Trans-Zion Backpacking Trip 05/20/12-05/23/12

Trailhead: Weeping Rock Min El. : 4,350 ft Max El. : 7,200 ft
Duration: 4 Days El. Gain: 6,725 ft El. Loss: 4,725 ft
Distance: 61 Miles Difficulty: Strenuos Off Trail %: 0

Overview: This is a description of one version of the very popular Trans-Zion Trek. Upon visiting Zion, you will find this route so popular that many outfitters are set up to shuttle people from one end of the trail to the other on a regular basis. I had a different plan in mind when I got there. Based upon my experience at the Grand Canyon, I thought I would be so enamored with the stunning geological formations and scenery that I could start in the main canyon, head out to the east end and back, and then do the same on the west end, making it a sort of double out-and-back trip.

In hindsight, I would have much rather done the trip one way, or explored The Narrows, or spent my time journeying out into the many sub-canyons that surround the main one. It's not that I didn't enjoy myself. It's just that I realized what I had done was leave the watery haven in Zion Canyon to venture out onto its dry, hot, dead rims. On the East Rim, the only water I saw was a trickle coming out of a pipe (Steve Springs), and on the West Rim, I had to hike more than 16 miles to find a body of water bigger than a puddle. And most of the trees on the West Side were still recovering from being heavily scorched during an earlier fire.

Of course, even if the Trans-Zion Trek does leave you in very high, dry country most of the time, it's still an amazing journey, and it would be despicable of me to voice any complaints here. But I should still mention that of all my five days in the park, the one I enjoyed most was the one where I woke up in a hotel room, had a great breakfast, and then did two day hikes: one up to Angel's Landing and the other through the Narrows.

I usually have the exact opposite attitude toward the wilderness. I'd rather get far away from any roads or buildings and set up my tent in a remote place where all that's to be heard is the sound of a steadily running river. The problem is that the Trans-Zion Trek doesn't really present you with that option. Every part of the backcountry that I visited can be reached in a day hike (or with the aid of a shuttle drop-off). If I was to do a backcountry overnight, I'd probably want to stick to the very West side and explore Hop Valley and the smaller canyons in that area. This area has running water, spectacular geological formations, and plenty of shade to stave off the desert sun.


Elevation Profile (Very Inaccurate due to poor GPS signal coverage in canyons)

Day 0 : Planning and Prelude

Being the impulsive nitwit that I am, I decided to do this trip only two weeks in advance. I had been planning to do a snowshoe trip in Yosemite. But when I realized I'd be going to Vegas the weekend after, it made sense for me to visit one of the parks in Utah that I had been craving since I would be out that way. Zion was first on my list, and with a little research, it looked like my best bet for a 3-4 day trip was the Trans-Zion Trek. The pictures were enough to really whet my appetite. All the online permits were already taken, so my only choice was to try and get a walk-in permit the day before my trip. I called the ranger office a few times to see if there was any way I could secure something beforehand, but they told me I had to do things by the book. Luckily, they do reserve a few permits for the walk-ins, so if I got there bright and early the day before my trip, I would probably be set.

The problem was that unless I left at midnight and drove straight through to arrive at 8 am at the ranger station, I would be getting there well after the opening time. So I decided I'd allot one extra day in case all the day-of permits were taken. If I got there near closing time and they still had a permit left, great. If not, I'd just get it the next morning and spend the day walking around the park and checking things out.

Well, I got pretty lucky. I arrived just 10 minutes before the Kolob Canyon Visitor's Center closed, and was able to secure a permit. When I told the ranger of my trip plan, she looked at me like I was nuts. See, the problem was that I didn't want to hire a shuttle. I wanted to start in the main canyon and see both the West and East Rim. The way I figured to do this was to do an out-and-back trip to the East Rim and then another out-and-back to the West Rim. In retrospect, it was a terrible idea. In a place like Yosemite with cool mountain breezes and tons of water everywhere, it would have been lovely. But I'd soon learn that the West Rim was not the ideal place for a 40 mile journey. For about 18 miles, there is no place where you can dunk your head or soak your feet in water. That section is a real grind, and as I'll discuss later, I had absolutely no desire to backtrack along it.

