Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Playin in and around Zion


 Even though my “spring break trip” was not necessarily backcountry and the majority of it I was working at Zion Outfitter. I still feel the story may have relevant information for those of you heading to Zion this summer. I also don’t have too many pictures as I thought it would be fun to throw my camera into Keyhole.

My journey began with an epic bike ride down the Par ’us Trail, bikers BEWARE the bridges can be extremely slippery early morning, with a couple inches of slush on them. Then I went to work.

 After a looooonnggg day at work I bailed out to find a camping spot outside the park. The first destination was Coal Pit’s Wash. A fence has been constructed and you are no longer allowed to drive inside, but there are still tons of folks sleeping in their cars outside the fence and a few brave souls who actually carried their tents, stoves, coolers and slack lines 20’ and camped inside. There are no signs that say “no camping” but I have a bed in my truck and I was feeling too lazy to try and put up my hammock, so I ventured on.

(Side note I sent both Zion and the BLM an e-mail asking about the new fence and camping restrictions on Coal Pits. The Park told me if I camped beyond the fence I needed a backcountry permit. The BLM told me I need to contact “Zion’s National Park”)

My last hope was a spot a couple miles up the Kolob Terrace road. I heard there was a “camp by donation” sign on some private property. I found the sign, but didn’t see a donation box. I found a sweet spot by the river under a tree which should be pretty shady when there are leaves on it. While cooking up some bison dogs on my tailgate I noticed a tick cruising across my bed that was pretty comforting. I thought it was a little too cold for ticks, I guess that’s why he was in my warm bed. I moved him to a new location and told him not to bring any of his family back to my camp. He must have understood me because I came home tick free. It may have also helped that I moved my camp away from the bushes and the potentially shady tree.015.JPG

There are not a lot of people parking outside the shop as the shuttles don’t start running until the 24th. While I like the freedom of being able to drive and stop inside Zion. I don’t like being stuck behind the first time RV driver.

Mosquito Cove is also shut down; apparently people don’t know how to clean up after themselves; so I was not allowed to camp on my public land. 

Anyway this campground is great!! There was a little trash which I picked up. Seeing how this is the last spot we have to camp outside the park we should do whatever is necessary to make sure it remains open. The second day I camped here the “camp by donation” sign was gone. I assumed that some local hillbilly ran out of firewood.

I had plans for hiking Shelf Canyon and Gifford Canyon, but I brought to many homebrews and had nobody to share them with, plus my fancy smartphone was not smart enough to quit searching for service all night so my alarm never went off. Needless to say I was able to hike the Canyon Overlook and check out the conditions of Pine Creek.
 Pine creek still had a little snow above the slot and it looked dark and cold inside the chasm. 

012.JPGThe great thing about the overlook is there seems to always be Desert Big Horn Sheep in that area. I saw at least 7 on a couple different occasions during a 3 day period. The first sheep I saw was a momma and baby. That baby sure was cute and seeing how I only had my point and shoot I did the smart tourist thing and decided to see how close I could get.

 Momma and baby got scarred by my approach and fled to the bushes. I started to continue the trail when I realized that daddy and a couple of his henchmen were also in the bushes. To make a long story not so long, I gracefully backed away when they started coming after me. I lived to tell the tale and was able to play in the freezing cold water of Keyhole and Pine Creek the following day. 

Originally posted as JamesM, Mar 18, 2013. on backcountrypost.com