May 4, 2011

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We woke up again to frigid temperatures but we knew we were hiking to lower elevations and warmer temperatures.  We didn’t have much planned except to hike 9 miles, and  2,000 feet down the mountain so we waited for the sun to warm up the tent before we crawled out of our sleeping bags.  We packed up our gear and said goodbye to the peaceful solitude.

Once again the trail was full of switch backs leading us close to the edge.  Of course this time the trail had patches of ice and snow to keep us alert.

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After descending into Echo canyon, the trail somewhat disappears as it traverses the slickrock of the canyon floor. We followed the cairns across the sandstone until we got to a split in the trail to Observation Point, a popular destination for day hikers. As we were carrying so much and pretty tired already, we decided to continue heading down to Zion Canyon, leaving Observation Point for another day.

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By this point, the trail was crowded with day hikers. As we passed them we were often greeted with looks of awe.  It’s always fun to be the one of the toughest on the trail.  Most people couldn’t believe we were carrying all our gear and had camped through two freezing nights. One person even commented on how “fresh” we looked considering our nights in the backcountry.

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As we followed a small river down the mountain it began to carve it’s way deeper into the rock creating amazing slot canyon walls.

Olympus Stylus Tough, 5mm, ISO 64, f/3.5, 1/50 seconds

It also made for some interesting water crossings.  In some areas we were wading through knee deep water.  Luckily this was our last day backpacking and we knew we could dry out our boots next to a campfire. In the summer I think this trail is almost entirely dry, but given the huge amounts of snow melt this spring, there was quite a bit of water flowing.

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We hadn’t packed water shoes/sandals because we weren’t expecting river crossings or much warm weather, but the carved sandstone walls made it all worthwhile.  We spent most of the trail looking up in awe of the shear walls surrounding us.

Canon 40D, 28mm, 200 ISO, f/5.0, 1/200 seconds

We then hiked out of Echo Canyon and looked down on the many daunting switch backs leading down to the main canyon. It was a very impressive way to enter Zion Canyon for the first time.

The small switch backs lead to Hidden Canyon, which we hiked 2 days later

When the view is this amazing, you forget about the switch backs

We hopped on the shuttle, which is the only form of transportation in and out of the main canyon during the spring and summer.  We then staked our claim to a car camping “walk-in” site.  We grabbed dinner in town (Springdale is actually a pretty cute and very convenient town right outside of the park), and then went to the local grocery store and picked up firewood and ice cream because we were so exhausted and hot from our hike.  It was quite odd to be sitting around a campfire while eating ice cream knowing the night before we slept in freezing conditions.

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It was the perfect night; ice cream, campfire, and too many stars to count. Sadly it was the last clear night of the trip.

We also had some fun with ‘light painting’ using a long exposure, 10 seconds

Trip Stats (Running Total, 3 days): 24.3 miles, 4,100 feet of elevation, 355 of photos

As you can imagine, we took a lot more photos than we can fit in the posts, so check out more photos from the trip!