July 15, 2011 St. George, UT to Tropic, UT

Today turns out to be an exciting, terrifying and exhausting day. It all starts out innocently enough. We pack up the car and after a brief stop in Springdale, Ut enter Zion NP. Our small stuffed animals, Clark and Lewis, who are chronicling our trip for Nathan and Sam, come along.

Welcome, Clark and Lewis, to Zion National Park!

Mary on the slickrock

Checkerboard Mesa

After a brief stop for a picnic lunch, we make our way to today’s main event, a hike in Red Canyon near Bryce Canyon National Park.
Clark and Lewis enjoying a picnic at the Shingle Creek Rest Area.

Red Canyon, almost as beautiful as Bryce Canyon NP but not nearly as crowded.

View from the Red Canyon parking lot!

We go into the visitor’s center and talk to a nice young female ranger. She asks what we are thinking of doing. We say the Golden Wall/Buckhorn loop. She says that is a superior hike and suggests we throw in the Castle Bridge section. I ask about elevation change. She says about 500 feet. She does mention that the hike is about 5 miles. But, no problem, we think. We did the hike up Pleasanton ridge last week and that was about 5 miles with more elevation gain. She does warn us about a spur on the Buckhorn trail which is not for the faint of heart as it’s on the spine of a ridge. Again, no problem, we will just avoid the spur. And so we head out.
A nice tourist takes our picture before we hit the trail.

Luckily we run into zero bears.

The trail starts out slightly uphill but not bad. We make the turn onto the Castle Bridge trail. The brochure is warning of steep uphills. It is very uphill on loose rock but the scenery is beautiful.
Starting up the Castle Bridge Trail

Whew, at the top of the Castle Bridge Trail

Old man and the tree

Looks like Easter Island

Finally we reconnect with the Golden Wall Trail. The hoodoos along this trail are fantastic. We name them various things. Strangely, though, we are headed up again. We thought we had already done our 500 feet of gain. As it turns out 500 feet of elevation change is all there is, except that you do it three times. The second time takes us to a spine with steep dropoffs on either side. But this is not the one she warned us about. John inches me along, holding my hand and telling me just to look at his feet.
Window along the Golden Wall trail

Climbing back up

Hoodoo wall with caprock

Seated camel

Looks like a poodle to me

Mary hiking past the "ark"

Balanced rock

Looking back at the ark. Note elevation change.

Our hike, which I imagined would take about 2 1/2 hours, has now taken three hours and there is no end in sight. I am getting fatigued and worried that we missed something. But there are no other trails here so we must be on the right one. I would turn back if I didn’t have to go over that spine again. Finally we ascend (again) to the junction of the Golden Wall and the Buckhorn Trail. This is where the infamous scary spur is. We must avoid it. So we go the way the sign points. It appears to be the only way the trail goes. Long story, short, we end up going across the scary spine and then have to turn around and go back. I am seeing a lot of John’s feet. The worst part about this is we are so tired now that our legs are starting to shake and our water is running out.
Sign of doom

Trail of doom

And then the bad news. The sign says Trail End

Well, obviously I am writing this so we did manage to cross back and then descend the 500 feet again into a campground where we meet a nice couple from Prescott, AZ who have seen us hike down from the ridge from their campsite. We must have looked like hell because they were very concerned about our ability to hike the rest of the way back to the visitor’s center where we had parked our car. We got our water refilled and went the last half mile collapsing into the car at the end.
"We can make it. Just put one foot ahead of the other."

Maybe we should put this on the list of stupid things we have done. If we had been younger, this whole hike would have been no problem. Boy, are we going to hurt tomorrow.
Maybe we should do more of this?

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