02 July, 2012

Slick rock is slick

Let me tell you a story of what I did this past Wednesday. (Pictures generously supplied by Maria)
Some lovely people I know named Michael, Ange, Mark, Jill, and Maria (last name for all is Sederberg) woke up bright and early to slather sunscreen on ourselves, use a wilderness bathroom, and head off into the wild with camelbacks. You see, several months back my brother and sister-in-law decided it would be an adventure to hike Subway in Zions National Park to start off a little family reunion we were going to. It certainly was an adventure.
We started off the hike wearing various types of footwear. Maria and I chose sandals, Mark and Jill were in super sweet closed toe sport sandals, Michael was stylin in some tennis shoes, and Ange turned down everyone's offers for nicer shoes and wore some pink sneakers. We walked for just over a mile in scenery that looked like a stereotypical hike; there was a small path in the middle of long grasses and tall trees. We were very excited to begin the hike.

We continued the hike with wonderful cascading rippling hills of slickrock. We got to follow cairns (or "Karens" as Mik continually said) during this part. It was gorgeous.

Mik kept trying to get us to sniff trees. Apparently they smell like vanilla.

After a while, we came to part of the hike that looked had the red rocks that beautiful Southern Utah is known for. (We also came across a scout troop that we continually passed for most of the duration of the hike.)

During a certain part, we got lost. Thankfully it was just for ten minutes and the scenery made it worth it. We had to jump up a baby cliff that was about 4 feet high. Ange and Jill made it up without a problem.

I, however, gave myself a little too big of a push when I came up and managed to face plant and Maria happened to snap a picture right as I landed. Mark was a little confused by what I was doing.

After hiking for a long while, we finally approached the slot canyon. It was gorgeous and dramatic. Sheer cliffs with pines growing all over them.

We had to climb down a very sharp slope over large boulders.

This is one of my favorite pictures. Mark was fixing his shoe and Maria was about to take a picture. I leaned over him but Maria snapped as he came up.

After we hiked down into the canyon, we came across all the pools that Subway is known for and the lovely river that connected them. Some of the pools came all the way up to our shoelaces while others required us to swim. It was always interesting to hear people as they walked through these pools. Loud squeals came when they found a deep spot. Often the pools were cloudy and the bottom was not visible so we I tripped quite a bit.
Mark had a strange obsession with frogs, tadpoles, and fish. There were some adorable frogs that kept finding in most of the pools.

As we reached the first rappel, we realized there would be a long wait because there were two groups ahead of us. We considered simply jumping in at the spot that looked like the shortest jump, but a lady from a group ahead of us told us that plenty of people break their ankles and feet and all sorts of body parts jumping in at that spot and then we would have to pay lots of money to get a helicopter to pull us out. Thankfully the scouts saved the day and discovered that by climbing under some large rocks, we could avoid the rappel entirely.

Later we had to climb down some very large rocks. We waited in a pool until the scouts made it down and then checked out the setup. Someone had connected a rope to the large rocks at the top of the pool. There were two drops we had to go down. The first one was awkward because there was a large round rock at the top that was hard to grab and made it difficult to go down unless your foot found the foot hole. (I also have not been climbing in several years so I am sure this would be much easier for a regular climber.)
Once we got down the second drop, there was a small ledge in the water you could stand on before it dropped off into deeper water. This meant you had to swim about 15 feet in 50ish degree water to another ledge in the water that was under a fallen log with only a couple feet of air between the log and the water. This part of the slot canyon was only a few feet wide. With all these factors, I freaked out for a second. I stalled swimming as long as possible and finally my favorite little brother popped his head under the log to beckon me. I went for it, dragging my lovely husband's camelback. Thankfully camelbacks float or else I am sure the camelback would still be in that pool.
The following picture shows one of the places we had to rappel down. It was over a small waterfall. We hooked up our rope and because the drop was so short, we basically slid down the rope. Not too complicated. Even with wet gloves. (Possibly my fault that they were wet.)

There were several other pools with cloudy water that a brave soul would volunteer to check and see how deep they were. One in particular needed about 15 feet of swimming. Thankfully this one held water that was in the 60s instead of 50s. Maria swam across first to see how far we would need to make it while swimming. I threw her my pack once she found high ground and decided I did not want to swim. I wanted to see how far I could make it with jumping. I thought I would do one of those smooth, cool jumps with my head out of water the whole time.
I might as well have just done a cannonball. I went under by several feet and I still did not reach the bottom.

Some pools held warm water that we relished standing in. Some had warm water on top and cold water at the bottom. We loved the variety that we tramped through.

At one point, we had to swim to a ledge. I had problems with this. One leg made it onto the ledge in the water and the other leg was stranded in the deeper water. I was stuck doing the splits on a rock and needed Mik to pull me up because I was laughing too hard to do anything about it.

After waiting long periods of time to do both rappels (the scout troop took a long time to go over both and we were stuck behind them both times) and eating lunch, we finally made it to the final rappel. It was gorgeous. This time we were stuck behind some intense climbers that took their time going down this small cliff. Below we could see a gorgeous sight and could not wait to get ourselves into the beautifully formed pools and walk through the curiously circular canyon.

While we waited for our turn to go down, Mark explored the cliff we were waiting on. He made his wife (and Angi and myself) nervous so he eventually came back up to the level we were waiting on.
Also while we were waiting, a few army guys came up. Because they did not want to wait for two groups to rappel down, they hooked a rope to a fallen tree and went down in the crack you see right behind Mark in the picture below. I had to stop watching them after about 28 seconds because they were leaping around from one cliff to another and climbing down a fallen tree. It was ridiculous.

I was the fourth one to go down the cliff. We had a makeshift harness that we shimmied into and started to walk down the cliff.

Mark helped all of us down at the bottom.

I am pretty darn cool.

We all safely got to the bottom and enjoyed the sights to be seen.
When we got out of that lovely part of the canyon, we discovered another treasure. Water cascading over the slick rock provided for some lovely natural water slides. Jill and myself went down every one that we could.

I found that I slipped just about every time I walked on anything that was even slightly wet as soon as we got to this part of the hike. After about five minutes of my warnings to the rest of the group ("this part is slippery!"), Mark kindly told me that no one else was slipping.
The rest of the hike out of the canyon was not quite as exciting. We were all getting tired and sick of walking in the river or bouldering. Our feet hurt. We ran out of water when we still had 1.5 miles to go. We were afraid that we missed the trail that took us to the switchbacks and back to our car. Thankfully Mark and Jill went faster than the rest of us up the switchbacks and got the cars all ready to go by the time the rest of us made it up the climb.

It was an intense hike and one of the most physically demanding things I have done in my life, but I loved it. I loved it because of the adventure, the people and the scenery.  (Although if I do it again, I will make sure to bring at least 3 liters of water per person.) The trip took us about 9 hours but it would have probably been at least two less if we did not have to wait for all the people that were in line to rappel ahead of us.


  1. Umm, the actual Subway is the part between the last and second to last rappel. Not after the last one. And the first rappel is technically the one we skipped, by going through the tunnel, and the one you have as the first isn't one of the 3 big listed rappels.

  2. (This is your favorite younger brother.)