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Deer Hunting in South Park

Since the family had no plans for Sunday, I was going to try to get out and do a 16-18 mile hike on the Laurel Highlands trail starting at Ohiopyle and going out 8-9 and then doubling back.  The forecast for the day was for 80% chance of showers.  I did not want to drive for 1:15 just to walk in the rain (or worse, lightning), so I postponed the hike for a future date.  The forecast ended up being completely off the mark and the day turned out very nice.  After a 5.5 mile morning run I still had the afternoon open so decided to walk the trails at the park to see how many deer I could see and shoot.

All in all, I ended up walking for 5 hours and probably put in at least another 7 miles.  The bad thing about walking around for deer is that you really don’t get the best compositions.  They always see or hear you way before you see them.  They will stand and stare you down and when they do decide to leave, it’s a couple leaps and bounds and they’re gone.  If I was more patient I could have waited for some of them to relax and continue their foraging but I did want to get in the exercise also.

All shots taken with the 7D and 100-400 F/4.5-5.6L.  All shots at 400mm and F5.6 with ISOs ranging from 1000-2500 except squirrel shot at 400mm, F7.1 and ISO 160.

Stats for the day: Bucks  (5) seen – (3) shot,  Doe  (~10) seen – (6) shot,  Fawns (4) seen – (2) shot.

First deer about 30 minutes into the walk. Mom with two fawns.
First buck – close to the girl scout house
Doe behind game preserve – two fawns were bedding down in the field but all spooked as I maneuvered for a shot.
2nd Buck – by game preserve
Fawns – above stadium
Doe – by wave pool
3rd buck behind VIP- best I could do before he took off. I do like the way the light is hitting the velvet antlers and making them glow.
Got this little guy as I pulled into my driveway
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Day Two – Seneca Rocks

After getting off the trail the previous night the wind started to pick up.  The Dolly Sods Wilderness sits at approximately 4000 feet elevation along the Eastern Continental Divide.  High winds are typical and one only needs to look at the trees to see this.  On the exposed sections of the mountain,  branches on the spruce trees all face east away from the prevailing winds, this is known as flagging. Throughout the whole night the winds just howled and could be heard coming through in waves around our campsite.  However, just a 25 feet below the tops of the trees to our camping area, the winds did not penetrate the canopy and the air was only slightly breezy.  So surface conditions weren’t bad but the loud wind gust noises kept me up all night.

Only about three miles north on Forest Road 75 is Bear Rocks Preserve.  This is definitely one of the premier sunrise locations along the Eastern US.  I had set the alarm to 5:30 to be there for some predawn light.  The weather had not improved much over night so I passed on the sunrise attempt and ended up finally getting out of the tent at about 6:15.

After eating breakfast and packing up we were on our way to Bear Rocks at 8:00.  On a clear day one can easily make out 6+ ridge lines stretching away to the east.  That morning ended up not being clear.  Between the rain passing through previous night and latent humidity still in the air from the east coast enduring 90+ degree days before, a haze had settled within the valleys allowing only a murky three or four ridge lines to be visible. Initially another 10+ mile hike was planned for the day across northern Dolly Sods which is very exposed. Between yesterday’s hike, the continuing wind, and clearing skies with no shelter from the summer sun we decided to head down to Seneca Rocks for a short but strenuous hike.

All pics on this post taken with Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ28 point-n-shoot.

Seneca Rocks from the parking lot

From Wikipedia:

“Seneca Rocks… are formations of the white/gray Tuscarora quartzite. The quartzite is approximately 250 feet thick here and is located primarily on exposed ridges as caprock or exposed crags. The rock is composed of fine grains of sand that were laid down approximately 440 million years ago in the Silurian Period, in an extensive sand shoal at the edge of the ancient Iapetus Ocean. Eons of geologic activity followed, as the ocean slowly closed and the underlying rock uplifted and folded. Millions of years of erosion stripped away the overlying rock and left remnants of the arching folds in outcrops such as Seneca Rocks.”

