Subway From the Top, Zion National Park

Rappel through waterfalls, swim through a series of heart-shaped pools, butt slide down a mossy chute, then view dinosaur footprints. Subway is the easiest technical canyon in Zion. While it’s not much for bragging rights, it’s sure a lot of fun!

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Sulphur Creek Narrows, Capitol Reef

Behind the Capitol Reef Visitor Center, you’ll find Sulphur Creek.  The creek is rather shallow and boring here, but upstream is pretty with some nice small waterfalls.  A hike through the canyon make an easy, fun, and non-technical morning.  I suggest starting at the top and hiking downstream to the visitor center.  When you’re done, the farm house nearby serves ice cream and pie.

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Pine Creek Canyon, Zion National Park

 

 

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Hauntingly beautiful. Descend into sculpted chocolate-toned chunks of curving rock. Tune up your rope skills on 2 easy rappels. Then, tread carefully to the exposed third set of bolts. Clip in, get your feet out, and get ready to swing. The third rappel descends into a rock cathedral with a chilly spring-fed pool at the bottom. There’s usually a dead goat or deer in the water here. The poor creatures get swept into the canyons when it floods. Hike out and dry off. Then, come to a log fall that can be rapelled or down climbed. The canyon opens up after this. This is a good place to warm up in the sun. Another rappel brings you to the grand finale: a 100 ft free hanging rappel into a rock cathedral. Peter tested out the Sterling Rope ATS on this canyon. The ATS made it easy to change friction rigging while descending. Katherine had a regular ATC, and friction-burned through her glove on the way down the last rappel.

Torrey, Utah

Torrey is the gateway to Capitol Reef National Park.

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Torrey Greenhouse: hard to find but so tasty!

The Torrey Greenhouse provided the best veggies that we’d had in a month. A chalkboard at the front of the Greenhouse shows the food of the day. Choose your veggies, then help the staff pick them. Delicious snap peas fresh from the vine, and basil bunches the size of flower bouquets. Yum!

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Sugar snap peas in the Torrey Greenhouse

On the walk back from the Greenhouse, check out the old schoolhouse.

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Torrey schoolhouse

Rim Rock Patio is the place to enjoy a pizza, hang out with your dog, and watch the sunset. They have good wifi and large salads.

Do laundry and pick up basic groceries at the Chuckwagon. There’s good free dispersed camping on the north side of the highway just west of the National Park. Cell phone reception is good here.  The camping area does fill up on the weekends.

 

 

We Get A New Wife

 

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View From Top of Wife 5 Canyon, Looking Out Over Capitol Reef

For our anniversary, my sweet husband spiced up our marriage with something every girl needs —  a new wife!

Wife 5 is one of the seven wives of Cohab Canyon. The wives are a set of short slots that drain into Cohab Canyon in Capitol Reef. Cohab Canyon was named for families practicing plural marriage (then called cohabitation or cohab) in the neighboring town.

Local lore says that Cohab Canyon got its name because the local “Cohabs” would escape to the canyon when the sheriff came to look for them. Historical evidence suggests that this was unlikely, and that the canyon name was given by the park’s first superintendent as a way of insulting the locals.

The canyon features expansive views of Capitol Reef, rappelling off a prickly bush, a tricky rope pull, and a crawl through a birthing chamber. A beautiful day!

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Unusual mud formations

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Bottom of rappel 1

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View from top of rappel 2

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Arches (top left) make easy anchors, but beware the crumbly rock

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Gaudi’s inspiration?

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The birthing chamber

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Curving canyon walls, birthing chamber

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Backing up deadman with the crumbly arches

Good Day Jim Canyon, Ticaboo Mesa

Beautiful canyon and an epic adventure.

We had our first unplanned overnight bivy here, and Katherine got to try the Aron Ralston method of conserving water. Blech! But better than running out of water on a hot day, which is what we almost did.

We took the alternate entry, as recommended by Average Joe Road Trips. This bypasses the first big keeper pot hole if you lack an Ibis hook. The alternate route goes through some squeezy narrows, then down a chute to a second pothole in the main channel. We were glad to have a handline for the chute.

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Chute. Hang onto a handline and slide!

And then things go difficult. The chute drops into a pothole that is clean-scrubbed of any rocks. One large rock sat atop a deadman anchor buried in the dried mud. We were grateful to hit the pothole when it was dry, as I have no idea what you’d rappel off of if the mud weren’t there to hold the anchor. But the problem was, the anchor was now buried so well that we couldn’t inspect it. If we dug the anchor up to check the webbing, we’d lose the benefit of the mud gripping the anchor. The visible boulder was clearly not enough to hold the anchor on its own, and there was no lip to crimp a rock under.  We spent about an hour searching for extra rocks to reinforce the anchor, or an alternate point to rappel from. Ultimately, Katherine rappelled with a meat back up, bounced around a lot, and the anchor held. So we went with it. This would be a great place to have a bolt kit!

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Analyzing the sketchy anchor

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Questionable anchor

Once we completed the rappel and said our divine thank yous, we enjoyed this lovely view.

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The canyon then narrowed up into the fun chimneys. Peter enjoyed the stickiness of his new 5.10 canyoneer shoes.

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The knee and elbow pads proved very useful.

