Sunday, April 27, 2014

Zion Day 2: The Zion Traverse, Lee Pass - Hop Valley

First a little background on my plan, traditionally the Zion traverse is a multi-day backpacking trip (or a popular day long ultrarun) that connects several of Zion's trails into one long route from one corner of the park to the other, roughly 47 miles one way from Lee Pass to the East Rim. I had a shuttle to the starting point and decided to cut out the last 10 or so miles, skipping the East rim and heading out via Angels landing and the Grotto. Squeezing in one of the popular day hikes as part of my trek and letting me finish off at a handy free shuttle spot in the park not out in the far away reaches of the east rim (an area definitely not served by the free Zion shuttle). That way I could easily end up back in Springdale and near my car and figure out what else I wanted to do from there.

I rolled out of my car, ate a quick breakfast and threw the last of my gear together. I headed over to the store and my morning shuttle stop and along with a few others hopped on the van and headed out.

The Zion adventure Company had it all set up for us, we dropped 2 folks off to do a different trail and then 5 of us were able to cache some water at the Hop Valley Trailhead and then finally headed over to Lee Pass. This was quite the circuit and was at least 2 hours worth of driving. Still getting to see the Kolob Road and caching water was well worth the time.

Our permits were checked at the Kolob visitors center where I was mistaken for a guide. So apparently I look like I know what I'm doing, or maybe its just the sloppy sleeping in my car hiker trash vibe I apparently still have. Either way I thought it was pretty funny (and hey, who doesn't like being mistaken for a guide?) Soon enough I was on my way. Within a mile or two I passed the other two couples who had been on the shuttle and was thankfully welcomed into a much quieter side of Zion. I passed a few small creeks in the shadow of more giant rock. Watched thunder clouds start to build and made my way towards La Verkin Creek.

I passed a few other folks but it was pretty peaceful. A huge change from my time in the main canyon the day before. The colors of the rocks are amazing and the trees flare neon green in the sunlight. La Verkin creek was beautiful to walk by and a few springs/creeks were flowing with delicious cold water. For views and swimming holes alone I'd be tempted to camp at site 6 but I was glad I had farther to go, the sandy sections of trail were pretty much the only downer of my morning. It was still early in the day and I was excited to see more of the park.

I made the quick side trip (maybe a mile?) to see the Kolob Arch. A little more creek scrambling than I expected but a pretty view.

I crossed the creek and said goodbye to my creekside trail. Soon enough I was climbing up the Hop Valley trail, enjoying my clouds, a few more snakes and a little more sandy trail than I wanted. The climb was short and the views just got better. Then it was time to drop down into Hop Valley, across the shallow creek and down more sandy trail.  Minutes later I had made it to campsite B, my home for the night.

can you find the gopher snake?

In a nice shady grove I sat down debating my afternoon. It was still early and I felt like I could keep hiking but after snacking I found myself eyeing the approaching thunderstorm and thinking taking it easy didn't actually sound that bad. Soon enough I was passed out sleeping for a good 2 hours. Guess a short day wasn't such a bad idea for my sleep deprived self. I felt surprisingly exhausted for only 10.5 miles of hiking but after my nap at least I was up for some exploring.

my campsite tucked into the trees
I crossed the cattle fence (apparently this sucker runs the length of the park, pretty darn impressive) and got a better feeling for Hop Valley itself. I feel like this section of trail has an undeserved bad reputation. All I had read was negative, regarding cattle grazing and contaminated water. Maybe it's because I grew up hiking in areas where cattle grazed and filtering cow pond water was the norm, but I thought the area was beautiful.

the creek bed had been flowing a few hours earlier, on my second pass the creek had receded leaving dry sand

A relaxing end to my afternoon, reading and watching the very active local turkey waddle around. I hid under some trees while a little bit of rain spit down and enjoyed another cloud filled sunset. My plan for my second day is around 24 miles so it will be an early start with me trying to avoid expected highs of 88 and pretty much zero water sources other than my cache 5 miles into the morning and a mystery spring along wildcat canyon trail.


  1. You always take great pictures! Thanks for that. What camera do you use? Is your trail name camera related or on a drive to do something? I never heard how you got your name when you were on the PCT.

    Cheers...and thanks for sharing. Beautiful country.


    1. Thanks! I've only ever used my phone for my pictures. iphone 4S, I think about taking something fancier but figure the phone seems to get the job done no problem.
      As far as the name goes, Opus named me. The name had been sort of tentative at first but became pretty official at the Andersons. The running joke was my name was Focus, or lack thereof. I can be very focused and serious in real life but on the trail I seem to have more than my fair share of scatterbrained moments. Not too exciting of a story but it made perfect sense at the time.

  2. Very cool on the phone...I use a 5S and have come to the same conclusion that the phone is pretty darn good, particularly with all the photo apps. You've got to be using some sort of HDR app or setting yes? I'm a huge fan of "HDR Pro" app to get the rich colors in the shadows and the deep blue skies at the same time. By the way...I met you on the PCT at Odell Lake/Shelter Cove and called you by your real name rather than your trail name that I didn't even know at the time as I was following your blog. I wasn't hiking but just vacationing at the lake and had driven the boat over to Shelter Cove to see if any PCT hikers were around. It was fun to meet a blog author there. :-) Just read your post from the "cliff" day you just put up today....absolutely stunning photos and experience. Not for the faint of heart. Great trip and thanks for the post!


  3. Hi Maya,

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    Happy Hiking!
    The friendly hikers at Sidewalk