Having secured my permit for the following day (to do the two out-and-backs I just mentioned), I headed over to the Cable Mountain Lodge where I had booked a room. I got a really good burger and some beers at Switchback Jack's Sports Grill (which I highly recommend), and called it a night.


Day 1 : East Rim Trail Min El.  : 4350 ft Max El. : 6750 ft
Night 1 : South of Steve Springs El. Gain : 2600 ft El. Loss : 200 ft

The next morning I started somewhat late. I was in my car by 8:30 am, which meant I would not beat the morning rush into the park. I ended up getting to the large parking lot next to the Zion Canyon Visitors Center not long after. I got my gear together, put my pack on, and headed over to the shuttle stop. The shuttles run every 20 minutes or so, and I managed to get on the next one headed North. When I got off at the Weeping Rock trailhead and stared up , I was immediately filled with awe. Finally, after all the planning and traveling and waiting, I was here standing in this amazing place.

The ascent up to the East Rim was wonderful. Views to the north and west continually impressed me. The morning was warming up, but I still felt great since the sun could not yet reach the the trail. About a thousand feet up, I got my first taste of amazing as the trail curled around a narrow slot canyon. Now this is what I was hoping for! I must have spent 20 minutes just staring at the spectacular strata along the canyon wall. When I got going again, I quickly encountered a wicked cool tunnel that brought me out of the slot canyon world.

At this point, the trail brings you out into little area encircled by walls on each side, and you face a gradual ascent of about 400 feet or so along a set of switchbacks. Afterward, the trail dumps you into a fairly extensive forest of Juniper and Pinyon Pine. The first thing I noticed was the large number of flies that were trying to land on me as I walked. No mosquitos; just annoying horse flies. They would be the single biggest nuisance of the trip. And even though I brought mosquito repellent, I didn't want to use it with the heat and lack of water.

At this point the trail began to meander around the forest, fading in and out of easy visibility. I wouldn't say it's hard to follow, necessarily. But I did have to pause a few times to think about where I should be headed and whether or not I lost it. After doing a near 180 on it, I began ascending up toward the East Rim. With a few hundred feet gain, I could see the buttes on the rim. The heat was getting more powerful as I started climbing the steep path up to rim, so I attacked my water supply, knowing that soon enough I'd be at Steve Springs.

After flattening out, the trail brought me through several meadows that flourished with all kinds of beautiful spring colors. And in a short while I had arrived at Steve Springs. Well, at least I was at a sign that said I was at the spring. I looked around for a pool of water, but was instead greeted by a metal pipe through which a slow trickle of water flowed out into the ground. So this was the spring, I thought. Wow. I experienced a short prick of disappointment, but then realized how grateful I should be that the spring was running at all. Water is water, and I should not be complaining to myself in anyway. But then when I sat down to fill up, I was swarmed by a fleet of flies and wasps, which quickly brought forth a great degree of irritation.

I managed to fill up my three water bottles without getting stung, which was nice. But now I had to figure out where I would set up camp for the night. I didn't want to go too far along the East Rim trail since I'd have to backtrack tomorrow anyway. But I tried going a bit ahead just in case there was a good spot I hadn't seen yet. It turns out there wasn't. The path after Steve Springs (to the east) is something of a wasteland. It looks like a fire burned most of it down some years ago, and there is hardly any shade to be found. Realizing this, I backtracked about a mile west of the spring and set up my tent about a hundred feet off the path, next to some large pine trees that would give me some nice shade. My plan was to head over to Cable Mountain for a short day hike, but with the heat of the mid-day and a bit of exhaustion setting in, I decided I'd take a nap instead.

