strenuous and engaging to say the least. After following the river for a mile or two, we began a 2000ft ascent. This earned us stunning views of the canyon. Next, we hiked down through the narrow 75 Mile Canyon back to the River. One of the more exciting events of the day was the climb up a 5th class cliffband to get us over rock slide. Overnight packs added excitement to this obstacle. We made camp close to dusk and enjoyed another long rest beside the river. Turkey Tetrazzini for dinner was quite the crowd pleaser, and we were all in bed by 7:30.

The final stage of our journey was hiking up to the rim. A daunting 5000ft of elevation gain over 6.5 miles and a 6 mile bike ride were all that stood between us our destination. Our route out was the New Hance Trail (NHT). The NHT follows the bottom of Red Canyon then begins a steep ascent up to the Rim. Mid-way up, we had a much needed lunch break. Hiking the New Hance Trail required us to step up and over many large rocks. After feeling as though we had been condemned to a never-ending Stairmaster workout, we finally made it to the top! The snow and ice on NHT were neglibible, and we did not need the Microspikes.

To reacquire the car, one of us had to ride the bike. Who would punch the hero card? We did the only thing sensible people in our shoes would do…we volunteered Robby. His place in pedaling history was upstaged as our charming smiles and good looks caused a kind stranger to offer Robby a ride.

Robby’s journey to retrieve the car afforded the rest of us a half-hour of quiet time at the Rim to contemplate our adventure and do a bit more “ooohing” and “ahhing” at the Canyon. Shortly after, we were enjoying the warm confines of our car enroute to consume copious amounts of delicious Stromboli’s Pizza in Page, AZ.

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Government Shutdown Closes Zion National Park

Article Written By Laura Dahl

Dateline: October 7, Springdale, UT

National Parks around the country closed their gates to visitors on October 1, 2013 as a result of the Federal Government Shutdown.

Government Shutdown…what does that mean for Zion?

Zion National Park is closed to all recreation and visitation for the duration of the government shutdown. All services, including the shuttle system, visitors center, human history museum, bathrooms, parking lots and campgrounds have been suspended during this time as well. Zion Lodge is also closed. The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive from Canyon Junction to Zion Lodge is also closed.

How long will the Shutdown last?

There is really no way to know how long this round of government shutdown will last. Historically, shutdowns have lasted anywhere from hours to days, with the longest federal government shutdown lasting 21 days in 1995.

Can I drive through Zion National Park?

Utah State Route 9 (Mount Carmel Highway) will remain open to automobiles and motorcycles driving through the Park. This route is closed to large vehicles including recreational vehicles, large trailers, and buses. Enjoy the scenery as you drive through the Park. Please be respectful of closure rules. Do not use pullouts, or stop to take pictures. Stay on the road without stopping or recreating inside of the National Park.

Should I cancel my vacation to Zion?

Not necessarily. The Good news is that there are TONS of recreations opportunities in the “Greater Zion Area”. These recreation opportunities range from beautiful hikes in canyons, rivers, state Parks, to guided trips, mountain biking and photo tours. The best way to find out about good hiking options OUTSIDE Zion National Park is to come visit us at the Zion Adventure Company store in Springdale. We have many maps and detailed handouts for many recreation opportunities in the areas.

Is my guided trip with Zion Adventure Company still going to run?

Yes, we are still running all of our guided canyoneering, rock climbing, hiking, biking, and overland tours, with the exception of our guided Zion Narrows tour.

We are hoping that our federal government will get this figured out quickly so that National Parks around the country can reopen. Whether the Park is open, or not, we would like to help you have an amazing visit to the area. Stop by our shop in Springdale to gather more information, we would love to assist you in enjoying the beautiful area around Zion National Park. Plan for the worst and hope for the best!!!

 

Call Zion National Park for the latest updates on park closures, 435-772-3256.

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Kim and Dan Visit The Wave

The Wave is a spectacular and world-renowned site located in the backcountry border of Utah and Arizona. A trip there is a magical experience. Getting everything in order to go there is quite another.

