Failed Attempt at Fern’s Nipple

For day 6 of the trip (6/2/16), Trent and I drove to Capitol Reef NP after sleeping in following our night hike. Trent’s foot was much more sore, so he decided to sit things out for the day.

My original plan was to climb George BM from the Golden Throne trailhead (about 2 miles of trail followed by 2+ miles of off-trail navigating to the summit), and I actually ended up hiking about 200 yards up the trail before stopping and changing my mind.

I felt a little bad about letting Trent roast down by the car for 4-5 hours, and the late start meant we were already in for a late night heading back to Las Vegas.

Fern's Nipple from the road

Fern’s Nipple from the road

View from the west side of the national park

View from the west side of the national park

So instead, we drove a few miles back up Capitol Reef’s Scenic Drive and parked at the Cassidy Arch trailhead. My plan B was to climb Fern’s Nipple (7,067′) – one of the park’s classic off-trail scrambles. The distance was a little shorter than George BM, so I didn’t figure I’d be gone as long. I had a good topographical map of the area, but unfortunately hadn’t read up on this route very well. This would come back to burn me. Some of the notes below are for my own sake, in case I ever make it out to try this again.

My route in red (including some obvious attempts at routefinding), true route in blue (as best I can tell), crux of the route is the purple dot, photo of turnoff for true route (below) taken from yellow dot

My route in red (including some obvious attempts at routefinding), true route in blue (as best I can tell), crux of the route is the purple dot, photo of turnoff for the true route (see below) taken from yellow dot

I started by hiking a short distance northeast up the canyon, looking for the cairned turnoff on my right. After finding this without any trouble, I followed a faint use trail southwest (gaining a few hundred feet in the process) until reaching the entrance to Bear Canyon.

Ledges leading into Bear Canyon; go straight then turn left

Ledges leading into Bear Canyon; go straight then turn left. Parking area visible off to the right.

In order to enter Bear Canyon, you’re required to round a corner by traversing a narrow (maybe 12-14 inch wide) rock ledge. There’s quite a bit of exposure – a fall would almost certainly be be fatal here – but numerous good handholds on the sandstone to your left. This is the spot I marked with a purple dot on the map above. I recommend doing this section standing, facing the wall.

Fixed rope

Looking back at the fixed rope, from just inside Bear Canyon

Immediately after rounding the corner, you’ll find a fixed rope (assuming it’s still there) aiding a 20ish foot vertical drop onto a larger ledge below. I didn’t have any climbing gear with me, so it was fortunate someone had left the rope (thanks!).

Looking back at the entrance to Bear Canyon; route in red

Looking back at the entrance to Bear Canyon; route in red

Things got easier from here, as I followed the only obvious way forward across Bear Canyon and gradually up the other side. Shortly thereafter the route turned southward again before entering another small side canyon. I’m not positive, but I’m about 95% sure this is where I went off-route. The picture below was taken from the yellow dot on the map above, looking south. You can see my route in red. In hindsight, I think I should have moved higher up the band of cliffs at this point. I outlined a couple possibilities in blue. The higher of the two is probably a better bet, assuming it’s accessible.

Possible ways forward; Fern's Nipple visible in the distance

Possible ways forward; Fern’s Nipple visible in the distance

I continued forward oblivious, not realizing I hadn’t gone high enough up the canyon wall. I would end up spending the next 80-90 minutes searching for a way forward, which you can see as dead ends on the map. One spot in particular looked very promising from a distance, and I free climbed a few (small) cliffs to get there…only to find myself standing at the base of a 15-foot, smooth, vertical sandstone wall. Not climbable for someone like me.

Looking out over Capitol Reef

View to the north

I eventually decided to head back. I spotted the promising blue route (above) on my way back…and under different circumstances probably would have gone for it. But it was getting late in the day, Trent was probably getting bored back at the car, and the hot sun (mid/high 90’s) was starting to sap my energy.

Cassidy Arch in the distance

Cassidy Arch in the distance

On the way back, I spotted Cassidy arch on the other side of the canyon. Allison and I had hiked to the top of it a little over five years ago (read the blog post here). I managed to haul myself up and out of Bear Canyon with the aid of the rope – a little easier now that I was carrying a couple liters less water.

