Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hiking in Zion Natl Park

I just returned from a fun trip to Zion Natl Park. I camped two nights in South Campground and then stayed one night at Flanigans Inn. I like South Campground because it is first-come, first-served. I've stayed there enough to know which spots are bad and which ones are great. This time I was in site 50 and it was somewhere in the middle. I have no complaints.

The campground host was genuinely flattered that I had discovered his personal blog and printed out the main page. I showed it to him. It was a handy conversation starter. The final night in the hotel gave me a chance to shower off the red sandstone dirt and soak my tired legs in a hottub. I've stayed at Flanigans many times, but the quality has gone downhill, so I plan to stay elsewhere on my next trip. I might try the Majestic View Lodge down the road. Although their website doesn't show the menu for their popular steakhouse. That's probably not a good sign.

My aim for this trip was to do more off-trail hiking on the east side of the park. In particular, I wanted to hike to 2 different spots, basically for photo ops. First, I wanted to hike to the top of a hill on the north side of Highway 9 that would give me a nice view of the tunnel entrance. Then the next day I planned to hike to another spot - detailed in a subsequent blog post. The Google Earth snapshot shows the hill on the right side of the roadway. The next photo shows the hill from the south (taken the next day while hiking down there - almost where the falcons were diving at me, but that's another story).

I parked in a turnout and hiked down the highway to the next tunnel, then I left the road heading north. The photo shows the rugged terrain from the roadside. My plan was to hike up that slick rock area to the northeast corner of the hill and then hike up a ridge to near the summit. After leaving the road, I wasn't too surprised to find a path and a lot of footprints. After I got a ways up there, I took the next photo looking back down at the road.

The next shot shows the ridgeline that I would walk up toward the top. I even encountered a hefty cairn half way up that. Unfortunately I also came upon a tricky spot that slowed me down quite a bit. I was probably being way too cautious, since it'd been a while since my last adventure on these steep hills.

I was bothered by the upward curve of the rock and the lip at the top. Plus I always have a much harder time going down than going up. Many times I can just lunge past these spots, knowing that I can half-run down and slow myself on a large flat area. But this spot had no such slow-down area. It was steep, and any overrun would result in a very very painful, long fall.

I took off my pack and changed into my new approach shoes. (more about those later) Then after surveying the spot from every angle, I carefully stepped up the easiest looking section. Then I could practice coming back down. OK, maybe it wasn't all that bad. It was, however, reassuring to have practiced the descent.

I continued up the hill toward the top. But I wasn't to see the top that day. I came upon a cliff and the only apparent path was a very narrow legde that went upward. I didn't even know if it would take me very far, since it rounded the top portion and I couldn't see around that direction. Then I was stopped by a small bush. I broke off some dead branches hoping to make it small enough to step over without causing me to teeter and fall (a long way down). But that wasn't enough.

Since I lack the peak bagger gene, I didn't rip the bush out and it didn't bother me that this route didn't take me to the top. I'll return another day and try another route that I spotted along the way.

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