Friday, March 29, 2013

Canyon Adventure

Years ago, on our very first visit to Zion National Park, we visited Zion Adventure Company in the little town of Springdale, Utah, just outside of the park entrance.  We were immediately impressed with all they had to offer...classes, adventure days, equipment rentals, supplies, and expertise of the area to make the most of your trip to Zion.  We've seen them featured on some travel and outdoor shows since then and that made us want to go on an adventure day with them even more.  This year, we finally did it!  

 Hubby and I thought that a canyon adventure day was the perfect way to celebrate our 50'th birthdays (mine last year and his this month).  I called Zion Adventure Company in February and had no problem making a reservation for March because it's not during their high season.  It turned out that we were the only ones registered that day (aside from a large group).  So, our adventure was just us and our guide.
How awesome is that?!  

We got up early the morning of our adventure and stopped at Cafe Soleil Zion in Springdale to get breakfast and coffee.  I joke that coffee is my "bravery juice".  When I have some before skiing, I always do so much better.  So, I thought it might be a good idea for our adventure day too.  I ordered a soy, vanilla latte and it turned out to be the best coffee I've ever had!  No beany taste in the soy.  No bitterness in the coffee.  Just the most unique, smooth and delicious coffee ever.  The beans were from a roaster in Utah (Cafe Isis, I think).  We ended up going back every morning after that.  Now, I'm spoiled and can't stand the chain (SB) coffee.  So, I'm trying harder now to seek out the independent coffee shops.  The breakfast wraps we got at Cafe Soleil were really yummy too!

Our adventure began by meeting our guide, Bill, at 7:30 in the morning.  He started out by asking what we were hoping to do and experience that day.  He wanted to customize the day to what we wanted.
We went into the shop to get our canyoneering shoes, neoprene socks, and any other necessities beyond the basics that he'd already prepared.  Then, we hopped into a four wheel drive SUV and headed out across dirt roads to where our adventure was going to begin.

When we got close to our starting point, Bill pointed out Water Canyon high up on a rock mountain and told us that it was the canyon we were going to.  At that moment, I felt a slight twinge in my stomach and a little nervous.  We parked the car, strapped on our  backpacks, and started hiking.  I think it was at that point that something rather magical happened...the chatty,busy part of my brain got quiet,
strapped itself in, and sat down for the ride.  Ahhh!  For the rest of the day, 
I was always in the moment with no internal chatter.  It was wonderful!

The backpack I carried weighed between 20 to 30 pounds (I think) and made me feel a bit top heavy and awkward at first because I wasn't used to it.  With my now quiet mind, everything seemed to go in slow motion and I drank in every moment and I just focused on one step at a time.  I think my hubby was doing the same as he was a bit quieter than usual that day.  

We started out with a two mile hike, leading up into the canyon.
We sometimes crossed over or through water...

The canyon walls rose high above us on both sides.  The arch at the top of this wall is actually wide enough for quads to drive across.  I don't think I would or could do that!  But, knowing that helps give perspective as to how tall this rock wall really is...

Much of the trail was quite steep and we climbed over 1,000 feet in elevation.
The trail was often narrow with the edge dropping down to the river/creek below.
You can see the ledge/trail in the center of the photo and to the left...

The sights were amazing everywhere we looked.  Bill was very knowledgeable about the area, geology and history of the area.  He shared interesting information and stories with us throughout the day.

The large rock in the foreground fell from above several years ago and sat on the ledge of the huge rock behind and above it.  A couple of years ago, nature and water exercised it's power and moved the rock to it's present location.  It's about the size of a car. Incredible!...

The canyon was carved by water as is the Zion area.
This part of Water Canyon is an interesting example.  Check out the rounded rock walls.
It may look narrow but notice the tree trunk laying at the bottom...

The elevation gain and the heavy pack I carried made for quite a workout.
But, check out the reward...look at this view!
Where we started was in the distance, near the center of this picture,
at the end of the orange canyon wall on the left, where it becomes small...   Whew!

At this point, we pulled the dry suits from our backpacks and put them on over our hiking clothes.
There were snug bands of rubber at the wrists, ankles and a wet suit like band at the neck.  They're water tight and were going to keep us dry when we crossed through water.

Bill pointed out how they looked like Star Trek suits and suggested a Vulcan

The dry suits are quite expensive and since we'd be climbing around on sandstone we needed something to protect them.  So, we covered them in these attractive (NOT) coveralls.  Suddenly, I looked like a mechanic and hubby looked like an escaped convict.  The helmets, harnesses,
climbing gear, and backpacks helped to change that a bit...

We trusted Bill's expertise and experience and appreciated that he made sure we were comfortable and ready for each part of our adventure.  Before the first rappel, we learned how to hook up our gear and did a little practicing on a smaller rock.  I paid careful attention to everything he said...

Practice time...

Time for a bigger and much more exciting rappel...
A rounded out section of rock with a small waterfall that went down about 30 feet.
Hubby went first...