After making it back to the car, Trent and I made the long drive back to the Excalibur in Las Vegas (stopping by a good Mexican restaurant in Richfield on the way).

Published in: on June 10, 2016 at 9:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyons: Hiking by Headlamp

6/1/16 turned out to be a full day. To recap, we spent the morning driving 170 miles from Richfield to Moab. Then we spent the afternoon mountain biking, and had dinner. Then we drove another 100 miles to Goblin Valley State Park. Then we drove another 7 or 8 miles to the trailhead for Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyons, arriving shortly after sunset.

Hiking toward the canyons

Hiking toward the canyons

Together, the two canyons can be connected via an 8-mile loop. Since it was already getting dark, we left the car with the intention of checking out part of Little Wild Horse (a popular slot canyon) and coming straight back. Maybe 1 or 2 miles round trip. Somewhere along the way, though, we decided to just do the whole thing. Why not.

We didn’t have a map, and Trent had a badly sprained ankle…but we did have headlamps, water, and ibuprofen.

The route (we went counter-clockwise)

The route (we went counter-clockwise)

By the time we reached the slot portion of the canyon, it was almost completely dark.

Little Wild Horse slot canyon

Little Wild Horse slot canyon

It would have been pretty cool to see during the day. In the dark, it almost felt like we were back in Indiana spelunking. Except with a really impressive night sky.

Entering the slot canyon

Entering the slot canyon

In the slot

More slot canyon

The slot portion of the canyon was impressively long. Maybe 1.0-1.5 miles I would guess.

Ducking under a chockstone

Ducking under a chockstone

After a while the canyon widened out, and we were walking through a dry stream bed. I knew we’d eventually need to make a left turn in order to meet back up with Bell Canyon, but without a map we had no idea when/where that turnoff would be. We hoped it would be obvious enough when we saw it.

I could also make out plenty of footprints in the sand with my headlamp. I figured if the footprints disappeared, we’d know that we’d gone too far up the canyon.

And we got lucky. We nearly walked right past the turnoff in the dark. As you can see, it would have been impossible to miss in broad daylight.



The return trip wasn’t quite as impressive. Bell canyon had a few narrow sections and short downclimbs, but by this point we were both kind of sleepy. We made it back to the car around midnight, found a spot to pull off the road, and slept in the next morning.

Bell Canyon

Bell Canyon

Recap: 2018 start, 0003 finish

Published in: on June 9, 2016 at 8:06 pm  Comments (1)  

Goblin Valley State Park

This will be a short post, since we honestly didn’t do much hiking here. We made it down to Goblin Valley shortly before sunset on 6/1/16, just in time to explore some of the formations before dark.

Overall a very cool place.





Published in: on June 9, 2016 at 7:22 pm  Comments (2)  

Mountain Biking in Moab

On 6/1/16, Trent and I rented a couple mountain bikes and spent the afternoon on the Moab Brand trails just outside of Arches National Park. We rode all or part of the Bar M loop, Lazy-EZ loop, North 40, and Sidewinder. Sidewinder was probably our favorite. Fast and downhill. North 40 was also good, though it was slower and more technical.

Moab Brand Trails

Moab Brand Trails

I hadn’t ridden on mountain bike trails in 5-6 years, so it took me a half hour or so to get the hang of things.

Me on the Sidewinder

Me on the Sidewinder

We also got a little lucky with the weather. Highs in the low 90’s, but the forecast was calling for upper 90’s and 100’s over the following days.

Trent on the Sidewinder

Trent on the Sidewinder

Trent on the North 40

Trent on the North 40

Trent is definitely the better mountain biker. I got a few pictures and videos of him doing jumps, although he did sprain an ankle pretty badly on one of the landings.


One of the jumps

Here's the ankle injury

Here’s the ankle injury

After returning the bikes, we hit up one of the local brew pubs for some fish & chips (10/10 would go again) then drove down to Goblin Valley State Park for the evening. I’ll add those pictures to the next post.

Published in: on June 9, 2016 at 7:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Zion NP: Angel’s Landing and Cave Knoll

After picking Trent up at the Las Vegas airport, my plan had been for us to attempt South Guardian Angel on 5/31/16. This was probably my most anticipated climb of the trip, but unfortunately it fell through for a variety of reasons.