There is a gentle 1-1/2 mile trail to an overlook near the top of Seneca Rocks or the 1/2 mile trail straight up the east flank. We chose the shorter, harder climb…

Straight up the east flank – needing both arms and legs for much

…but at the top the views are worth it.

From the observation deck

kids glad to be on top...well, at least two of them

A nervous Rachel works her up the spine to the top

Summit with view looking south down the Germany Valley - Spruce Knob, WVa's highest point way off in the distance.

After maybe 45 minutes on top we worked our way back down taking the gentle trail.

We did have one more stop at Black Water Falls SP since it was on the way home and lingered for a little bit but the kids were spent from the previous day and half hikes so if was off to DQ in Oakland, MD to refuel.

Dolly Sods Central Hike

Sunday morning had me up at 4:45am.  I had planned another hike in West Virginia but this time I was going out with my best friend Mike and I was taking my oldest, Rachel, and he was bringing his oldest, David, and his youngest, Gracie.  We arrived at Mike’s at 5:30 and loaded my truck and started on our journey.  The weather was a big question mark with forecasts calling for 40% storm probability and on the high plateau of Dolly Sods anything weather-wise is a possibility.  After about a three hour drive we arrived at the Blackbird Knob (BBK) trailhead at 9:00.  I was initially planning on trying a bit of photography but ended up not even taking the DSLR on the hikes and only using my point-n-shoot.  For only about 30 minutes near the end of the second day did I end up pulling out the 7D.

Happy hikers before the hike…

We had decided on trying a medium length hike of 10.6 miles that would take us through open meadows, hardwood forests, hills of loose boulders, red spruce groves, rhododendron thicket, fields of ferns and six stream crossings.  The elevation change wasn’t too substantial but we knew the distance would test the kids.

Dolly Sods Central Loop

Hiking away from forest road 75, we ascended a small hill before working our way down through an open field down on the other side.  At the bottom of the hill we entered a wooded area that was fairly open.  At about a mile into the hike we had our first stream crossing.  This would be our smallest stream to get across at maybe ten feet wide.  The water was low enough to rock hop across boulders that were obviously placed by hikers.  This small stream, however, did not stop David from slipping and soaking his feet.

After a small climb through some more openly wooded areas with large ant hills we descended again and came across a tributary of Red Creek.  This crossing would be about thirty feet but a large boulder dam had been made and the water was low enough to allow us to keep our shoes on and attempt a rock hop.  Once again David got wet.  But this time he lost his footing and ended up landing on his backside soaking himself below the waist.

We continued on our hike past the junction of Upper Red Creek trail.  Then we pasted Lower Red Creek trail which is the trail we would be on when we completed our loop.  We followed BBK trail an additional two miles passing through meadows, forests and fields of ferns.

Fields of ferns

After crossing another tributary of Red Creek and about three miles into our hike we started to hear rumbles of thunder.  We continued on through a hilly meadow and started looking for some trees with dense growth to provide some shelter.  After finding a good spot and donning our rain gear the drops started to fall.  We took this time to take a 15 minute break and have some snacks until the rain stopped.

Once again on our way, the trails became more muddy and slick.

Nearing the end of Blackbird Knob trail

Finishing off the BBK trail, we approached a kiosk where Big Stone coal trail and Breathed Mountain trail intersected.  Before heading off on Breathed Mountain trail and nearing the halfway point of our hike we came across a group of about a dozen college aged backpackers working on their seventh straight day on the trails.  They couldn’t help but brag about their smelly body odors and seemed proud to be out that long enduring the satisfaction and punishment the trails had dealt them.

Gracie stops for a snack of wild blueberries

Breathed Mountain trail was a little less worn than BBK so I assume sees less traffic.  We continued on through various landforms along the trail for another two miles before descending a steep boulder strewn grade down to Lower Red Creek trail.

The rocky end of Breathed Mountain trail descending to Red Creek trail junction

On the Lower Red creek trail we continue upstream for another crossing and then ascended a steep slope before making our way back to the junction of BBK trail.  Back on BBK we traced our previous steps back.  Upon returning to one of our original stream crossings, the water level was a little bit higher making this crossing more difficult but this time David managed to stay dry.

