July 30th, 2012

Today I am beginning a new semi-daily series with news, videos and stories of adventure from around the internet.

What we have for today’s news is a killer mountain-biking video, some sad news from just upstream from where I live and a few other various tidbits.

Where the Trail Ends, a trailer for a mountain-biking movie coming later this year:

http://blog.contour.com/2012/07/30/where-the-trail-ends-4-5-minute-trailer/

Terrible news on the North Umpqua today, as a teenager from Bend, Oregon, drowned when the raft she was on capsized and she was pinned beneath some wood and drowned.

http://www.kpic.com/news/local/Teen-drowns-in-North-Umpqua-164272486.html

Here are some really nice videos I have been watching the last few days:

Notice a theme here? Ever since I journeyed to the desert of SW Utah, I have become obsessed with the region and we are now planning on moving there in about a year.

Have a good day everyone and be safe.

Southwest Tour, Part VI, B: Hidden Valley

After we had left behind the slot canyon of the lower Observation Point trail, we came a short ways down the huge rock face that the trail cuts across, then we came to the junction with the Hidden Canyon trail, and began heading straight back up a steeper and tighter series of switchbacks. At the end of the switchabcks, the trail begins hugging a series of crags along narrow ledges protected by chains like the Angels Landing trail. After rounding a couple of these crags, we came to the opening to another slot canyon – Hidden Valley. I had been told about this trail by some fellow campers in the campground, and so Charles and I had decided to add it to the end of our Observation Point hike

Sandstone pockets in Hidden Valley

The entrance to the ‘valley’ (it is really more of a canyon or gorge) is protected by a short scramble up a small boulder. There are several such steps in the valley, each overcome by easy but exposed scrambling up or around the blockage. The bottom of this slot canyon is mostly sand, with occasional protruding steps of sandstone.

We looked up and around us in awe, sometime the canyon would narrow to less than twenty feet, but the walls can be hundreds of feet high. One wall was particularly perfect, dead-on vertical and absolutely smooth. Yet this narrow valley was not devoid of life, there were numerous stands of trees, mostly cottonwood, plus man varieties of herbaceous shrubs. Plus cactus, of course, there was always cactus.

After hiking for about twenty minutes, Charles pointed out an amazing little arch that I had walked past without seeing it.

The Hidden Arch

We continued on, the canyon cut a perfectly straight path through the Mesas on either side. After climbing past three or four obstacles, we could see that we had come to where the canyon widened and began heading back up, and we decided that we had essentially come to the end of the valley.

We turned around and hiked our way back out, glad to have added this additional challenge to an already challenging day. We returned to the Weeping Rock trailhead, caught the shuttle back to the lodge and spent the rest of the day between the lodge, our campsite and the swimming hole a few hundred yards away. We had one more day left in Zion, and the challenge that lay ahead would be my toughest test yet.

Southwest Tour, part VI, A: Observation Point

The trail up to Observation Point

The trail up to Observation point is, in my opinion, one of the single greatest pure hikes around, period. Having done the Angels Landing hike/scramble the day before (which was recently listed as the single greatest day hike in the U.S.), I can honestly say that I think this one is better. For one, there are far fewer people. With nearly double the elevation gain of Angels Landing and more than twice the mileage, it weeds out the casual hiker or tourist after the first couple of miles. Another great thing about this hike is the astounding variety of scenery packed into it.

Starting from the Weeping Rock trailhead, the initial mile is quite strenuous, switchbacking up a rock face and gaining around 800 feet of elevation. I told Charles from the outset to just go ahead and go at his own pace and I would do the same, enabling me to film and take pictures at my leisure.

Sandstone walls from lower on the trail

When I reached the top of the first major rise, the trail switched from climbing up a sandstone face to traversing through a gorgeous, narrow canyon, with a deep, dark slot canyon below the trail. I was in awe, absolute awe. The beauty and serene tranquility(especially after experiencing the throngs on Angels Landing) was wonderful, and the climber in me naturally wanted to rap down and explore the deeper recesses.

The trail follows these narrow canyons for several miles, until finally wrapping around a corner and opening up into a wide amphitheater-like area, a sort of backdoor section of Zion that is equally beautiful to the canyon itself. Here the heat started to really rise, the next forty-five minutes of hiking was like being in an oven.

The ‘backdoor’ area on the trail.

I was essentially alone on this part of the trail. I had passed a couple of young ladies in the canyon section, but out here there was virtually no one. I made my way along endless switchbacks, feeling the heat try to wither me, but after the Grand Canyon I felt pretty impervious. We had actually allowed ourselves to sleep in that morning instead of waking up at our usual four or five a.m., and now we were paying the price.

A sign along the Observation Point trail

As the trail headed into a fold in the mountain, the heat increased even more dramatically. Looking at the perfect wall opposite from the trail, I saw numerous rock-climbing routes that were begging to be climbed. Eventually the trail wrapped around the side of the mesa, and once more I saw the vista of Zion Canyon below, and I knew I was getting close to the top. It was much cooler on this side, too, bringing a welcome breeze and shade after cooking for the past forty-five minutes.

The trail at this point is a switchbacking series of ledges literally blasted out of a cliff face. You can actually see this portion of the trail from Zion Canyon. I took some footage of myself hiking up the ledges, and after about ten minutes, I had reached the top of the mesa. Now it was an undulating mile along the rim to reach Observation Point. Ten or fifteen people milled around on top, enjoying the stunning views. Angels Landing, our previous hike, could be seen about a thousand feet below us. Charles and I congratulated each other on another phenomenal hike. I took more pictures and film, and once again had to fend off an over-aggressive squirrel who was obviously used to handouts.

The view from Observation Point

Don & Charles on Observation Point

Myself eating a seaweed snack Ryan had asked me to take on the trip.

We spent fifteen minutes enjoying the stunning views before heading back down. When we got back to the begining of the narrow canyon, I opted to scramble down and see if I could make it through one of the narrow slot canyons I had seen on the ascent. It was so amazing in there, the walls that were only five feet across but one hundred feet high snaked below the trail. I finally got to a point where there was a pool of water, and if I hadn’t had the expensive cameras on me, I would have gone for a swim to reach the other side, but I thought better and went back to re-join the trail.

When we reached the junction with the Hidden Valley trail (on the initial rock face we had hiked from the Weeping Rock trailhead), we headed back up, but that is a subject for the next blog…