An hour later, rising fresh and rejuvinated, I set out along the trail for Cable Mountain. Along the way, I passed a number of people sitting under Juniper Trees, looking like they were begging for some relief from the heat. I started to appreciate the meaning of the phrase, "high and dry" at that point. The trail itself was rather unremarkable; only a few vantage points are scattered along it. But Cable Mountain itself was remarkable enough to make the journey worth every step. They call it "Cable Mountain" because there is a huge hoist overhanging the edge of the cliff where they used to lower stuff to the bottom of the canyon. The view over the edge was intimidating enough to keep me well away from it. There was one guy that was going to pitch camp right there (not next to the edge, of course), and although there is no water for several miles, I thought it would be a fantastic spot to take in the sunset and sunrise.

I spent about a half an hour enjoying the views and then headed back to my camp, stopping at Steve Springs to fill up my water bottles plus a few ziploc bags so that I'd be set with water for the next morning as well. As I neared my tent, the solar eclipse began. I pulled out the welder's glasses I had brought to view it, and stopped from time to time to see how far the moon had traversed. A few passerbys asked me if they could see and I gladly let them have a look. When I got back to camp, I set up for dinner in an area where I had a clear view of the eclipsed and setting sun. The pinhole images of the sun prancing on my leg gave me a good smile as well. It was the perfect evening entertainment before bedtime. Almost better than a warm fire.


Day 2 : East/West Rim Trail Min El.  : 4350 ft Max El. : 7300 ft
Night 2 : Sawmill Springs El. Gain : 3200 ft El. Loss : 2600 ft

Trepidation was the first thing to greet me when I woke up on the second day. This was going to be a long, tough day. It was approximately 20 miles from the place where I was camped to the designated campsite the rangers had given me: site 9 at Sawmill Springs. I wasn't worried about my legs or my back or being exhausted. I was only worried about my feet. If I was to get a bad blister today, it would ruin the rest of my trip. I think that's one of the biggest things I've learned in all my hiking. Nothing is fun or pleasurable on a hike if every step brings pain to your feet.

My mitigation strategy was to take it nice and slow. I had plenty of time to get where I was going, and I figured as long as I took a break every half hour where I took my shoes off and let my feet breathe, I'd be fine. This turned out to be more or less true. Although my dogs were really barkin on the last two miles of the day, the next morning they felt great, and I didn't have a single blister to show.

I took my first step of the day around 6:30 am. The return trip on the East Rim trail was rather uneventful aside from a conversation with an older fellow that must have been from New York or Jersey, judging from his accent. He told me that I had to stop and take a side trip along the Hidden Canyon Trail. He told me that he gave it five out of five stars and he used a series of adjectives that made me feel like I was listening to a Yelp review. His prose worked, though. After talking with him, I really wanted to check it out. But that would be an extra 2 or 3 miles to an already jam-packed day. I figured I'd try and do it on the last day of my stay in Zion instead.

When I got to the valley floor it was about 8:30 am. With the anticipation of so much mileage ahead, I felt it best to use whatever mode of transportation I could besides my feet, leading me to take the shuttle from Weeping Rock to The Grotto. Finding the trail once I got off the bus was easy enough, and soon after starting my walk up the West Rim Trail, I was treated to an enchanting spectacle of the sunlight filtering down to the canyon floor.

It was easy to tell where I was headed on the nicely paved trail. After about 400 feet of elevation gain, it leveled out and traveled through a narrow corridor whose walls are wrought with tiny holes and pockets where hikers were taking pictures and hiding from each other. A group of people had gathered around one of these pockets, and when I stopped to join them, I found out they were watching a spotted owl that had come to take a rest. After going a bit further up this corridor, the trail took a dramatic turn into a series of very short, steep switchbacks. Even though I had a heavy pack on, I was still walking a bit faster than most of the people on the trail, and passing them proved to be a bit of a challenge.

The switchbacks eventually culminated in a sandstone platform on which many people had stopped to recuperate after the sharp ascent. This was the gateway to the Angel's Landing trail. I had just heard about it on the recording that plays on the shuttle buses, and I could see why they gave warning about its precariousness. Even here there were 90 degree edges. Ahead on the trail to the landing, these edges dominated the landscape, making a series of locations where one could easily fall to their death if the rock was slippery or they were not being careful enough. I didn't have time to venture out onto the landing now, but I would return three days later and make the trip. It turned out to be not so bad. Yes, there are places where someone could fall a thousand feet in an instant. But with proper conditions and caution, the trail seemed very safe compared to something like Half Dome at Yosemite.

I took a rather long break at this point, enjoying the views and antics of the many people around me. When I started out again, I found the West Rim Trail would flatten out and steady itself on a horizontal path to the north. The next few miles consisted of a very gradual westward ascent along the southern side of a broad, open valley. After turning southwest, the trail dumps you into a bit steeper of an ascent through an area covered by pine trees and numerous shrubs. Then, finally, it curves around back to the north for a very intense climb up the helm of another canyon . When I reached this point, I ran into a couple just as I started pouring sweat, and they were nice enough to take a picture of me.

One thing that sticks out in my mind about this portion of the trail was being really, really thirsty. I had started out with three liters of water in the main canyon, but now I was down to less than a quarter. Cabin Springs was very close, but I wish I could have taken in another full liter. After one last push up the trail, I was on the rim. Immediately I was greeted by a number of signs for the West Rim campsites and Cabin Springs. I dropped my pack and went to fill up my water at Cabin Spring, which was about a hundred yards away on a side-route. Again, I was met with some disappointment. This one was at least a pool of water, but it had a warm, stagnant feel to it that didn't bring any real feeling of refreshment. Still, it was water. I had to be greatful for that.

After filling up, I had my lunch under some huge pine trees near campsites 1 and 2. A guy with a running getup stopped to talk with me while I was eating, and he said he came to Zion every year around this time because he loves it so much. I asked him if was worth taking the West fork of the path ahead instead of the East fork even though the former was about a mile longer. He said the extra mile was well worth the spectacular views on the Western Fork, and at that point I was convinced that it was the way I should go. But after he left and I had finished my lunch, I looked at the map again and thought to myself that I would rather cut down on mileage. I mean, how much better could the views be on the West fork?

Well, I can't answer that question since I never saw the West fork. But I can say that the East fork is an awful, awful place to be on a hot day. It has the appearance of a place that was scorched by fire and never recovered. There are a few isolated pine trees, but mostly it is just a sea of thorns and bushes, with hardly any breeze at all. My single biggest regret of the trip was taking this path.

It was about 14:30 when I arrived at the trail junction where the two forks join back up again (right near campsite 6). My feet were still cooperating, and I was well hydrated—still in good spirits overall. I took a 20 minute break and got back to my attack on the trail. At this point, the views open up to the West in spectacular fashion.

In another hour or so, I was nearing Potato Hollow Springs. There is a beautiful grove of aspen trees just west of the spring, and I took a moment to enjoy the shimmering of the leaves in the mid-afternoon sun as I entered. Here the water was more plentiful, but it was in the form a swamp-like body. I waded into the water up to my knees, trying to find an area that wasn't packed with silt, but this proved challenging. I managed to fill up my bottles, but I knew my filter was going to need quite a cleaning after this.

The rest of the day was very unremarkable. The West Rim trail between campsite 8 and 9 became repetitive quickly. It offered only a small collection of good views to the East and West, and seemed to go on forever. I must admit, though, at this point my feet were feeling the 16 miles I had already put in on the day, so my attitude wasn't the best. If I was doing this with fresh feet, I'm sure it would have been much better.

Even though the only thing I wanted to do was sit down and end my day, I managed to miss the turnoff for campsite 9 on my way North. I saw a little sign and a turn-off, but I could have sworn it had an arrow that pointed north for Sawmill Springs, so I kept going. About three quarters of a mile after, I realized that it had to be the turnoff I was looking for, so I turned around and headed back. Campsite 9 was just about a tenth of a mile down the trail or so. I dropped my pack there and headed to get some water for the night.

When I finally got to Sawmill Springs, I found it to be another little pond swarming with insects of every type. There were more wasps here, which kept me on edge as I filled up my water bottles. I was entirely exhausted after I got my tent set up and ate dinner, but it was still too light out for me to want to sleep. So I ended up reading a geology book about Utah that I had purchased at the visitor center until the sun set. That night I slept quite well in the still, quiet, high desert air.


Day 3 : Wildcat Canyon/Hop Valley Min El.  : 5800 ft Max El. : 7300 ft
Night 3 : Horse Camp B El. Gain : 600 ft El. Loss : 1800 ft

I cannot begin to explain how glad I was to wake up and find that my feet were in excellent condition. The night before they had been pulsating as I went to sleep, but when I crawled out of my sleeping bag, I found no blisters or pain at all. When I got going that morning, right away I was greeted by a three hikers smoking cigarretes on a rock. They weren't even wearing backpacks, which made me wonder how they had got there and where they were going. As it turned out, they had been dropped off at the trailhead just to the North of Lava Point Rd. This perked my curiosity. I had absolutely no desire to repeat the last 14 miles I had just done; taking a shuttle was now the most appealing thought to cross my mind all morning. They informed me that the drop-off was pretty regular at both the Lava Point trailhead and at the Lee Pass trailhead. Right there and then I decided I'd take a shuttle back to my car. I figured I'd see how the rest of the trail went and then determine where to wait for the pick-up.

I was pretty excited when I first saw Wildcat Canyon for the first time. The trail wasn't anything spectacular, and neither was the canyon, but I was happy to be making progress towards real water. In between that real water (in Hop Valley) and where I was, there were only two sources: a very, very tiny spring where I filled up my water bottles and another larger spring about a quarter of a mile west (both are somewhere around a west of the trailhead). When I got to the second spring, it was surrounded by a large group of teenagers and some older chaperones. I was shocked to see that it actually had some pressure to it, forming a nice stream of running water. When I remarked this to one of the chaperones, he told me that they couldn't actually get any water out of it because of a large hornets' nest hanging right above the main pool. I told them about the tiny pool I had just passed and they were ecstatic to hear about it, which made me happy.

After passing through a bit of coverage, the trail then opened up and gave way to some colorful wildflowers and a sweet view of the remaining stretch of canyon. I was particularly delighted to then find myself entering a lovely pine forest with a soft dirt path. This area I really enjoyed, and I would soon find that it was only going to get better.

Within about three hours of leaving Sawmill Springs, I arrived at the junction with the connector trail. Here the forest gives way to an open sandy area surrounded by neat rock formations. Shortly after, the trail bends northward to avoid a huge outcropping of rock, descends a bit, and literally explodes in color. It follows a very cool bed of rock that looks like it serves as a water chute during heavy rains. At this point, you are close enough to roads that you can hear cars going by on a regular basis, but the spectacular views combat the noise perfectly.

At about 12:30 I stopped for some lunch when it looked like the descent had ended. I also tried to squeeze a nap in, but the horseflies didn't let me get much sleep. So I started on my West once again. There are some really awesome rocks followed by a stretch of open meadow. And then the trail comes to an end at the Hop Valley Trailhead.

Just before arriving at the road, I ran into a guy that I'll never forget on the trail. He was an older guy, probably in his mid-fifties or early sixties. He had some sturdy legs and roaming eyes hidden under a pair of Hunter S. Thompson sunglasses, and his appearance and composure immediately left me with the impression that he had been backpacking well before I was born. When I asked him about water ahead, he took to drawing a map in the sand with his hiking pole, which I thought was a pretty cool way to convey information. He said there wasn't much water for several miles, but offered me the liter or so that he had left in a cooler near the trailhead. And right before leaving him, he offered me his card. The Wilderness Vagabond he called himself. What a character.

At first, my pride told me that I shouldn't take him up on his offer of the water. I had enough to get me to Hop Valley where he said there'd be plenty, but man was I thirsty. So I ended up finding that cooler and dumping a liter into one of my Nalgenes. Boy, did that hit the spot. I took a rest under some small trees, wanting to avoid the heat that had crept up during the day. The next few miles wouldn't exactly help in that area. A wide open field made shelter very scarce during the next mile or so. I took refuge twice during this stretch to hide under a small stand of trees, and enjoy the expansive view in front of me.

