Go Back  Fodor's Forum > Destinations > United States
Reload this Page > Trip Report: Fantastic Father-Daughter Zion & Bryce Canyon Graduation Trip
Notices

Trip Report: Fantastic Father-Daughter Zion & Bryce Canyon Graduation Trip

Reply

Jun 5th, 2010, 04:52 PM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 539
Trip Report: Fantastic Father-Daughter Zion & Bryce Canyon Graduation Trip

Four years ago, as a high school graduation present, a friend of mine and I took our daughters, who are close friends, on a fantastic guided rafting trip down the Colorado River into the Grand Canyon to Phantom Ranch, where we hiked out:

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...and-canyon.cfm

Now these wonderful young women, who were roommates this year, have just graduated from college. They insisted on a reprise adventure with the dads. Due to work schedules, we had to alter a planned five-day hiking/canyoneering trip to Moab (Arches and Canyonlands), instead switching to a shorter trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon. We planned the following itinerary:

Sat. May 23 - Graduation
Sun. May 24 - Fly into Las Vegas, drive to Zion, hike Angel’s Landing
Mon, May 25 - Hiking in Bryce Canyon
Tues. May 26 - Canyoneering/rappelling trip with Zion Adventure guides from Springdale
Wed. May 27 - Undetermined morning hike, afternoon return to Las Vegas, evening flight from Vegas

While not quite as ambitious as our Grand Canyon foray four years ago, the recent trip was equally exhilarating. Details to follow as time permits.
MRand is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 5th, 2010, 05:22 PM
  #2
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 6,294
What a wonderful experience to share with your daughter!
schmerl is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 5th, 2010, 07:15 PM
  #3
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 7,443
I did a short GC raft trip and did a 1/2 day canyoneering with desert highlights in Moab. I would rate the canyoneering higher. Last year we went canyoning(slightly different than canyoneering) with them in Oregon and it was great rappelling off waterfalls. I would love to go with them again, but Zion Adventure Guides certainly does look nice. We did rent from them for our hike thru the Narrows. Hiking the Narrow and Angel's Landing was definately one of the top experiences ever. Anxious to hear more about your canyoneering experience.
spirobulldog is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 5th, 2010, 08:54 PM
  #4
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 8,979
spirobulldog: How did your daughter's surgery go? I hope she is doing well.

MRand: Looking forward to your report, which are always so interesting and fun to read!!

MY
MichelleY is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jun 6th, 2010, 05:02 AM
  #5
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 5,164
Glad you had such a wonderful trip with the girls. Don't wait until they finish grad school for the next trip, book Arches and Canyonlands now for October or April!!
emalloy is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jun 6th, 2010, 01:06 PM
  #6
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 539
spiro - The value of this forum at work:

It was your Desert Highlights recommendation that led us to use them on this trip 18 months ago:

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...s-and-moab.cfm

which in turn led to this trip. Many thanks.
MRand is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 6th, 2010, 07:05 PM
  #7
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 7,443
MichelleY, we are actually at the hospital. she had the surgery two days ago. so far everything has gone about as well as it possible can. next few days and even next few weeks should be tough. We did have a great time at Yosemite a couple of weeks ago. Thanks for remembering!!

MRand, Utah keeps calling us back time and time again. We hope to go with my parents next May. Hoping to see Bryce, Calf Creek Falls, and maybe snag a permit for The Wave. Might see Rainbow Bridge as well.
spirobulldog is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 7th, 2010, 03:31 AM
  #8
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,764
spirobulldog,
Good to see that the surgery appears to have gone well. Next May will be here before you know it and you'll be on your trip.

MRand,
Three years ago (spring 2007) I (my wife has little interest in a hiking trip) took what I thought was "my trip" to northern Arizona and southern Utah.

Well, a year later (spring 2008) I was back in Utah for a week with a friend.

Then a couple of months ago my daughter (married with a 3 1/2 year old) suggested the two of us take a few days and go on a very short trip together. She suggested I pick a place I haven't been to. But for that short a time I wanted to go somewhere I could plan efficiently. We'll try to fit in a few things I haven't seen.

