I was planning a trip in September to the Southern Utah Parks for some hiking and photography. Work got in the way in September, sort of, so leaving cold Idaho in November ended up being a good choice.
I left Pocatello early on Wednesday morning, the 19th, a straight shot down I-15 to the exit for Zion National Park, just north of St. George, Utah. Itís about 28 miles from there to Springdale. Springdale sits at the south entrance to Zion. I had reservations for 5 nights at the Watchman Campground in Zion. My only plans were to pick up a permit to hike the Subway by 4:30 at the Visitor Center for a hike the next day with a friend, meet Waymon (TexGX from the Forum) who was coming in on Friday night and make it to Bryce sometime after I left Zion. Other than that, my plans were flexible.
The Watchman Campground wasnít too full the week prior to Thanksgiving and I pretty much had my choice of camp sites, with the exception of the ones along the Virgin River, that runs on the west side of the campground. The campground and restrooms were clean and quiet. There was some construction going on at the parking area of the Visitor Center but it didnít seem to be an issue. There is a foot bridge from the campground to the north end of town that crosses the river. A market, brew pub and outfitter are just across the bridge. The outfitter has showers which came in handy as the campground doesnít have any.
The YURT at the Watchman Campground
Hiking the Subway trail and seeing the amazing slot canyon has always been on my bucket list. Iíve seen many images of the Subway and not only wanted to see if for myself, but capture my own images to hang on the wall. The Subway requires a permit to hike, whether you hike from the top down or the bottom up. The top down is a technical route requiring ropes and canyoneering knowledge, none of which I have much experience with, so a hike from the bottom up, a non-technical route that follows the creek up into the slot canyon, was my best option. A friend from work met me at the campground Wednesday night late and with permit in hand, left the trailhead at first light on Thursday morning. The trail descends about 400 feet into the canyon and then follows an unmarked path up the Left Fork of North Creek. The trail is not maintained and can be hard to find at times. It crosses the creek many times and in some cases, you just walk in the creek. Once you get to the Subway and take in the view, you turn around and retrace your steps back to the parking area. Upstream, past the Subway, you enter the upper slot canyon and you will go swimming/wading as it gets deep in places and ropes will be required. The Subway was everything I expected. A beautiful location made by millions of years of water erosion. We plan to hike it from the top down once we find someone who knows a little more about canyoneering than we do.
On the way back through town we found a shower at an outfitter next to the Zion Pizza and Noodle Company and then walked across the parking lot and had pizza. I highly recommend the Zion Pizza and Noodle Company. We were told it was the best pizza in town and it didnít disappoint.
After a 1/2 mile hike through the trees you get to the rim of the canyon. The Left Fork of North Creek is at the bottom. Once down into the canyon, you just follow the creek up stream.
Along the canyon just below the Subway.
Entrance into the Subway.
As you enter the Subway the water steps down through pools carved out over the years.
This is the classic shot of the Subway. This is looking back down stream around the bend in the canyon wall.
On Friday we rented dry bibs, water boots, neoprene socks and a hiking stick from the outfitter across from the bridge coming from the campground and headed for the Narrows. The Narrows is one of the hikes most books/magazines claim as one of the best hikes in America. If you hike the entire 16 miles from the top down it requires a permit and an overnight stay in the canyon. If you hike from the end of the Zion Canyon road, no permit is required, but you can only hike into the canyon about 4 miles to Big Springs. Beyond that, a permit is required. We walked the 1 mile Riverside Walk to the mouth of the slot canyon and then headed into the water and the canyon. Most of the route is in the water with only a few places where the Virgin River leaves dry ground to walk on. We hiked about 2 Ĺ miles through the canyon, turned around and then on the way back hiked up Orderville Canyon until we ran into a pool of water that was too deep for our bibs. A great hike and one we need to return to do next year and hike all the way to Big Springs.
A little color on the trees still.
My friend Mat in the Narrows.
Another shot showing the scale of the place.
Orderville Canyon, a side canyon that runs into the main Narrows.
Waymon (TexGX) came in on Friday night from Phoenix and had a camp site in the same camp loop that I was in. After we all met for the first time we headed across the foot bridge to the brew pub for dinner. My friend headed home on Saturday morning and I took the day off and spent it in town and relaxing around camp. I met Waymon for dinner at his camp on Saturday night.
The next morning Waymon and I went on a hike to the Lower, Middle and Upper Emerald Pools and then followed another trail down to the Zion Lodge for cold cinnamon rolls (inside joke). No one serves cold cinnamon rolls, right?
Sunset from camp.
Waymon on the Emerald Pools trail Sunday morning.
On Sunday late morning we left in the YETI (Waymonís SMB) and drove to the east side of the Park for some exploration and then in to Kanab for lunch. The east side of the Park is completely different than the main canyon. The colors have more yellows and the terrain is flatter, not flat by any means, but rolling hills and smaller cliffs than the red rock and the steep cliffs of the canyon.
The YETI from a distance.
Waymon walking through a tunnel under the highway.
Sunday night was spent around the fire roasting Peeps, a TexGX specialty and a first for me. It sounds a little odd, roasting Easter candy, but they are really good. A little like marsh mellows but with a crunchy coating. Did I describe them adequately Waymon?
Waymon at the campfire getting ready to roast Peeps.
