One Last Outing
Middle Fork of Taylor Creek, Zion National Park
Saturday, May 7
It was finally time to start journeying home. This involved, of course, getting back to Las Vegas, where our flight would be leaving early the following morning. We therefore had the whole day to drive back, which left us ample time to 'do something' on the way. Despite the previous day's tiring hike, everyone was up for some sort of walk.
Trailhead, Taylor Creek
We spent some time thinking about what would best fit the criteria (on the way, scenic, not too long, something none of us had done before), and came up with a decent-sounding walk in the Finger Canyons of the Kolob section of Zion National Park. The hike was up one of the finger canyons - the Middle Fork of Taylor creek. It was an in-and-out sort of hike, about 8km in total length, and gentle in grade and difficulty. It would give us a close-up look at the inside of one of these canyons - an area none of us had yet explored. One final benefit of our Taylor Creek hike was that we got to split the five-hour drive back to Las Vegas into two chunks, making it feel like a more relaxed drive.
We drove west, back past Bryce Canyon, then up onto the still-snowy terrain of the Markagunt Plateau, and down Cedar Canyon and into Cedar City. From there it was a short drive south on interstate-15 to the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park.
We arrived at a good time - shortly before noon - which meant we had ample time to complete the roughly 8km-round trip. After a brief interruption, where I called back to the Prospector Inn in Escalante to inform them that I had forgotten my battery and battery charger there, we were off.
Heading to Zion's Cliffs
The Middle Fork, Taylor Creek trail is wide, easy to follow, and not very steep. Unlike all of our Escalante hikes and backpacks, there was a ton of people on the trail - mostly people with young kids and/or visitors who did not seem like they got into the backcountry very much.
Up ahead, we could see the incredibly high cliffs of the finger canyons. They really are arranged in a finger-like pattern, looking for all the world like a huge god-like hand had reached down and gouged out three our four deep grooves in the Earth's crust, all roughly parallel to one another. Our trail was headed for one of the middle grooves.
We made very good time on the easy, well-graded trail. If there is anything that characterizes this trail (other than the beautiful cliffs above), it is the stream crossings. The trail cross and re-crosses Taylor Creek and the Middle Fork of Taylor Creek countless times. All of it rock-hoppable on this day, fortunately.
Another Crossing of Taylor Creek
Towards Amazing Monoliths
Before reaching the middle fork's canyon, we stopped by at one of the two historic log cabins that the park has preserved. This cabin is known as the Larson Cabin, was built in the 1930s and was used as a sort of cottage retreat.
Wonderfully foliated section
Soon after encountering the first cabin, the trail began to enter the canyon of the Middle Fork of Taylor creek itself. Towering above us on either side were incredible 2000-foot high cliffs - more than double the height of any of the cliffs we had seen in the Escalante.
Presently we passed the second of the historic cabins, and not long after that, the end of the maintained trail. The main attraction here is a huge multi-tiered dryfall with a wet seep in the cliff at its base. The dryfall consists of a huge, alcove with water seeping out of its walls. High above, we could see tier upon tier of huge sandstone buttresses and cliffs, topping out nearly two thousand feet above at the top of the canyon. Would be very impressive when water was flowing down it!
View out from Double Arch Alcove
After admiring double arch alcove for a bit, we decided to continue up-canyon past the end of the maintained trail, where several other hikers had said there was a waterfall. A five-minute walk confirmed this, revealing a narrow slot through which the waters of the middle fork of Taylor Creek rushed.
After snapping a few camera-wetting photos, we turned around and began what turned out to be quite a speedy-gonzalez hike back down to the trailhead, led by none other than our friendly neigborhood Welshman. Ewart was possessed with some sort of extra drive today, and he motored back down the trail in record time. We hiked the four kilometres from the waterfall back to the car in a very impressive one hour and five minutes!
Interactive Trackmap and photo points - Taylor Creek Hike - click map to expand
Hike Data - Middle Fork, Taylor Creek
* : +/- 75 feet
Under a hot sunny sky, we drove back southwest to Las Vegas. We arrived roughly around 5pm, giving us plenty of time to get settled into our rooms at the Motel 6, for me to return the rental vehicle, and for us to head out for a nice upscale restaurant dinner. After some false starts, we ended up choosing a very nice Spanish Tapas restaurant called Jaleo in the new Cosmopolitan hotel on the strip. A tapas restaurant involves the shared consumption of many small plates of food, and this we did in abundance. We tried many interesting dishes, including Chorizo Palacios (spicy cured pork sausage seasoned with pimenton and garlic), Datiles con tocino 'como hace todo el mundo' (Fried dates wrapped in bacon), Trigueros con romesco (Grilled asparagus with romesco sauce), and Patatas bravas (potatoes in spicy tomato sauce and alioli).
With the culinary highlight of our trip overwith, we headed back for a relatively early night's sleep. Roy was staying in Las Vegas for a day or two more; for the rest of us, our flight back home left quite early, and we had to be at the airport for 5:30am. Usually we arrange our car rental such that we return the vehicle and take the rental car shuttle to the airport in one operation. However, the rental car return was closed until 5:00am, so I had opted to return the vehicle the night before and cab it into the airport the next morning.
Winging over the Grand Canyon
An efficient and unventful return trip home and our adventure was over.
Now's the time for the thanks: to everyone -- Ewart, Jenn, and Roy -- for being such agreeable companions. To Jenn's dad especially, who had never done this sort of thing, and who is substantially older than the rest of us: good job! I think I may have spotted a moment or you when you seemed a bit tired, but those moments were precious few - and you took everything that came our way: bushwhacking, heat, river crossings, slot canyon scrambling (oh, and headlamp-locating) - with complete aplomb. It was a pleasure having you along.
Below is a wrap-up video montage of scenes from the entire trip. There's quite a bit in here that is not in the other videos, so I encourage you to have a look. It's quite funny in spots, too. Click directly on the image below to start it.
Video, Utah 2011 Montage - Click on video to start