Utah & Nevada (Sep 13-16, 2013)

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Conditions: Day hikes
Gear: day packs and lots of water
Map: USGS Temple of Sinawava, USGS Veyo, USGS Valley of Fire West, USGS Kolob Arch
Area: SW Utah, Lake Mead area of Nevada
Reference: Photographing the Southwest: Volume1-Southern Utah
Stats: 20.67mi, 4179' gain (for all days combined)


I needed to be in the "area" for a other reasons so I took the opportunity to fly out early and enjoy and extended weekend in the Southwest in mid-September. September is usually a good time to be in the Southwest. The temps have started to moderate and some early Fall color starts to show up in places like Zion. I wasn't sure about the weather though. SW Utah looked to be right on the edge of the epic rainfall event happing in Colorado. I might run into some unstable weather.

Well, I found out that I was on the edge of the unstable weather but thankfully, I didn't get chased out of any of my hikes by rain or thunder/lightning. Due to the fairly persistent flash flood warnings I also decided that a trip to Yant Flat was probably not a good idea. I did find out that the temps really hadn't moderated much. My entire time in the area the lowest temp I saw was 89F and the highest was 103F. I was cooking pretty much the whole time I was there. I also decided not to bring camping gear on this trip. Just too much to pack for a short trip.

scout_overlook_coverScout Overlook (Zion NP)
Sep 13, 2013

Scout Overlook Slideshow

I figured Angels Landing would be a popular/busy hike. So, I figured a trip during the week, even if a Friday, was better than one on the weekend. Well...I hope I was right. I can't imagine what the crowds are like on weekend and/or during peak season in the park. This trip was crawling with hikers. There must have been several hundred out this day. Wow.

The TH to this hike is up Zion Canyon Scenic Drive which is only "drivable" from Nov-Mar. From end of March to beginning of November, the only way to get up the road, other than by foot or bike, is by shuttle. So many people visit this park during peaks season that the shuttle is the best way to get up and down the road. The shuttle runs from about 7am until 10pm and pretty much if you miss a shuttle you won't have more than a 10-20 wait for the next one. The shuttle system really does work and its GREAT.

I arrived at the park early remembering from a previous trip there that the parking areas within the park fill up early. If you aren't there before 10am...forget about it. You'll likely have to park in Springdale and that the Springdale to Zion shuttle to get into the park. I parked near the Visitor Center, settled up the gear (mainly packing lots of water) and then caught the next shuttle up the drive. I was dropped off at the Grotto, walked across the road then then headed up the trail. It was early but gosh...it was hot...90F+. I rested and hid in the little bits of shade I could find. The trail is in the open for the first part. It's only when the trail enters Refrigerator Canyon that I finally got some real shade and cooler temps. Inside the canyon the trail flattens for a short stretch before starting up Walters Wiggles, the famous steep switchbacks, up to the overlook. The switchbacks are short and steep but don't go on for too long before the trail arrives at a short flat area atop the mesa before the ridge narrows again and heads up the final stretch to Angles Landing.

My original plan was to hike up to the landing but holy cow...the crowds. The ridge was crawling with people like it was covered in ants...and this was a weekday and after Labor Day! I honestly just didn't want to bother with the crowds. Jostling with a couple of hundred other hikers on a narrow and exposed trail is not my idea of fun. Instead, I found a spot away from the bulk of the crowds and had a nice overlook to Zion Canyon below where I ate a quick lunch before heading down.

Stats: 4mi (round trip to the overlook), elevation gain unknown (GPS couldn't track in such a deep and narrow canyon).
 
scout_overlook_map
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snow_canyon_sp_coverSnow Canyon SP (Utah)
Sep 14, 2013

Snow Canyon SP Slideshow

Ingunn suggested I visit Snow Canyon SP. To be honest, I'd never heard of it so I looked it up online. It looked pretty darned nice so I penciled it into my itinerary.

Snow Canyon SP is just NW of St. George, UT. I entered, paid my $6 day use fee at the date and then pondered what to do. I had a few sites I'd written down when I was trip planning. The first stop was at Jenny's Canyon. It's a mini slot canyon and when I say mini...I mean mini. Round trip from the car couldn't have been more than a mile. But it was nice to get back into the sandstone of the southwest and that felt good.