I can't wait for your details.
Myer is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 7th, 2010, 07:25 AM
  #9
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,229
Looking forward to reading about your trip. This is an area my husband and I visit and hike every year.
elnap29 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 13th, 2010, 07:10 AM
  #10
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 539
Sun. May 23

To their credit, after a full day and night of commencement ceremonies and post-graduation partying, our daughters are up and ready without complaint to catch our early flight to Las Vegas. If they wish to continue their celebration with their friends at the beach rather than hang with their dads for a few days, they keep those thoughts to themselves. The four of us land at McCarran, pick up our Budget Rent-a-Car, and eagerly head straight to Springdale (Utah) and Zion.

Las Vegas is a spectacle but it really doesn’t do much for me, although it’s a great jumping-off place to get to southern Utah. When I was growing up, my parents liked to go to Vegas for a long weekend every couple of years, and many of my younger friends go there often. I grew up in that brief late 60’s period when few things were less cool than Vegas and its associations with all those “square” establishment Rat Pack types like Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra. I realize it’s just a matter of personal taste, and we haven’t decided our agenda for our return day on Wednesday, so maybe we’ll give it another chance then.

The drive for the first miles northeast out of Las Vegas on I-15/Veterans’ Memorial Highway towards St. George, Utah is monotonous desert, but things begin to get more interesting as we approach the Virgin River Canyon in the little corner of northwestern Arizona we cross before entering Utah. We decide to stop for lunch in St. George, a bustling town with a prominent white Mormon temple in the distance. I’d like to spend a little more time exploring here some other time, but we're ready to get to Zion. I’m sure there are good local restaurants, but since we're hurrying we stop at a Chili’s right off the interstate.

My minimum goals for this group on this trip are The Narrows and Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, the Navajo/Queens Garden Loop hike in Bryce Canyon National Park, and the canyoneering/rappelling trip guided by Zion Adventure. I’m already dismayed that due to high water in the Virgin River, The Narrows are probably out of the question on this trip. And now, over lunch, the breeze really picks up and thick clouds are moving in from the west, not good conditions at all for our highly anticipated Angel’s Landing hike.

Immediately after St. George, we branch off the interstate onto Utah Highway 9 towards Springdale. I’ve been to Zion twice before, but no one else in our party has been there and my excitement for our group is rising. After a slow drive through the suburban hamlets of La Vernia and Hurricane, the odd fantastically tall mountain peaks of Zion appear in the distance. Soon we’re in Springdale and the towering magnificence of The Watchman and Zion Canyon begin to envelop us both to the east and the west.

On this trip I wanted to stay at the famed Desert Pearl Inn, where I’ve stayed on my previous Zion trips, but by the time I changed our reservations from Moab to Springdale, the Desert Pearl was already fully booked. Instead, I reserved two rooms for the four of us at the Cliffrose Lodge, right on the southern edge of the national park. While it’s not particularly imposing from the highway, Cliffrose turns out just great for us — reasonable rates, incredible views, a nice pool area, and eye-pleasing gardens and landscaping “out back” right down to the Virgin River banks. We will have no complaints and would return in a heartbeat.

We check in, unpack, dress for a hike, and walk a couple of hundred yards from the Cliffrose to the small shopping area at the entrance to the park, where we stock up on water and snacks at Sol Foods grocery. We pay a $25 group admission fee to the park and bypass the Visitor’s Center heading straight for the park shuttle bus to get to the trailhead for our hike. The wind is really whipping up now and heavy wintry clouds are now moving high over the canyon. Much to my disappointment, the conditions lead me rule out our Angel’s Landing hike. The winds are just too high to make it safe, much less enjoyable. Astonishingly, even though it’s May 23, the overnight forecast calls for snow at higher elevations in the park!

We opt to do another hike near Angel’s Landing that I haven’t done on previous Zion trips — Hidden Canyon. I’ve read that it has some exposure and great views, and perhaps this side canyon will provide shelter from the heavy gusts. After hiking a series of switchbacks, we’re high above the canyon floor with great views west to Angel’s Landing and north to Weeping Rock and Observation Point. Chains placed by the National Park Service assist us in edging over more exposed corners and finally we’re high up in Hidden Canyon itself — exploring this narrow cleft in the larger canyon wall that is a perfect shelter from the high winds. We hike deep into the narrow canyon until we reach a natural stone arch that is our logical turning-around point as the skies begin to darken. Our party is astonished by the unfolding scenery — and yet I know from my previous trips that they haven’t really seen anything yet.

