Day 59, 16 miles.
I dreamt about stealing someone’s pancakes because Greenleaf wanted some and then I had my familiar dream about having to go to the bathroom but not being able find one that works. At that point I woke up having to go pee. Obviously.
We’re not looking forward to getting in the cold water but there’s no way around it. The east fork of the Virgin River will have to be forded. Many times. Most of the time it’s no deeper than our knees but it’s not particularly warm out yet so my feet are very cold. I’m still wearing my down jacket and warm hat and wish I hadn’t stashed my gloves in the bottom of my pack.
The canyon is beautiful especially when it narrows. At some point there are some big boulders and a log jam. Notes from other hikers and the guidebook all describe different ways off getting around it. None of these seem workable for us. The water is too high to get to a scramble described and another scramble seems too sketchy. Brenna scouts the sketchy scramble and the first part is doable with a rope but then it’s a jump and I’m not a good jumper. The other option is to just go for it and swim part ways. Chilly but no risk of slipping and falling.
I volunteer to swim first and ferry the packs to the other side. I leave my merino wool long sleeve and rain jacket on for warmth. The water is so cold it takes my breath away but I manage not to hyperventilate. I try to get to the shallower side as soon as I can but the current is pretty strong so that’s easier said then done. I’m relieved when I can stand up. My rain jacket has filled up with water and is soaked inside out. Note taken: do not swim in a Frogg Togg rain suit.
Brenna and Nicole lower the packs with a rope and I carry them to the other side. Then they take the plunge too. Poor Nicole, she was already pretty chilled. We now climb over the boulders and lower ourselves to the other side. The water is pretty deep there too and we end up taking the plunge again. Nicole pulls her pack with a rope behind her and Brenna hangs on to a shoulder strap. I keep my pack on with the buckle undone. It’s okay but it’s hard to keep my head up, I think the pack wants to float and pushes against my head. Luckily it’s a very short swim but still have about a mile of cold water to ford and wade through and Nicole is definitely struggling to keep warm. I’m cold too, especially my arms where the wet fabric is tight around my skin, and my hands are getting slightly numb. Every time we have a patch of sunshine we soak up the warmth as much as we can trying to keep hypothermia at bay.
The guidebook has us exit at Fatman’s misery but notes from another hiker mentioned an easier and more scenic route out of the canyon. I found more info on Jamal’s ‘Across Utah’ site and we find the exit no problem. Thanks Jamal!
Now that we’re more in the sunshine I’m feeling much better. We all agree that was one of the most challenging things we’ve done on this trail. That and Bull Valley gorge. Craziness!! If only we’d had a Go Pro to film if all. Haha.
We climb some more and find a good spot for lunch where we can warm up and dry out. Glorious sun. Bothersome clouds. It’s the weirdest weather now. One dark cloud even spits some white stuff at us.
Luckily most of our stuff was waterproofed well. I just had a bit of leakage through my not so new pack liner onto my sleeping bag but am able to dry it out.
We continue on following cairns on beautiful sandstone. The variation of colors and patterns is gorgeous. Sunshine, clouds and formations make for some interesting pictures. I’m having fun trying to capture it.
After climbing steeply to a saddle we have a steep sandy descent to a canyon which we follow to the highway. Brenna and Nicole have a cache there and I mosey on along. We’re really in Zion now! Almost done with the hike!
There is another flurry of white which passes quickly while I’m taking a break. I follow a small drainage which actually has some water in it. The temperature drops and I layer back up. When the drainage hits the trail which I’m supposed to pick up I take another snack break. I’m seriously moseying. Not surprisingly Brenna and Nicole catch up as I’m talking to a passing hiker who hiked the PCT last year. They move on along as I pick my tired ass up and follow way behind.
I don’t have much energy left so I slowly walk on. At some point in the climb I have cell service and call Greenleaf to share my epic morning story. We’re both excited that I’m going home soon.
The trail is an old road and pretty easy walking but my nose is running faster than I’m walking. I’m also sneezing a lot.
As I’m gaining elevation the views are really cool and I’m surrounded by pine trees. It’s getting really chilly now and I pass up a spot to camp at Stave spring because it’s windy and grassy. I’m aiming for a spot in the trees a bit further down but when I see Brenna and Nicole set up before that I join them. It is pretty close to sunset after all.
This spot is grassy and windy too but at least a bit further down from the saddle. It’s promising to be a frosty night. My nose is still running and I’ve started using my shammy as a hand kerchief.
We can’t believe we’re almost done!!!