We had a few minor delays in Vegas, and didn’t make it to Utah until later than expected. On top of that, I had forgotten to account for the time change from Pacific to Mountain time. In order to have a chance at South Guardian Angel, I knew we’d need to get a very early start…so we were only looking at getting about 3 hours of sleep. I was still fighting off an infection and feeling a little worn down after 3 days of hiking and climbing, and my brother was exhausted coming off a 24 hour EMS shift followed by a full day of travelling.

So we decided to sleep in until 0830 the next day and take things easy. SGA will have to stay on the bucket list for now.

I came up with Plan B on the fly. I’d been to Zion twice before, but never hiked its most famous trail to Angel’s Landing (5,785′).

Angel's Landing, from below

Angel’s Landing, from below

After making the drive to Zion, we caught a shuttle to the trailhead and started the hike. I knew this was a popular hike, but we weren’t quite prepared for just how popular it was. There were hundreds of people up there, and we could only move as fast as the slowest person (not much room for passing).


It brought back memories of Disney World

The final 1/2 mile to the top took us about an hour, as we waited in line for everyone to make their way across the ledges.

The final stretch

The final stretch

I’m really not complaining though. It was a unique trail with awesome views. It just might need a permit system at some point to keep the crowds under control.

Crossing some ledges

Crossing some ledges

View from the top

View from the top

After finishing, we caught the shuttle back to our car around 1345. Since there was still plenty of daylight left, I wanted to show Trent another cool spot I’d discovered when I’d visited Zion six months earlier. We exited the park, drove back to Virgin, Utah, then followed the Kolob Rd north. We pulled off the road a couple miles before the Wildcat trailhead (where we had originally planned to depart for the South Guardian Angel climb), and I led the way to the top of Cave Knoll (6,495′).

On the way to Cave Knoll (South Guardian Angel in the background)

On the way to Cave Knoll (South Guardian Angel in the background)

The off-trail scramble to the top of Cave Knoll is probably the best 3 hour bang-for-your-buck hike in all of Zion. (Technically the bang-for-your-buck is infinite, since it’s in a no-fee area.) And the best part is that nobody seems to know about it. I’ve climbed it twice now, and neither time did I come across so much as a human footprint.

Stopping for a break

Stopping for a break

I mentioned that the route is off-trail. The distance is minimal and the navigation is pretty straightforward, but there is one minor “trick” involved. It’s described elsewhere online. If you don’t know it, you might run into some unnecessary pain and frustration. I decided not to mention it here, only because half the charm of this place is the relative solitude.

Heading toward the top of the knoll

Heading toward the top of the knoll

Most of the route can be walked, but there are a few short/easy class 3 sections.

Standing on the "summit"

Standing on the “summit”

Hiking through the maze of sandstone

Hiking through the maze of sandstone

Red Butte in the distance

Red Butte in the distance

After making it back to the car, we drove a few more hours to the hotel we’d booked for the night in Richfield, Utah.

Published in: on June 7, 2016 at 6:59 pm  Comments (1)  

Peak-Bagging in Zion NP

After interviews in Nevada (Wednesday) and California (Thursday), I had another day-and-a-half left before my flight back home. I had originally planned to spend Friday climbing Mt. Charleston (near Las Vegas), but saw that there had been a decent amount of snowfall over the previous few days. So I wasn’t sure what the conditions would be like.

Then I toyed with the idea of checking out Death Valley, but saw that there had been a massive mudslide in October. Apparently it wiped out some large sections of the park, and I didn’t want to deal with navigating road closures.

Since I was in California on Thursday, I also thought about checking out Sequoia and/or King’s Canyon…but the elevation meant lots of snow up in the mountains there as well.

I started driving back toward Vegas after my Thursday interview, with a vague plan to climb La Madre mountain in Red Rock Canyon. Sometime around 10pm I made a last-minute decision to instead head up to Zion National Park. Allison and I had visited there a few years ago, but there was still a lot of territory we hadn’t had a chance to explore. I caught about 3-4 hours of sleep in a Walmart parking lot on the outskirts of Vegas, then made the 2.5 hour drive to Zion early the next morning.