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Hiking the Wave requires a permit, obtained through the Arizona Strip BLM at the Kanab Office or at the Paria Ranger Station (summer only). Only twenty hikers may access this resource each day. Ten of the permits are assigned four months in advance through an online lottery. The remaining ten permits are issued through a walk-in lottery the day before the hike. Obtaining a permit is competitive. You may compete against as many as a thousand people in the online lottery, and a hundred in the walk-in drawing. As you can imagine, being a lucky winner is quite a thrill.

To obtain my permit, I entered the next day lottery. Individuals showing up at 9 am for the next day are considered in the drawing. The intensity in the room while your number is drawn from a bingo ball was penetrating. There were 21 names submitted and only 10 names were permitted to enter the Coyote Butte South area to the Wave. The sixth ball drawn, eight individuals and I had still not been chosen. The seventh ball, my heart racing, I began to doubt I would be chosen this time. I had six people on my permit and not all of us would be able to go. As the seventh ball was drawn they called out the lucky number 7 and immediately Dave pipes up, “Can we change our permit number for two people?” Our remaining four would have to try for another time. I chose Dudeman Dan to come along.

The day began 7:00AM at Zion Adventure Company meeting Dudeman and driving the three hours to get to the Wire Pass trailhead. There were two ways to get to the trailhead. We took 89A to get there and the directions were not clear for the turn off. We missed our turn by six miles anticipating the House Rock sign, which was not there. The sign was posted as BLM 1165 and down the road 200 yards read a sign House Rock. The road was a nice dirt road (as far as backroads go) fit for any vehicle. We drove for nine miles until the Wire Pass trailhead. One thing worth mentioning that Dave and I got a good laugh at was the ranger, the day before, mentioned there are footsteps, but it does not mean its the correct way. There are cairns, but they do not mean it is the correct way. There are GPS coordinates, but they do not mean it’s the correct way. My mind was left with breadcrumbs because everything useful was eliminated from the list. At that moment, the ranger pulled out his map for each of us to utilize. It gave accurate pictures and descriptions with waypoints to and from the Wave, a highly useful tool.

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We arrived at the trailhead at 10:30 am and began our journey. There were several cars already in the parking lot and people en route before we got there. The walk out there was not a difficult hike. The terrain was an easy walk along a pretty well marked path in the beginning, however after awhile it crossed over to slick rock with no obvious markers. Utilizing the map at that point is critical; watching and matching up the waypoints was really helpful. Once we could see the big crack in the rock, we were able to pinpoint our destination and know the direction we needed to go. We arrived after an hour of hiking, taking pictures, and shedding layers.

At 11:35 there were photographers stationed at every angle, alley, and ledge. The ranger predicted that one as well, reminding us to please be courteous of others when taking pictures. The lighting is best at 12:00 noon and we, the novices, made it just in time, but not to stake out the best spots without interference. Dudeman and I opted to take the places with less people and come back, however, we missed the prime time for photos. Our eyes feasted on the wondrous and awe-inspiring views of Mother Nature. Keeping our eyes wandering in amazement, so many different elements created this majestic view with water, wind, and erosion. Like little kids we explored every nook and cranny snapping photos around every corner.

Dudeman and I continued west down into the Paria Canyon through the wash heading south. We explored the area looking to find any petroglyphs, dinosaur footprints, or spectacular views. We did find small springs and slow seepages, which created an oasis of manzanita, pine trees, and other plants, found where there was water. One of the cliffs has markings of a waterfall from wetter times and many of the cliffs around puzzled us where to find petroglyphs. We were not so lucky. The rocks were masked with wide array of colors and pin stripping in straight lines, swirls, and of course, waves.

After an hour of exploration we returned to the main attraction area and the masses had exited leaving only one foreign couple. We sat and contemplated the immense time and work that was used to create a work of art.

For more information go to the BLM webpage.

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ZAC Field Trip: Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and More

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Woohoo! Photo: Scott Rollins

Our most recent staff field trip took us east by southeast and over the state line into Arizona where we visited Horseshoe Bend, Upper Antelope Canyon and Upper Water Holes Canyon.

We met at the shop on a beautiful Monday morning, excited to begin this adventure. After some opening words and a short brief from our fearless leader, Dave, we all piled in a large Sprinter Van and got on our way. Good laughs, conversation, and freshly baked cookies consumed our 2-hour drive.

