Took me a while to get the time to write this post but here goes:
I wanted to get in one more decent adventure before I had to delve into work for the season and what better way than an early fall hike of the Grand Canyon. It should be beautiful this time of year, right? The plan was to go down South Kaibab and up Bright Angel.
I feel very lucky that I have this amazing place so close to home, and that I was able to get a reservation at the Mather Campground in the park for Oct 11th and 12th. I headed out from the house in Phoenix and got to the park about 1pm. After getting the campsite all set up I cruised over to the rim to take in that magnificent view, it never gets old!
I had purchased a larger tent to try and take my wife and dog along on a camping trip, they would want a little extra space! That trip hadn’t happened yet, but we’re still talking about making it happen. I’ve used it as a basecamp tent a couple times in the summer, it was a relatively cheap but big tent with a vestibule…
There was a chance of snow so I set myself up for comfort, started a fire and enjoyed the night, After a bit it started to rain so I moved into the vestibule area, I had cell service at the campground so I was able to watch football for a bit to keep myself entertained.
When camping, once there’s no fire and it’s dark the clock is ticking before bed is the best option. Unsurprisingly pretty soon it was getting cold and it was time to climb into bed. It was a windy night, little bits of snow blew around in the tent all night and I was very thankful for my extra blankets!
The next morning I woke up to snow! It had snowed a least 2 inches throughout the night and it was still coming down. I knocked some snow off the roof of the vestibule and started up some coffee and oatmeal to get myself powered up and warm!
After getting on many layers I headed out to do the shuttle bus shuffle and get out to the South Kaibab Trailhead. There were a few people on the first bus over to the Grand Canyon Visitors Center, but it was just me and the driver on the second bus out to the trailhead. As I put on my micro-spikes I heard the driver’s radio say they were getting 75 mph gust on the rim, looking like a fine day for adventure!
It was pretty cold and windy around the trailhead so I hoisted my pack, fired up the Garmin and off I went! I was extremely glad to have the micro-spikes, I don’t think I would have started the hike without them, there were a number of places you could slide off the trail on ice, but they held firm!
I started the hike knowing if conditions continued to deteriorate I could cut across to Indian Garden on the Tonto Trail instead of going to the bottom. I really wanted to get to the bottom, but always want to make sure I’m safe, especially when I’m alone.
As I approached Ooh Aah Point I started to really be able to feel the wind, pretty soon I was worried about being blown over and my ability to get past this point, or having to crawl along! Fortunately after a few minutes the wind died down enough for me to quickly pass that point and get back to a more sheltered part of the trail.
After Ooh Aah Point the snow kept up, and I just kept heading down. I was well dressed for the conditions and felt comfortable the whole time. The wind started to pick-up again as I made my way to Cedar Ridge. I still had the option of taking the Tonto Trail to Indian Garden instead of going to the bottom, I was going to keep assessing until I got to the trail junction below Skeleton Point. The update from Cedar Ridge below:
Below Skeleton Point the weather really started to improve, I could start losing some layers and had already taken off the micro-spikes. At that point I decided that unless the weather took a surprising bad turn I was headed to the bottom.
Down through the tunnel and out on to the black bridge is always awesome, I wanted to get back to the rim before it got too late so I skipped Phantom Ranch and just kept on rolling along.
Took a break at the River Rest House and fueled up, but pretty much kicked to the top from there. The last mile is always kind of tough, at that point I’m ready to be done, you can hear people up on the rim talking but it just keeps winding around bends! Like all hikes if you keep going pretty soon you top out and can congratulate yourself!
I had to catch the bus back to the campground and then walk a bit back to my campsite. I had started to get cold on the bus ride, and walking up the road to my campsite I just wanted to get in my warm bed for a bit and eat something nice and filling.
Unfortunately: while I was hiking the snow built up on my tent (something this particular tent is not designed for) and collapsed it. So, instead of relaxing I had to drag the rain fly with 300 pounds of snow on it off of the tent, get my stuff out, and load the truck. I also took the tent, snapped poles and all and threw it away in a dumpster,
Fortunately: I found a hotel room a few miles down the road. With a low that of 20, it was not too bad! I had a very nice warm shower, found a place to have a steak and relaxed.