View along the Kolob Terrace Road

View along the Kolob Terrace Road

One of the two coyotes I bumped into

One of the two coyotes I bumped into

I started hiking from the Wildcat Trailhead, using the Northgate Peaks trail to access the saddle between East Northgate and West Northgate peaks. The climb to the top of East Northgate (7.153′) was pretty simple, even with the snow and ice. The views were top-notch.

Summit view looking south toward South Guardian Angel (left) and North Guardian Angel (right)

Summit view looking south toward South Guardian Angel (left) and North Guardian Angel (right)

View northwest toward Pine Valley Peak

View northwest toward Pine Valley Peak (the edge of West Northgate can be seen far left)

I climbed back down to the saddle, where I chatted for awhile with a couple other hikers.

That's me

That’s me

My next task was West Northgate (7,267′) via the north slopes route. This turned out to be a lot trickier, thanks to the patches of snow and ice covering much of the slickrock surface. I made it about two-thirds of the way to the top before deciding it was too risky to continue. I had no traction, and the smooth surface meant a lack of objects to break one’s fall.

The snow-covered route on West Northgate

The snow-covered route on West Northgate

After throwing in the towel on West Northgate, I spent another couple hours hiking out to Wildcat Canyon before returning to my car.

Wildcat Canyon

Wildcat Canyon

East Northgate, North Guardian Angel, and West Northgate (left to right)

East Northgate, North Guardian Angel, and West Northgate (left to right)

I made it back to my car around 2:30pm, and decided I had enough daylight left for one final peak. I opted for Cave Knoll (6,495′) since I knew it would offer some sweeping sunset views. Since there weren’t any trails in the immediate area, I had to park along the side of the road and bushwhack.

Pine Valley Peak (I think)

Pine Valley Peak (I think)

Last few hundred yards of the ridgeline

Last few hundred yards of the ridgeline

View from the summit

View from the summit

Looking back at the route...lots of fun scrambling and hoodoo-dodging

Looking back at the route…lots of fun scrambling and hoodoo-dodging

It was almost completely dark by the time I made it back. Glad to have had the headlamp, but didn’t really need it. Total distance for the day was something like 12-14 miles.

Sunset view

Sunset view

Published in: on November 15, 2015 at 10:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Capitol Reef National Park: Day Hikes

During our two days in Capitol Reef National Park, we took three relatively short day hikes: Cassidy Arch on Sunday morning (3.5 miles), Sulfur Creek on Sunday afternoon (3.0 miles), and Freemont Gorge Overlook on Monday afternoon (4.5 miles). We also ventured into the backcountry for a 14.0 mile overnight trip through Spring Canyon (discussed in a separate blog post).

On our way to the Cassidy Arch trailhead, we stopped to inspect some deserted mines along the cliff walls. When we approached near enough to read the signs, we saw that they were actually former uranium mines from the early 1900’s. The atomic bomb obviously hadn’t been invented yet, but the uranium was actually mined for its perceived ability to alleviate arthritis.

Warning sign

I’d already received my daily dose of vitamins with my breakfast cereal. Now that I had my daily dose of radiation, we were all set to get hiking.

The Cassidy Arch trail was probably our favorite of the three day hikes. After a steep upward climb (670’), the trail hugged the cliff edge before coming to an end directly over the gigantic arch.

Climbing to Cassidy Arch

Allison watching woman rappel down

Matt on the arch

Unfortunately, the only way to observe the arch from below is to rappel down the cliff. Another young couple was doing just that when we arrived. Their rope actually got caught at one point, so I got the honors of belly crawling to the edge and freeing it up.

Allison near the cliff's edge

Since it was still a bit too early to start on our backpacking trip, we killed some time hiking down Sulfur Creek and back. I honestly didn’t think it was all that impressive, particularly compared with what we’d see in Spring Canyon. Nice warm-up hike though.

Route to Sulfur Creek

After returning from our backpacking trip the next day and swinging by Subway for lunch, we drove back into the park to climb the Freemont Gorge Overlook trail (1090’ elevation gain). The view from the top was certainly worth the effort, which was considerable in this case. We had to climb fast to avoid some of the oncoming thunderstorms (successfully I might add).