Gracie and Mike rock hopping the second to last creek crossing

The last mile of the hike dragged on for about 45 minutes.  Gracie developed a sore foot and Mike decided to give her a piggy back ride the rest of the way to save her foot for a hike the following day.  David developed a case of chronic “How-much-longeritis” and Rachel was plodding along like a zombie.  After passing another large crew of young backpackers we found a GPS laying on the trail about five minutes later.  I took off after them screaming loudly to get their attention but to no avail.  Upon giving up and running back to my crew I came across another hiker who was the one who dropped the GPS and passed it along to him.  After reaching the others I found out that only a few minutes after I took off to see who lost the GPS they had been screaming as loud as they could to get my attention to let me know that the hiker that lost the GPS was not in the backpacking crew like we had initially thought.  And in the middle of nowhere were the silence can be deafening I didn’t hear anything.  I certainly understood how someone that is lost could scream all they wanted and still not be heard.

Back at the truck the kids were beat but came through pretty good.

…and after

Otter Creek Wilderness – Turkey Run Loop

My wife decided to take the kids on a two day excursion to Slippery Rock campground to one of her friends “cottages” . At the last minute she decided she had better take the dog in case she wanted to stay an extra day.  This freed me of any immediate responsibility,  so I decided to do an over night trip and then a day hike the following day.  I settled on the Otter Creek Wilderness because I had not yet been there and by looking at the satellite shot it looked pretty wild and isolated.

I left early afternoon on Sunday July the 31st.  I decided to spend the night at Black Water Falls State Park campground to see about getting sunset and sunrise shots from Pendleton Point which is a beautiful vista just down the road.  I arrived at the park at 5:30pm and figured I’d get my camping spot and then shoot over to the other side of the canyon to take some pictures of Shays Run.  Typically when I shoot waterfalls, I put a neutral density filter on the lens to reduce the amount of light entering which allows for longer exposures,  so the water looks more appealing and gives a sense of motion .  In this case, it was late in the day and so dark within the draw, that I not only didn’t need a ND filter but also had to remove my polarizer filter (which usually lives on my wide angle lens) to reduce the exposure time.

Elakala Falls on Shays Run is made up of three separate falls and right next to the lodge.  It’s a very popular spot but on this evening I was the only one there and nothing could be heard but the roar of the falls.

Elakala Fall #1 on Shays Run
Elakala falls #2 on Shays Run
Elakala Falls #2

I spent an hour or so grabbing some comps before deciding to head off to Pendleton Point to scout a good location for sunset/sunrise.  On the way over, I noticed a small fawn hanging out in the dark pine forest with beams of light shooting through the canopy.  I was hoping she would walk into a shaft but she did not cooperate and stayed behind the trees until she fled.

Fawn playing hide-n-seek

After getting back to the other side of the canyon and making my way to Pendleton Point, the sky had not cooperated.  Not a cloud was to be seen which made for a very boring shot so I decided to head back to my campsite and cook up some jalapeno wursts for dinner and wait for the star lights to come on at night (while downing a few hop/barley flavored beverages of course).  At around 10:00 when the sky really started to get black, I grabbed my gear and walked down to a meadow I spied earlier to take some shots of the Milkyway at the best time of the year.

The summer night sky at Black Water Falls SP W Va.

Upon waking in the morning, after spending a restless night while a mouse noisily rummaged all around my tent, I was once again disappointing with a cloudless sky.  I didn’t even bother driving to Pendleton to see of any photo ops and packed up my stuff and was on the road to the trailhead by 6:45.  In hind site,  fog low within the valley could have made for an interesting shot but I’ll never know.  Chalk it up to experience.

I planned to do a 11.7 mile hike within the Otter Creek Wilderness on a predetermined route called the Turkey Run Loop.  For the most part, I get all my hiking maps and trail notes from Midatlantichikes.com.  It is truly a great site with all the info you need.

