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Month: November 2016

Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park

Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park

Hike 25 of my 52 Hike Challenge was a day full of firsts. This experience was unlike anything I had ever done before, and I can’t wait to revisit Capitol Reef National Park.

About the Park

Capitol Reef was, admittedly, just somewhere I wanted to go to check off all of Utah’s “Mighty 5” National Parks. In the end, it turned out to be my favorite of the five! Although I expect someday Zion will eclipse Capitol Reef, for now CRNP is king. The park’s main attraction is the waterpocket fold, a “wrinkle” in the earth over a fault line. The park’s name is a combination of Capitol for the white, dome-shaped rocks that mimic capitol domes and Reef for the barriers to travel like a coral reef. Some cliffs even look just like underwater reefs, but in the high desert!

About the Hike

I knew we would have limited time at the park (half day), so I had done a ton of research into finding just the right scenic drives and the perfect hike. I turned to one of my favorite National Parks hiking resources, Dirt in my Shoes. She had written a piece about a “secret” hike, which really just means the hike is technically in the backcountry (but you don’t need a permit). In reality this trail is well-known and the Rangers at the Visitor’s Center have lots of info to share. The trail is what basically amounts to Sulphur Creek. The full point to point hike is about 6 miles long and hops down three waterfalls, but for a shorter version you can hike in reverse up to the first fall and back. With limited time we opted for the shorter, reverse option.

Hazards

I gotta say, even though there wasn’t rain forecast for our time in the park, stories of flash floods in this area had scared the pants off of me and I was hyper aware of any clouds over head. This part of the park can sustain very dangerous flash floods as you can see here. Luckily we didn’t get a drop of rain and my concerns shifted to heat rather than rain as we trudged around in this crazy environment (always, always, always carry plenty of water – check park resources for guidelines, suggestions and water sources).

Hiking Sulphur Creek (In Reverse)

The hike starts just behind the Visitor’s Center by walking down a short path into Sulphur Creek. We were in the desert, in the sun, in August. It was dang hot, but the water was the perfect temperature to cool us down right away. By the way, if you plan to hike this trail, prepare to get wet. We wore water shoes and swimsuits and SUNSCREEN.

The hike is as simple as following the creek until you reach the first fall. It was slow going since we weren’t used to walking in (or sometimes sinking in) this type of “muck”. I took a hiking pole that ended up being helpful to pull myself out of the mud a few times, and to pick my way across the rocky bottom of the creek that is impossible to see with so much sediment in the water. It was also slow going simply because the scenery on this hike is almost unbelievable. I had to make a lot of photo stops, or sometimes I just ended up standing and staring up the canyon walls.

I love to look for wildlife when I hike, and unfortunately in the desert you don’t see too much. That afternoon the best I did was find half of a pelvis and some deer tracks. Better than nothing I guess.

Reaching our Destination (And Turnaround Point)

When you reach the first fall, you’ll know it. The creek opens up into a big pool that was about shoulder deep on Eric. The mucky water didn’t look too inviting, so I stayed on the bank while Eric took a little dip. When he was finished, we started to retrace our steps. Since it was such slow going in the water, we decided to look for a shortcut. Turns out this was pretty easy, but it required climbing out of the creek bed and into scorching hot desert terrain. We decided we’d take the tradeoff of heat for time and scurried back to our starting point.

Wrapup

We returned to our car exhausted from the heat and exhilarated from the adventure. This mini-hike (about 3 miles round trip) was a great taste of the full version and I hope to get back and hike the whole 6 mile route someday. I loved hiking through the desert and in the creek bed. It created a new challenge and provided an opportunity to learn some new skills.

Have you hiked in or visited Capitol Reef National Park? Did you love it as much as I did? Tell me about it in the comments!

Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Hike 24 of my 52 Hike Challenge was one of the highlights of the trip so far, and is widely known as the “World’s Best 3-Mile Hike”. Welcome to the Queens-Navajo Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park.

This hike begins at Sunrise Point (or you can start at Sunset Point and follow the Rim Trail to do a complete loop). From Sunrise Point the trail descends quickly into the canyon, offering incredible views.

This section of the loop was like being in a geology museum. We had an up close look at the hoodoos, windows, fins and other rock formations created by weather, erosion and frost wedging (the breaking of rock when water in creacks and joints expands as it freezes).

The canyon floor was surprisingly green after traveling through barren rock on the way down. I suspect this is because water flows down to this valleyed area to nourish the plants. We especially loved these twisted tree trunks that looked cool and provided a nice bench on which to take a shady break.

We were lucky to have a bright, sunny day with no threat of rain, even though we visited during monsoon season. The canyon can be an extremely dangerous flash flood zone when it rains. We got used to carefully scanning the weather before hiking in Utah due to this very dangerous occurrence.

We chose to return to the Rim via Wall Street on the Navajo Loop Trail. Wall Street is a famous slot canyon featuring a set of switchbacks winding through narrow rock fins.

Hiking up Wall Street was such an experience for me. I couldn’t help but think about how much things can change in just a few short years. Five years prior to this hike I was living and working on Wall Street in NYC. Fast forward to this hike and I was in a completely different Wall Street with much different goals and experiences behind me. Hiking is known as a great way to meditate and contemplate and the symbolism of this place’s name made it even more impactful.

As we emerged from the canyon and back onto the Rim we were treated to a nice view of the trail and Thor’s Hammer, one of the most famous hoodoos in the park.

Make sure to carry enough water when hiking this trails, especially on a hot day, as there is no water source available on this trail. And have a little rest and relaxation when you’re finished!

Post hike nap at the Visitor's Center :)
Post hike nap at the Visitor’s Center 🙂

Have you hiked in Bryce Canyon? Tell me about it in the comments!

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