ZION NATIONAL PARK
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Leaving for Humphrey's Peak at 5:30 a.m. means you're almost alone while relaxing at the summit. It also means that on the way down, dozens of panting hikers look at you in awe. "Did you make it to the top?" they ask. "Oh yeah -- It's worth it!" you may answer.
On June 10 when Joel, Doug and I made the seven-hour hike, we threw in another bit of helpful advice: "It's really windy up there." Windy was an understatement for gusts that almost knocked me over a couple of times, forcing me to ball up as much as I could with my legs still moving. Two hikers, the first guys up there, had warned us about the wind on their way down. At the time I tossed off the comment as I concentrated on the jagged, rocky path at 12,000 feet. The peak, 12,633 feet, was worth it. I stumbled into a circle of rocks built as a wind guard, caught my breath and then stood -- holding my hat onto my head. To the north, the 10 a.m. sun brought out the varying shades of green in the huge valley below, otherwise known as the Arizona Snow Bowl. Toward Flagstaff I could see a few buildings and the white dome of Northern Arizona University’s stadium.
It was the highest I've ever been on land. About 15 minutes before the peak, Doug pointed out that we were looking down on an airplane. I was glad that Joel warned Doug and I about the last leg of the hike. Humphrey's Peak actually hides behind the first peak you see when emerging out of the treeline. There are not just one, but three false summits you have to overcome to reach the end. Luckily, Joel's other warning didn't come true. He said, and other hikers on the trail agreed, that the weather can get pretty nasty at the top. But it was a beautiful, clear day -- the kind of day in which a butterfly might sit down on your backpack and hang out while you walk. (This happened to Joel, who kept the "little buddy" for a good 20 minutes or so.)
The hikers we encountered were of all types. A Texas couple who had grown children was on their second attempt at Humphrey's Peak, and they talked about the other state highpoints they'd climbed. A couple of guys jogged on the trail, and another wheeled a mountain bike over the rocks with kind of a concerned look on his face. One of the teenagers in a group just behind us at the summit popped over the wind guard with traction-less blue Vans on his feet. On the way down, we each caught a few seconds of a story about a salacious elevator ride at a hotel. (Maybe in Vegas?)
The hike itself was challenging for me, but not enough to be too uncomfortable. I was gasping for air from the first few steps of the trail through a flat meadow under a ski lift. We started at about 9,200 feet. I wore four layers of clothing on the coldest parts of the hike and three layers in the warmest. Many people wore shorts and T-shirts, though.
I'm a rookie so I learned a few things for next time: bring gloves, chapstick, a handkerchief and probably three liters of water instead of two. Doug and I had camped out the night before in the parking lot, where there was plenty of room and a few other campers. We found a flat surface and set up the tent in front of the car's headlights. We had left Las Vegas around 5 p.m. and took the route through Laughlin, so we arrived at the site at 10 p.m. On our way out of the Snowbowl into Flagstaff, we saw a few more inviting trailheads off the curvy road. But I was ready for some rewarding food in town -- pizza by the slice!
ZION - A MOUNTAIN AND A CANYON
Snafu and I left Vegas on Wednesday around 10.00 am to go to Zion National Park for an extended Memorial Day weekend. We wanted to arrive before the LVMC hikes to do a technical canyon descent and a little climbing.
We got a campsite at South Campground for five nights, pitched our tents, and set up a tarp for a sunshade. It was hot that day and the sunshade was perfectly located over our picnic table. We had just sat down to enjoy a cold barley pop when a ranger came to inform us that we could not leave our tarp up because it was tied to the surrounding trees, which is now park violation. We tried to use walking poles to hold the tarp in place, but that night the wind picked up and it wasn't possible.
Thursday it was windy, and Snafu and I did a descent of Echo Canyon, a short canyon that ends at Weeping Rock. It required nine rappels and some swimming, and it took us most of the day. The wind blew through the night.
On Friday we decided to go climbing at a crag in the park called the Practice Cliffs. This would be a fine place for a club top-rope. We finished early and went back to camp to meet Janet Curry, who would be joining us to climb Lady Mountain on Saturday. The wind blew through the night.
When we woke up on Saturday, Nathan Petrosian and Valentina Fields were camped with us. They had arrived late Friday night. None of us had heard them come in. It just so happens that this was the FIRST time Valentina has ever been camping. The weather was windy when we left to get on the shuttle to take us to the trailhead for Lady Mountain. There isn't much of a trail really; it's more of a route to the top. You start at the Zion Lodge and follow the Emerald Pools trail for awhile before leaving this good trail and following an old abandoned park trail. I had heard this trail is not used much anymore because of its difficulty.