Turkey Run Loop Trail Map

After a slight delay from making a wrong turn on the drive over, I arrived at the trailhead at 8am. After getting my stuff in order, I was on the trail by 8:30.  The Otter Creek Wilderness is very remote and even the trails don’t look like they see much traffic.  For the most part, most of the trails are converted old logging railroads but from the info read on some posted signs this area has not been logged since the early 60’s and is not due again until 2030.  That is not to say that the trails are not easy to follow but I saw very few footprints compared to what I’m used to in the Dolly Sods Wilderness.

When leaving Big Springs Gap Trailhead toward Otter Creek, one passes through a very lush, healthy forest. This is typical of the whole trail.

Big Springs Gap Trail

As soon as you reach Otter Creek, you have to cross to get to the trail on the other side.  At the peak of summer this is an easy task and I almost contemplated just rock hoping to the other side without taking my boots off but this early in the hike I did not want to take the chance of slipping and  then having to slosh through 11 more miles.

First crossing

After crossing, the trail traveled upstream an additional 4 miles while crossing three different times. Along the way, I past many good campsites, two really nice swimming holes and plenty of beautiful cascades and falls.   Upon completion of that section of the trail following Otter Creek, I ran across some nice falls before making my way onto Moore Run Trail.

Falls at Moore Run Trail

Typical Otter Creek

At this point, it was a gradual ascent to the top of the mountain.  Halfway up the trail I nearly stepped on a bee hive that appeared as if it had recently been exposed.  I stopped and took a picture and got stung once for hanging around too long.  On the positive, for the next 30 seconds my trail pace increased dramatically.

Bee hive on the trail

When I got to the top on the mountain, the terrain flattened out for a while and the ground started getting wet.  At most of the bad sections, logs had been laid down forming a bridge to span the bogs.  At one location I noticed some deep prints off to the edge which appeared too wide to be a dogs but too circular to be human.  They also formed very deep depressions. What ever made them was heavy.

Tracks

According to the trail notes, the Turkey Run Trail is a old road that has been reclaimed by the forest.  It also notes that there is a good chance of stinging nettle, so I attached the bottoms of my convertible pants for some protection.  Sure enough, the stuff was everywhere.  Fortunately, the trail was worn wide enough to keep most at bay.  At this point I was nearing the end of my hike.  Up ahead I noticed a deer spring forward and stopped my intermittent loud conversations with myself to sneak up for a shot (every so often I think and talk to myself out loud (very loud) so I don’t sneak up on a bear).  As would be expected, the deer noticed me and was gone.  A minute later I spot a bear cub walking down the path toward me.

Bear cub about 1/2 mile from the Turkey Run Trailhead

I have no idea where Mom is.  At this point the cub is still 150 feet away and I stopped moving and I am surrounded by thick weeds.  It starts up the hill and I grab a picture.  It then turns back down to the trail and I decide it’s time to let it know I’m here with a loud,” Hey, where you goin’ bear!”.  It stops, looks around, finally notices me, I yell again, and it bolts uphill.  For good measure, I just stayed in the same spot for 5-10 minutes making plenty of noise giving the cub and it’s unseen mother time to regroup and get away.

Continuing a cautious 1/2 mile back to the truck I finished the hike at 3:00.  Hiking time was 6:30 for 11.7 miles.  I relaxed with a drink for 20 minutes before making the 3:15 drive home.

The trailhead reward

Sophie…

Quite the goofy animal.  We always referred to her as our special needs dog.  We got her almost two years ago at about 4 months old from a lady on craigslist who bred Boxers and got a puppy Shi-Tzu for her daughter but found she didn’t really fit in well with that environment.  At the time her name was Tinkerbell but my wife Dyan quickly changed that to Sophia.  Sophie had issues with going down stairs and turning to the right.  We later learned that she was partially blind in her right eye.  Anytime she had to turn to the right she would have to spin 270 degrees to the left.  Some times she would overshoot her mark and make a couple more 360’s to line up correctly.  She was Dyan’s little baby.  She demanded that attention.  Always crying or whimpering to get picked up and held.  She would always wake me up in the morning when the alarm went off by licking my neck.  Most of the time this was a short little maneuver as she would like to sleep on my pillow – while my head was on it.  Quirky little thing but she grew on me.

