The plan of attack to get as much in during 7 days as possible!
I am a super crazy planner so when I decided to go to Utah for a week my type A personality came out in full. My itinerary has just about everything mapped out, however without ever going to Utah before I have a difficult time gauging distance between placed and road conditions. Here is the overview of my week, more specific trail info to come!
We arrive in Las Vegas, the city of sin but not for Gloria and I. This is just a layover on our way to adventure and the wilderness of Utah. Unfortunately this is not the as short of a stay as I would have liked, first we go to the wrong terminal for our baggage then the taxi line was super long. Yuck! We finally make it to Escape Campervans to pick up our home on wheels for the week and find out we get a super rad camo painted one. This is the first time I realize karma is on our side for this trip. We ask for some tips on grocery stores and are told to stop in Mesquite. When we get to Mesquite the closest store to the highway is Wal-Mart, I try not to shop at Wal-Mart but had to make an exception. We pick up groceries for the week and I pick up a 6 pack of beer.
After the airport and grocery store taking longer than I expected we don’t make it the whole way to the Red Canyon as planned. We are forced to deviate from the itinerary on the first day, oh well. We find a campsite in the Dixie National Forrest that is heaven. The campsite had no water so it wasn’t full and was a discounted price also, jackpot. We walk around the campsite and get winded trying to walk uphill to the bathroom. Yikes this elevation thing is no joke. I count myself thankful I’m not pacing Doreen tomorrow. I don’t know if I would have been able to keep up in the elevation. I would have also trained more instead of slacking off after my race. At the campsite we do some yoga and stretch after sitting for so much time my body craves movement, even if I can’t walk uphill without getting winded. The first night is the coldest night we had, I wore a sweatshirt, pants, and wool socks and I was still cold.
Still on Eastern Time I wake up around 5:00 looking forward to some hot coffee after a cold night. I get up make some hot oatmeal to go with the warm-up theme of the morning. As usual it doesn’t take me much time to get ready so I have some extra time for drinking coffee and yoga. What a good way to start your day. When Gloria is ready we are on our way to the Red Canyon. I realize now that my GPS I brought it basically garbage because it doesn’t have the small towns in Utah in it. I brought it thinking my phone might not have service at some places, and I was totally correct. No working GPS and no phone. Grrrr, I set our destination as a town close to where we are going. Not having service is something I am use to but Gloria seems to have a bit of a problem with it.
Driving over to the Red Canyon we are amazed by the scenery but little did we know the treat we are in for in the days to come. I stop at a gas station and pick up a post card for my Dad since fathers day coming up quickly. Along the way we stop at a few overlooks and take a casual time getting to Red Canyon. Happy to stretch our legs we hike for a while at Red Canyon before continuing onto our campsite at Rudy’s Inn. Doreen made the reservations for us a few months ago. After getting to the site Gloria makes lunch of eggs wrapped in tortilla shells.
Then we meet up with Doreen and her family to hike in the park some. After the hike we head back to camp to relax and get cleaned up for dinner. We got a tip that the showers in the back of the campsite are super nice so we took advantage of having a shower, plus my leg were a bit red from the dust at the Red Canyon. During this time I also need to make an important phone call to wish my husband happy anniversary, and thank him for being understanding and not making me feel guilty for leaving him to go on vacation on our anniversary. For dinner we are meeting up with some fellow Ithacan runners who are running Bryce Canyon 100-miler. I order wild mushroom ravioli with Alfredo sauce. Not something I would typically order but I figured I'm on vacation live a little, and nothing else really looked good. I can’t finish my plate but one thing I love about runners is food never gets wasted. After dinner we all head across the road for some ice cream. Why not have the entire dairy in the world. My stomach might regret this tomorrow. Tonight is cool but not nearly as cold as yesterday. We heard that stargazing is an activity people do here due so we attempt to see what all the fuss is about. We dress in some crazy outfits trying to be warm and head back into the park. We find a good location and sit down only to realize the moon is too bright for good stargazing. Well it sounded good in theory but we want to run at sunrise tomorrow so we head back to bed. Unfortunately sleep seems to elude me.
Doreen and her sister pick Gloria and I up around 5:30, still concerned about the cold from our first night I wear pants and long sleeve which turns out to be over dresses. Doreen is still not able to run much so we plan on 4 miles out and back route. This is a great run into the canyon, down hills are easy. We stop to watch the sun rise and take some pictures. When we come back up the canyon I am out of breath almost insistently. Michelle, Gloria, and I hike more of the up hill then I would like to admit, Doreen runs ahead. Even an injured Doreen is faster than a healthy me.
I take what turns out to be my last shower of the trip then we start the trip to Zion. On the way into Zion I stop at a campground/gift shop/restaurant for some coffee. It turned out to be a super cute store. I order a large salad for Gloria and I to split and walk around gift shop. We ponder getting a campsite here but decide to hold out for one on the Springdale side of Zion. Since most campsites are first come first serve I am nervous about having a place to park the van.
