Sep 11 – 16
Along on this trip were Dianne Echols and her son Mark, Susan Dean and Collette Haney.
This trip was planned and put together by Dianne with over a year ahead of the date. Her diligence in obtaining the permits paid off for all of us, thanks Dianne. Our trek across the park took us from the Lee pass trailhead in the far northwest corner of the park back to the southeast to the Grotto trailhead in Zion canyon, about 37 miles over 4 days and 3 nights.
This was a great opportunity for me to hike across another national park so when Dianne asked, I jumped. Dianne, Mark, Susan and I loaded up my truck and made the drive to Springdale, UT which took about 18hrs.
We arrived about 6am and hung out in the visitor center parking lot until Collette arrived a bit later. After a few introductions we made plans for the day. There are two campgrounds in the park one first come first serve the other you can reserve. We were not able to get a reservation and the line at the other was very long so we elected to try a BLM campground located just north of Hurricane, UT off of I15 called Red Cliffs. When we arrived, there were only a few campers but it later filled up. Once unpacked Dianne, Susan, Collette and I took off back to the park to hike the Angels Landing Trail.
We caught the shuttle up to the Grotto trailhead and started our hike. Once to the trail split I elected to just rest on the rocks while the ladies made the trek up to the top of the landing. I was really tired from the long drive. Collette used my camera to take a few pictures while they were up there. After we got back down we were off to camp to start some dinner, Salmon and a baked sweet potato for me.
We were all a bit slow getting up but had made plans to do a day hike up the narrows. We picked up our backcountry permit before hitting the trail. The trail was busy but once on the river it thinned out some. I really wanted to make the entire trail to the end so I took off and ran the whole thing up then ate some lunch. I took a few pictures then started my run back and met up with the rest of the group. This run took me along the rock bars and across the river many times but it was fun.
In order to have a ride when we completed our hike we left Collette’s car parked near the visitor’s center. We had also been advised by the ranger to cache water along the trail where we would pass by the Hop Valley trailhead on day 2 of our trek. We cached about 20 liters there, which took about an hour to drive up the Kolob Terrace Road and back. Once back at camp we got our backpacks ready and stowed then worked on dinner and wine, mine was steak, baked potato, and pineapple. As we were cooking dinner a couple drove by and asked if we had seen anybody unusual around as they had their entire belongings stolen during the day while they were away in the park. Wow, we were really lucky as it could have just as easily been us. I hate thieves.
Once up and moving we enjoyed a good breakfast got the truck packed up and made the drive up to our trailhead about 30 minutes away. We were not in any real rush as we only had just over 6 miles to our first nights campsite #8 on the La Verkin creek trail. About an hour and half into our hike we came upon La Verkin creek and enjoyed soaking and swimming in the cool flowing waters, affectionately called the Oasis by Susan. We also took the opportunity to fill our water containers. The terrain is mostly desert with small brush and junipers except along the creek where there are many cottonwoods and oaks filled in with green brush. As we were approaching our campsite the clouds began to rumble and the rain soon followed. At first it was refreshing but with the air and ground being so dry, the evaporative cooling soon put a chill in the air. We made camp the set off on a short hike to a sandstone arch a short distance away. The rain also treated us to a waterfall coming over one of the cliffs near the arch.
After dinner we sat in the dark and drank some wine that Dianne and Susan packed then all made our way to our tents. The rain had stopped but everything was damp and cool.
Everyone was up by 5:30-6:00 and on the trail by 8am, as we had a long 11.8 mile hike for the day and would pick up some significant water weight when we passed our cache plus a bit of up and down elevation with 800+ feet gain for the day. The trail started rocky but once we crossed over into Hop Valley the trail was deep sandy and slow walking. The path through Hop valley is a bit poorly defined but basically just follows the creek and cow pasture.
We arrived at the Hop Valley trailhead just about noon so we ate our lunch then packed the water away in our packs. The connector trail runs between the Hop Valley and Wildcat canyon trailheads basically mirroring the Kolob Terrace road to connect to the Wildcat canyon trail. We elected to walk the road to save some time and energy due to the deep sand on the trail. The road took off about a mile but it is very steep at the end with about 700 ft of elevation gain. After a bit of a break we kept pushing to our camp along the Northgate trail.
We arrived at camp (elevation 6850Ft) about 5pm got camp set up and made dinner. Dinners on the trail are dried meals re-hydrated with hot water. While not steak or salmon they are light, fast, and fill you up for a while. After dinner we had the usual chat and share session with some good laughs about what we are learning about each other. It was a long day and everyone was very tired from carrying the extra water weight. I would also like to add that each of these ladies is very fit. Collette is an ultra marathon runner and biker, Susan an avid and able trail bike rider, Dianne a marathon runner and avid biker. Me I am just a 52 yr old man who likes to try and keep up with people like this.
