Will Return In 6 Months…

 

That wasn’t the original plan, but I have returned nonetheless!  And with a brief video!  Enjoy!

 

And here’s another, from out of the past!

 

p.s. I will return shortly

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Upcoming: Orange County Hikes

Coming shortly to YNWA: a bit of Orange County local flavor…

Red Rock Canyon/Whiting Ranch

Blue skies, red rocks, and great local scenery on the way…

Santiago Oaks Regional Park

Or should I say the Shire…

Perhaps a bit of tightrope walking as well…

In addition to the two above, Black Star Canyon, Crystal Cove, and Holy Jim Trail to Saddleback Peak (!) will be reviewed and documented.  Trail Descriptions and additional pictures arriving in the near future.  Prepare to be given no excuse to have an open Saturday.

Top Hikes in Zion Part II: The Left Fork (The Subway)

The Left Fork (Subway) – Zion National Park

Welcome to some of the strangest and most beautiful terrain on the planet.  Make sure you have a permit.

I won’t lie to you: this is a rough hike.  When I say rough, I don’t just mean long; I mean long, unmarked, potentially susceptible to flash flood, and physically demanding.  The trail is basically a riverbed, making for ankle-breaking, branch-snapping fun trying to pick the best route.  At times, there is no choice but to try your best at basically ice skating uphill over the moss-covered rocks where the river flows.  Oh, and when you’re tired at the end, just be prepared to scale a 750 foot wall to get out of the riverbed.  Now that we have lost all of the quitters out there, I can give you the good news.

There are two ways of hiking the trail: either through-hiking down from the north from the Wildcat Canyon Trailhead or hiking round-trip from the Left Fork Trailhead.  Either way, the trail ends up being slightly over 8 miles, though coming from the north involves swimming across two extremely cold pools and a bit of canyoneering as well.  Since I have not come down from the north, I will speak more extensively about the out-and-back route.  My experience with this hike took place in the fall when the river was fairly tame and I would recommend hiking the trail at this time of year.

First, remember that you need a permit.  Show up early to the Zion National Park Visitor center early the day before for the best chance to get one; they only give 75 a day.  Most people refer to this hike as “The Subway” and you will see why further down.  Most of the hike is ultimately unlikely to warrant the amount of beating taken.  The scenery is relatively unexciting and the scrambling up the riverbed can be difficult (though I consider it pretty fun).  However, I can assure you it is worth it in the end.

At the beginning of the trail, there is a short hike along a plateau leading to a switchback down into the riverbed (make sure to turn left at the bottom).  From this point, the trail is a riverbed that you can navigate in whatever fashion seems best to you.  There are countless opportunities to roll your ankle or take a spill on slippery rocks, but ultimately wearing a good pair of trail running shoes makes life easier.  There are some spots where you will have to scramble over rocks and bushwhack, though this doesn’t exactly mean that a machete is necessary.  Also, it is important to note that from the moment you set foot in the riverbed, you are in the path of a possible flash flood.  If there is major rain happening around the park, even if it isn’t happening around you, it is probably best to avoid this hike or at least consult with a park ranger before embarking.

After four miles of difficult terrain, weary hikers arrive at the first beautiful scene of the trail: a multi-step waterfall about 200 yards before reaching the main Subway area (pictured below).

As you continue to make your way up the trail, there is some more strange scenery on the right and a difficult, slippery path as you make your way up to the main attraction: the Subway.  Again, it is extremely slippery all around this area, so make sure you are wearing shoes that have good grip and clothes that you don’t mind getting a bit wet.  Beyond that, have fun.

As you slowly make your way up the Subway, you come to an area where there are pools (seen below).  If you are feeling adventurous, wade through these pools (they are extremely cold) and arrive at a dead end in what is known as Keyhole Falls (or the waterfall room).  Think of a cold shower, then think of a colder one.  It is quite nice on a hot day though.

