Spring Break was amazing! Getting away for a week with three good friends was exactly what I needed. We had a blast hiking around the parks and managed to avoid all physical injuries! No problems with snakes, spiders, or other critters either. Actually, we were hoping to atleast run into one creature that we’ve been warned about but it didn’t happen.
The trip was definitely the most physically demanding thing I’ve done in a great while. In all we hiked about 50 miles in 7 days. We also climbed nearly 7,500 ft! If I had to pick a single park as my favorite it would have to be Zion. There was just so much to do and see in the main canyon and over in the Kolob Canyons we hardly scratched the surface.
To see all of the sights and make the run on parks we really had to haul. Of the eight nights, we got to the hotel close to or after midnight 5 of them. And then we were up at 7am each day to get back on the road. We generally started hiking between 9 and 10 am and stayed out to near sunset. Then we had to truck back to the hotel or a new one half way across the state.
Day 1 – Sat. March 14th- Driving
We drove straight through from Minneapolis to Denver, CO
Denver to Hurricane,UT, Arches
We stopped in Vail, CO on the way through the mountains for a rest stop and were the only ones running around in shorts. Everyone else was decked out in there expensive ski gear. At Arches National Park we saw the Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, and sunset at the Fiery Furnace. Then we drove all the way across Utah to Hurricane. While driving at night we couldn’t see anything off the roadway because the moon wasn’t out. All you could see was the stars and the large ominous black patches that were hills and mountains.
Hiked ~7mi at Arches
Kolob Canyons at Zion
We tried driving up to the Kolob Reservoir, but the road was still closed due to snow. We then drove around the park to the Kolob Canyons viewpoint before heading to the trailhead. Then we hiked the Taylor’s Creek Trail up one of the canyons. It’s amazing how much of a temperature difference sunlight makes in the high desert. As soon as we entered the canyon the temps started dropping, half the hike was actually over sheets of snow. As we were heading out from the back of the canyon we heard a distant thundering noise, no ground shaking though. We figured it was a massive rockfall in a neighboring canyon.
Hiked ~7mi – Taylors Creek Trail
Zion National Park (Emerald Pools and Angels Landing).
Our first stop in Zion Canyon was the Emerald Pools hike. Apparently they weren’t quite as emerald as they are when all the surrounding trees actually have leaves. They are still a quite beautiful set of falls and pools. We then went over to attempt tackling Angels Landing. I’m not the best with heights to start, but I decided to keep an open mind about going all the way up until we got to Scout Lookout. That’s all the farther I made it. Ryan was the only one to make it all the way up the chain to the top and after listening to his account of the trail I think stopping was a good idea for me. Thats all the time we had for Zion, next time I want to explore the narrows.
Hiked ~7mi ~1,500ft elev. gain
Hurricane to Monticello, UT Bryce Canyon, Cottonwood Canyon, Page Arizona, Glenn Canyon Dam
We met at gentleman at Scout Lookout that gave us a tip and we got to add Bryce Canyon to the list. We headed out for Bryce in the morning. The many varied formations that the red sandstone creates is simple mindboggling. We didn’t have time to do any hiking at Bryce, but Ryan and Jeff couldn’t resist a jog through the canyon on a short (~1.4 mi) path. One lady saw them and said, “look at those two running, how much more stupid could you get.”
After Bryce we headed out for Cottonwood road in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. 40 miles of back country ‘unimproved’ road. We even had to ford a creek (we almost lost Peter). After getting out we stopped at the Glenn Canyon Dam in Page, AZ because it turns out the fastest way to get across Utah was to get out and drive through Arizona. The Dam is impressive holding back the waters of lake powell. Just outside of Page we also saw the Horseshoe bend in the Colorado River. Then it was a few more hours of night driving to Monticello.
No hiking (for me atleast)
Mule Canyon, Indian ruins, Moki Dugway, Monument Valley, Drive to Flagstaff
First we stopped at the reconstructed indian ruins off the road near Mule Canyon. Then we got our backcountry daypass and headed for the real thing. We saw the “House on Fire” ruin on the cliffside. After some more scrambling we found another ruin up on the canyon wall farther back. We also ran into a guy that was hiking with his two dogs, one german shepard, and a huskie. Two very well trained dogs that also help carry their own equipment, and help nevigate the trails tracking the stone piles.
Our next destination was the Moki Dugway, a switchback that leads straight down a large masa, 1,100ft in 3 miles. We spotted a few vehicle wrecks on the cliff below the roadway. Monument Valley in the Navajo Nation has some impressive formations, absolutely massive. The rest of the day was spent driving to Flagstaff, we wanted to get there early enough to acutally enjoy a pool and hottub but boy were we in for a surprise. Either it was intentional or a bizarre mistake but the hottub was frigid and the pool was heated hotter than our average pool. Either way we got relax and float around before the big hike in the morning.