Woo hoo...down past and through the small waterfall...

And, into a pool of water below...

My turn!

Part way down, I stopped and gasped with excitement!
I wanted to stay in that one spot for a while and soak it in.
It was amazing!  Bill said that I looked like an excited nine year old!
But, there was much more fun ahead and I had to keep going down.

Once I got to the bottom and dropped into the water I started to panic a bit.
I didn't think to let slack out in my rope and it kept pulling me to the back wall.
I couldn't touch the bottom, had no idea how deep it was, and the water was VERY cold!
Once I let some slack out, I was able to start swimming toward hubby. 
Then, he was able to throw me a rope and pull me out.  Whew!
I couldn't believe how freezing cold I felt after just a minute or two.

This patch of  ice we'd seen just above the waterfalls should have been a clue that the water would be very cold!  I bet the water couldn't have been much warmer than 39 or 40!

It sure was pretty though.

The second waterfall was just below the first and a bit taller.
I have no idea how tall it was...maybe 50 feet...

I'm so amazed at how water can carve rock!
Look at that carved out section where Bill is standing and the water is falling.
It's like a big "U".  Amazing!  I wonder how many thousands of years it took to do that?!

Hubby went first on this one too...

Then, it was my turn...

The next challenge was this narrow flow of water.
We had no idea how deep it was and if we'd have to swim through.
Luckily, there was a narrow ledge that ran along most of the left side.

We went slowly and carefully.  Hubby slipped off at one point and couldn't touch the bottom!

Another example of nature and the power of water was lodged between the rocks and above our heads.
See the big tree and the root bottom above us?...

Our next challenge was a small waterfall.
Bill gave us the choice of going down it with or without a rope.
We chose to have a rope for security but realized, once we got to the bottom,
that we probably didn't need it.  But, I was glad it was there...just in case.

After that, we hiked down a bit to sit, eat some lunch, rest, and warm up.

Next, we needed to decide if we wanted to do a few more rappels.
I had realllllly wanted to do more that day.  However,  I was still very cold from the water. Plus, the steep hike up and the heavy backpack made my legs a little noodly and tired and we still had to hike back to the car.  So, sadly, we decided to call it a day and hike back.

Even though we missed out on a few more rappels, we had a full day.  The time had flown by so fast and it was already about 3:30 in the afternoon.  By the time we got back to Springdale, unloaded and back to camp, it was close to 5:00.  The whole day seemed like just a couple of hours.  Amazing!
I guess that's a sign that we had a really good time!

Here we are back in Springdale.  We had to get a photo of us and our great guide, Bill.
He was awesome!  He customized the day just for us, made us feel like comfortable and safe.  We never felt rushed.  We learned a lot about canyoneering, equipment, techniques and the area.
 And, he was like a friend.  We enjoyed his company very much.  Thanks, Bill!

We had a day that's hard to describe in just a few words except that it was amazing and SO MUCH fun!
It took me a few days to process fact, I think I still am.
My brain stayed peaceful and quiet for a couple of days before the chatter started to return.

We already knew that we love slot canyons and that they have a magic quality to us.  But, canyoneering takes it to a whole new level.  It's like a drug and we feel addicted!  We can't wait to go again!!!

Many of the photos were taken by Bill.  His pictures, combined with the few we took with our camera provided plenty of pictures to remember our wonderful adventure.   He took photos of us throughout the day and gave us a memory stick with all of them on it before we left.  It's part of the package...along with all the necessary equipment, transportation...everything!  There were no extra or hidden fees.  Isn't that great?!  We would HIGHLY recommend Zion Adventure Company to any and everyone.  They rock!

Come back soon for a part of this adventure that I left out and that deserves a post all it's own!


Carol Cook said...

OMG! You are far braver than me. But, I bet it was a lot of fun.

Connie said...

I am so very impressed with your rock climbing, Bravo!!!
I've never been to Zion National Park, but it's on my bucket list :)
Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.
Your blogging sister, Connie :)

Carolyn Phillips said...

Wow, what an amazing day.

Michelle said...

What an awesome adventure!!!! Zion is such a beautiful place!

kathyinozarks said...


Anonymous said...

I can't even imagine how breath takingly beautiful that must have been in real life!! GOOD FOR YOU!!!

Cindie Kitchin said...

What a great adventure! I was hyperventilating just reading about it - too scary for me.

lynn cockrell said...

What a great adventure! I hope to get to the Grand Canyon one day, but I doubt I will be doing any rappelling. Kudos to you for giving it a go! Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos.

Roxie said...

I'm sold! You just put Zion and canyoneering on my bucket list. Well, maybe not thousand foot climbs with a 30 lb pack, but something gentler. You are an AMAZON!!

September Violets said...

You don't disappoint with your adventures! What a wonderful day, and to feel the peace that you experienced sounds like something to cherish. You are braver than I, as although I like to climb rocks, like to keep my feet ON the ground, not dangling in mid air :) You live in a beautiful area, and I hope you have many more of these adventures to share. Wendy