Sadly, this past Monday the 11th she was hit by a car in front of our house and killed instantly.  Life sometimes lands a sucker punch and this was a tough one.  So I’m just going to have to let the greatest, most powerful force in the universe handle it – the travelling hands of time.

This photo probably best shows her personality
How I’ll remember her
Flying

Southwestern Utah Backpack and Hike (Part 3 of 3)


(Note:  All of the following images can be clicked to view larger size)

Day 6 – afternoon

After leaving Zion through the east entrance, the sky once again cleared to a brilliant blue.  We drove through Kanab again to stop at a grocery store and grab some bratwurst, beers and ice.  One of the cons of Utah camping is the lack of decent beer to choose from.  Not too long ago many of these counties were dry following conservative religious ideology but most stores now carried various forms of alcohol to take advantage of all the tourist money (esp. Europeans) coming through this region.

Back on the road after the resupply,  we stopped at the Paria BLM office to check on current conditions within Buckskin Gulch and the weather forecast to assure no chance of storms and flash flooding. We found out that there were only three standing pools of water that we would need to wade through in the gulch but none over knee high.  We also had to pick up a couple human waste bags for the hike in the gulch as you are not allowed to dig a cat hole and do your business in the gulch.  Fortunately, we both did not have to use them.  The BLM office sits at the top of the dirt road leading about 2-1/2 miles back to the trailhead and a small camping area.  On the drive down we noticed high clouds building in.  Finding only one site of the five occupied, we picked setup our stuff and enjoyed a couple of hours scrambling around the area.  Even in a remote area considered wasteland there is just tons to see out there.

Rock formations at our campsite
A small walk from the campsite to an old cattle fence line
light sneaks beneath the clouds setting the valley aglow
Watching the sun go down while looking north up the Paria Valley and White House Trailhead road.
View south over the Paria and our campsite as last light turns the clouds into cotton candy

Without a doubt, that night was the best light we had during the trip.  I wish I was more prepared and had scouted out some more interesting foreground subject matter for better compositions but just sitting through it was satisfying enough.  At this stage of the trip the weather was just perfect – light breezes, highs in the low 70s and lows in the high 40s and enough mesquite trees around to hide in the refuge of shade.  We settled in and relaxed to a nice roaring fire but once again were sleeping by 11:00 to wake up early for our long hike the following day.

Day 7 

Earlier in the week when driving through Kanab and having phone service I had called a local outfitter to arrange a shuttle ride from White House trailhead to Wire Pass trailhead where we would start our hike through Buckskin Gulch.  Once in the gulch, there is no way out except either walking back to where you started or walking to the end.  Buckskin is said to be the deepest and longest slot canyon in the southwest and described  in Backpacker magazine as one of Americas 10 most dangerous hikes.  From the trailhead at Wire Pass to where it meets up with the Paria river is 13 miles.  It is then an additional 7.5 miles hike upstream to White House.  Buckskin gulch drains the whole southern section of Bryce canyon about 70 miles to the north and all in between.  The are a few sections where the canyon opens up but most of its length is less than 20 feet in width with many spots less than five feet.  It is not unusual to see log jams 70 feet overhead from previous floods.  We certainly saw our share.

Our shuttle driver arrived on time at 7:00 am.  He was the type of guy you would expect living out here in the middle of nowhere – deep voice, scruffy and unshaven looking like he just woke up from a  hard night of drinking.  Also taking this shuttle was a guy with his two teenage sons.  I was worried that we might be biting off more than we could chew by trying this 21 mile hike but having theses three do the same hike made the worrying go away.  We left White House trailhead and the driver floored the mid 90s suburban and we were flying down the dirt roads at some points over 50 mph.  We arrived at Wire Pass trailhead to start the hike by 7:30.  We had budgeted 12 hours for this hike knowing there was going to be a lot of time spent picture taking.

