Elephant Cove Sand and Rock Canyon, Zion
Rock Canyon is a great little canyon that drops into The Barracks portion of the East Fork of the Virgin. The main obstacle is getting there - driving the perilous soft sand roads of Elephant Cove to get to the rim of the canyon. Kody Prisbrey of Saint George was taking his family out there for a Saturday adventure and offered up a spot to any takers; I became a taker. I sounded him out about vehicles as, after 5 months of no rain, my 1996 Nissan Pathfinder -- oversized tires, tons of clearance, but nonetheless a Station Wagon (being of the 2WD flavor) -- was unlikely to cut it on those roads. Yes, he had two capable vehicles they were taking out there and a seat for me, no problemo. An early start time was set, ropes discussed, etc.
I had done Rock Canyon about 6 years ago with Dean Kurtz of Kanab, and we had a fine day of it, but I did not get many pictures. If it was going to make the new guidebook, I certainly needed to run through it again taking notes, and at least a few fun pics were required. It sounded like Kody's family group would be up for the modeling gig.
We rendezvoused near Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, and started the drive in. Kane County had recently renumbered the maze of roads out there, and Kody had picked up a new BLM map hot off the press. We careened along the narrow, soft roads and made good time, but it still took an hour to get to the start point. This is an adventure where a GPS is definitely helpful, so after marking the car, we set off across the scrub in search of a canyon - soon coming to a rim and following it northward, then down some slickrock into the slot right AT the first rappel. The crew for this trip was Kody with his kids Kyler and Lacey, and his sister Krista. Also along were Eric and Loree from St George, Kody's regular canyon partners.
First rap was off a chunk of tree jammed up above. A couple shallow potholes blocked access to the 'real drop', but the 'inexperienced' kids hopped right over them, then we rapped 30 feet to the sand. Overall length of the rappel was 66 feet.
Not far around a corner is an intimidating drop. We removed the ghastly blue webbing from the two-bolt anchor, and reslung with a muted grey. It looks like a rappel, but actually it is an easy and fun downclimb the whole way, and our clan made fast work of it.
Not far on, a short drop yielded easily to a short rappel anchored off a sturdy natural arch. We replaced the webbing here, too, as it was looking a little worn. Finally, we came to the BIG EVENT, a lovely 115-foot rappel into an impressive alcove. Nice rappel. It even has a spring partway down, just to provide a super-slippery surface for extra entertainment. Anchor is two bolts.
Slogging down the sandy wash for a half hour, we came to our final roped event of the day, a nuisance rap of 20 feet or so, now anchored by two bolts. Down we went, harnesses came off... now - the best way to get out?
Some more sandy slogging led to springs and the delightful riparian section of Rock Canyon I had remembered so vividly. Beautiful trees, lush undergrowth and escape from the scorching sun! We sauntered down this bit to the East Fork, enjoying the cool air and shade.
Last time, with Dean, we had poked around a bit, then climbed up a 4th-class section right at the mouth of Rock Canyon to return quickly to our vehicle. This time, we thought we'd make more of a day of it, and hike down The Barracks about two miles to the French Canyon exit, braving its famed poison ivy. So we did. Hiked down the East Fork, which was delightful. Found the correct exit canyon. Lay in the water, a last chance to fully immerse and cool off, then charged up the delightfully green French Canyon.
Not too far up, we found the canyon-engulfing vines of the noxious ivy almost blocking further progress, but with a little determination we found a path up that required minimal contact with the oily leaves. A further 15 minutes up-canyon, we passed the springs feeding the riparian, and the canyon became dry. A further 15 minutes, and we came to the cirque at the head of the canyon. A bit of scrambling in the heat up a well-defined trail and we were up at the slickrock near the rim, blessing the clouds that skimmed over to diminish the sun's intensity. Soon, Kody and Eric ran off to get the Jeeps while the rest of us reclined in the sand...
A hot day out in East Zion, but fun. Thanks Kody for letting me tag along, and thanks all for putting up with my repeated insistence to "Smile".
WGS84 UTM 12S Waypoints:
French Canyon Exit Top: 336507mE, 4114707mN
Park for Canyon: 337579mE, 4114324mN
First Rap: 337625mE, 4113737mN
Quick Exit Turn Pt: 338119mE, 4114969mN