Fremont Gorge Overlook trail

Interesting red rock

Fremont Gorge

Satirical attempt at artistic photography

We finished the hike around 4:00pm, just in time to play 9 holes of disc golf before dinner. The course was pretty unique, considering its proximity to the national park (2 miles or so). I definitely should have worn the hiking boots instead of my running shoes, however; a cactus needle easily penetrated the mesh and buried itself nearly an inch into the side of my foot.

Hole #6

Hole #9

After the disc golf, we shared a pizza and hit the road for Grand Teton National Park.

Approximate Total Distance: 11.0 miles (3 day hikes)

Published in: on May 24, 2011 at 3:01 am  Comments (3)  

Capitol Reef National Park: Backpacking

After discussing our backpacking options with a park ranger, we decided on a one-night trip through Spring Canyon. Some of the more ambitious routes we’d hoped to try were inaccessible due to flooding and road conditions. After a couple of morning hikes (mentioned in separate post), we loaded our packs and departed from the Chimney Rock trailhead around 3:00pm.

Route into Spring Canyon

We followed the Chimney Rock trail and a connection trail for several miles before reaching Spring Canyon. Although our route would lead us downstream, we decided to add a couple miles to the trip by first hiking upstream for a short while. We only ended up seeing two other people during our time in the canyon – a pair of day-hikers fleeing the afternoon storms. Even with ponchos and trash bags, we spent quite a bit of time cowering under rock crevices to stay dry.

Entering the canyon

Matt & Allison

Waiting out the rain

After a few hours of exploring, detouring, and backtracking, we decided to start looking for a campsite. I got this idea in my head that it would be fun to climb up out of the ~1000’ walls of the canyon and camp out on the rim…so poor Allison got dragged into a long and tedious climb. I say “dragged,” but she actually outpaced me most of the way (to be fair).

Halfway up the canyon wall

After 30-40 minutes of the mountain goat routine, we were rewarded with a flat, sheltered area overlooking the canyon below. I might have been sleeping outside the tent that night had we hauled the packs up there only to find some jagged, windswept rocks.

We still had an hour or so of daylight, so we pitched the tent, rigged a food line to keep away rodents, devoured our dinners, and took a few pictures.

Campsite, looking east

Cheese sandwich

I had to do a bit of climbing to get this one:

Best campsite ever

The next morning, we packed and set off around 8:00am. The climb down was a bit of a challenge, but it went rather quickly.

Climbing down from the rim

We hiked another ~5.5 miles down the canyon by noon, stopping periodically to take shelter when it rained.

Canyon floor

Canyon floor

The route was fairly easy, except for a few boulder-strewn sections and a narrow bypass trail along the rim of a deep slot canyon. We also had to wade barefoot through some moving water just before reaching the highway.

Scrambling through boulders

Slot canyon

One of the tricky sections

Although the hike technically ended at Highway 24, our car was parked another 7-8 miles down the road. The ranger who issued our permit had recommended hitchhiking back, so that’s what we did (sorry Mom…I had my KA-BAR close at hand though!). Twenty minutes and twenty cars later, a middle-aged man from southern California pulled over to give us a lift. We ended up back where we’d started around 12:30pm.

Approximate Total Distance: 14.0 miles (including highway walking and an estimate for backtracking and detours)

Published in: on May 24, 2011 at 2:26 am  Comments (4)  

Bryce Canyon National Park

We arrived in Bryce Canyon National Park around 2:30pm on Friday the 20th. Since this was still our “rest day,” we mostly just drove to the various lookout points in the park to take pictures.

Bryce Canyon from Inspiration Point

Natural Bridge

Rainbow over Ponderosa Canyon

Altogether, we only hiked two short trails totaling 1.2 miles (Piracy Point lookout and the Bristlecone Loop). These were located away from the canyon area and up in the higher pine forests, so there was still a good deal of snow cover.

Bristlecone Loop

Our original itinerary allowed for two days of hiking in Bryce Canyon, but we decided it was worth gaining an extra day by condensing this into a single mega-hike on Saturday. We got started shortly after 8:00am, and hit all the major trails in the canyon by 3:00pm – a total of 15.1 miles. Not too bad, considering the elevation changes, snack/picture breaks, and a stop for lunch.

We started with the Fairyland Loop, and then hiked sections of the Rim Trail, Queen’s Garden Trail, Peekaboo Loop, and Navajo Loop.

