Hiking and Bicycling Greeneville & Greene County Tennessee
Greeneville Hiking Club Trip
Zion Canyon, Bryce Canyon and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
During the second week in September, 2011, six members of the Greeneville Hiking Club spent ten days in Utah and Arizona hiking in Zion Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The members on the trip were Andy Daniels, Peggy Moore, Katrina Rogers, Pam Shelton, Paula Stanton and Ned Sanders.
Zion National Park is well known for its exceptional hiking due to steep trails and amazing views. According to some authorities, three of the top ten hikes in the United States are located in Zion: The Virgin River Narrows, Angel’s Landing and The Subway.
After flying into Las Vegas and driving to their home base in Hurricane, UT, the group was shuttled through the Zion Tunnel to the East Rim trailhead just inside the park boundary. The 12 mile East Rim hike began with a climb on a sandy trail to the top of Russell Gulch. The group then continued across the top of the ridge with vistas of Checkerboard Mesa and Echo Canyon. After six miles, the East Rim trail dropped to the valley floor on narrow, rocky switchbacks, then crossed the floor, following rock cairns, and then joined the trail to Observation Point which descended into Zion Canyon at Weeping Rock. The views of the Canyon and the Virgin River floodplain were fantastic.
On the second day, a 125 mile trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was taken. The group took a short hike to a vista overlooking the giant chasm. The Grand Canyon, formed by erosion of the Colorado River over eons, is one of the most remarkable and indescribable places on earth.
The backpacking trip scheduled for the Zion Narrows on the next day had to be postponed because of flash flooding in the Virgin River, so the group drove to Bryce Canyon National Park. A 5 mile hike on the Navajo and Queen’s Garden Trail was taken. The Bryce Amphitheater contains hundreds of “hoodoos” which are golden rocky spires. The group returned to Hurricane by ways of the Dixie National Forest and Cedar Breaks National Monument. The road covered a section with a maximum elevation of !0,750 feet above sea level; one of the highest paved roads in the USA.
On the fourth day of the trip, the club was shuttled through the Kolob Terrace to Lava Point, the West Rim Trailhead. The fifteen mile West Rim trail, is a Zion Classic, and was very flat for the first five miles then climbed to a ridgetop with great vistas of the Zion cliffs and valleys. The trail then dropped down a sheer cliff on narrow, rocky switchbacks and crossed the ridge ending at Scout’s Lookout. A planned trip to climb Angel’s Landing was aborted when a strong thunderstorm moved in and the hikers finished the trip in the driving rain.
The next day, two other club members, Brenda Small from Morristown and Mike Church from Elizabethton joined the group for the return to Angel’s Landing, an epic trail in Zion. The fact that the NPS even built this trail is remarkable. Angel’s Landing was so named because an early hiker once stated. “Only an Angel could land there.” The path winds its way through the coolness of Refrigerator Canyon and past the strange geologic formation, “Walter’s Wiggles,” 21 switchbacks leading to “Scout’s Lookout’, Scout’s Lookout, the site a fatality in 2010, is generally the turnaround point for those with fear of heights who are unwilling to make the final summit push to the top of Angels Landing. The last half-mile of the trail is strenuous and littered with sharp drop offs and narrow paths. Chains to grip are used to provide a measure of security along the most exposed sections during the last half-mile to the top at 5,785 feet.
On the sixth day of the trip, the group finally got to go in the Narrows. The Zion Narrows, which was named by National Geographic Magazine as one of the top five outdoor adventures in the world, is a sixteen mile overnight trip on the Virgin River. There is no trail and the trip is made by following the path of the Virgin River, continually crossing back and forth. In some sections the water level at the time of the trip make swimming a short distance the only way to complete the journey. Zion Canyon was formed by the river cutting deep caverns in the earth showcasing fantastic rock formations. The Narrows is so named because sheer sandstone cliffs rise up from the riverbed up to 2500 feet in height and are a mere 15 feet apart in some sections. The longest of these sections, named Wall Street, has overwhelming beauty while being very dangerous because no high ground exists along the riverbank for a long distance.
The group rented special canyoneering boots, hiking staffs and fleece jackets to keep warm in the 58 degree water which was exceedingly muddy from a flash flood the day before their trip. Although the group had an earlier permit for the overnight trip, the high water level, muddy access road and weather forecast made the planned backpacking trip impossible as the Narrows was closed by the Park Service. The group had to settle for a “bottom up” in-and-out trip the next day. Great care still had to be taken as there was a 40% chance of further rain and the route was opened again just minutes before that trip began.
Entering the Narrows at the Temple of Sinawava, the hike required close attention to footing in the murky water. The group covered over 2 1/2 miles to the beginning of Wall Street. The water at this point became too deep to continue without swimming so the group had to turn back, covering a total of five miles in about five hours. Each turn in the Narrows provides a different view of enormous hallways of beautiful, carved stone; a very unique adventure. No road or trail can take you to this awesome place, one must walk through the river.
The next day, the group took their final hike, a visit to the Subway, an almost indescribable tunnellike cave formation filled with azure pools. This off-trail venture was very strenuous and demanding with a lot of boulder scrambling and wading through the Left Fork of North Creek. After a short walk from the trailhead, the trail dropped abruptly 450 feet to the canyon floor on a very steep, dangerous path. The group had been warned that at least one death had occurred there. After a short break, the group started up the creek, following the many paths created by earlier hikers. The water had a beautiful blue color and many pools and small waterfalls were crossed. About half way up the canyon the group spotted two large rocks covered with dinosaur footprints: fossils pressed into the stone.
After six hours of continually crossing the creek and climbing around many obstructions, the group encountered a wonderful series of red waterfalls an indication that the entrance to the Subway was near. Passing a larger falls, a long sloping passageway was followed into the huge tunnel. Great care had to be taken on the glass-like ledges but the trip was totally worth the journey; everyone agreed that the Subway was one of the most interesting cave formations, full of glistening colors, that any of them had ever seen. The return trip down the creek was quicker but the climb out of the canyon of the end was probably the most difficult of the trip as the hikers reached the trailhead just before dark.
The final day of the trip, the group left Utah and, followed by a short visit to the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, took a tour of the Hoover Dam followed by a walk over the new The Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, the key component to the Hoover Dam Bypass project, the longest concrete arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere. The day ended in Las Vegas with a visit to the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, the place where “Pawn Stars”, the most popular series on cable TV is filmed.
This trip was one of the busiest and most rewarding trip taken by the group; over 55 miles were hiked in this wonderful high desert area of the Colorado Plateau.