Monday, April 23, 2007

Misc. Zion & etc, etc

Greetings. This morning, Monday the 23rd, I find myself back in St George. How so?
I left Zion on Friday, making my way out through the east side of the park. This is a great area to explore too! A canyon overlook, the longest tunnel in the states (1.1 miles), a multi-cache that showed me a "jug" arch, some hoodoos and a very neat slot canyon. Domes, washes and slot canyons all over the place to explore. Weather came in heavy and I got a fresh taste of snow : ). I dropped down to Kanab to provision, even got a peek at Bill and Becky's old house (sorry, no pic), and spent the night in Angels Canyon, home of the largest animal rescue center in the states.
On Saturday I headed up 89 and west onto hwy 14 for a peek in the Dixie NF, Duck Creek, Navajo Lake and all the intersting things they have to offer. There is Ice Cave, Mammoth Cave, Cascade Falls, and much much more here. Thought I might spend the weekend here, and then into Bryce.
Well, my first stop was at an internet cafe in Duck Creek Village, for breakfast and some update. A beatiful morning soon turned grey, and snow filled the air. When it was time to leave, the toybox would not start :( !
A similiar experience had occured last October with Bett and CJ, and I bet they vividly remember that. Seems like high elevation (8,400') and cold weather combine to confuse the fuel injection system and computer, and the engine floods. I spent 3 hrs here, wearing down the battery and using the "jump start" before I managed to get ignition and liftoff. Whew!!!
I had consulted with a garage in St George when I was there, about a heat related starter system problem. Being an intermittent problem, it is hard to fix something that is not at the moment broken, but the mechanic gave me a lot of advice on troubleshooting and narrowing down the possibilities. So, with this new problem, I decided to back track and see him again.
I dropped down and back to Zion, but not before a stop at Lance's book shop in Mt Carmel. He asked if he could direct me to a specific area of books, and when I said travel and hiking, he lit up big time. He is also a traveler and adventurer, and runs the book shop as a "hobby", amongst other income earning ventures. Very interesting guy. So much so that it was hard searching the titles. I did manage to find Moon series books on Utah, Wyoming and Washington, and a Compass guide on Montana. We talked for well over two hours before I insisted I had to get on the road, or camp in his back yard :'). If you ever pass through Mt Carmel on hwy 89, be sure to stop in and say hey. Great selection of books and great pricing too!
So, I managed to get through Zion and back to camp at Mosquito cove Saturday night. I decided to stay in the area on Sunday til late in the day, since it is no more than an hour back to St George. I drove out to Grafton, which is a ghost town from one of the early Mormon settlements of southern Utah. this proved to be an interesting stop. Couple of caches, and a tour of the old buildings. Among the films set here was Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid. The cabin they erected for the film has since been demolished. The descendants of the settlers now live in Rockville, just a mile away on the hwy. They maintain the cemetary and are instrumental in preserving what is left of Grafton, along with state and federal interests. From there I tried a drive up Smithsonian Monument road, but it was rough going and weather kept coming and going, and I opted on a trip back in to Springdale and some blog updating. This proved to be a good choice as a steady rain soon built in. I spent a couple hours in the coffee shop, stopping now and then to check out the storm on the peaks, and decided the vista warranted a drive back through the park. Awesome stuff. Snow settling on the higher elevations, low storm clouds enveloping cliffs, peeks of sunshine on some...I actually drove up the swithchbacks towards the tunnel for a higher view, but a minor rock slide occuring in front of me and I turned around.
And so, now here I am in St George. Unfortunately, the mechanic could do little more than provide a little trouble shooting advice. He said he could start changing out possible components, but I would not know if he got the right one til it did or did not happen again... I coupled his advice with a lot of notes about possibilites from off of the various Vanagon websites, and will just have to wing it. At least now I am fairly sure that the van is being flooded, and letting it sit for a while will improve the possibility of a start. But, not a warm comfy feeling with the itinerary I have set. Oh well, life is full of risks...
I now am awaiting some additional info from Andrew on a Jury Summons that came in the mail! Hopefully I can resolve that easily enough and get onwards and upwards. In addition to getting back out hwy 14, I am excited about the possibility of fresh snow in Bryce. Hoodoos with a white mop seems like cool landscape...
C'Yas down the road.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Scout's Lookout/Angels Landing. Zion NP

This is the second most popular hike in the park, after the narrows. Scout's lookout is at 1'000' and has great views of some of the canyon, and if you dare, Angels landing climbs another 500' and out into Big Bend for some of the most spectacular views (or so I hear ;( of the canyon.
The hike to S'sL takes you up two sets of switchbacks with the second being the infamous "Walters Wiggles". WWs are 21 short and steep swithbacks up the side of refridgerator canyon, cut into the natural slope of the only cliff wall that would support a trail. I am guessing they climb a good 300'. At the top you enter a small plateu that is the lookout. Lots of folks spread out and having lunch, taking in the views.
One of the views would be of the hikers brave enough to venture out towards Angels Landing. I thought that maybe I was in the latter category, so I gave it a whirl. WHOA! A few hundred yards out and I got some serious stage fright and had to crawl back in. It took nearly half the hike back down from the lookout before my heart rate returned to normal ;').
So. To get to the summit of Angels Landing requires that you climb over a smaller summit that is sheer and has no real trail (just chains to hold on to) to a natural bridge of sorts. That would just be a ridge that drops down before reaching the foot of the real summit at 1,000'. Until you get across the bridge, you are on a ridge that varies from a couple of yards ot maybe 15 feet in width, with a 1,000 drop on either side! Chains are set in various locations to help steady yourself, since there is no carved trail. You just use the various surfaces to somehow manuever across. I reached the halfway point of the bridge, sat down on the biggest flat surface there was (to allow my knees to settle from the shakes...), and surveyed it all. Good Giggly Wiggly, what have I gotten myself into! As hard as I tried, it was impossible to not look down, since the ridgeline slanted that ways... I tried desperately to control my imagination and erase the images that kept popping up of the "big slide"! So, I focus on Angels Landing and the hikers that had managed to make it that far. OH NO! The 500' climb/descent was near vertical, again with no real trail and just the chains to control your momentum! I watched some poor soul descending, and he was nearly in mid air, hanging onto the chains, searching for his next foothold! 30 seconds and he takes a step, then starts the whole process again.
Naw, I don't think this is gonna be fun. OK, that is decided. Now, how to get back?! By now, the anxiety and adreneline are running in full gear, and I am starting to feel the first signs of a true panic attack :. I know I have to get back before I freeze up and can't move. So, half crawling and walking I scurry back to the first summit and a spot where I actually have a good ten feet of level ground around me. Whew! Oh. Now I have to go over this next one before I reach the security of Scouts Lookout! I stayed focused eye level and got te heavy lifting done and found a nice solid, sturdy spot to take a seat, well away from the edge :').
Glad that I gave it a whirl. I have a long ways to go in training before I can manage half-dome, and this was definitely setting the bar way too high. Now I know that and will take more gradual steps...