Saturday, March 25
3. Spring Hollow
After our successful hike at Bryce (which only took about three and a half hours - the hike was easy and Arn is a fast walker), we headed back towards Zion. The relative lack of rainfall encouraged us to give another shot to one of the slot canyons in the Elkheart cliffs that we had attempted to explore earlier. We picked the shortest of the ones I had info on - a drainage known as Spring Hollow.
From US-89 a short way south of the town of Glendale, Spring Hollow is nothing more than a culvert running under the road. We parked on the dirt shoulder and made our way towards it. This is not park land of any sort, and in fact the land on either side of the wash are private farms. To minimize the chance of annoying anyone, we elected to descend directly into the bottom of the wash (which was dry) and walk up it. With relatively narrow sides and a lot of brush, we were basically hidden when walking along it.
The wash was a bit of a tangled mess in places, with the stuff of the adjacent farms sometimes encountered and requiring navigation (fences, wires, a bit of bush, etc). In about fifteen minutes we made our way past these lower obstacles and could see the cliffs themselves ahead, with the wash disappearing into an obvious narrows.
The narrows themselves started off about twenty feet wide. The whole aspect of the narrows - in fact, all of Spring Hollow so far - was one of general gloominess. Everything was a monotone tan color - none of the whites, oranges or reds found in nearby Zion. The particular type of slanted banding in the rock was interesting, though, and somewhat distinct.
Fifteen minutes of walking up a rather rough stream floor brought us to an obstacle - a twenty-five foot-ish high dryfall. The dryfall was nicely fluted and smoothed and it is clear that there is sometimes a nice waterfall here. Today, though, it was dry.
At first it appeared we could go no farther, but Arn suggested a bit of exploration. Off to the right, in a sandy corner, he located a large, thick flake of sandstone that had a narrow crack behind it. Scrambling up for a closer look, we could see that it led upward, and there was light around a bend. A climbable way to the top?
Indeed, that's exactly what it was. A combination of decent lower holds and some careful body jamming and stemming in the upper part allowed fairly safe passage to the top. Arn elected to climb only halfway, and I told him I'd do a minute or two of scouting of the next section and quickly return.
The top of the crack did indeed surmount the dryfall - in fact by about thirty feet too much. In order to continue in the slot, one had to descend a moderately exposed slope back into the bottom. An old yellow piece of ragged nylon rope was set up here as a hand line. After giving it a bit of a test, I decided to use it to help myself down. There was no need for it to bear much weight, in any case.
After scrambling down to the bottom of the wash, I continued upstream. The canyon was much more slot-like here - only a foot or two wide, dry and easily navigable. I only made a few minutes' worth of progress, however, before I dead-ended at another dryfall. This one was much higher than the first one - perhaps a hundred feet high - and had no visible non-technical way to climb it. At its base was a huge mound of ice chunks - the last remains of winter in the canyon.
I had promised Arn a quick return, so it was just as well that I could go no further. I turned around and returned to the top of the bypass crack. Arn was still waiting halfway up, and he gave me a spot as I wedged my way back down. Down at the bottom, we spent a few minutes cleaning the sand off of us, and then - with all of the exploration of Spring Hollow we could reasonably do completed - we began our return walk.
As we emerged from the Elkheart cliffs into the open farmland area, we could see an ominous-looking bank of misty, swirling cloud coming toward us. We had thought most of the day's precip had passed us, but it sure didn't look like it at the moment. We picked up the pace and hurried back down the tangled floor of the wash. Drops started to fall on us as we approached the highway.
The drops became a steady rain as we arrived back at the car. We quickly stowed our gear and hopped inside, glad to have timed our outing such that we got back before this bout of bad weather.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Spring Hollow - click map to view
Spring Hollow - Hike Data
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet
We ain't goin' up there
The rain became heavier and heavier as we drove back south along US-89. There had been some talk of doing another quick slot (named Red Hollow) before returning to our motel in Springdale, but that idea soon became a foolish one as waves of rain pelted the windshield. We had a quick look at the approach road for Red Hollow (so we could see where it was located for another time), then quickly turned around and headed back to Zion and Springdale.
With the level of rain we were seeing, I was wondering if we'd get anything close to the amazing flash flood scenes we saw back in September of 2014
. As we drove back along UT-9 through Zion's slickrock, only some of the washes were flowing, and not with the kind of vigorous flow we saw then. Still potentially dangerous, though, and we were very glad we had not chosen to try the long and difficult Bridge Mountain Arch route today.
We got back to our Motel in Springdale just before 7pm. The weather had finally started to break, and to the west, large rents opened up in the sky, letting in some beautiful late-day sunlight shine against the orange cliffs of the Watchman - we even got treated to a small rainbow.