Thursday, July 21, 2016

Flag Point: dino tracks and petroglyph awesomeness

Wonderful pictographs at Flag Point near Kanab

One of many huge three-toed dino tracks

Flag point is a surreal place just  a few miles east of Kanab that is littered with dinosaur tracks (HUGE ONES) and pictographs/petroglyphs. It's a special feeling to make it up to the track site. The hike is not for the person afraid of heights, or climbs, or the causal day-hiker. It's a gorgeous trek up a mountain with views for miles, but also a bit tricky and precarious when you get close to the top. I only recommend this hike for the explorer who is in good physical shape, not deterred by free climbing and scrambling on loose rocks w/ steep drop-offs, and also maybe not afraid of snakes :)

This gorgeous guy slithered his way right across our path. Didn't even rattle!
This adventure was shared with my friend, Casey. It's always fun taking someone to a spot they've never been to. Casey loves rock art as much as me, and I knew she'd been blown away by this place.

We drove out to the "trail head" (loosely called this, as there's no real trail head.. more like bush-whacking!) After about a 1/2 mile through sage brush, we found our first cairn (rocks stacked up to indicate the path). Following the cairns up a steep and winding trail, we came to the first real obstacle. We needed to get to the next rock level but there was no easy way up! We saw two paths ahead --- one that would allow us to climb up via moki steps (alternating hand and toe holds carved into vertical sandstone surfaces) or another somewhat precarious route that would involve shimmying up some rocks and wedging our bodies into little crevices and grabbing onto rocks to pull ourselves up (kinda scary cuz of the drop offs below!)

We chose the latter and it was a little scary :) but we made it! Right there in front of us was our first rock art site.

I like this sad looking guy. But wonder why so sad? Someone suggested it's a scene of child birth because of the upside down person i the middle. What do you think??

I was excited to take Casey to the pictograph cave. We were close! Following the worn trail up and around a few bends, we finally got there.

What makes this so unique is that right above this alcove is the track site. You can see that the art here depicts people with large "toes" and other tracks. I can only imagine what the Indians who lived here thought of those dino tracks and the stories they must have told about who or what could have made them.

Casey checks out the artwork. Really cool, right??!

bird/dino man?
After checking out this sweet rock art, we headed up above the alcove to the dinosaur tracks. I had forgotten how HUGE the tracks were! And how many there are! WOW!!

Giant theropod dino track

hand vs talon (or whatever -- crazy big and awesome!)

fun stuff!

more tracks!

close up!

glamour shot
I love love love this place so much! And I also don't want to minimize the super freakin amazing views on this hike!

The climb up!
Neat "natural" rock art :)

On the edge

cliffs and stuff
This is a great hike with some good juju :) If you're up for the challenge, it's well worth it! Remember (I feel like mommy here...) do NOT touch rock art and leave no trace. Thank you :)

Zion Pine Creek Canyoneering Adventure

"Do one thing every day that scares you." - Eleanor Roosevelt

subterranean water-filled wonderland
Pine Creek Canyon in Zion National Park has been on my list of NEED TO DO adventures for a while. The hike has multiple rappels through a water-filled slot canyon, ending with a 100 ft rappel finale pretty much right under the famous Zion-Mount Caramel Tunnel on the east side of the national park.

Just finished the last rappel and still can't believe the beauty I just saw!
Steve and I were stay-cationing in Kanab for two weeks while the kiddos were back east, being spoiled by their grandparents in PA. We managed to accomplish a whole lot of "new house" work, plus hike a few small adventures in our town, but we wanted something BIG to end our week.

While up in Salt Lake to wish our friends CONGRATS on their wedding, we ran into our friend, Nick, who lives in Kanab (and is maybe the most extreme adventurer I know). PERFECT! (Nick also owns a tour company in Kanab called Seldom Seen Adventures. If you ever come to Kanab and want to explore really remote, off-the map canyons and sites, call him up!)

We asked Nick if he'd tag along with us to Zion and he was game. YES! Now I had a pro along so my fears had subsided a whole lot. :)

Here's Nick actin' like ain't no thing
You need a backcountry permit to hike Pine Creek. You can easily obtain a permit the day before your hike at the Zion Visitor Center. Steve and I picked up the permits, borrowed a bunch of gear from our friend, Megan (wetsuits -- A MUST --- even in the 100 degree summer. You WILL freeze. Thank you, Megan!!), and went home to mentally prepare for the next day. I was so excited!!

