Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hike to Hill Above Zion Tunnel Entrance

My second day of hiking began with a fun hike up to the top of a hill that overlooks the east tunnel entrance, where the ranger stops traffic. I marked my route on the Google Earth snapshot, along with a few comments. Parts of this hike are class 4, where, if you fall, you'll die.

I started from a dirt turnoff a short distance from the tunnel entrance. From there, a trail descends into the dry creek bed that I followed south into that canyon. The 1st photo shows, off in the distance, the sandstone incline that I hiked up to get to the higher elevations. That incline is very steep at times and is very dangerous. I've been up it several times and now I think I've figured out the easiest way up and down it.

The next shot shows the great view looking back down from almost the top of that steep hill. In the distance, you can see the hill that I attempted to climb the previous day. On this trip I was trying out my new shoes on the steep sections such as this. I got myself some approach shoes called Smedge by The North Face.

The new shoes worked great! Not only did they stick very nicely to the steep slopes, but simply changing shoes several times was nice since it let my feet rest and my socks air out and I could remove the tiny and annoying brush that always gets stuck in my socks. The next photo shows how the ground is often sloped. This is why good shoes are important. If you hike with me, then you'd better not get annoyed by the lack of flat ground. In many sections, the incline is too steep to walk up, but I've always been able to find a way. Thanks to the nature of this crosscutting sandstone formation, you can survey the area and always find a couple traverse paths that will get you where you want to go. It just takes a bit of patience.

This shot gives you an idea of what it looks like up on top of those rock formations. The colors all seem to blend together and it's hard to make out shapes and features. It helps me a lot when I wear my good sunglasses. My goal is to hike out to the end of that hill that's on the left side (middle) of the shot.

The next shots were taken from the top of that hill overlooking the ranger checkpoint at the tunnel entrance. The view was terrific and the weather was great. I've been up there when it's been over 100F and so this day was a very pleasant 78F or so. I played with the 12x zoom that my camera offers, so I included a few zoomed shots as well.

I could probably read the license plates if the angle allowed it. The next shot is the view to the west. You can see the highway after it exits the tunnel on the other side and begins its switchbacks down into the valley.

I've compressed these images, but haven't toyed with the saturation or anything else. I'll gladly share the original images with anybody who asks. I sat there for about 10 minutes enjoying a snack while admiring the view. It didn't surprise me that nobody pointed up at me from below. Very few people probably look up from down there.

The next shot is looking east. If you look really closely, you can almost make out my car. I've included a zoomed photo that I took of my car from there. It made me wonder how fun it'd be to ride a hang glider or zip-line down to my car from there.

It took me 2.5 hours to reach the end, and 1.5 hours to return. On the way back to the car, I wanted to test my new shoes so, I returned to a very very steep section at the bottom of that long steep hill that had stopped me on a previous trip (causing me to make a very long traverse to get around it).

You can see in the photo how steep it is. It's also the shortest path to the dry creek bed below which leads back to the car. I was very happy that the new shoes performed well on this hill. I was able to walk straight down it. It was practically too steep to traverse it because that caused my ankle to bend dangerously far.

All in all, this was a fun hike.

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