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.

Posted in Canyoneering, Grand Canyon, Guided Events, In the News, Lake Powell, Local Events, Zion | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Favorite Backpacking Recipe

Tired of eating power bars? Dreading another day full of Peanut Butter and Jelly?

Kick it up a notch and give this Thai Spaghetti dish a whirl.

Copied without permission from the internet. This recipe was featured in a book entitled NOLS Cookery, edited by Claudia Pearson

http://www.amazon.com/Cookery-National-Outdoor-Leadership-Library/dp/0811731081

Gado-gado Spaghetti

(serves 2-3)
A spicy peanut butter sauce makes this a light spaghetti dish that is excellent either hot or cold.

1/2 lb. spaghetti or ramen noodles
4 cups water
3 Tbs. + 1 tsp. oil
2 Tbs. sunflower seeds
1 Tbs. dried onion, rehydrated
1/2 Tbs. or one packet base*
3 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. garlic
1/2 tsp. black pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp. hot sauce (optional)
1/2 tsp. spike (optional)
3/4 cup water, or more as needed
3 Tbs. vinegar
3 Tbs. soy sauce
3 Tbs. peanut butter
sliced green or wild onions, if available

NOTE: this dish can have a fairly salty taste. Cut back or eliminate the base if you are concerned about saltiness.

Break pasta in half and put into boiling unsalted water to which 1 tsp. of oil has been added. Cook until done; drain immediately. In a fry pan, heat 3 Tbs. oil and add the sunflower seeds and rehydrated onions. Cook and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the base with the brown sugar, garlic, other spices if desires, and 3/4 cup water. Add the vinegar and soy sauce. Add peanut butter and stir. Do not burn! To eat this hot, heat the sauce thoroughly and pour over hot spaghetti.

This recipe is best cold, and it loses some of its saltiness as it sits. Mix sauce and spaghetti, cool quickly, and serve chilled. If available, sliced green or wild onions as a garnish add to the flavor.

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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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Filson Outdoor Clothing Features ZAC Guide Ben Rhinesmith


Our very own Ben Rhinesmith was recently profiled in Filson’s “In the Field” section of their website. In the video, Ben guides the Filson crew down Battle Creek, a high country canyon southeast of Kolob Reservoir, while talking a little bit about his guiding approach and philosophy.

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Winter Grand Circle Field Trips

Our 2012 season has been rewarding in many ways. We have had enjoyable experiences with thousands of new visitors. Our staff has been the happiest, healthiest, and most cohesive of my eight seasons at ZAC. We head into December celebrating the largest winter staff in our history, as eleven staff will continue work in some capacity. Winter is a time of reflection, relaxation, rejuvenation, improvement, creativity, and innovation. We look for ways to improve ourselves and the way we do things.

One such initiative is the Staff Winter Grand Circle Field Trips. With enthusiasm, we are eagerly visiting places visitors often ask about, or even tell us stories about. Our goal is to broaden our skill level as information givers by becoming familiar with more of the Southwest, its places, and context. We journey to destinations few, sometimes none of us have visited, putting staff in charge of planning the trip who have never been. (We love adventure, too.)

In the coming weeks, you will see ZAC blog articles of our exploits and the potentially hilarious hijinks that ensue. We aim to travel to Toroweap, Escalante, Antelope Canyon, and more. Our aim is to use these field trip experiences to further pursue our mission of helping each other learn, grow, explore, relate and reconnect.

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Zion Narrows Fall Colors Video

Long-time ZAC client Jerry King visits us at least every year, regularly recording his hikes and canyon descents via video and still images. When Jerry gets home, he puts together some nice informational videos about the adventures he goes on. If you are thinking about doing a Zion Narrow Through-Hike, check out Jerry’s movie to learn about the hike and see the Narrows in prime fall color splendor.

Posted in Autumn, Canyoneering, Seasonal, The Narrows, Trip Reports, Videos, Zion | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment