Zion – West Rim

2010/10/29: Lava Point to Grotto – 13 miles

When the alarm went at 6:00, I wished we hadn’t booked ourselves on the 7:00 a.m. shuttle; my body was saying it would have preferred a day off. Yet we hoisted ourselves onto the shuttle, bagels in hand, along with a really nice young couple from Portland. In later conversation they told us they were on their honeymoon, a grand tour of western national parks. We said it sounded like a familiar sort of honeymoon.

An hour’s drive on gravel roads saw us deposited at Lava Point Overlook, to start the hike across frosted mesa as the sun rose and slowly warmed us. Starting at an elevation of 7,890 feet meant an open landscape with views in every direction. The colours were muted compared to our Narrows starting point, but meadows of asters gone to seed and stands of bare aspens gave way to cactus and contorted scorched pines as we skirted cliff tops and peered into canyons. This was the high country, and quite a contrast from the canyon bottom of the last two days.

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This is a far less travelled route than the Narrows. In the first nine miles, we saw no hikers other than our shuttle mates – and them only once. Then we began to meet a few bottom-up hikers, and more of these as we descended into the valley. We paused to watch two rock-climbers nearing the top of a big wall climb. No pitons allowed here – traditional climbs only and it certainly doesn’t look like beginner territory. (John: don’t get ideas!!!)

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Two climbers on a face of Zion Canyon

Our descent was a feat of 1930s engineering, and not for the acrophobic. First we zigged and zagged down a sheer rock face. The path was wide enough, but looking downward was not for the faint of heart.

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After passing the turnoff for popular Angel’s landing, where fixed cables lead the brave to a pinnacle, we descended Walter’s Wiggles, named for the park superintendent under whom they were built. The temperature rose as we dropped, and could hear tree frogs in the canyon beside us.

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Near the valley floor, we saw a group ahead of us gingerly admiring something on the pathway. It was another tarantula, larger than the last we’d seen. We think it was a male; they come out this time of year and go cruising for mates. The sign on the shuttle bus says that they’re “good natured.” Our mild-mannered specimen seemed to confirm that description.

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Tarantula (note foot print for scale)

We shuttled back to our car, and dropped ourselves into bed in the same motel as the previous night for a good long sleep, too tired to bother with dinner. Both old bodies were looking forward to a non-hiking day as we moved on to Bryce Canyon National Park.

We’ve put a Zion photo set on Flickr.

M

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