Next stop was the Sand Dunes. Again, not a huge hike since the dunes are right off the road. Still, this was pretty weird seeing sand dune inland and not along a coast.

Third stop was Hidden Pinyon Trail. This is a nice scenic nature trail about 1/y way up the drive into the park. The trail connects with other trails so I meandered around a bit. Lots of interesting stuff back hear. Cacti, sandstone, lizards, late blooming desert flowers.

I headed back to the car, drove further north up the park drive and stopped at Petrified Dunes. This was a neat stop. Lots of fun time spend photographing the dunes/rock. The views downs into Snow Canyon are really amazing.

Lava Flow Overlook was the final stop. I hiked this trail to the openings of lava tubes. The geology of this place really intrigued me and I did pick up a book on the geology of SW Utah from the SP Visitor Center. Along this trail is exposed lava from a "recent" eruption about 1.5M years ago. It really is weird to see all this sandstone and lava flows in the same area. I headed down to the Lava Flow Overlook and then backtracked up to the junction with the Whiterocks trail and hiked this for a ways. I found a nice spot off trail (on rock) that overlooks the canyon where I sat in a bit of shade for a bit and then had some lunch.

I found it was pretty easy to fill up most of a day inside the park. I did have some time for something later in the afternoon so I make a decision to head back up to Zion and do an evening hike up Emerald Pools.

Stats: 4.41mi, 694' gain (for all the ramblings I did)
 
snow_canyon_sp_map
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emerald_pools_coverEmerald Pools (Zion NP)
Sep 14, 2013

Emerald Pools Slideshow

I had a bit of the afternoon and some evening time to fill up. Zion is only about 40 minutes out of St. George and the trip is short so I headed up there for an easy hike to fill my the rest of my day. I arrived at the park late enough that lots of the day use crowds had started leaving and I was able to find some parking at the Visitor Center. I got a ride of the park shuttle and got dropped off at Zion Lodge. It's a short walk across the street, then over a footbridge over the Virgin River and then up the trail.

Looks like they are working on a stretch of the trail to the pools. Maybe a recent washout? The trail to the pools is detoured to another trail at one point but you are able to get to lower, middle and upper pools.

Nice short hike. The late afternoon temps were still warm but more pleasant than the hike up to Scout Overlook. On the way back to Zion Lodge I was lucky (maybe not) to spot a tarantula. Boy are those spiders big. Interesting but creepy all at the same time. I was back at the shuttle stop about 7:30pm and rode it back to the Visitor Center. On the ride back dark clouds started moving in overhead. On the drive back to St. George I hit a really nasty rain stop and the sky lit up with a pretty spectacular thunder and lightning show.

Stats: 1mi, 200' gain (round trip).
 
emerald_pools_map
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valley_of_fire_sp_coverValley of Fire SP (Nevada)
Sep 15, 2013

Valley of Fire SP Slideshow

Another suggestion for this trip (thanks Deb) was Valley of Fire SP. This was on the edge for as far as I wanted to drive, about 1hr 40m from St. George. It's south on 15 and located north of Lake Mead. I wanted an early start. The heat on this trip wasn't letting up. I arrived at the "gate" to the park, paid my fee, and entered. The first mini hike was to Elephant Rock which is just inside the park entrance. I headed further into the park, did another short micro hike to a petrified log and then a short visit to the Cabins (old CCC era cabins) and then headed over to the Visitor Center. The sign at the door said the high for the day was expected to be 98F, the low 71F. I'd brought 7 quarts of water and hoped it was enough.

Just like Snow Canyon, this state park visit was a series of short hikes. Likely the best thing to do with such hot temps and lack of shade. After a stop at the VC I headed up Mouse's Tank Road to my next stop, Petroglyph Canyon. I arrived about the same time as a huge busload of foreign tourists. I lingered around at first hoping they would amble on further up the "trail". They moved slow but that gave me plenty of time to photograph many of the petroglyphs. I've honestly never been anywhere where I've seen so much "writing on the walls". It really was interesting. It's been fun matching up some of the symbols I'd seen on the walls with those I found in a book on petroglyphs. Before seeing this little pocket guide, I'd never realized how many different symbols there were and that they were uses not just as a type of spiritual symbol but also as a ways to communicate with others.