Finishing the first mile from Wire pass we start into the gulch
Early in the hike, we stand under a wedged log from a past flash flood

Typically the best times for taking landscape photography is around sunrise and sunset or with an unsettled atmosphere where clouds help to diffuse and scatter the harsh light.  For slots it’s the exact opposite.  High noon day sun in clear skies is perfect to allow the rays to work down into the slots adding shadows, textures and layers glowing with different intensities.  Our day was perfectly clear and the early June calendar date had the Sun high above almost directly overhead.

Layered hues of blue and orange deep within the slot
The canyon glows as the sun works its rays down from above
Much of the 13 miles is like this
Sculpted walls
The walls lean in as you’re squeezed through the chute – sometimes ducking and sometimes positioning yourself sideways to get through
Hard to keep a decent pace when continuously in awe of the surroundings
Overhead light illuminates the trail
Faces watch our approach
More faces

The gulch was not a continuous slot.  At times it would open wide revealing sharp straight walls.  Sand bars would allow for cottonwoods and maples to gain purchase and fight off the floods.  The floor at times would be littered with natural debris as flood waters would spread out and loose its force.

debris litters the floor
Erik checks out the surroundings
Right at the end of the gulch as we approach the Paria River

As we completed the gulch we still had another 7 miles hike up the Paria River and back to our campsite.  The river was nothing more than a small stream. For the most part, it was no more than ankle deep bit with all the suspended silt and solids the bottom was still not visible.  It reminded me of the water and slurry that would be at the base of a pottery wheel.  Being this late in the hike, walking upstream and being beaten by the rays of the sun proved to be the most difficult part.  The tight narrows quickly opened up revealing strange sandstone domes.

Hiking the silty waters of the Paria
Undoubtedly the Mormans call this formation “so-and-so’s” nipple

Eleven hours and 21 miles later we finished our hike.  We definitely saw a lot of really wild stuff.  We relaxed with a couple beers we had left and cooked up a dozen bratwurst to refuel.  The sky remained virtually cloudless and gave only a brief uneventful sunset.  Tomorrow would be our last full day and after the long day did not make it much past 10:00 before we were both sleeping.

Day 8

We woke early to start our trek back to Vegas.  We didn’t have the energy or ambition to attempt any long hikes for the day.  Only a couple miles away from where Whit House trailhead road meets 89 is another trailhead leading to Toadstool Hoodoos.  Being only a 1-1/2 mile round trip hike we decided it was worth doing.

The formation containing the most famous toadstool hoodoo
Another small group of hoodoos
A white hoodoo higher in the strata layers
A panoramic of the valley. Click and open larger size for more detail

After the small side trip to the hoodoos, we were on our way to Vegas.  We had a room reserved that we hotwired that ended up being a Holiday Inn express that was right across from the airport that we got for $47.  We had a short night on the town hitting up a buffet to refuel and enjoy real food after a week of backpacking food.  A walk through a couple casinos and we were back before midnight and sleeping.

Where we were.  Place marks should be accurate.

All in all the trip exceeded my expectations.  The amount of sites we crammed into such a short time was exhausting but was more than worth it.  Only problem now is determining next years location.  As of the moment, I’m thinking Canadian Rockies.

Southwestern Utah Backpack and Hike (Part 2 of 3)


(Note:  All of the following images can be clicked to view larger size)

Day 4

Memorial Day and I was up with the sun again.  I wanted to catch lights golden hour on both ends so I was going to sleep earlier than the other guys for the sunrises.  After making two cups of coffee, I rolled everything up and packed it away in my backpack and decided to climb the side of Hackberry Canyon and get on top.  Getting up on top gave me a nice view of our camp and both Hackberry and Cottonwood Canyon in morning light.

Campsite at the mouth of Hackberry (1/3 from bottom, 1/3 from right – view large)
Standing on an overlook above our campsite
Dead weathered tree on the exposed point
View south down Cottonwood Canyon road

Back down in the wash and everyone was packed and ready to follow cottonwood to 89 and then make our way to Zion for a two day backpack on the East Rim.  After the drive down cottonwood, a stop at Kanab for lunch and supplies (beer and ice) we arrived at Zion’s east entrance at around 2:00 pm.