Fairyland Loop

The Fairyland Loop was considerably north of the main canyon, and included a short side-trip to the Tower Bridge. This was where we picked up our 3rd companion for the day – a bright blue bird with a mohawk. He stalked us for several hours looking for handouts, but I just tossed pebbles at him.

Tower Bridge

We also lucked out in finding a tiny little stream, which we used to refill the water bottles. After all the rain/sleet/snow/hail we’d seen earlier in the week, this was actually the first completely dry day of the trip. We needed more water than usual.

Filtering water

After lunch, we began hiking the network of trails in and around Bryce Amphitheater. Ironically, the Peekaboo Loop (which had been recommended by a Milwaukee law student back in Zion), was both the most scenic and least crowded trail in the park. It offered great views of the Wall of Windows and Cathedral rock formations, along with plenty of limestone fins and hoodoos.

Exploring Queen's Garden

Stopping for a break

Peekaboo Loop

Wall of Windows (in background)

Some hoodoos

We ended the day by climbing out through Wall Street and up the switchbacks to Sunset Point. We left Bryce around 3:30pm, bought gas and groceries, and set off for Capitol Reef National Park.

View into Wall Street

Approximate Total Distance: 16.3 miles

Published in: on May 21, 2011 at 11:07 pm  Comments (5)  

Zion National Park, Part 2

For our second day in Zion, we decided to try a canyon hike on the northernmost end of the park. Both our legs were slightly fatigued from a day of climbing, so we figured a nice, meandering walk along a creek would be best.

Entering Kolob Canyon

We decided on the 14.0 mile trail through Kolob Canyon to see the famous Kolob Arch – one of the largest natural sandstone arches in the world. We didn’t realize it at the time, but the trail also included 56 stream crossings (28 each way…and yes, I counted).

Allison crossing a stream

Before the rain started

The first 5 miles or so were great. The sun actually came out for awhile, and we made fairly good time. Around the time we stopped for lunch, however, it began to rain. We figured another 2 miles to the arch wouldn’t be a big deal, so I threw on a poncho and she pulled out a rain jacket and we set off.

Kolob Arch (and waterfall)

Matt: “Pop quiz. What’s the largest arch we’ve seen so far on this trip?”

Allison: “I think it was Landscape Arch, wasn’t it?”

Matt: “Incorrect. St. Louis Arch.”

Kolob Canyon

By the time we began our 7 mile return trip from the arch, the rain was really starting to come down fast…and it would stay that way until we made it back to the car. Zion has probably received two months worth of rain in the few days we’ve been here.

Trying to stay dry

Aside from being cold and wet, our progress was hindered by the muddy track that had once been a dirt trail. The real problem, however, was the rapidly increasing level of the creek we were following. What had once been a shallow, peaceful creek had transformed into a violent, churning river. Our stepping stones from the morning’s hike were all several feet underwater. These pictures should give you a pretty good idea of things:

Morning stream crossing

Afternoon stream crossing

Of the final ten crossings, only two were navigable by stepping stones. Another two were avoided by leaving the trail and cutting cross-country, though this provided challenges of its own. We were forced to scramble down several treacherous drop-offs, and my poncho was ripped to shreds by the undergrowth. For the remaining six crossings, our only real option was to hold hands and wade across – waist deep in the fast-flowing water. The picture above shows where we made the first crossing, but this was actually one of the mildest of the six.

Needless to say, we were both soaked and shivering when we finally made it back to the car. We were also pretty beat-up from hiking 25+ miles in 29 hours, so we decided to scrap our plans to ascend Angel’s Landing the next day and settle for a tamer hike.

After vacating the campsite Friday morning, we decided on a 3.0 mile hike to the lower, middle, and upper Emerald Pools. The pools were definitely scenic, but the trail was much more crowded than we’d seen on more “strenuous” hikes the previous two days (except for one other couple, Kolob Canyon had been completely deserted after the rain started).

Upper Emerald Pool

Nonetheless, this was definitely a nice break from our brutal hiking schedule. After another brief 0.2 mile climb to see The Patriarchs (3 peaks named Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), we ate some lunch and made the two hour drive to Bryce Canyon.

