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Southwest

Southwest

Old West Roadtrip

Epic adventures start with a 4am wakeup call. A 4am wakeup to caravan from Los Angeles to Zion. A 4:30am drive to head to the base of the Tetons. In the first few glimpses of nautical twilight, it’s easy for the excitement and anxiety to uneasily digest as you look out the dewy car window. I’m coming back in one piece, right?

Keane and I took 2 weeks off work in June to explore the Southwest and Rockies with 40 foot rope, technical and camping gear, cooler of Trader Joes, and an array of shoes (climbing, heels, canyoneering, trail, etc). Total #geargasm… don’t know how it all fit into my little Honda Fit 😮

We planned on camping in Zion/Capitol Reef a few nights and eventually getting to Jackson Hole, Keane’s hometurf, to stay at his parent’s. Mountaineering, rappelling down slots, makin eyes with a buffalo… I was ambitious! Here’s how the trip started:


Day 1

Two caravans left LA around 5am to head to Zion. I invited my good friend Teresa, a Carbondale, CO native, who’s never been before. We get to Springdale around 2pm, and since the guys (Keane, Ryan, Brian, Joe, and Ivan) were planning on canyoneering the beasty Heaps canyon the next day, they needed to leave ASAP. Which basically translated to total girl weekend 🙂

Teresa and I decide to go up Angels’ Landing the first day, so we pack up the beers and take a hike up the sandstone switchbacks. When we finally get to the last half mile up the ridge, there’s some metal chains attached to the narrow fins, juxtaposed with the pantsh*tting cliff drops only a few inches from the path. It’s a fun scramble all the way up, and when we get to the top at 5700″, we find an amazing cairn garden that’s a downclimb to get to.

That night, we realize we have no where to sleep (campsites are FULL). After hanging out in the parking lot inhaling our canned chili (mmm), we try our luck driving slowly around the nearby campground to see if any families were down to take in two smelly charming girls. No shame. Teresa tries her charm with an elderly couple, but they were not having our solicitor asses, so we leave in defeat.

Eventually, we stumble onto some BLM public land a good miles away, and my low-clearance vehicle putters onto some brush/we set up for the night. Teresa insists we sleep with a knife.

Day 2

We wake up early since we’re attempting to hike to Big Springs in the Narrows today/Teresa needs to catch a ride back to LA right afterwards. Though I’m pretty cheap thrifty, we rent sticks, canyoneering boots, and neoprene socks at the Zion Adventure Company to keep us warm/stable.

We head to the Temple of Sinawava, and when we finally get to the cool water, the neoprene does a great job keeping us warm (go 5.10!). We make our way down this world wonder, and as the cavernous walls get bigger, the emerald narrows get thinner. Before long, we’re in the jaw-dropping Wall Street portion of the hike:

We know we’ve reached Big Springs after the water gets chest-deep, and turned around after we have some lunch. The hike back is just as spectacular, and after I fall on a rock/Teresa pets a squirrel, we make it back just in time for Teresa to head home to LA.

I get reception in time to see an email from the Zion Wilderness Reservation: scored two last-minute permits for a top-down hike in Subway tomorrow 🙂 Canyoneering, oh boy!

subway post cont.

Southwest

Ride the Subway

Southwest Tour (cont)

 

Day 3

Simply epic. There’s two ways you can do the famous backcountry Subway- a 8-9 mile ‘bottom-up’ approach where you hike up upstream towards the Subway, and a more technical ‘top down’ hike where you drop-in from above, which involves multiple rappels/swims. Since Zion is the mecca birthplace of canyoneering (and it’d be my first stab at it), I had to choose the latter 🙂

That said, it was a strenuous hike. I’m so grateful that Keane has solid rope management skills… and that dry bags float.

I can blab about the cool tubular chambers we emerged into (hence, the name!), the green against the royal sandstone, but I think the pictures will do it more justice 😉

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We also found a cool room right behind one of the waterfalls!

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southwest tour cont.

Southwest

Reefer Madness

Southwest Tour (cont)

 

DAY 4-6

“I don’t want conventional things in life. I really don’t. I spend a lot of time traveling, being on the road, and away from friends and family. I worry about being too selfish with my time. Day told me there’s no such thing as ‘being selfish. ‘Selfish’ exists because of other people’s judgements, which easily become our own. It’s alright when time is spent doing things where your true passions lie. (They) are what expand compassion and growth and make you beautiful.”

We say goodbye to Zion after I get my fix of huckleberry pie (mmm) and drive to Capitol Reef hoping to spend a few days canyoneering at Cottonwood Wash. The park is a little underdeveloped compared to its Mighty 5 cousins Bryce Canyon and Zion, and upon arriving at the visitor center that night, we find out there will be thunderstorms the next few days. Flash flood warnings close Cottonwood Wash 🙁

We wake up the next morning and decide to do a day hike up the Cohab Canyon trail, as it’s littered with multiple slot canyons and scrambling opportunities.

The weather goes from sunny skies to abrupt thunderstorms. It gets so bad that at one point, Keane and I are forced to sheek shelter underneath a sandstone cave.

All in all, the weather is rugged, and we come back to camp that night to a wet tent and lightning illuminating the sky. No one ever said the West was forgiving 🙂

Next stop- Wyyooming!

Southwest

Arizona Slots

Keane and I decided to drive to Page, Arizona to hit up some slot canyons while visiting his grandparents in Phoenix. As we entered through Navajo country, we noticed a hitchhiker making his way up the 89 freeway, trudging his way through the 100 degree heat. We decide to give him a lift and after he gets in, we learn that his car had broken down the previous month, and he’d been hitchhiking the past couple of weeks as a means to getting around (in this case, to check on a friend, 40 miles away from his Chapter House). His entire family- even his sisters- have taken up welding, and they often overlook the potential safety hazards (especially for eyes) to make ends meet. He’s a soft-spoken and optimistic guy in his mid 30s, and my heart gets a little heavy when he starts talking about his daughter, how she’s hoping to apply to college in a couple of years. We drop him off at Lechee, and reminded of the socioeconomic reality that many people across the country face, we trudge on.

Needless to say, we eventually get to Antelope, and the grandeur is all sorts of cray:

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Since the guided tour ended with some sunlight left (you’re not allowed in without being part of one), we decided to explore another, more isolated canyon by ourselves. Not a soul, and just as lovely:

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