Not long after leaving the main trail, you come to the first short class 4 section followed by some exposed steps that are cut into the sandstone. There were quite a few of these steps cut into the rock along the entire route. There were some old paint blazes, and remnants of a former trail, so the route finding was not too bad.
The second hard section is through a chimney maybe forty feet in length and is very exposed. We all made it through with no problems and were on our way to the third and final cruxy section of climbing up a short corner system with little exposure. After this you just follow the steps and gullies that lead to the saddle, and then across a ridgeline about fifteen minutes to the summit.
Up to then we had been somewhat protected from the wind, but once on the ridge, the wind was blowing hard and we all got sand everywhere. We went to the summit and took photos and then, on the way back to the saddle, found a spot out of the wind to eat our lunch.
It is only a couple of miles to the summit of Lady Mountain., with about 2900' elevation gain. With the few sections of climbing and a lot of exposure, it had taken us four and a half hours. The descent went a little faster with everyone finding the downclimbing easier than the climbing. It took us a little over three hours on the descent.
Back at the campground, Harlan Stockman was waiting for us. He was going to join us for the Sunday descent of Orderville Canyon. Then we said good-bye to Janet Curry, who had to get back for work. By now, because of the wind, fire restrictions were in effect. Campfires were not allowed, but charcoal was OK.
Sunday, when we woke up, it was windy. I picked up our permit and we left camp around 9.30. We all piled into Snafu's vehicle and drove to the Orderville Gulch trailhead. I still don't know the difference between a canyon and a gulch. I looked it up in the dictionary and the descriptions are very similar. One of the first things you notice at the trailhead is a dead deer hanging on a barb wire fence. The walk down into the canyon is very easy and we moved fast. There is water at the start and I thought we would be in water all day. Unfortunately, I was wrong, the stream dried up after an hour or so.
The hike to the narrows is easy, with the exception of a few log jams, and a dry fall that is easily descended. As we continued down the canyon, the walls got taller and they closed in on you until they were only 12-20 feet wide. By then the sun was almost directly overhead and we get some great colors and shadows while taking photos of the scalloped canyon walls.
The stream started to flow again and we all stopped to put on our wetsuits for the remainder of the hike. There were a couple more chockstones to bypass and by then the stream is flowing steady and has many nice cascades and pools, some which are deep enough that you have to swim. The canyon levels out as you get close to the confluence with the Virgin river and we started seeing people that had hiked up the Virgin from the Riverside walk and Temple of Sinawava.
The flow in the Virgin River was about 110 cfs this day. The walking was good in water about ankle to knee deep, although the occasional deeper pool caught your attention. By the time we got to Riverside walk we were cold and hungry.
We caught the bus back to the campground and Harlan and Snafu left to go get Snafu's truck. Valentina, Nathan, and I stayed behind to light up the grill and cook the evening meal: carne asada, sausage, squash, beans, and tortillas. Everything was ready when Harlan and Snafu returned. We were all tired and got to bed at around midnight.
Monday morning we slept late and arose to a cool, windy day. We packed up and were on our way around 11:00. The best quote I heard from the trip was, "How am I going to explain to people what I did this weekend?"
OUR BELOVED BUDDY
Our crazy, but wonderful companion, Buddy, has passed away. He had a play date with two of his very good friends, Banjo and Daisy and had just received a great new summer haircut.
Late in the evening, Buddy decided to either eat his food too fast or drink some water too fast, and this caused his stomach to twist into a crazy eight and blow up like a huge balloon which cut off blood to some vital organs. This is a very rare in dogs of his size. It is common however in very large dogs, as we found out. Howard and I had to make a very tough decision at about 12:30 this morning. We could have had surgery, but there was a very good chance that he could have had heart, liver, spleen and kidney problems because of how long he had had the condition, which believe it or not, was only about 2-3 hours.
He came into our lives on July 10th four years ago. We had saved him from Dewey Animal shelter after a 4th of July trip to Bishop. We have had some great and crazy times with him. He liked to make friends by jumping the wall in our backyard to get to the other dogs in the neighborhood and he just was at the right height to always sniff everyone’s crotches, front and the back. On one of his first hikes, he decided that he wanted to trim his nails and bleed all over Howard. He liked to wear his little snow shoes and play in the snow and if there was water around, he was in it. He always wanted to be involved in everything that everyone was doing when he was there.
I am sure that a lot of you have some fond memories of our Buddy while he was on a trip with Howard or at the house for a BBQ. We are really going to miss him. He has brought so much joy into our lives. I would like to thank all of you for putting up with him over the past four years. He could be quite a handful, but he was always so loveable.
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