It's Hot, Damn Hot

Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
Trip End Jan 25, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Utah
Thursday, June 23, 2011

We hurried down to Zion NP in the hopes of getting a campsite inside the park.  One campground is first come, first serve, but most sites are taken by 11 am.  Although we made it to the Park by 10 am, it's a bit of a drive from the East Entrance to the South Entrance where the campgrounds are located.  And, boy, was it a beautiful drive.  Twisting through the canyon, overlooking the checkerboard mesa, with a 1 mile tunnel built in the early 1920s.  It was stunning.

We arrived at the campsite at 10:30 and found just a few sites remaining.  Unfortunately, these were all spots that got the most sun during the heat of the day.  And it gets hot here.  Really hot.  Brutally hot.  Unbearably hot.  Have I conveyed just how hot it gets here?  'Cause it gets pretty f*&#ing hot in Zion.  High temps were 102 - 105 while we were there, with no air circulating.  Not the best place for dogs.

We headed over to the Visitors Center after reading about a great 14 mile hike through the Narrows Canyon.  This requires a backcountry permit.  It also requires a significantly lower level of water in the Virgin River.  The Narrows water level was too high to allow hiking/canyoneering, so no permits were being issued until the water level receded.  There was another canyon open to hiking known as the Subway, but the limited permits were already reserved.  We could get there first thing in the morning to try to get a permit for the following day, but last week the line started developing at midnight.  Seriously?  With only 20 permits available, they were a prime commodity on a weekend.  Nevermind.

So, we wandered around by the creek with the pups and just tried to find shade, breeze and a comfortable spot for a few hours. We even got inventive by buying a large tarp and some line to create our own shade.  Unfortunately, what little we created quickly disappeared as the sun moved across the sky.  We should be able to figure these things out, right?  Around 5 pm, we left the dogs behind and hopped on the shuttle to the upper canyon.  There, we did a 2 mile hike up the Narrows Canyon to the start/end of the canyon that's closed due to high water levels.  Too bad, as it looked really cool.  Cold, in fact.  Water temps were estimated at 42 degrees.  Brrrr. 

We headed back down the canyon to the trailhead to Angel's Landing, the most popular hike in the park.  It is a 5.4 mile, round trip hike to a summit well above the canyon with amazing views of the valley below.  After 1.5 miles, you head up Walter's Wiggles, a series of 20+ switchbacks in short succession.  From there, you start up to the rocky summit.  This is a bit more challenging and not for anyone fearful of heights.  The drops off the sides are steep and long.  A few years ago, the park service installed chains into the rocks, which makes this section of the hike feel a bit more secure, especially when you are descending.  It's really thrilling if you don't get vertigo.  About 1,000 people do this hike each day, but we timed our arrival perfectly.  We started hiking at 6:30 pm and quickly passed the couple of folks in front of us.  As we arrived on the summit, a small group was leaving, and we had the top to ourselves for about 15 minutes.  Just breathtaking.

As the folks we passed on the way up started arriving at the top, we headed back down, reaching the valley floor around 8:30 pm.  What a great way to spend the evening and take in an iconic trail in the park.

The next morning, we rode the mountain bikes up the canyon to a different trailhead.  Hidden Valley was on the other side of the canyon and required a wee bit of climbing to get to the edge of the hidden canyon.  There was another section with chains in the rock, but not nearly as death-defying as Angel's Landing.  Once in the hidden canyon, the "official" trail ends and climbing around rocks and water swept trees make this section interesting.  You could canyoneer (without water at the moment) for probably 2-3 miles, but we headed back after a mile to get back to the doggies before the heat of the day.  What a difference it makes to both be hiking back down to the canyon and riding back to the campground.  We were out for 4 hours, but only the first 2.5 required effort.

While the effort was lower, the temperatures were certainly rising.  Once again, it was creeping into the brutally hot time of day.  We walked the doggies into town and found a little shade, some gourmet personal pizzas and adequate beer to pass a couple hours that afternoon at Cafe Soleil. 

The beer in Utah, when you can find it, isn't all that great.  All the local breweries are limited to 4% alcohol content.  Who knew that alcohol could make beer taste so good?  Well, Doug, Paul & Kenny, of course. The Utah breweries do have a sense of humor, at least.  One brewery named their beers Polygamy Porter and Evolution Ale.  Nice. 

Unfortunately, our retreat was interrupted by a cavalcade of screaming children.  Samson got really testy with all the noise.  So did Mark.  So much for finding shade.  We should have sought solitude as well. All of the heat really zapped us, so we decided to head out first thing in the morning for higher elevations and hopefully, lower temperatures.  Grand Canyon -- here we come!

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