About an hour before dark we heard the first elk bugling and this was joined by others after dark and continued all night long. While it certainly was a treat to hear it really got old by 2am. They did stop briefly and then was soon followed by some yaps from coyotes. Then the bugling resumed until sun up. The best I could tell they were about a quarter to half mile to our west; there was a meadow back that direction.
Once again everyone up and moving early and on the trail by 8am. We have another long day’s hike of about 12 miles. Our water would be a dripping spring on a hillside along the trail about 2 miles down. We arrived and immediately set up to start filtering the water as we had about 8 liters worth of empty containers. Pretty soon we were joined by other hikers waiting in line to do the same. Sure glad we got there first, it saved us about 1-2 hours with the slow drip of that spring. This would be our last water source for the remainder of the trip. It also meant that we would be fully loaded with water for the rest of the day with elevation changes and another 600-800 ft total elevation gain. I estimate my loaded pack weight at 60-65# and it sure was a long day. The early morning cool air really helped but later it got much warmer with the really dry air heating quickly. We made the Lava Point trailhead by noon and went on down the trail a bit for a shady pine tree with a great view for lunch.
Our destination for the day was campsite #6 on the West Rim trail. While hiking up high we could make out the smoke plumes from two forest fires to the southeast, I estimated about 45 miles away. We made camp about 4:30 that afternoon at an elevation of 7560 ft. The campsite was absolutely spectacular with canyons just to our north then turning and covering to our west. We were treated to a spectacular sunset and the rise of a full moon. One note we talked about is not to choose campsites 4 or 5 as they are lower altitude, hotter with less shade and will lengthen your hike to following day if you are headed south along the west rim trail.
Everyone was up by 5am to a cool 35 degrees. I made coffee and joked with the ladies while they were still in their tents. This would be our last day on the trail with our destination the Grotto trailhead a bit over 8 miles away but 3300 ft elevation loss. We consumed as much water as we could hold so that we were carrying no more than about 2 liters each. Wow, that really lightened the load, I felt like I could fly. The morning was really beautiful, we got to see the full moon set and followed by the sunrise and lots of color along the canyon walls. It was hard to keep moving because we were constantly stopping for pictures.
As we were about halfway down we all took stock of the trip as none of us had any blisters and no twisted ankles or sickness. We were really pushing to finish as we had made plans to retrieve my truck from our starting point then collect the rest of the crew, grocery shop then head for the north rim of the Grand Canyon. We really wanted to get there before dark to find a place to camp. Once we got down to the Virgen River, Collette, Dianne and myself all took off to a sandbar along the river and then jumped in to enjoy the cool waters for a few minutes.
We got our groceries for dinner then drove to the Grand Canyon making camp in the forest about 10 miles north of the north rim entrance. There were numerous forest dirt roads to choose from and plenty of firewood. While preparing dinner we gathered wood and got a fire lit. You could tell we were in for a cool night especially with the higher elevation of 8900 ft. On our drive in we found out that the fires we saw from Zion were actually prescribed burns at the north rim, about 90 miles by line of site distance from where we were in Zion. The campfire really felt good and we all sat out and had a few drinks and enjoyed the company and where we were at.
I was in my hammock for the night and awoke about 4am and could tell the temps had really dropped. I got out to make coffee about 4:45 and the temp was 26. I was really tempted to re-light our campfire but it would take precious water to put it out before we left so I let it be. I got the rest of the crew up at 5am and they were all wanting to know the temp before they got out of their tents. I refused to discuss it until they were standing out there with me.
After some more coffee and quick breakfast we re-packed my truck then took off to do some quick sightseeing at the north rim. This was my first time to see the Grand Canyon and it did not disappoint. We all got a bit of time to clean up in the bathroom sinks after 5 days of no bathing then climb into my truck about 11am for the 17+ hr drive back to Plano.
Another adventure of the beautiful outdoors and a truly magnificent part of our country with some really enjoyable company.
Our tracks across the park
https://drive.google.com/open?id=19zPZU ... sp=sharing
Some of my 300 pictures, enjoy
First Day on Angels Landing Trail
Near our BLM campsite called Red Ciffs
Collette just outside park entrance
Along the road where we cached out water
All saddled up and ready to move out, the hiking crew
Fist days trail
Approaching La Verkin creek
Dianne and Mark
Collette taking a break
La Verkin creek, our oasis in the desert
An arch just a short walk from first nights campsite
Waterfall after the rain
Dancing in the desert
Dianne putting on a show
The lovely lady trio
Near 2nd nights campsite on Northgate & Subway trails
Cold ladies morning 2
Along the trail day 2
Moonset day 4
Sunrise day 4
Starting our decent into Zion canyon
The virgin river at the bottom of Zion canyon at our finish.
Collette after our cool off swim
Dianne after the swim
North rim of Grand canyon
More north rim
The ladies at north rim