Day 4: Zion Canyoneering Guides

In 1872 John Wesley Powell, one of the great early explorers and cartographers of the west, explored Sol’s Redrock Backpacker: Southwestern Utah trip with a mule train. It’s hard to imagine how he did it, afterall, this is “roaring water canyon.”  Enjoy a journal excerpt of one of Sol’s Zion canyoneering guides, Aaron Ogden.

” Very excited today, my sense of exploration is kicking in. Started to hike up Canyon. The scars from the last flash flood were humbling on how much force can be driven down the canyon (5 days ago the flow of the river went from 35 CFS to 600 CFS).

This canyon does not hide it’s majesty. Towering canyon walls are the gateway for today’s hike. Due to the storm, the water is murky and the river bottom is padded with sandy sediment which has made for easy hiking conditions. Quicksand is abundant around every corner. Nan received her Paiute name today, “Runs Across Quicksand.” Most of us had our turn for sinking into the sand. For the most part, the sand only tried to take our shoes off – and Mark’s leg. It is a little nerve racking walking across quicksand at first, it’s like your mind is programmed to think that you will sink to the ends of the earth if you get caught in it.

Shortly into the hike we came across “Fat Man’s Misery,” a slot canyon on the north rim. It had an inviting (sarcasm) sulfur smell due to the natural sulfur spring that emptied into a pool of water. To climb into the canyon we had to lower ourselves into neck deep sulfur water and then climb a river-scoured, smooth rock surface lined with algae that made for a fast glide down. Then we crept into the next pool of water, very creepy – the water was termed “organic” because as you tip-toed across the bottom you could feel plant life rubbing against your legs and possible lesser forms of life scattering from every wading foot step. We were met with defeat at the next pool, as we were not able to climb the small spring-fed waterfall.

We continued upstream to “Obstacle #2,” a debris-choked water fall with interesting consequences if you fell into the waterfall. Everyone climbed with confidence and success.

Our final destination of the day was Carcass Camp. This would have been day 2 camp on the original itinerary. Mel and I climbed to the top of the canyon to discover thunder storm clouds on the horizon and possibly raining in our drainage. This put us into alert mode and we made quick travel to the river just below base camp.

During our hike today Mark received his Paiute name, “Flies with Butterfly’s.” All throughout the trip large yellow butterflies would fly up to Mark and check him out. It was as though he had something sweet to offer them. It couldn’t have been too sweet – he hadn’t showered now for a few days; but whatever it was, he seemed to have a magical charm for the butterflies.

Near the river below base camp we found the tribute to our hero, John Wesley Powell. This section of the canyon was choked with huge boulders, bigger than small homes that forced the water into waist and chest deep channels. I AM LOVING THIS! Here is where I got my Paiute name: “Plays like Little Boy.” After paying our homage to the canyon we made our way back to base camp.

Social hour again started at dusk with some deep discussions and great stories as we reminisced the day. I place my pad a little closer this time to show that I was more connected with the group.

The sky gave us another awe-inspiring moment as the constellations rolled by.”

Aaron Ogden lives in Salt Lake City, where he is a personal trainer and runs a company to introduce children to the outdoors.

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