We stop for a short hike before entering the tunnel. This is a nice easy hike with some awesome views at the top. After hanging out for a bit we head back down the trail to get some food! We eat on a rock under a tree and watch the cars go by. When traveling into Zion I start to see what people are talking about with the crowds.
Arriving in ‘Zion City” we find the parking and campsite is full, well I knew the campsite would be full but also parking. Umm. We drive further down into Springdale to get our bearings a bit find a parking sport and hope on the town shuttle to get to Zion. Once in Zion we pay our $30 fee for 7 days then wait in line for another shuttle into the park. This seems more like an amusement park then at national park. We decide to hike Emerald Pools then met up with Doreen and her family for dinner. On the shuttle back from the hike I check my email since service has been spotty and I was driving the majority of the time we had service today this was my first opportunity. I got my email from the Parks Department and we got permits to hike Subway on Sunday! To me this was the best news possible because I would not be able to put up with the crowds of ‘Zion City” for the rest of the week. Hell Yeah! To get back to the restaurant to meet up with Doreen and family we need to take the shuttle back into Springdale but the line was ridiculous! No worry’s, we are runners and the restaurant is only 1 mile way. Gloria and I decide to take a run for it. Along the run to the Wild Willies I keep my eye on the shuttle and realize we made it before the shuttle did that we were racing! Oh yeah!
Dinner was delicious and really made for more than one person. I order a big beer and a big burger; needless to say I didn’t finish the burger the beer on the other hand…was empty when I left. Since we want an early start we check out the Quality Inn RV Park in Springdale to stay. This place is packed too! We got the last RV site and they gave you tokens for the shower. Good thing I’m not big on showering, I put my swimsuit on and hope in the pool. When I was swimming Gloria takes a shower only to find out they allot you 6-minute showers. Seriously Quality Inn? You can do better.
After yesterday I hoped to beat the crowds and get the first shuttle for our hike today. We didn’t make it for first shuttle but we got second. The people here in the morning are more ‘serious’ hikers. The shuttle yesterday had a bit of a city bus feel. The majority of the shuttle got off to hike Angel’s Landing but I had a recommendation from a friend to hike Observation point so that was our destination. We get off at the stop with 2 other people. Not bad as far as crowds go, after hitting up the bathroom we start our hike and pass the other 2 hikers before long. Not sure if it was the morning coffee I chugged on the way or the excitement of the first ‘real’ hike of the trip but I was off tackling the climb with ease. After relaxing at Observation Point we head back down the trail.
We decide to check out another short hike before making our way out of “Zion City” to never to return. Deciding between Angel’s Landing and the Narrows. We chose the Narrows, we arrive at our destination to find I packed full of people. We trek in for about ¾ of a mile find the river looking like a water park then promptly get out of the Narrow! It was however nice to cool down after our quick decent off Observation Point.
When stopping by park office to pick up my wilderness permit, I am met by a ranger that apparently thinks anyone from New York State is from the City. He asked if I am hiking from top to bottom or from bottom to top. I state from bottom to top, I am from New York we do not have the canyoneering skillsets people around here have. This was an apparent mistake because he looks at me like I am going to break a nail and cry when on the trail. I’m from UPSTATE people; I have never even been to The City. Seriously look at me? After having to reassure the Park Ranger that I am fully capable of hiking in the Zion Wilderness to the Subway I head over to the gift shop to purchase a trail description for $6 that is required when hiking. I guess I could have printed one out and brought it but without know if I would get the permit I did not take these precautions.
After all these crowds I was craving beer, we stop by the Zion Brewery for a drink. Good beer has been hard to find in Utah so when I saw a brewery I knew I had to stop. After restoring my faith in humanity by consumption of pickled veggies and IPA I become friendly and chat with the patron to my right when Gloria takes advantage of having service. Chris was doing the whole adventure bum thing, taking seasonal work and following his hobbies around, Jackson Hole for winter, Zion for the summer seems like the kind of life I romanticize but know I will never live (or really want to). I pick his brain about best non ‘Zion City’ hikes. He recommends the Kanarra Trail, which was already on my list but has now been bumped up on priority; Gloria and I decide this will be our Monday hike.
We head out of town to find a campsite in Virgin. Gloria drives when I search some disbursement campsites on my phone. I find 2 options for us, we check one out and confirm it has signal for Gloria. Since it was still really hot and both sites are in full sun we head into La Verkin, the nearest town, for water, ice, gummy bears, and ice cream. Ladies have to have their priorities in order. We decide on camping that the flying monkey mesa, this is an awesome site with specular views of the surrounding mountains, the only negative is the heat. I think we would have had this problem anywhere in Virgin. We park the van to give us some shade, Gloria relaxes and chats with her mom when I cook us dinner of rice and quinoa with peas and random veggies. This meal was delicious, even if the rice was a bit undercooked. It was even more delicious due the amazing sunset I saw when cooking. Soon enough it was time to stop watching the moon and go to bed. We position the van to get the breeze coming in the main doors. I was so hot this evening I took an ice cube, put it in my hoo-ray and slept with it around my neck. Needless to say I did not sleep much this night either.
