Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Zion Day 4: The Zion Traverse West Rim/Cabin Spring - the Grotto

My last morning on this leg of my trip, sunrise from campsite one wasn't too shabby. After Cabin Spring the trail heads down the canyon, stunning views as usual. Soon enough I could see Angels Landing to my south, although I didn't realize what it was.

looking down on Angel's Landing 
I think I made it to the turn off about the same time as the first shuttle load of hikers. Hiking down I couldn't see any people but as I stashed my backpack at Scout's Lookout a good 10-15 people were starting to head towards the landing.

If you aren't familiar with Zion this hike has quite the reputation (not a hike for solitude), complete with signs that mention you can die when you fall off cliffs. After Scouts Landing the trail climbs over 500 feet on a narrow spine. Many sections are super exposed and you can look down both sides of the canyon below, there are chains to help your travel and a few small landings to let people pass and catch your breath. Definitely not for those with a fear or heights.

people heading up to the top

and I'm so very far from the ground...

and the top

looking back up the canyon

The trail was starting to get crowded but well worth the spectacular views. I tuned out the high school lecture I was stuck behind (man I'm jealous of that field trip) and enjoyed my morning side trip. Down was much scarier than the climb up but less than half a mile and I was back to my backpack and heading down the final 2 miles to the Zion shuttle stop at the Grotto.

The entire trail down was paved and some pretty spectacular engineering went on there. Known as "Walter's Wiggles" the CCC of the 1930's deserves some major credit for that trail building. I made it down, enjoyed bathrooms with running water and caught the shuttle back to the visitors center.

looking back up at the Landing
I had been plotting what to do with my last day in Zion on hike down and headed into the visitor center hoping for good news about the Narrows. Hiking up the Narrows is tricky. Its all river walking and requires no permit to start from the bottom and hike the first 5 miles but then you have to turn around. If you want to hike the whole thing you have two options. You can hike from the top down which requires a shuttle and can try for a long 16 mile day or camp in one of the 12 sites on the upper half of the river. I had been too cheap to think about setting up a second shuttle during my initial plans but the Narrows sounded worth it. I had read permits went fast so crossing my fingers I headed to the permit desk. The nice ranger laughed and said he had a ton of permits, did I want a day hike or a campsite? I'd been thinking day hike but after some quick math figured I could have an easy 11 mile first day and with a quick 5 miles on my second morning I could still get back to my car and on the road to Reno within a reasonable amount of time (plus then I'd get another night of camping). Permits picked I walked back towards my car and the Zion Adventure Company hoping I could snag a last minute shuttle for the next morning.

What proceeded was a lot of hours of me running in circles and battling with myself about cost and logistics. Long story short minimum shuttle passengers are 2, and I am clearly solo. So I would have to pay double. Plus the water temps were still in the 40's in the Virgin River and I was told hypothermia is a real risk and renting cold weather gear was a must. Things changed a few times but after a few trips around town I finally rented some gear and switched shuttles to head out at 9:30 with a mystery couple the next day. I didn't have to pay for an imaginary friend and I was going to have a nice and easy late start.

After all the logistical shenanigans and a nice nap I figured I had enough time for a little more exploring. I walked back to the park and grabbed the shuttle. I went on the very short weeping rock trail and then back to the shuttle.

and yes the rock was weeping...

Back on the shuttle I realized I was pretty darn tired and vetoed any more hiking. I decided to stop at the Court of the Patriarchs. I'd only seen them as the shuttle had driven past on its loop but the rocks were pretty amazing. I had a book and my dinner and spent the last few hours of daylight enjoying the view and the Virgin River.

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