We hike down, return on the shuttle bus to the park entrance, stock up on provisions again at Sol Foods, and have a late, satisfying (and nicer than expected) dinner at The Spotted Dog. The weather is forcing me to readjust our plans. Maybe tomorrow we’ll go to Bryce Canyon — a place I’ve never been before — rather than hike Angel’s Landing.
MRand is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 13th, 2010, 07:59 AM
  #11
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 7,443
keep it coming
spirobulldog is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 13th, 2010, 08:09 AM
  #12
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,739
Can't wait for more details! And whatever the adventure or mis-adventures, the time with the DD's has to be a high point in both dads' lives! (We were in Bryce and Zion last July with our own undergrad DD, and while we didn't do the hikes and such you guys did, we do count those days with her as beyond special!)
texasbookworm is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jun 13th, 2010, 09:18 AM
  #13
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 9,230
MRand,

I'm really looking forward to the rest of your report. DDs are lucky to have Dads who will take them to experience the "great outdoors".

Yes, we have had a cold and wet spring. Here in Park City, it was supposed to get down to 33 degrees last night and I had to go out and cover my new, little annuals in their pots!

The nice part is everything is lush and green again this year. But - I am so ready for our wonderful summer weather. It is mid-June!!!!
Dayle is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jun 13th, 2010, 01:45 PM
  #14
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,396
Great trip report so far, MRand!

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 20th, 2010, 04:15 PM
  #15
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 539
Mon. May 24

We’re up early and the weather is almost wintry. We eat a hearty breakfast at the Café Soleil right next door to the Cliffrose Lodge and decide to head for Bryce Canyon, a little less than two hours away. As we drive up the switchbacks on Highway 9 east out of Zion National Park, we start to see hints of late snowfall high on the ridgetops. We stop at the overlook for Checkerboard Mesa, a slab of rock with an unusually uniform grid of cracks that do resemble a checkerboard, then soon we’re on the plateau high above Zion. Amazingly, though it’s late May, the high country on both sides of Highway 9 is blanketed with snow as we drive east to Mount Carmel Junction, north on U.S. 89 towards Hatch, and then east on Highway 12 to Bryce Canyon. The snow thins out as we near Bryce and the heavy skies are starting to break up, so it looks like it may be a good hiking day after all, even if a bit chilly.

The traffic begins to thicken as we reach the turnoff to Bryce. Once again, other than for a quick rest stop, we skip the Visitor’s Center at the park and head straight to Sunset Point, hoping to beat the crowds and the two bus loads of middle school students we pass on the way. As we walk to Sunset Point, it begins to snow again. Before our trip, I’d actually had a concern that the temperatures might be too uncomfortably warm for hiking, but now we’re concerned that we’re underdressed for the weather.

We’re all absolutely stunned at the view from the point. Unlike the Grand or Zion Canyon, Bryce is “one-sided”, dropping away with sweeping, magnificent views miles to the east including Tropic, Utah and Barney Top mesa. I’d seen many pictures of Bryce Canyon before, but was still unprepared for the amazing colored layers in the rocks that do have to be seen in person to be believed. We hike the Navajo Loop/Queens Garden Combination, and with the middle schoolers close on our tail we start right down the trail. The National Park Service has blocked off the Wall Street side of the Navajo Loop trail due to falling rocks, but we still get a good sense of the fantastic shapes of the fragile hoodoo formations on the other side of the Navajo trail.

The hike down Navajo and up Queens Garden is not difficult and we would recommend it to almost anyone. The sun breaks through the clouds frequently, causing rapidly shifting light displays on the hoodoos and canyon walls and giving us great photo opportunities at almost every turn. To complete the loop, we hike up to Sunrise Point and then along the canyon rim back to our car. I am surprised at how quickly we finish this hike, and by noon we are in our car again, driving to several other vantage points along the canyon rim. At Bryce Point, we drink in the whole dramatic vista of the canyon labyrinth and the distant mountains one more time before heading to lunch. As Ebenezer Bryce himself said, with a little understatement, “it’s a hell of a place to lose a cow.”

