Monday, December 19, 2016

Fall Break Camping

Every fall my dad comes down from Oregon and goes camping with Taylor, Parker, Xander and me.  We've had some amazing trips over the years.  We spend three or four nights in southern Utah soaking up the amazing scenery.  This year we returned to one of my favorite campsites.  It's near Zion National Park, but it's super isolated.  It's on the Smithsonian Butte National Scenic Byway.  One way to access the site (and the only way we had been there before) is via an absolutely terrible, rocky, steep road that should only be attempted with 4-wheel drive, high clearance vehicles.  We got there after dark and, since we had been up this road several years before (albeit in an all wheel drive vehicle), we decided to attempt it in our van.  Bad choice!

Since it was dark, we couldn't really see what we were getting into.  We started up the road, which at first wasn't too bad.  But it kept getting worse as we went up.  By the time we were completely sure we shouldn't be on this road in this vehicle, it was too late.  There was no way I wanted to back down in the dark.  It was way too narrow and steep, with sharp drop-offs on one side.  So we decided to press on.  We knew that at some point the road became a fairly smooth, fairly level dirt road.  We just couldn't remember how much longer that rough part was.  We were all starting to get nervous.  The rocks in the road were getting larger and we were worried we were going to puncture something.  My dad suggested everyone but me get out so the load would be 600 pounds lighter.  They did.  With some divine intervention, I was able to get the van the rest of the way up the hill to that beautiful level road.  Poor Xander, Taylor, Parker and dad got to start their hikes a day earlier than anticipated. Up a very steep grade.  In the dark.  But we made it!  We found our same spot from the previous time.  It is amazing up there.  These are pictures from our campsite.  We only had one other group camping anywhere near us.  Smithsonian Butte is in the background.

I spent one of the night toasty warm in my hammock:)

This two-and-a-half foot long rattler was our neighbor!

The first day we visited the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park.  This was our first time visiting and it was amazing!  Such a beautiful location.  Stark red-rock cliffs. Rugged canyons.  Overlooks where you can see for miles.  So beautiful.  The foggy pictures below are from a return trip I made on a rainy day when I was down there for work.

While we were in Kolob Canyons we went on the Taylor Creek Trail.  This 5-mile round trip hike took us along Taylor Creek, past a couple of old cabins from the early 20th century to double arch alcove.  One of the highlights of the trip came on this hike.  Parker shared with us some of the secrets he has learned as he has studied the difficult training discipline known as Parkour.  Thanks to Taylor for the Richard Attenborough-style narration.  You can see Parker's Parkour here:

Some pics from the trail:

There was a big BYU football game that night, so instead of returning to our campground, we stayed with some good friends in Hurricane, Mike and Kerry Dorious.  We watched a close but disappointing game and slept in warm beds.  They fixed us a big breakfast in the morning and then we headed into the National Park where we hiked the short but spectacular Canyon Overlook trail.  The views at the end of this trail are unsurpassed.  

 Notice Taylor peering over the edge of the cliff about halfway up this picture on the left side:

My Dad must have felt some sense of power in this one:)

If there's a tree to be climbed, count on Taylor to climb it!!!

On the final day of our trip we hiked Kanarra Creek Canyon.  This is beautiful slot canyon several miles north of Zion.  I've hiked it before in September, and the water was invigorating.  Towards the end of October it was icy!!!  We all decided this would be best as a July hike in the future:)  I was proud of all of us for sticking it out.  Kudos to my dad for doing it at age 76 and kudos (or condolences) to Parker for deciding to man up and get completely drenched in one of the waterfalls.  It was a fun hike.  For the record, we were not the only crazy ones to do a creek walk in mid-fall.  There were well over 100 people on the trail that day.

Notice the long line to ascend the ladder.  We had to wait for everyone coming down to descend first.

I'm so grateful for the tradition our fall camping trip has become.  It's so great to spend time with my boys and my dad.  Thanks so much to Christi for holding down the fort while we're gone every year.