ZION NARROWS, NORTH GUARDIAN ANGEL ATTEMPT, BRYCE CANYON, CEDAR BREAKS October 3-8, 1979
With another declared, "not qualified," I had to go to the chapter outings chair to get to lead this trip! The real issue was apparently that I was leading a hike down the most spectacular gorge in the Pacific West, and some did not like that. Chatting with another Club member at the workplace, we agreed to schedule this ambitious trip for the local hikers, all free to join us. I described it in the outings schedule as a "marathon drive," for only about a three day series of sightseeing and hiking.
So, the trip announcement was printed, and we started to get interested people. Many did not realize Zion National Park was all that way away, and I received only three others for our rent-a-car carpool effort. My 38 mpg subcompact was too small to take everybody with camping gear and packs, but fuel efficiency was still an issue for me, at least. The car I was given was a Ford Fairlane, and I had refused a bigger car. It got some 25 mpg back then, and the engineer criticized it for "flimsy" construction. The other choice, though luxury, was probably some 17 mpg, if even that. I believe in conservation, so we would pack light and fit the four of us into one vehicle.
We met at a participant's home for the arrangements. Our cars would be secure enough, parked there. It was a hot day, already, and we were glad to get going. I was to motor some 1,800 miles round trip, and each rider contributed to the gas kitty. I was to divvy up the rental expenses after we got back, and even paid out a refund!
We took Highway 99 south, as Interstate 5 had not been completely finished yet. With dinner in Bakersfield, CA, we cruised along to Interstate 15 and slept at a desert rest area. After passing through Las Vegas, NV, without a stop, one of the hikers began to cause trouble. He had been drinking his beer, and I had to pull over to resolve this issue. In California, there is an open container law, and while I didn't touch a drop, being the driver, you can get a serious citation.
After the problem was settled, we took the side trip to the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. We saw the petroglyphs and took a short trail. Making a driving loop back to the Interstate, some remarked about the poverty displayed in the Reservation there. Indian gaming was not then in existence.
Finally coming to Zion National Park, by late afternoon, we spoke with the volunteer information help at the visitor center. They advised us of the weather forecast. You do not do this hike, through the Zion Narrows, if flash flood conditions are imminent. I got our permit, and we found a campsite amidst the almost empty park.
Getting up well before sunrise, we had figured to have one participant volunteer to start at the bottom of the narrows, and meeting halfway, he would get the car keys and drive the vehicle back around to the bottom end of the Narrows. He then had his misgivings, as it was pitch black when we dropped him off. Otherwise, we'd have to pay somebody to drop us off at the upper end of the hike, and shuttle the car back to the lower end of the hike, inside the national park. By him, he'd prefer hiking solo, and it would then be more of a challenge to hike upstream. This saved us maybe some $25, then.
I then drove, and navigated the remainder of us some 19 miles of dirt or gravel road to the start of the hike. We had an extra hiker who had asked to join us. I found a place to leave the car, but could have driven it further. Not wishing to damage the rental, we had then an extra 2 miles to hike.
It was a crisp morning as the sun rose, and there wasn't much to see at first. Passing where we should have left the car, the scenery became more interesting. I sloshed through cold water as we would have a lot of that, this day. Soon, though, we started to see the upper gorge starting to deepen. Nice fall colors began to appear. I snapped over 100 frames of Kodachrome this day, and was it worth it! Though as a warning, due to old memories, some of the Narrows images hereafter may be presented out of sequence.
We took a rest, and continued down this magnificent gorge, with the scenery getting better by the yard. I couldn't help but shoot away with my Nikon, and then we began to get deeper into the gorge. The Narrows became apparent as to its name, and I was impressed that with my 28mm wide angle lens, I could get a sharp picture in dim light, deep in the Narrows.
A waterfall was the only obstacle in the gorge, and we found a route to the left, bypassing it. Hiking then in crotch deep pools of the Virgin River, I had a hiking stick to tell how deep the murky water was. With my expensive camera gear, I didn't want to risk having my investment inundated and thusly ruined.
We passed through even more deep narrow gorge, and then ran into our left-at-the-end hiker. He said that it had been cold in the morning, but was in good spirits. He was to speed up his pace to get the car back to meet us as we finished the hike.
The rest of us continued down the Narrows, and saw even more spectacular scenery. There was Big Spring, a water source gushing out of the rocks, where we could get more water. Then there is a side gorge, Orderville Canyon, that we hiked up a bit. I had some slides which were slightly blurred, as I tried to hand hold everything. For the most part, I could get a steady enough shot down to a 1/4 second shutter speed.
I had scouted the lower part of the gorge on a previous trip, and was so glad to finally do this premier hike. We came to the tourist trail, and hiked the last bit back to the parking lot. The NPS says to allow 13 hours to complete the hike, with a free map showing timetables. We met our solo hiker, with the car, and took a snapshot. I was pretty tired, and a bit cold, but we had done it.
Shortly after, the Zion rangers would not allow the conduct of such Club trips, but as we are not a commercial or business venture, I saw no problem with us. We must have had a nice dinner in the Lodge, and retired to the campground for another night's sleep.
The next day, we drove to another corner of the park to attempt North Guardian Angel (7,395'). I read that it was a class 4 climb, but the park volunteers called it a "scramble." I had forgotten my rope, but the others would have no idea of how to use it, anyway, not having any rock climbing experience. Turning out that multiple rappels were needed to get back down, it was good that I hadn't tried to get beginners up that rock. The engineer went ahead and stranded himself on a ledge, but if at all, it was a minor rescue, handled by me.
I looked and looked but saw no easy route. We had some good views anyway, and then we hiked back to the car. Someone had warned us that this was private property, but no one did any damage to the car or left any note. Elsewhere, I once had my side mirror smashed when we ignored a sign and went to do some rock climbing.
Motoring around back south to Highway 9, then north to Bryce Canyon National Park, we got there by dusk for me to start some photography again. By some coincidence, we ran into another local, and gave him and his friend a ride to their plane at the airport. They had flown from California. We had another fine meal in a restaurant, and camped again with a chilly night, at some elevation.
I did some more photography in the morning, then we motored past stands of aspens next to a lava bed off one of the highways. Coming then to Cedar Breaks National Monument, we enjoyed more effortless vistas, then motored back into Cedar City, UT. The trip was over.
Needing to get some sleep or rest, I handed the wheel over to the engineer, and we had a short stop in some desolate Nevada town. Motoring to Walker Lake, we camped again, then passed through Reno and down Interstate 80 back to town at Noon. Some complained that we should have scheduled a longer trip, but the initial agreement was five days. I would come back here for a longer trip, but then solo. We all had jobs, and a full week was just too much time.
This is a great retiree's vocation, travel and national parks. Shame that many people are too busy to see such glorious sights. I couldn't wait till retirement to go back, and see and hike more, and feel blessed to have done so much out here. Currently some weak plans of mine are to revisit the areas, but it's mostly a been there, done that, now several times. Serious photographers will wait for the right light, but I am no Ansel Adams. What's there at the time I am there, that's what I shoot. Pity to be so poor.
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