At the trailhead (which is right next to the east entrance of the tunnel by the canyon overlook trail) we suited up and started down the trail. There was a large group ahead of us and so we were prepared to wait a pretty long time to get down the first rap. It was so unbelievably beautiful that I don't think anyone minded the wait.

Ready to go
My nerves were really ramping up as I stood there waiting. Finally it was our turn. My heart was beating so fast. This wasn't my first time rappelling, but it had been a while and I was really nervous. There's something just a wee bit intimidating about backing off a huge ledge with just a rope and a prayer :)

First rappel. Not so bad :)
The second rappel would be a little more "complicated". It involved going down one small drop, and then up a little log jam and then around a corner and over into "the cathedral" (freaking amazing)

Steve makin' it look easy
I loved loved loved this section. As you descend into the cathedral, you're treated to a double arch inside this pretty chamber. The finale of this rap is jumping into deep, freezing cold and smelly water. It was pretty awesome! And chilly.

Maybe my favorite part was navigating the next few narrow, spooky and dimly lit passageways. These hallways were filled with water, and the overhead sunlight that came poking through the rocks above made for some bad ass photos!

I love my adventure buddy

Just awesome!

navigating weird, wild and beautiful hallways

Stepping into the light

back on dry land

Artsy fartsy

Spider man!

WILD! I need to hang this on my wall!
Finally we were back in the sunlight! We had 2 final rappels. We took off our wet suits and soaked up the sunshine for a couple of minutes. Laying on rocks and surveying the breathtaking landscape in front of us -- Zion National Park --- I almost can't take the beauty of Utah. I love you, Utah!!

Ready for the last drop of with my hubs
The last rappel was nearly 100 ft. and I was really nervous. Not only was it the longest rappel of my life, and a free rappel (meaning, your feet are not going to be touching anything. You are just dropping into a wonderful, colorful and surreal oasis.) As I scooted off the edge of the cliff, my heart was beating out of my body. I started to lower myself down and the walls dropped away and I was dangling in the middle of the most beautiful slot canyon I've ever seen. 360 degree views -- dark and spooky looking one way, zion landscape in the other direction, and an emerald pool below. Almost too much to take in. My fears completely subsided and I just enjoyed this amazing opportunity.

See me droppin' down in the middle there :)


Here's a few more pics from the rest of the hike, which consisted of about a mile of boulder hopping, cannonballs into deep pools, frogs, and arches!

Over the last 11 years I've been on a lot of adventures. Pine Creek in Zion National Park might just be my favorite so far. I can't wait to go back!

Go get it!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Baggin' Delano Peak: Flowers, Snow, and the most impressive views EVER!

Took my breath away -- litereally

My most happy place and new favorite forest
Steve knows that the way to my heart is a really hard hike with breath-taking views. I suggested that we check out the Tushar Mountains on the way home from Salt Lake because there's a killer Ultramarathon that I'm hoping to run in August. (Hey runners reading this -- info on the Tushars Ultra is found here.)

Everyone I know who ran the race last year said two things: Hardest Race EVER. And, most beautiful country EVER. Basically you cover 50 plus miles traversing a rugged, foresty and mountainous landscape and ultimately summit Delano Peak. Delano Peak is the highest point in the Tushar Mountain Range of south-central Utah. Bonus is that many times you see herds of really cute, fluffy white mountain goats.

We exited the highway in Beaver, UT and drove a bunch of very windy, beautiful and somewhat scary miles up a mountain and onto a rugged back road. We found a parking spot near a very faded trail and began hiking to what we hoped was the route to Delano Peak (spoiler -- it was!)

Still feeling pretty fresh :)

Kinda trippy hiking through snow in July
The hike was fairly straight-forward: follow this very faint trail that sometimes disappears and if it does, just keep hiking UP and towards the highest point you see. At over 12,000 ft in elevation, it was not the easiest hike, but the views were so freakin fantastic. Between the snow and the brilliant yellow, purple and pink flowers, I was falling in love pretty hard :)

Feeling a little bit like the Sound of Music

As we approached the summit, the wind really picked up. I joked that it was a good things our kids weren't along or else they'd be blown right off the mountain. Then it nearly happened to me. It was SO WINDY!!!

wind-blown at the summit

we made it!
We didn't see any mountain goats this time around. But the hike and views made me long to come back and explore more. Gorgeous place, so peaceful and stunning. And now I can cross this one of my adventure list :)