Saturday, April 22, 2017

Living the Dream (Hiking in Nevada/Utah/Arizona)

Motivational speaker, Matt Foley, warned us all that we would probably grow up to amount to "JACK SQUAT" and find ourselves "living in a van down by the river." Well, la dee frickin' da, wouldn't you know that's exactly where my husband and I found ourselves...and I can't think of a better way for us to have celebrated 30 years of marriage. (Only thing that could have made it better was if we had "rolled some doobies", ha ha!)

Hell yes! LTD!

Would you pass the government cheese, dear?
I was pretty surprised when my husband agreed to spend a week driving around in such a "colorful" set of wheels; but I had found such a great deal, and frankly, he probably would have agreed to just about anything only to get away for a few days. Though thankfully he's learned to enjoy hiking just for hiking sake, (not easy for a former adrenaline addict climber) so driving to a few of Utah's National Parks and hitting some trails was a plan we could both agree to.

After picking up our rental van in Vegas we spent our first full day hiking at Red Rock Canyon.We were so glad we had already decided to drive back to Vegas to stay another night at a hotel, because the campground there was already completely full. I had no idea this place was so enormous and that we would have so many trails to choose from. (You can drive the 12 mile scenic loop and see quite a bit without even leaving your car, but be aware there is an entrance fee...I wasn't, and by the end of this trip, I was cursing entrance fees!) I'm glad I did a little research before hand and had read that Calico Tanks was a good moderate hike of 2 and a half miles--no need to wear ourselves out straight out the gate!
A great payoff view of Vegas at the end of Calico Tanks
Immediately Ken had climber envy, and was kicking himself for not packing his climbing shoes and a chalk bag so he could at least do a little bouldering. Every hike on this trip provided him nearly endless opportunities to salivate over routes. "Look at that overhang!, that crack is endless...can you see where they drilled the bolts?"--oh, the heartbreak of missing one's glory days. 
I wanna keep going!!
"Ken, get back here!!!"...JK, this is some other lucky climber
Speaking of younger years, visiting Zion after 10 years away (we celebrated our 20th there by doing "The Narrows") made us long for the good ol' days. We thought it was busy then, but it's a whole new level of crazy now. It was unfortunately proving to be Ken's worst nightmare come true...wait in line for the campsite (over an hour, though we were lucky to even get one)...wait in line for the permit (no luck there; water at "The Subway" hike was running too high as it was still March)...wait in line for the shuttle (no cars allowed anymore, even during "slow" season)...wait in line for the bathroom...and finally the kicker, wait in line for the trail!!!
Somebody shoot me
You'd think death warnings would be a deterrent
"Calling number's your turn"
Seriously, Angels Landing looked more like a Disneyland attraction than anything you should find in nature. Ken had been pondering why on earth Utah would pick "The Beehive State" as it's official nickname; but waiting and observing the buzzing masses, he turned to me and simply said, "now I get it." 

Relaxing? I sure hope you know how to tie a knot!
The next day we decided to abandon our hard fought for site and continue on to Bryce. Looking at the forecast and seeing nothing good anywhere, we decided if we were going to get rained on, we might as well have a change of scenery.
Goodbye Zion! 
Hello Bryce!!
It was a good call, because lucky for us Bryce got cold enough to bless us with snow instead! We did the "Figure 8", which is a combo of both the Navajo Loop and the Peekaboo Loop, and I could not recommend it more highly. What I wouldn't recommend though is trying to sneak off to pee when your husband has the camera. ;)

Where's Waldo?

The only regret we had for this leg of the trip was not buying more firewood to last us into the freezing night. But resourcefulness prevailed, as we found quite a plunder of charred log remains at our neighboring sites. (I always find this activity oddly thrilling...must be my extreme love of free stuff)
I got the quesadillas!
I got the Coronas and salsa!
In the morning we scraped the ice off the van and doubled back to Zion in hopes that the water level had receded enough to snag a last chance permit, but it was not to be. Some quick Google searches for an alternate hike lead us to a less popular trail in the Kolob Canyon area just outside of Zion. Another good choice, because our muscles were still upset over the steep declines and inclines of the previous two days, and Taylor Creek is an easy in and out 5 mile beauty. (And it's included in your Zion Park entrance fee--thank God because I couldn't handle another fee)
"Would you look at the size of that wall?!? Sigh..."
Historic cabin on the trail
Very cool arch at the end of the hike
Go another 10 minutes (no real trail) and you get another treat
The last hike of the trip took us to a new state; and although I had thought I had outwitted the fee Gods by choosing it, lo and behold you have to pay $30 just to drive through the Lake Mead area to get to it! (You could avoid this by coming a different direction, but we did end up camping at Lake Mead, because of it's proximity to the hike.)
Arizona Hot Springs begins as possibly the ugliest trail I have ever been on. Starting off as a wide desert wash going under the highway, it doesn't look like anything anyone should be doing for any reason. (And you shouldn't do it for any reason in the summer, because you would fry!) But it makes up for it after about 2 miles when you arrive in the slot canyon area, and then be prepared to be blown away once you reach the hot springs.
He's always got to add the tiniest rock he can find

Now you would think sitting in such a secluded spot in 110 degree water would be relaxing, but all I could think about was not getting any water in my nose so I wouldn't die from the rare but deadly amoeba found in the springs.(It can only enter through you nose...isn't that weird?) Ken lifted his wet finger to pick his nose and I just about had a heart attack! "I just had a scratch!" he insisted, but I think he was enjoying freaking me out, as usual.
For God's sake, keep your nose above water!!!
Neither of us were aware we were less than a quarter mile from the Colorado River. I don't know how that got past me when researching this hike, but thankfully a fellow hiker filled us in. There are a few different ways to get to the springs, and obviously we choose the one that didn't include the river. So we pushed on, down the ladder, and found ourselves at another bee hive of people. A large kayaking group was camped out there (what an amazing spot) so we were extremely lucky to hit the hot springs at a time when they were not there. And so far neither of us has shown any signs of our brains being eaten by the Naegleria Fowleri amoeba, so we were fortunate all the way around. ;)
The 30 foot ladder was a little unnerving  

Of course, being married to such a great guy and good sport for a blessed 30 years...and not having to actually live in a van down by the what makes me the most fortunate adventurer ever. So here's to 30 more years and many more adventures to come!
Because our ride was named "The Money Van", Ken had to
take a "money shot" to go with it. Gotta love him.