On Saturday we drove 8 hours and arrived just outside Zion National Park. We quickly setup our tent and began sorting and organizing our backpacking food and gear so we were ready to leave first thing in the morning. We also unpacked our mess kit for dinner only to find a couple of the cups didn’t get washed and still had coffee residue…lesson learned. As we were cooking our dinner the sun was setting and we looked up to see the mountain next to us glow as if it was on fire.
This was our first realization of the amazing beauty that Zion had to offer.
The next morning we quickly had breakfast and packed our backpacks, then drove just inside the park to pick up our permits. I asked the ranger about the conditions on the East Rim and he replied the reports were a few days old but they expected snow on the ground and the looming gray clouds to also drop some snow throughout the day. I just smiled, grabbed our permit and knew this trip was going to be interesting to say the least. We then drove to Zion Adventure Company where we parked our car and took a shuttle to the East Rim trailhead.
The shuttle ride was spent talking to the guide about different areas of the park and staring out the windows in awe of the unusual rock formations. We arrived at an empty trailhead and gray skies, in which the guide commented “well looks like you’re on your own today.” Putting on a 40 pound backpack in the morning doesn’t feel too bad, but knowing that you’ll have to carry it 6.5 miles up 1,600 feet of elevation over the next 5 hours is what makes you think twice. Soon after we started on the trail we turned on our GPS and started the tracking. We headed down the wide sandy trail side by side talking about work and school. We find the first couple hours are spent venting about daily stresses, but we’re soon easily distracted by the incredible views.
The trail became a little muddy and we could tell there must have been a herd of mule deer ahead of us from the number of prints in the mud, but they stayed well ahead of us and out of sight. After a couple of miles we reached a small stream crossing near the edge of a gorge. The stream plummeted a few hundred feet off the shear cliff.
Katharine sitting on the edge of a waterfall reading the map
This was the first of many steep cliffs without any railings keeping you from peeking over the edge. If you are afraid of heights, some of these trails are not for you.
As you can see the gray clouds and the chance of rain and snow were quickly replaced by clear blue skies.
Around noon we reached higher elevation where snow was still present but luckily it didn’t live up to the ranger’s report of possibly a foot deep.
The sun was melting the snow making the trail muddy and slippery. It makes it even more challenging sliding and balancing a fully loaded pack. After a while we took lunch knowing we were close to Stave Spring and our future campsite.
We found the deep tread in our boots filled with mud adding more unnecessary weight
I think Katharine likes taking photos of me while I take photos in awkward positions.
Whatever it takes to get the shot
After a little over four hours of hiking across sand, rocks, running streams, snow and mud we finally reached a grove of Ponderosa Pines that we would call home for the next two nights.
The orange sand was almost a fine dust on the trail
We spent the afternoon setting up camp, scouting the area, and taking an afternoon nap under the sun. After dinner the sun was setting and the temperatures were dropping, but we snapped a few photos before we headed to bed.
2.5 second exposure
This was our first backpacking trip where we were the only people camping in the area.