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Katherine’s thrift store Ben Davis jumpsuit felt like the best canyoneering outfit ever. No shirt to tuck back in. No waistband to hitch up. Awesome… until the back ripped off. We patched up with Gorrilla duct tape, and then that ripped. So, Katherine butt scooted the rest of the canyon on bare skivvies and skin.

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Spare a butt patch?

The chimneys opened up to a long swimming hole with a slick exit. Katherine spent 30 minutes swimming in circles through the chilly water, searching for an exit. After belly flopping over the edge in relief, we dried ou and warmed up a little. And then night came too quickly. We chose to bivy rather than risking hiking out in the dark. We were grateful to have some basics in the emergency kit — space blankets, 2 Clif bars, rappel gloves doubling as insulation, a little water. We had a PLB to activate in absolute emergency, but chose not to use it as long as we were okay. A cool and restless night finally broke into a rosy sunrise over the lower canyon.

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So glad to greet the morning!

We woke early, hoping to get back before our emergency contacts called the sheriff. We were glad to have an emergency plan in place, in case things got worse. The canyon wound through rosy cliffs and then opened onto a cottonwood grove.

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Cottonwood grove — marker for the exit

The exit was near! It was ironic to be almost out of water, yet so close to Lake Powell. We talked about sending a water container down on a rope to the lake before hiking out. We decided to try to exit first, as we still wanted to get back before the sheriff was called. The 4th class exit can be difficult to spot. It took us 3 tries to find the right gully. If you have a boat on Lake Powell, you can also rappel out the canyon and into the boat. A long shadeless hike brought us back to the van. It was so good to be home!


 

Bullfrog Bay, Lake Powell

Views from a jet ski on Lake Powell. We travelled from Bullfrog Bay through Halls Creek Narrows and then to many slot canyons on either side of the Bay. While it was 102 outside, it felt perfect on the lake.

We rented the jet ski at Bullfrog Marina from Aramark, the lake vendor. Their jet skis were fairly new and in good shape. The staff was a bit disorganized. They assigned us to 3 different jet skis before finding one that was ready to go. For Aramark rentals, try to fill out the paperwork the afternoon before. The paperwork, gear demo, and mandatory safety video take up an hour of precious boating time.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of good vendor alternatives in Bullfrog. Offshore Marina is slightly cheaper, but not worth the extra drive. Another business advertises Bullfrog rentals, but is actually about 150 road miles away in Springdale. Page does offer more boat rental options, but is not as convenient for travelers coming from Utah or Colorado.

If you can, it’s also ideal to carry fuel canisters. The rental jet skis don’t have fuel cans, and the gas tanks aren’t big enough to go to Dangling Rope Marina. So, you’re limiting to doing loops through the slots canyons near Halls Crossing.

Once you’re on the water, it’s gorgeous and pure fun. We enjoyed flying over the water in the main channel, floating through the ghost forests of drowned trees, and swimming in clear water.

Next time, we’d love to camp for a few nights. It seems that the best way to do this trip is to bring 6-12 people, share a motorboat and a few jet skis, and camp in a beach alcove.

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Heart-shaped double alcove

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View from the jet ski

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Ghost forest

Black Hole of White Canyon

Long, cold swims down a dark tunnel of chocolate-colored rock slabs. Woohoo!

The Black Hole is a classic 2B canyon. While rappelling is not required, you’ll want to have skills with handlining, partner assists, and down climbing. Another group in the canyon observed that low water levels made the downclimbs more difficult this trip.

Check current conditions before attempting. White Canyon drains the entirety of the Natural Bridges region. Rain upstream will flash flood this canyon 1-2 days later. 

The hike begins with a long well-marked scramble into White Canyon. Admire the deathly warning sign on your way down. BLM put the sign up after a flash flood filled the canyon with logs. Check out these photos of descending the log soup.The next year, another flash flood washed the logs out. The sign remains.

 

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Warning sign marks canyon entrance.

The canyon starts out wide, then gradually narrows over the next few miles. The walls turn from peach and white to dark chocolate.

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White Canyon floor, start of hike

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Canyon narrows

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Canyon walls change from peach to chocolate as the stream cuts through an older layer of sandstone

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Log jam marks high water

Down climb and hand line through a few dry falls. Ignore the temptation to jump the falls, as the water is often only thigh deep. The canyon slots up and you reach a rope tied to a log. Handline down and swing into the water.

Brr! The cold and scenic swim begins. Depending on water levels, expect to swim for several hundred yards.

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Swimming the Black Hole. This is towards the end, where sunlight returns.

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Dry section after the Black Hole

The canyon then opens up, alternating between hiking and swimming. Watch for an arch on the right.

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Arch

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Below the arch, near the exit

The rock tower marking the exit is on the left shortly thereafter. Occasional cairns mark the way.

Duckett Slot, Hite

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Starbridging the narrows

Duckett Slot is a fun half-day (3BI) canyon near Hite. It’s got one easy keeper pothole, fun bridging downclimbs, and a scenic rappel into a spring-fed grotto. We were lucky to catch the potholes after recent rains, so the water wasn’t too slimy. There were lots of frogs and dragonflies around the pools.

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Stemming to get off rappel

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Swimmer pothole, ferrying the rope

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Top of the last rappel, grotto below