The next stop was Rainbow Vista and the Fire Canyon overlook. Hot hike. I was glad to get back to the car and turned the A/C on right away to cool down. It was really starting to get HOT. I check my water supply and still had plenty...good.

Silica Dome was the next stop. Just a short walk away from the car to the overlook. Silica Dome is just that, a big and mostly cream colored hunk of rock. It contrasted well with the deep browns and reds of Fire Canyon.

By now I was well ahead of the busload of tourists (thankfully) so I headed further up the road to the Fire Wave parking area. I hadn't read about this hike before arriving but it sounded interesting. I checked my water again before heading out and reapplied the sunscreen. This was going to be a really hot hike. I crossed the road, the trail dropped down below road level and paralleled the road before taking off in another direction. There was only one spot for shade (under one very large rock). I rested here for just a bit, drank a bunch of water, and then continued on. The rock kept getting more interesting. It transitioned to nearly off-white and reddish/deep pinkish stripped rock. I must be in the right area. The "trail" was marked by cairns/posts so it was pretty easy to follow. I arrived at Fire Wave just as a couple was leaving. It's not a huge feature but still worth the walk out there. Just as I was leaving, I could see a couple of large groups arriving so I'd timed my visit well. It was a stop again in the shade below that big rock again and then a short but really hot hike back to the car. Once again...I couldn't wait to blast the A/C.

Fire Wave was the last "hike" for this park. I had about a quart of water left so it was time to wrap up the trip to the park. I got back to the road junction near the VC and decided to take a short detour a bit further west to see a couple of drive up sights there (Arch Rock and Atlatl Rock) and then it was time to drive back to St. George.

Stats: 3.97mi, 917' gain (for all the bits of wandering around)
 
valley_of_fire_sp_map
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double_arch_coverTaylor Creek/Double Arch (Zion NP)
Sep 16, 2013

Taylor Creek/Double Arch Slideshow

The final hike of this extended weekend was Taylor Creek. I'd had advice before the trip to visit the Kolob section of the park. They were right. This was a "real" hike in the park, more than just car tours and wandering around. So, once again, I got an early start. I arrived at the Visitor Center which was closed but just as I was leaving, the ranger showed up. I showed my NP Pass and then headed up Kolob Canyons Road. I arrived at the Taylor Creek TH to only find one car. The canyon walls had the parking area in the shade, it was a bit on the chilly side but I knew once the sun came up, it would get warm (if not hot) again.

The trail heads down after leaving the TH and reaches the creek. Then it begins a series of 44 crossings. Nothing major. I just found it amazing that I either walked in the creek or crossed it 44 times going in and 44 times coming out. The creek IS the trail.

The trail views were beautiful...the sun was coming up and lighting up and bouncing off the canyon walls. The place seemed to glow under the morning light. The views hiking in are incredible.

The first stop was Larson Canyon, further up the trail it was Fife's Cabin which are homestead cabins which date back to the early 1930's.

Further up the creek the canyon starts to narrow, the opposing canyon walls getting nearer to each other. I was just after Fife's Cabin that I saw the other hiker. He'd had an earlier start and was hiking out. He mentioned I'd have Double Arch to myself. Nice...

I kept wondering how nature hides not just one, but two arches. Then, before I knew it...I was in front of them. The height of the arches and the canyon walls is impressive. I took a nice break here before heading out. I wanted to drive part way up Kolob Terrace Road before I had to pick up some people at the St. George airport in the evening so I didn't have much time to dawdle. So, I hiked out, and first drove all the way to the Kolob Canyons Viewpoint before heading back down to Virgin, UT and the Kolob Terrace Road.

I drove up Kolob Terrace Road but didn't have any time to do any hikes along the road. It really was a bit weird driving up the terrace and driving along it's top which at one point is really narrow. I'll definitely have to check out this area more on future trips. At my turnaround time, I did just that and headed back to St. George. It was time to get back to business...literally.

Stats: 5.89mi, 1285' gain (round trip)
 
double_arch_map
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