We left early on Monday morning and drove to Kanab to the Grand Staircase-Escalante Visitor Center to experience the lottery for a wilderness permit to hike the The Wave. The Wave, located in North Coyote Buttes, is another world famous hike about an hour East of Kanab off of Highway 89. The hike starts in Utah and, if seeing the Wave, takes you into Arizona and then back to the trailhead. They allow only 20 people a day into the North Coyote Buttes area. 10 permits are given out by advance reservations, 4 months ahead of time, and 10 are given out as walk-ins. To try to get a permit you meet at the Visitor Center at 8:30 and file into a room and fill out the application. Each group is given a number and the numbers are drawn bingo style. There were 110 people hoping for a permit, 45 applications total. Luck was not with us that day so we left empty handed.
We drove east on highway 89 to Page, Arizona, about an hour away and stopped at the Visitor Center prior to crossing the bridge over the Colorado River, and then headed to Antelope Canyon located on Highway 98 a couple of miles east of Page. Antelope Canyon is on Navajo land and the only way to see the slot canyons is to take a guided tour. We toured through the Upper Antelope Slot Canyon and were impressed with the tour and the canyon. Itís amazing what water can do.
The SMBs at the Visitor Center outside of Page.
North Antelope Canyon.
Next we headed for Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River. Horseshoe Bend is located just south of Page on Highway 89. Just like the Subway, Iíve seen many pictures of Horseshoe Bend and wanted to get my own images while in the area. I was hoping for a decent sunset but it wasnít happening. The sky was completely blank and uninteresting so the pictures werenít what I was hoping for. Mother Nature is in charge so I just cropped out most of the sky.
We stayed at Wahweap Marina on Lake Powell on Monday night. We had a good view of the lake, clean bathrooms and hot showers. The next morning we had breakfast in Page and said goodbye. Waymon headed south toward home and I headed toward Bryce Canyon.
Wahweap Marina camping. A 2006 6.0 4x4 on the left and a 2003 7.3 4x4 on the right.
Breakfast in Page prior to our departure.
I really enjoyed meeting Waymon and spending time talking about our rigs and getting to know each other. We are tentatively planning a spring trip to Southeast Utah/Southwest Colorado. Weíll make plans later and let everyone know. Hoping others can join us.
I left Page and headed west on Highway 89. I thought I had read where Cottonwood Road was a one way road from north to south. I turned on the road from the south to read the sign expecting it to say itís one way. Nothing said one way so I headed north up the 46 mile dirt road to Connonville on Highway 12. The scenery was not as impressive in the first 15 miles or so and the road was a little wash-boarded but the north two thirds of the drive was great.
Beginning of the Cottonwood Road.
Rocks and rig along the route.
Some of the landscape.
Grosvenor Arch is a side trip about a mile or so off the main route.
Another shot of the landscape.
I turned west on Highway 12 and drove the 15 miles or so to Bryce Canyon. The Best Western Rubyís Inn had 16 grassy spots behind the hotel that had electrical hook ups. It was quiet, only 4 others were staying there, and it had bathrooms, showers, wi-fi and the use of the hotel pool and hot tub. I took advantage of all of it except the pool. I ran into Nick (Forum member) and his wife on Wednesday along the Sunset Rim Trail. I saw a SMB in the parking lot and new Nick was going to be in the area. I was hoping to run into him. He must have seen me pull in because he recognized me on the trail. I stayed Tuesday and Wednesday nights and ate Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel restaurant before heading toward home.
Camp at Ruby's Inn RV Park
Tuesday evening at the Amphitheater.
Wednesday morning sunrise.
Thanksgiving sunrise. They call this the Sinking Ship.
Also Thanksgiving morning. Thor's Hammer.
After an early dinner I headed east on Highway 12 through Escalante where the road turns north to Torrey and Highway 24. I had never been through this route and I wasnít disappointed. The scenery was beautiful with lots of vistas and various colors of rock cliffs and canyons. It took longer than expected but I did stop and take quite a few pictures.
Highway 12 runs through the town of Escalante, as do the deer. Shot through the windshield as they were crossing the highway in downtown Escalante.
The Henry Mountains in the distance.
A couple of images along Highway 12.
It was getting dark as I approached Torrey and the deer were out and about. I turned west on Highway 24 at Torrey, Utah and was still in the city limits when a dog, chasing a deer through the front yard of a house, was running toward the SMB. I saw it outside the passenger side window running fast and was hoping it would veer to the back and miss the van. A second later I heard a thud. The deer slammed into the passenger side, just in front of the rear tire. It put two dents in the SMB and busted the fender flare. It also popped one side of the door galley wall out of place.
Photos of the damage to the SMB.
After pulling the deer from the road I headed west on Highway 24. The drive was slow due to all the deer. I sort of looked for a place to boondock but wasnít really in the mood anymore. At this point I was ready to be home. I drove up Highway 89 to I-15 at Spanish Fork and got a motel late Thursday night. I headed home on Friday morning up I-15.
Long post and lots of pictures but it was a great 10 day trip over roads and through some terrain that I had never seen. Went on some classic hikes, was able to photograph and see some iconic places and met two other forum members.
Waymon (TexGX), it was good to spend some time with you and look forward to a spring trip. You owe me a brisket and potato dinner.
Thanks for letting me share my trip.