Once finished taking beautiful pictures and enjoying the greater Subway area, it is time to embark on another difficult hike back down the same riverbed.  Try your best to dry your shoes and keep them as dry as possible while you hike down in order to avoid unnecessary slips along the way.  There is good and bad news for the return hike.  First the good news: the hike is now heading in a slight downward slope which saves your legs a bit of work over the long haul.  However, the bad news slightly outweighs the good news: just when it seems that the hike is coming to an end, that 750 foot switchback appears yet again to try to destroy what is left of your legs.

Though it may seem like a lot of work to get to and from the Subway, this place is unlike anywhere else in the world and is worth the trial and effort it takes to get there.  I look forward to the day I can return and listen to the river move through the echoing canyon while taking in an otherworldly formation of rock.  Lord knows I can certainly use the exercise as well.

Project Yosemite

This is Yosemite (and you’d better watch it in HD):

Yosemite HD from Project Yosemite on Vimeo.

Thanks to Sheldon Neill and Colin Delehanty for taking the time to create this masterpiece.

Old Timey Day at the Grand Canyon

The Oil Baron and the Old Prospector visit the mighty Ol’ Grand Canyon. Tom-foolery at it’s finest.

And of course…

We were the most well-dressed people in the park without a doubt.  Admirers abounded.

A Spring day in Joshua Tree

On Easter, I was blessed to be able to take my wife (fiancee at the time), Talitha, to Joshua Tree for the day.  This was our first time in a National Park together and I put together a pretty full day.  She is quite the gamer, following (and sometimes leading) me through rock piles in Hidden Valley, over rock piles in White Tank, and she didn’t flinch a bit when faced with the deadly Desert Hare that was terrible to behold:

I had never been out of the Southern entrance of the park and it was eerily empty when we left, but we saw some lovely Ocotillo and Cholla Cactus Gardens down there, so it was worth the odd feeling of desolation.  I had never attempted to see the entire park in one day, but we saw everything we wanted to with time to spare and here are some views that we took in:

Hidden Valley

Keys View

Split Rock

White Tank

Colorado Desert

Top Hikes in Zion Part I: Angels Landing

Zion National Park is located in southwestern Utah and is home to some of my favorite scenery in the world.  From Kolob Canyons in the North to the eerie landscape of East Zion, the views in this park range from the majestic to the truly bizarre.  Most visitors to Zion generally spend their time in the Southeast corner of park in the Zion Canyon where the North Fork of the Virgin River runs through an other-worldly valley.

Map of Zion

Often times, the most famous hike in a National Park can be a place of frustration for avid hikers.  When I think of the trail to Half Dome in Yosemite on 4th of July weekend or Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon in late spring, I think of staying home. Angels Landing is Zion National Park’s most famous hike, but is certainly an exception to this rule.

Angels Landing

Angels Landing from Observation Point

Angels Landing is Zion’s most traveled hike and I would argue its most famous (though some would argue the Virgin River Narrows isn’t far off, though quite less travelled), but it has some quirks that keep numbers from getting out of control. First off, although the hike is relatively short, it is fairly strenuous.  In 2.2 miles, hikers climb 1200 feet to the top, with 800 feet of that coming in less than a half-mile.  Even the fittest of hikers must then deal with the infamous Walter’s Wiggles, featuring switchback after switchback (21 in all).

The Lung-bursting Walter’s Wiggles

Second, a section of the hike is very likely to scare off anyone afraid of heights.  This knife-edge section has a 1200 foot drop on either side, with some parts only wide enough for two.  Every few years, someone dies on this hike from straying to close to the edge.  The pictures will tell you why.

Angels Landing from Scout Lookout

There are no guard-rails, only chain links that at times can be more of nuisance than an aid.  I do not write this in any way to attempt to scare off anyone who is afraid of heights, but the fact is that you may be “looking down” quite a bit.  However, if you need confirmation that it can be done by someone who fears the edge of a cliff, just ask my friend and wonderful nature photographer, John Woods, who is now thrice a veteran of Angels Landing.

So following all of this, you may ask the question, “why should I bust my gut while taking a chance of falling off a cliff?”  Good question, and here is the answer: the views.  Need proof?  Here you go:

The views along the Angels Landing Trail

So there you go.  You should all get up right now, drive to Zion, and hike Angels Landing.  Just do it.