~6 mi hiking small elev. gain climbing around canyon walls
We had to drive from Flagstaff to the canyon, scoping out Mt. Humphreys as another climb someday. We figured we’d be getting out pretty late so we hit up the giftshops before hiking. We finally hit the trailhead at 10am and were on our way down. It’s amazing how much of a temperature difference there is in the canyon, almost 30 degrees. By the time we hit the bottom it was noon and 100 degrees out, while only 70 at the rim. The views were amazing taking the mule trail switchbacks down the side of the canyon. Passing the mule trains wasn’t so beautiful, pretty stinky. On the way down we passed numerous signs warning about the dangers of dehydration, we came prepared with about 5 liters of water per person (and we knew there was water on the way up).
Our entrance and exit points on the rim were only a little more than two miles apart, straight distance. That two miles turned into six after you add in hiking around the “small” 300ft+ deep canyons within the grand canyon. Any source of shade is very scarce in the canyon, we luckily found a large rock to hide behind to eat our lunch. And another bit of shade 15 minutes later when someone relized hiking and large sandwiches don’t mix well. We saw less than 10 people on the Tonto trail at the bottom of the canyon throughout the day. It’s far less traveled than the mule super highway trails in and out. We took a nice long break when we got to the Indian Gardens at the bottom of the Bright Angel trail (our way out) The squirrels chasing each other around were quite hilarious.
Then the long trek up began, we made pretty good time for the first quarter of the climb, then we (I) started slowing down. We stopped occasionally to turn around and see the canyon as the sun was setting. It was really cool to see the shadows growing longer, against the red rock. We finally made it out just as the sun was setting. Ryan and Jeff raced the last 100 ft out of the canyon, while Peter and I only raced the last 10 ft. I then found the nearest ledge to sit down on, waiting for the shuttle bus and didn’t want to move till the next morning.
All of this hiking is a killer for your average couch potato like me. By the time we got back to the car the temp had plummeted back into the 40’s which brought about uncontrollable shivering because I was so exhausted. I slept most of the way back to the hotel and then passed right out, no one managed to wake me up after the shower cleared.
Hiking from 10am till sunset
Hiked 15mi ~3.500ft Elev. Gain
Flagstaff to Elk City, OK, Meteor/Berringer Crater
When we got up in the morning everyone, especially me, was stiff and feeling the hike from yesterday. I couldn’t walk right all day long. The worst part was the stiffness in my hips, my calves were pretty good. Most of the day was spent in the car heading down the interstate. I became pretty good at napping in small spaces over the course of the trip. We stopped at the Berringer Crator and the massive sense of scale still kept screwing with out minds. A massive rock across the crater that we guessed to be mo mroe than 20 ft tall was actually almst 50 ft. They also had a 6ft tall plywood astronaught and a US flag at the bottom of the crater which you can’t even see with your naked eye, you need the little telescopes they have to see it. In the attached museum they have a few peices of the meteor and exhibits about other impacts, and space in general. One of the meteorites they recovered from the crater is only 4 ft long but wieghs over a ton. After the crater we were running short on time and didn’t want to be driving all night so we had to pass up the petrified forest. We still didn’t make it to the hotel till midnight.
Day 9 – Sunday
Driving Elk City, OK to Minneapolis, MN
We got up in the morning and started hauling ass back home. The winds were something else, and they chases us all the way back home (didn’t keep track to see if the helped the mileage or not). Nothing too eventful happened on the way home, lots of napping for me. Peter was burning CD’s left and right to listen to in the car because everyone seemed to leave their best ones at home. We didn’t make it back to Minneapolis till around midnight. I hauled all my stuff inside and went straight to bed not looking forward to 8am class in the morning.
The main focus of the trip was to get out, hike, and experience the parks, not to stop all of the time to compose and shoot photos. We would stop occasionally but even that wasn’t quite as much time as I’d have liked to take photos in a few places. And yet I still managed to take over a thousand (10GB+) RAW photos. Yikes! After adjusting for the fact that many of those photos are auto exposure bracket copies the number of unique shots that I took is closer to 600. Still it’s a large amount of photos that are going to take me a while to get through.
I’ve started working on the photos from Zion and uploading them to Flickr as I finish with them. Each national park or monument will have it’s own set, all of which are in the Spring Break 2009 Collection. Keep your eyes peeled for a celebratory post when I actually finish with all of these.
Here are a few of the ones I’ve finished