Overall another fun, adventurous time at the Grand Canyon!
After my hike off Mt Whitney and a warmer night at a much lower altitude it was time to continue the adventures, so off to Zion National Park I went! This necessitated another drive through Death Valley, but that went pretty quickly and I was able to go through in the morning before it got too hot! I stopped by the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, a nice balmy 113 at 9:30AM!
Rolled into Zion about 3:30 (lost an hour), and after a bit of a line to get into the Park I pulled up to my spot in the Watchman Campground. It’s a pretty nice campground, easy walk to the restrooms and the Visitor’s Center where the shuttles leave to take you into the canyon. Like most places in Zion the views are excellent!
After getting all set up and relaxing for a bit, I hopped the shuttle into the canyon to scope out the start of tomorrow’s hikes and look around. First I rode the bus to the last stop, the Temple of Sinawava and took the Riverwalk Trail to the mouth of the Narrows, an easy mostly paved trail. After that I did a quick scoping out of the stop for the Angel’s Landing hike and then back to camp for the evening.
Woke up about 5:30 the next morning, made myself the standard outdoor breakfast – oatmeal and peanut butter! After a nice breakfast and cup of coffee I made my way over the the shuttle stop and was able to get on a little after 6am and took it to the Angel’s Landing trailhead. The bus was full but I still have no idea how so many people could be on the trail that early. I’ve never been on such a crowded trail!
The first section is pretty much all switchbacks up a steep cliffy area, but also paved and curbed, very nice, but steep.
After climbing to the notch, you are rewarded with an excellent respite, Refrigerator Canyon. It feels relatively cool and you cruise along a flat quiet canyon!
Up next is Walter’s Wiggles, aka some more switchbacks! Built in 1926 by the original park superintendent, this constructed path leads up to Scout Lookout and the beginning of the chains.
A lot of people just make it to Scout Lookout, cool view and pretty strenuous hike. I was still surprised at the number of people on the lower chain section. I know it’s an iconic Zion hike but it was ridiculous and I started hiking at 6:45am, can’t imagine 9. (Entire cable section video at bottom, even just first few minutes gives you a good idea of the crowds)
Fortunately the crowd really thinned out on the upper cables as you climb the rib of rock to the top. This was the best part of the hike, awesome views and a little exposure.
As you get to the top you head along the ridge to the far edge and some amazing views of the canyon! There were probably 30 people up there when I was there, so I took my pics and went back along the ridge a little bit and found a nice place to chill and grab a snack.
Heading down I was lucky to get together with 6 or 7 people moving pretty quickly. It’s a challenge to get past all the uphill traffic, but banding together in groups moving fairly up and down helps a lot.
After getting back down to Scout Lookout, I hustled back down towards the Emerald Pools.
My plan was to get to Upper Emerald Pool, but was just cruising along the trail and totally missed the turn, after a little back tracking I got to the upper pool. Not a whole lot of water, but the soaring cliffs were amazing!
Cruised down and headed for the shuttle to hike the Narrows.
I expected a lot of people for this, it’s another iconic Zion hike and not even uphill! The first little bit felt like amusement park crowds, but thins out after a while.
The canyon is beautiful, around every turn is an epic picture. I turned around at 5 miles, it was super cool but I was glad to stop walking in water by the tine I got back to the trail.
Hopped the shuttle back to the visitor’s center and strolled back to my campsite. In an excellent discovery, the Zion Outfitter right outside the waking entrance to the park has a shower/laundry facility on the lower level. After 5 days a hot shower was awesome!!
Treating my self to a few beers on the patio of the Zion Canyon Brew Pub seemed like the thing to do, so I did. It rained pretty hard for a bit, so I moved inside and continued to enjoy my beer. I also had a fantastic burger there, the Zion Brew Burger was stupid good. When I got back to my campsite everything was dry, couldn’t have been better!
The next morning I got up early, packed up my campsite and headed home. It was a great trip but it’s always nice to head back home to the wife and pets!!
After one more pic of a National Park sign, of course!