We didn’t stop at any of the cheesy shops or restaurants at the park entrance. Instead, based on a positive TripAdvisor reviews, we decide to eat at Bryce Canyon Pines, a traditional Western-style diner a few miles west of the park on Highway 12. The presence of locals suggest we’ve made the right choice. The food and atmosphere were just right and our young server was sweet and friendly in a way seldom seen outside the West.

We head back to Zion and in the afternoon sun all the snow cover from the morning has completely disappeared. The eastern approach down Highway 9 back into Zion Canyon is incredibly scenic, revealing spectacular rock formations in all directions. When we return to Springdale, we go straight to Zion Adventure Company to reconfirm our canyoneering/ rappelling trip the next day. They tell us that on part of the trip, we’ll be in cold water, so we need to bring fleece or other warm clothing. Hmmm . . . this will be interesting.

When we arrive back at Cliffrose Lodge, it’s warm and the late afternoon sky is spectacularly blue, so we while it away poolside until after sunset, completely entranced by the view of the west face of The Watchman that towers high over Springdale.

We then clean up and decide to eat outdoors on the patio at the Whiptail Grill, an old filling station converted into a small restaurant. We’re totally unprepared for how good the food is. We consider ourselves enchilada connoisseurs, but the chicken chipotle enchiladas here are some of the best we’ve had, fortifying us for a good night's sleep and our Zion Adventure canyon rappelling trip in the morning.
MRand is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 20th, 2010, 07:12 PM
  #16
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 6,294
I'm loviing your report. I was also in awe when I first laid eyes on Bryce. The colors are amazing. We made sure to get up early to see the sunrise in the canyon. Unreal watching all the colors change as the sun hit the rock formations.
schmerl is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 21st, 2010, 07:08 PM
  #17
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 7,443
We had the spaghetti squash enchilada at whiptail, and I am still remembering how good it was.
spirobulldog is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 3rd, 2010, 11:16 AM
  #18
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 539
Tues. May 25

We wake to a bright blue day, and at 7:00 a.m. we can already tell, despite the snow we experienced yesterday, it will be a warm one. I am disappointed that the water is too high for us to hike The Narrows. The spring runoff in the North Fork of the Virgin River that streams through the park is still flowing over 500 cubic feet per second this last week in May (average flow this time of year is usually 100 cfs), so any thought of attempting it is out of the question. A few weeks earlier, two kayakers who’d attempted to shoot this portion of the river had tragically drowned. Nevertheless, having done The Narrows twice before, and being equally awestruck both times, it was a big letdown for me that the rest of our crew couldn’t experience it. But at least this gives us another reason to return to Zion (as if I ever need one.)

Knowing several weeks in advance that we probably could not hike The Narrows, I’d booked a guided canyoneering trip for the four of us through Zion Adventure Co. in Springdale. Checking in there the previous afternoon, we are slightly disappointed to learn that two others would accompany us with our two Zion Adventure guides on the trip, but usually the people who take these trips are interesting, so we'll see.

We check in at the company’s site at 7:30 to meet our guides Dave and Hank and other two companions for the excursion. Turns out the two “interlopers” are vacationing New York City firefighters who are accomplished rappellers in their own right. One was on a furlough, recuperating from excessive smoke inhalation from a fire earlier in the year, while the other just finished an emergency radiation exposure course in Las Vegas (hmmmm). These guys, who not surprisingly are in great shape, could not be nicer and more helpful to us and our daughters. It turns out that we almost have four guides instead of just two.