Our first official field trip stop was Horseshoe Bend. Located just 4 miles southwest of Page, AZ, Horseshoe Bend is aptly named for the horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River in this area. The hike to the overlook point is short (less than a mile) and seems like a bargain for the breath-taking view of the canyon. Our group reveled in the incredible view of the river and canyon.

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Horseshoe Bend, just down the Colorado River from the Glen Canyon Dam. Photo: Scott Rollins

It’s hard to convey what it feels like looking down hundreds of feet below you, watching boats the size of ants maneuver in the crystal clear river. You begin to wonder how in the world something so magnificent came to be and at the same time try to figure out how standing above this river bend can make you feel so incredibly small and big at the same time.

After much photo taking we walked back to the van and continued on our adventure. Photography Tip: Folks who want to capture the entire bend in a photo will need a very wide-angle lens.

Our next stop on the field trip was Upper Antelope Canyon, located near Page, AZ on Navajo Land. Upper Antelope is the most visited and most photographed slot canyon in the American Southwest due to its gorgeous natural features and easy accessibility.

After purchasing the necessary Upper Antelope Canyon permits our group met up with Navajo Guide, Bonnie. She gave us a short, but informative briefing on the canyon, and then directed us to pile into the back of a pick up truck, modified with open-air seating and a roof for shade. Everyone enjoyed the slightly bumpy, breezy ride to the canyon.

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As we entered Upper Antelope Canyon our group was once again wow-ed by the beauty of nature. Watching the sunlight reach down and touch the sloping, smooth, red-orange-purple canyon walls is an awe-inducing experience. As we journeyed slowly through the slot Bonnie shared with us the history of Upper Antelope and coached us to photo-taking brilliance. Our group of ZAC staff members, who have seen so many beautiful canyons, were blown away by the splendor of this canyon. Upper Antelope is a must see canyon! Photography Tip: Play around with the exposure settings on your camera for the best photo…better yet, ask your guide to help you select an appropriate camera setting, remember they guide thousands of photo-taking visitors through this canyon every year!

I feel as though I am becoming a bit long-winded in the telling of this adventurous day, so please allow me to sum up Upper Water Holes Canyon in a few brief sentences. Visiting Upper Water Holes, located on Navajo land, requires a permit. This canyon, while not as overwhelmingly beautiful as Upper Antelope, provides a more physically engaging experience. Our group traveled easily in the canyon, at times providing partner-assists and spotting for each other through the trickier sections. Remember, don’t go up anything you won’t be able to safely descend at the end of the day. Photography Tip: Avoid getting sand in your camera.

Overall the ZAC staff had a great time and learned a lot on this field trip to Arizona. We encourage you to get out and experience some of the same stunning areas that we did, especially considering they are only a short drive from Zion. Happy exploring!

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Gear Review: FiveTen Anasazi High-Top Climbing Shoe

When FiveTen and Dean Potter went to work making a shoe to crank twenty pitches a day in, they came up with the Anasazi Hi-Top. A stiffer, more plush climbing shoe meant to soothe your aching feet as you stuff them deep into whatever crack system you are scaling in Yosemite. Fortunately, climbing shoes designed for granite are awesome in sandstone as well.

The Anasazi Hi-Top crack climbing shoes from FiveTen

The Anasazi Hi-Top from FiveTen

The Anasazi Hi-Top fits the bill for an all-around desert shoe. It’s stiff, sticky, comfortable, and sized correctly, based on a last Chris McNamara calls his “cheating shoe.” But most importantly, it covers your ankles. Anyone at Indian Creek, Zion, or Red Rocks will tell you ankles bones are only to make you suffer more as you stuff your feet as deeply as possible into whatever crack you are ascending. That only sightly protuberant part of your ankle is constantly grinding into the lip of the crack. It’s not fun, you get a bloody spot that eventually scabs over only be cracked and ground bloody again and again. Hi-tops are an obvious solution to this problem.Most people will tell you you need to rush out and buy a pair of TC Pros from La Sportiva, almost universally held up as the “greatest trad shoe ever.” Now competitors – FiveTen’s Anasazi Hi-Top and Evolv’s Astroman – are trying to take the throne from the TC Pro.