When morning came around I was happy to get off the mesa and into the wilderness. After a somewhat quick breakfast of cold oats, oatmeal, and yogurt we take the journey up the hill to find the trailhead. A few other people were at the trailhead, along with 2 other women who apparently didn’t know you needed to have a trail description to hike this trail. I wonder if they even had a permit but it is not really my business to question them. The Subway hike was probably my second favorite hike of the entire trip. I was surprise by the ease of the hike probably due to so many warnings about it being very difficult and the many warnings from the Park Ranger. On the return thought we passed the trail heading back up to Left Fork trail head which I read was very easy to do, we didn’t pass it but just didn’t go far enough. After some help from a fellow hiker we found the trail back to the van and started our climb.
Returning to the van we are hot, tired, and thirsty, we hoped to travel to Lava Point campground for the night but needed to pick up some more water and ice before. The closest store with ice is Zion River Resort; this is an RV campground with a pool that looked like heaven to swim in. After enjoying some a/c when walking around the store and using their restroom maybe even washing up a bit (Thanks Zion River Resort) we head up to Lava Point in hopes of getting a campsite. The drive up Kolob Terrace offers amazing views, which Gloria kept trying to point out to me. “Ashley look!” To which I respond “Well you know Gloria I would love to but there is a cliff to our left side right now” We make it to Lava Point campground a sign is hanging, saying “Campground Full” No!! Not wanting to spend another night in the heat of the valley below we decide to check it out and to our luck there is one campsite still available. This is just another one of the many times karma was on our side. Lucky us! Now time for some food I made dinner of cheese and power-green quesadilla with curry soup. After dinner I take a walk to the Lava Point overlook. Wow this is quite the view. I watch the sunset and realize I am extremely lucky to be here, in this awesome country, which has such diverse land.
The best way to start a morning is always with a sunrise run. I needed to get another one of these in before my vacation was over. I wake up run to the overlook to watch the sunrise, after the sunrise I went for a little out and back. Upon realizing I am overdressed again, I make a bold move; running in my sports bra alone. This is something I have never done before or will probably do in Ithaca but I didn’t see another soul around and I’m on vacation. Live a little. I come back from my run out of breath, hungry, and ready to take on the day.
The plan for today is to check out Kanarra Creek Canyon Trail. GPS says about 1 hour 20 min to get to the trailhead. We take some crazy back road past Kolob Reservoir that is dirt and doesn’t have any road signs. In hindsight it probably wasn’t the best idea but we got to see some beautiful fields of wildflowers and drive past some farms. Kanarraville is a small small town with not much but the trailhead. Upon entering the trailhead we pay a parking attendant then wonder if he is just making some extra cash on the side, either way I’m ok with it. The Kanarra trail was top 2 trails that I loved.
To return to the campsite for the night we take the main roads and not the backass country roads from the morning. Those suckers are a maze that I’m not sure we lucky enough to find our way out of again. On the way home we stop for some shaved ice that has really been hitting the spot on the hot Utah days.
In the morning I wake up and start packing my bag, after getting packed and putting the van back together we head off to Hop Valley trail for a short run. This trailhead is on the way back to Vegas and only an out and back. We have to sneak one more trail in before finding some water to shower of wait I mean swim in. Hop Valley trail is a really sandy path with small shrubs along the side. Ever since snake incident at the Subway I have been on high alert for snakes. This run was a bit stressful because I kept envisioning a snake in every small shrub. Running in sand works different muscles then running on dirt I was looking forward to being sore from the run. Due to the sand filling up our shoes we stopped to dump the sand our a few times. I should have probably switched back to trail sneakers because I have been hiking and running in my keens all week.
The state of dirty that was caked on my feet and ankles had me wanting a swim before the airport; the destination is Toquerville Falls. Getting to the ‘road’ to get to Toquerville Falls states 4-wheel drive is recommended. Well the van is a trouper and it can’t be any worse then the ‘road’ we took yesterday am to Kanarra Trail. Oh dear we are quite wrong. This ‘road’ was not made for this sweet sweet van we are driving, after about an hour traveling less than 3 miles we decide to turn around that the van can’t make it. Luckily Gloria has some mad reversing skills and maneuvers the van around. If we had the FJ I normally drive this ‘road’ would have been a breeze but in a van that I don’t know the service history of I think we made the right decision.
Gloria pumped gas when I searched for a new destination to take a swim. The debate was between Sand Hollow and Quail Creek. After reading about something called the ‘summer itch’ at Quail Creek we went to Sand Hollow. This is a lovely place for a shower or I mean swim, for some reason I think they are the same now. We finished off our salad and chicken from the night before and soaked up as much Utah sun as possible before being cooped up on a plane. After a short stop in St George for coffee and a truly amazing cupcake from Twentyfive Main Café we make the final trek to Las Vegas.
Time to kill in Las Vegas…what else to do but have some beers. We stop by the Hard Rock Café because it is en-route to the airport for some snacks and beer. After getting to the airport I decide what else is there to do when you wait for your flight but get a bit tipsy so you can sleep on the plane. I find a bar try some local IPA the name I have already forgotten, must have been all right for me to have a few of them. On the plane and sleeping only to wake up in Philly.