After a session outfitting us with our rappelling gear, fleece, and wetsuits for cold water and orienting us what to expect, our group heads out in a large Zion Adventure van. Our destination is Water Canyon northwest of Hildale, Utah/Colorado City, Arizona, a twin city well known in the region as a center for the Fundamental Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). Ordinarily, on paved highways, the trip to Water Canyon would be over 50 miles taking well over an hour, but we take a bone-jarring 15 mile shortcut over unpaved backroads that shortens our trip to just over 45 minutes. We pass through Hildale, where the houses do seem to be unusually large. Despite the rising heat of the day, the women and young girls whom we see outside are all dressed in full length prairie-style dresses and the men and boys are wearing long sleeved shirts and blue jeans.
MRand is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 3rd, 2010, 10:04 PM
  #19
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 539
Tues. May 25 (cont’d)

We arrive at the trailhead for the trip and while we’re gearing up, some local families arrive for some hiking of their own. Their hiking clothes are the same as their everyday clothes — long calico dresses for the women and girls, long-sleeved shirts and long pants for the men and boys. We hike up through beautiful Water Canyon, a narrow slot canyon that is a mini-version of Zion. The path is sandy, so it’s a bit harder than hiking on firm dirt or rocks. Even though we’re hiking in the shade with our backpacks, with the 1000 feet elevation gain, we’re quickly soaked in sweat.

We finally reach our stopping point to start our rappelling descent down the cliffs and waterfalls and narrow streambed of the canyon. After 30 minutes of additional orientation from Dave and Hank — and the firefighters comparing their rappelling technique with that of the Zion Adventure guides — it’s time to go over the edge, which is about an 80 foot drop to the stream below. Our guides don’t believe we need to suit up as the water below appears only to be ankle to knee deep. Even though I’ve rappelled before, not everyone in my group has, and our pulse rates are elevated for this first big drop. Twenty minutes later, we’re all down and congratulating ourselves for taking that first big step. We hike in the stream bed to the next cliff, to gear up and rappel again. This routine continues for the next two hours as we stair step down the canyon.

Dave then asks us if we want to continue down the canyon, or backtrack up and do the similar rappels but this time in the water. It’s hot enough that we vote to backtrack and do the water version. The guides urge us to suit up in the dry suits we've brought in our backpacks. We’re hot enough, and we think we’ve braved enough cold water before on this group’s Grand Canyon rafting trip four years earlier, that three of us decide to reject their advice. Only my daughter takes the time to don the dry suit. She is immediately sweltering, but it turns out she’s the one who’s made the right decision.

Our next rappel is down a very narrow chute into a pool of clear green water, and then on down a second level to the streambed floor. I’m the second one down, and the moment I drop into the pool I'm stunned at how cold the water is. Within seconds, I’m not only out of breath due to the cold but starting to have a hard time moving my limbs. Fortunately I have a rope to one of our guides and it’s only a few strokes across the pool to the other side, but I’m absolutely shivering when I get out. I’m sure the guide is resisting a “well, we told you so” moment.

It’s now mid-afternoon, so the canyon is back in the shade and a steady breeze is rising from the bottom of the canyon. Although I’m sure the air temperature must be in the 80s, I continue to shiver off and on for the next hour or two as we make our way down the canyon, culminating in a spectacular final rappel well over 100 feet into another much shallower pool.

The whole group is elated with the experience, and we change into dry clothes for our return. Most of us are sufficiently tired that there’s little talking on the drive back through Hildale and beyond. We even doze off despite the constant vibrations over the same washboard backroad we retrace to Springdale. After unloading at Zion Adventure, we bid our guides and new friends farewell. The firefighters invite us to drop by their station house next time we’re in New York. Just might take them up on that.

The trip cost about $150 apiece, not including tips for Dave and Hank, but it was well worth it, providing a very different experience of this spectacular canyon country.

We clean up, relax for a while again around the pool out back at the Cliffrose Lodge, then head back for a reprise of our new favorite — enchiladas at the Whiptail Grill — to sit outside, enjoy the spectacular colors of the sunset on the canyon walls, and satisfy our now overpowering hunger.
MRand is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 4th, 2010, 05:40 AM
  #20
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 7,443
Makes me want to go do more canyoneering. I did do some Canyoning with desert highlights in Oregon last summer. It is slightly different. so amazing. It was just myself, daughter, Matt and Herb. Herb is a guide at Moab, but he hadn't been to Utah. Do you have any pics of your canyoneering in Zion? I'd love to see them.

Here's a link to my Oregon Pics. Matt only does this for a couple of weeks each year. The big waterfall was about 175ft. http://www.photoworks.com/slideshow/...CS_003=4433951
spirobulldog is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:30 PM.