About a half an hour later, the trail changed character. It began to wind downward, giving a line of sight to Hop Valley. It then leads you to the bottom of a magnificent U-shaped valley filled with lush grass and smells hinting of wetness. In fact, most of the grass was immersed in a sort of bog, giving rise to tons of bugs and wet boots if one doesn't hug the trail on the east side. The first several hundred yards of the valley, although teeming with water, were not that appealing due to the fact that all the water was warm and stagnant. However, soon the trail gave way to a virtual paradise of knee-deep, criss-crossing streams of cold, running water.

I took a nice long break at this point to soak my feet and head in the stream, which completely revitalized me. While I was doing so, a couple of guys from the midwest happened along and we started talking. They had come from the Lee Pass trailhead that morning and were headed the opposite way I was. They told me that the rangers had given them Horse Camp A for their first night, but they had arrived there at around 2 o'clock and decided they wanted to keep on walking to make some more progress even though they didn't have a really good plan on where to camp that night. That was very useful information for me, since that meant I could then camp at Horse Camp A if I wanted, which would put a little less distance in between me and the trailhead the following morning. I asked them how difficult the trail ahead of me was, noting that I had slowed down to probably less than 2 miles an hour walking pace because of all the sand. They confirmed that it would be pretty slow going for most of the way.

Finally, I asked them about how they got to the trailhead, and they said they had gotten dropped off by one of the shuttle companies. They reiterated what the guys from that morning had told me: the shuttle drops are fairly routine, usually taking place around 9 or 10 in the morning. I told them that I was going to try to make it out in time to catch one after camping at Horse Camp A or B that night, and a look of doubt showed on both their face. One of the guys said that I wouldn't be able to make it in time, but I just shrugged my shoulders and said I'd start out bright and early and give it a go. I figured I was probably a bit faster than both of them, but I'd start out even earlier the next morning just in case the trail was super difficult.

We said our goodbyes and I headed north on what would turn out to be my favorite stretch of the Trans-Zion Trek by far. It starts out as a narrow sand path that crosses a series of interwoven streams. On both sides of the trail, there are stunning features carved out of the walls. And then, the trail becomes lost in a very wide streambed that you can follow for nearly two miles. Oh my, did I enjoy this! My feet were once again feeling the rigors of the day, but stepping in the cold water on a soft bed of sand made them feel like a million bucks.

I made it to Horse Camp B somewhere around 1800. It looked nice, but I figured I'd head the extra quarter mile or so to Horse Camp A (I should mention that at this time of year—or at least the particular time I was there—the stream bed was dry by the time I reached the first Horse Camp). When I got there, I set up my tent in the incredibly large confines of Horse Camp A. It's a really big site with a more than adequate amount of flat ground to set up a tent on. I explored the area surrounding the camp and found that the stream had been entirely replaced with sand. I suppose there could be water just below if I had started digging, but luckily I decided to fill my water bottles up completely when the water started drying up a mile south.

I tried to get a shot or two of the sun lighting up the eastern walls, and then headed back to camp for some food. As it would turn out, I had company for dinner that night. A never-ending fleet of horse flies. It was strange; they were very easy to kill. One would land on my knee and I'd slap it dead, letting its body fall near my feet. And then another would come...and another...and another. I literally had a pile of dead flies in between my legs when I started to read my geology book that evening. As soon as the night fell upon me I crawled in my tent and laid down for sleep. It was a warm night that hardly demanded a sleeping bag.


Day 4 : La Verkin Creek Min El.  : 5000 ft Max El. : 6100 ft
El. Gain : 1300 ft El. Loss : 1000 ft

On the last day, I woke up well before the sun had risen. Instead of making a hot breakfast, I quickly downed a cliff bar and some dried berries, then packed up everything and shoved off. It was about 5:30 am when I exited the grove of trees that surrounds Horse Camp A and headed across the dry riverbed. Little did I know that today's hike would be just as good—if not better—than the one yesterday afternoon.