Mountain goat family while driving in through the east entrance of Zion

It took an additional hour and a half to get through the tunnel and down to the back country registration at the visitor center.  After getting our permits and filling our packs with two days supplies we were on the shuttle traveling up the canyon to the east rim trailhead at weeping rock.  After getting off the shuttle it seemed there was no way a trail would take us up the steep slope below cable mountain and beyond.  We followed a switchback to a section where the mountains came together and the trail was chiseled into one of the mountains to one side of a slot canyon.

looking down at the switchback we just ascended
Working our way through a slot where the trail is chiseled through one side of the mountain.

As we worked our way into the backcountry, the trail followed the edge of the mountains with some very steep drop offs.  Being both tired, hot and short of breathe is no condition to be in when working your way up a trail with a 30#-40# pack on where a slip or a dizzy spell may end it for you.

Erik catching a breath while taking in the views
A look back at the trail

After working to the top of a flat mesa, 4-1/2 miles and a 1800 feet elevation gain later, the terrain became a  meadow where a stream trickled through partially fed by the Stevens Spring.

View from below our campsite along the East Rim Trail

It was getting late in the evening so we set up close to the spring and all went to sleep just after sunset as we were bushed from the hike up and  the temps were dropping.  The temperature ended up falling into the high twenties and this was the coldest night of the trip.

Day 5

Due to the preceding days early evening, everyone was up early in the morning and breaking down camp.  It was our initial intention to find a good campsite and stay for two nights but our late arrival the previous night had us camping too close to the spring and we knew we had to find a different spot.  With our backpacks stashed and throwing on light day packs we set off for Cable Mountain overlook and a better camping spot along the way.  Apparently, a wildfire had moved through this section of Zion some years previous leaving views were not so picturesque.

Mesa along East Rim where previous wildfire went through

As we finally made our way to the overlook of Cable Mountain the views were incredible.  There was maybe a 1500′ straight vertical drop from the edge and it was hard not to feel a little queezy as I got close.  Even lying down on my stomach and sticking my head out over the edge made my stomach float and did little to ease the vertigo.

Close to the edge
View straight down towards the East Rim switchback
Angel’s Landing at the big bend and the West Rim behind

After hanging out at the vista for an hour or two we decided to make it back to our original campsite.  Not finding any outstanding campsites and the views being rather mundane, except at the overlook, we decided to make our way back to the valley and see if we could find a motel, a shower and real food.

Heading down into the valley
A look back from where we came

We found a  room, cleaned up, and then went to a wood fired pizza place to stuff in about 3000 calories a piece.

The days last sun rays as viewed from our motel

Day 6

Today was the last day for Gary and Dan.  We decided to hike Angels Landing and make our way out to the point for incredible views of the valley to the south.  The trail is a very easy hike and paved with concrete for the most part until you get to the section that takes you out to Angels Landing.

A look back at the lower section of the trail, the Virgin River and Zion Valley
A very steep switchback called Walter’s Wiggles. the last steep ascent before the trail forks to form the West Rim Trail and The Trail to Angels Landing
The trail heading up the spine with vertical drop offs on either side 
Viewed from the edge of the trail. Not a good place for untied shoes.
Erik takes a picture as Gary, Dan and myself work our way up the trail

The weather was a little overcast which made for more pleasant hiking conditions but made a bit of a more drab sky for photography.  Although, this did beat the usual brilliant blue sky and harsh light that is typical for Southwestern Utah.  With an additional two dozen hikers out on the point, I did my best to frame in some decent compositions without the tourists in the way which required some down climbing from the standard stopping point.

From Angels Landing looking south through Zion Canyon
Another view of the valley

After getting back to the valley floor we split up.  Gary and Dan took a side trip to emerald pools and then left for Vegas.  Erik and I proceeded back to the car and then east on 89 working our way over to the camping area at White House Trailhead in the Paria River valley to get ready for a 21 mile hike the following morning through Buckskin Gulch.  This night would prove to be the best light of the trip.  Day 6 is continued on next post.

(part 3 of 3 continued on next post )