As an old friend used to say, “Every day above ground is a good day!” Some days stand out more than others, and here’s one that I still remember.
My friend Dave asked me to join him checking out a hike he had read about. It was the Taylor Creek hike in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park in Utah. The National Park Service lists this as a 5 mile roundtrip hike that only gains 450 feet. Dave and I both have extensive hiking experience, including the Zion Narrows and many Grand Canyon hikes, so this sounded like something we would knock out in about 2 hours. The official trail ends at Double Arch Alcove, but he had read that going further up canyon was worth investigating. Even then, we both had the feeling we would be done early, and maybe that would leave time to hike another trail in the park.
We left Las Vegas about 8 am on a late April day. The forecast for Zion was sunny skies and about 80 degrees F. This placed us on the trail about 11 am, just in time for mid-day light. Neither one of us was expecting any great photographs, but it was a beautiful day, and any day hiking is a good day!
The trail started out in relatively open country and we could see higher canyon walls ahead. The easiness of the trail soon had us at an old cabin along the way. It didn’t seem like it was much longer when we arrived at Double Arch Alcove. This was an impressive sight and the depth of this beautiful canyon had become obvious. As we continued further up, there was a physically demanding spot or two, enough to keep the average tourist back. Then, our first unexpected sight came up. It was a large snowbank at the base of the canyon where water was trickling down. The cool air announced its presence before we had sight of it, and the snow was a bit on the mushy side, as one would expect in 80 degree air. We continued upward, and as we neared the end of our route we encountered another snowbank. This one, however, was completely different. It was several feet thick and rock hard. We referred to it as the desert glacier, and were estimating that it was still going to be there in June when the temps hit 100. It was shaded by steep walls of the final narrow box canyon. At the end of this box canyon were colors and textures that neither one of us had ever seen, and in a canyon so dark we needed a flash to capture it properly.
As we headed back, we couldn’t help but notice that there was a cloud or two floating above. The weathermen rarely get it right, and this day was no exception. By the time we got back to Double Arch Alcove, there was more cloud than open sky, and the light was becoming great for photography. Usually I’m the one who holds other hikers back under these circumstances, but Dave was fascinated with the changing light as much as I was. A hike which we should have finished in another 45 minutes took us almost 3 hours. Most of these photographs are along the official trail.
As we got back to the car, we knew we only had about a half hour before sunset, and we couldn’t leave just yet. We drove into the park about another mile and found a couple great spots to get more photos as the sun was going down. Afterwards, we headed down to St. George and filled up on a healthy dose of comfort food. What better way to finish out a very good day?