The first mile and a half or so that I had to hike to get to the trail junction with La Verkin Creek was ok. It was dark and a lot of the sand was soft, which slowed me down a good deal. The narrow trail is surrounded by trees and bushes, and that meant that I would be greeted by a plethora of spider webs to ring in the morning. Right as I neared the junction, I got my first taste of scenery along the northern wall bordering La Verkin Creek and the canyon leading off to the east as the sun poked its head out. The trail rises a few hundred feet at this point and then dumps you down into the clutches of La Verkin Creek.

Man, I can not explain how good it felt to finally be near a body of water that had some depth and flow to it. I soaked my feet and head in the creek for a bit, and then struck out to the West. As I looked back to the East, I got some great views of the sunrise. And the view to the West was very open and inviting. Although there are no mile markers along the trail, I could gauge my distance as I passed camps 4-10. These all looked like wonderful spots to hold up for a night or two; close enough to water and far enough from each other to give a good feeling of isolation. As I passed this area, I was treated to spectacular reflections of the morning sun bouncing off the creek.

After leaving the creek at campsite 4, the trail becomes a little less delightful as it climbs gradually through a stretch of pines and yucca. It joins up with Timber Creek a bit later, and at this point you get treated to a magnificent view of Shuntavi Butte. I kept wondering if that was a Mormon name; sounded more like Hindu or something to me. I gotta say that Zion probably has one of the most interesting variety of names for things.

It was about 8:00 am when I stopped to take a little break and fill up my water bottles along Timber Creek. I was really enjoying this part of the trail. There are some stretches of lush grass and fantastic openings to the east that look ripe for exploration. And after gaining about 500 feet of elevation, the views back to the south made me sad to be leaving this beautiful country.

I got to the trailhead around 8:45 that morning. I was exhausted, I was smelly, and I was thirsty. But I was still hopeful that a shuttle would be making a dropoff in the next hour or so, and that they'd be willing to give me a ride despite my condition. A half hour went by and all I saw were tourists stopping to take a picture from Lee Pass. I talked to a few of them, just shooting the breeze about what I had just done or where they came from. There was an older couple that seemed concerned for my well being, and I was about to just ask them for a ride back to the main canyon, but before I had the chance to ask they mentioned that they weren't headed that way.

When 10:15 rolled around, I figured that there was not regular 10:00 am dropoff, and so I started walking down the road to the Kolob Visitor Center. I made a good amount of progress down the road in a half hour's time, but when my dog's started barking, I decided I'd do the civilized thing and try to hitch-hike. And wouldn't you know it? Three cars later and that same old couple passed me by and stopped just in front of where I was walking. They offered to give me a ride to the visitor center and I gladly took them up on it. I always get nervous hitch-hiking, but as I'd soon find out, it's legal within the park boundaries.

So after a nice ride and some good conversation, the nice old couple dropped me off at the visitor center. I still had to make it the thirty-odd miles back to the main canyon, and I was considering just trying to hitch from the parking lot. But I figured I'd ask the rangers how much a shuttle would cost. We called one company and they said it'd be $130 since I was requesting a shuttle all for myself and they had to do a special pick-up and return. Well, that was not sounding good. But just as I was about to call another company, a group of three people (two guys and a girl) that were just a bit older than me walked in the door. One of the guys was a shuttle driver that was about to drop off the other two at the Lee Pass trailhead. The ranger told him that I was looking for a ride. He said that the company policy was to charge the same outlandish rate for a single person. But since he had to go back anyway, I figured I could do some bartering. I told him I'd pay him $35 and he didn't even try a counteroffer. He just said that it would do the trick. So there I had it. I'd found a ride. And it was a pretty nice wrap-up to the trip. The driver had a bunch of cool stuff to tell me as we drove back, and he also showed me one of the craziest things I've ever seen. He ate a kiwi with the skin on. Gotta try that some time.