I decided to try the FiveTens for a variety of reasons, but it really came down to ease of use and stickiness of rubber. I know Tommy Caldwell can take a pair of bowling shoes and send my project without breaking a sweat. However, I struggle very much with only being a mediocre climber who really enjoys trad in the 5.10-5.11 range and only infrequently gets to send 5.12 on gear, let alone 5.14. Quite frankly, I need and attempt to gather every advantage I can amass for when I get on the sharp end. The Stealth C4 rubber is so sticky. I have had shoes with just about everything, but my hardest climbs have always had C4 on the sole of my shoe. I am hardly a brand loyalist, and if I had to be honest sometimes the last on FiveTen shoes leave a lot to be desired for my foot. The rubber, however, is not the problem.

The other reason the Ansazi Hi-top seemed like the shoe for me is the velcro closure. It’s fast and easy, and with three straps, it gets tight in there. Also, cracks chew through laces like a pit bull through rawhide. Although you can you can always just replace them, the straps on my Hi-Tops are burly urathane backed leather and are not going anywhere. The upper material is similarly durable, thick suede leather with a plush lining to add some padding to the toes. However, the blunt toe box, coupled with the thick C4 sole and stiff midsole, make it difficult in thin cracks to really stuff your toes in and gain good purchase. It’s really only in Ringlocks, around the red Alien or purple Camalot size, that things get tricky and another thin crack style shoe may be preferable. If you don’t mind having two pairs of crack shoes, then this is not a problem and the Hi-Top will propel you upward flawlessly on thin hands to off-width, leaving your ankles fully armored against all those cracks that want to grind you down.

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Field Trip to Toroweap, Grand Canyon National Park

The ZAC crew at Toroweap, Grand Canyon

The ZAC crew at Toroweap, Grand Canyon

Living in the shadows of Zion National Park, sometimes it’s hard to understand that there can be beauty anywhere else. Two weeks ago, several staff members took a day trip to check out Toroweap and the Grand Canyon. So after a quick stop at Deep Creek Coffee in Springdale, the ZAC staff drove the four and a half hours to check out the canyon. The drive begins with crossing through something familiar, and occasionally routine for me, Zion National Park. On our drive, bighorn sheep and mule deer greeted us as we drove through the east side. Since we left early in the morning, we were lucky enough to catch some of the sunrise on our drive. Between the majestic colors and good conversation, the drive went by quickly. The town of Fredonia is a small Arizona border town. And no road trip through a border town is complete without a stop for Lottery, Guns, Ammo, and Beer! So after a brief stop filling up our coffee cups and Landcruiser at Judd’s Auto, we moved on.

Looking down into the Grand Canyon from Toroweap Campground

Looking down into the Grand Canyon from Toroweap Campground

We eventually turned onto a dirt road for beautiful views of desert plains and distant mountains for 60 long, rutted miles. At this point, there isn’t much to do except listen to music and marvel at how your vehicle dust travels for miles in the wind. On the drive out, we stopped at the ranger station to meet Marjorie and learn some information about the area. I highly recommend always stopping in to at least say hello. The two Tweep area rangers live in a desert home that makes most hermits look like city folk. However, that isn’t a negative by far! Views of Trumbull Mountain and the Vulcan’s Throne would make any morning wake-up call special. And just a short drive away, they have a relatively convenient 3,000-foot drop to the Colorado River!

The campground was once described to me as having the world’s most scenic outhouse. And believe you-me, it’s no lie! The campground is situated on a beautiful rise that overlooks Saddle Horse Canyon and the Grand Canyon. Several day-hikes in the area give a greater overview of what exactly our little slice of desert in the southwest is like. From Toroweap Overlook, you’re also able to see Lava Falls, which is considered by some as one of the most difficult rapid on the Colorado. If you’re lucky, like we were, you’ll get the experience of watching one of lucky permitted trips float down through.

If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, patience for driving long dirt roads, and the desire to view a secluded area of the Grand Canyon then Toroweap is a great destination to roll into a Zion-area visit. So check the weather for a sunny week, free up your schedule, and take a trip out to Tuweep. Spend an evening enjoying the silence of vastness of the Grand Canyon, go exploring on hikes, enjoy a sunrise and sunset, and I promise you’ll be amazed and humbled by the experience! And don’t forget to stop in and say hi to Marjorie!

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