The Patriarchs

Approximate Total Distance: 17.2 miles

Published in: on May 21, 2011 at 12:54 am  Comments (5)  

Zion National Park, Part 1

After spending Tuesday night in a motel, Allison and I decided to stock up on groceries before driving the rest of the way to Zion. The weather once again refused to cooperate, alternating between snow, hail, and rain for virtually the entire day.

Campsite in Zion (2 nights)

We didn’t arrive at the park until around 11:00am, and by the time we set up camp and took a shuttle to the Weeping Rock trailhead it was close to 1:00pm. On the upside, the cold and rainy weather meant that the trails were practically deserted. For our first hike of the day, we took a 0.5 mile roundtrip climb to the “Weeping Rock” overlook. Supposedly the cliff face oozes water throughout the summer, but today it was producing a full-blown waterfall (sobbing rock?).

The next hike – Observation Point – began in the same area. The trail consisted mostly of switchbacks carved into the sides of cliffs, gaining 2148’ in elevation over the course of 4 miles. There was also a brief section through a slot canyon, requiring hikers to shimmy along the sandstone wall to avoid falling into a stream (we had to assure a trio of reluctant German backpackers that this was, in fact, the only way forward).

View from the switchbacks

Dodging waterfalls

The views from the east rim of the canyon were pretty spectacular, despite us having to fight through a miniature hailstorm on the way to the summit.

View from Observation Point

Allison at Observation Point

Stopping for a rest

Toward the end of our return trip, we realized that it was only about 5:00pm…so we decided to branch off the main trail to explore the “Hidden Canyon” side route. Most of this 2.4 mile excursion isn’t actually considered a maintained trail, so hikers like us get the pleasure of climbing and scrambling through a slot canyon.

Navigating Hidden Canyon

The canyon itself wasn’t particularly challenging (the water level had fallen considerably as the rain slackened off during the afternoon). The fun part was actually the exposed climb over to the canyon, which was made all the more difficult by the wet and slippery sandstone.

Dry sandstone? Easy

Wet sandstone? Not so much

Approximate Total Distance: 11.3 miles (Weeping Rock + Observation Point + Hidden Canyon + Campground Trail)

Published in: on May 20, 2011 at 11:16 pm  Comments (5)  

Arches National Park

After a day-and-a-half of driving (including a night in Kansas with Aunt Rachel and Cousin Dustin), Allison and I arrived in Moab, Utah shortly before dark. We decided it would be fun to camp out the first night, so we drove up into the mountains of Manti-La Sal National Forest a few miles away, pulled off the road, and pitched our tent right as the sun went down.

Campsite (Mt. Peale in background)

Allison cooking dinner

The next morning we found ourselves caught in a snowstorm, which gradually turned into a rainstorm as we descended into the valley. Though it only lasted a few hours, this was hardly the kind of weather we expected for our first day in the desert.

For our morning hike, we decided on a 7.2 mile trip through Devil’s Garden. This is actually the longest maintained trail in the park, and offers views of Tunnel Arch, Pine Tree Arch, Landscape Arch, Navajo Arch, Partition Arch, Black Arch, Double-O Arch, Private Arch, and several smaller unnamed arches. By the time we finished, my poor belly was requesting a trip to the golden arches (it had to settle for tuna salad).

Landscape Arch

Partition Arch

Double-O Arch

The trail itself reminded me a bit of Garden of the Gods in Southern Illinois, with plenty of climbing, scrambling, and exposed cliffs. Rather than following your typical dirt/gravel trail, much of the route traversed wide stretches of slickrock and was marked by strategically-placed rock cairns.

(That's me)

Natural bridge over Devil's Garden

Devil's Garden

Trail marker

"Cliff? What cliff?"

In the afternoon, we decided on a 3.0 mile hike up to the famous Delicate Arch. On the way, we got to see a late-1800’s cabin and some Native American petroglyphs. It was only 4:00pm when we finished, so we decided to drive partway to Zion National Park rather than stay another night near Moab.

Allison & her hiking hat

Delicate Arch


We’ll be hiking in Zion Wednesday-Friday, so expect another update later this week.

Approximate Total Distance: 10.2 miles

Published in: on May 17, 2011 at 11:55 pm  Comments (7)