Kolob Canyon, Zion National Park, UT
After spending the last month in near freezing weather in Alaska, it was time to get reacquainted with the warm weather of Southern Utah. I arrived back in Salt Lake on October 11th, and quickly checked the forecast for Zion the next weekend. The 10-day showed beautiful weather, after a quick little storm moved through. 84 degrees? I’m not sure I even remember what that feels like. After quickly checking with the buddies online, I heard some rumors that a few folks wanted to head into Kolob the next week. I sent out a few emails to shamelessly invite myself, and within a few hours we had a nice group assembled. Sweet. First canyon back, and I am finally going to get to do Kolob. I was pretty stoked.
Of course, by the time we were supposed to rendezvous on the Kolob Terrace, half the group had dropped out due to broken toes, car troubles, or any of a number of other worthy excuses. Fortunately, we rallied and finally got a crew together that consisted of Matt, Randi, and myself, all Kolob first-timers.
We woke up early, hoping to get a nice jump start on the canyon, and pulled into the West Rim Trailhead just before sunrise (thus, it was still quite dark). I pulled up next to a couple of cars that beat us there, and pulled up to a nice big rock. As I slowly inched up to the boulder, a little scream pierced the air. Turns out, that little boulder was actually a person, in a sleeping bag, inches away from my front bumper. Clearly, I haven’t been to Zion lately, as my people-lying-asleep-in-trailhead-parking-lots detection was obviously sub par. Sorry about the rude awakening Sonia.
Ended up being quite the pre-dawn party up on top. Sonia and Jason from Vegas were there, and shortly thereafter, Courtney and DB and the rest of the Vegas crew showed up as well, but we apparently just missed Bo and his crew. After a bit of socializing, we all split up and headed out.
We were greeted by a little bit of a chill on the approach, and some fantastic fall colors. Within about 45 minutes, we had made it to the creek, only to be disappointed by the ¼ cfs flow that was present. Looks like the big waterfalls wouldn’t be present this time. No big deal for us though, we were plenty cold without getting pounded on rappel.
Kolob wastes no time dropping elevation or getting insanely beautiful. Unfortunately, the water was pretty cold, and none of our crew had been here before, we decided not to waste a lot of time in the tech section. It was obvious we didn’t have the canyon in prime conditions, with little flow, nary a sliver of sunlight due to post-equinox sun, and obviously pretty cold. Regardless, the canyon still delivers the goods. The technical section is just beautiful rappel after beautiful rappel, each one seemingly bigger and better than the last.
We finished up the tech section in around 3 hours, had some lunch near the huge waterfall, and made our way to the MIA, following Kolob Creek as it meanders through the soaring sandstone walls. And while the tech section may not have been in its prime, this section certainly was, with every new bend revealing a whole new scene of vibrant fall foliage.
We moseyed along, enjoying the scenery, when we noticed a small pool of water, about 6 inches deep. In it was a brook trout that was around 14 inches long. How in the world did this fish get here? We noticed quite a few fish swimming in the potholes in the tech section, but they were all fairly small. Is it possible that fish get flushed out of the reservoir when very small, and actually survive in the canyon through a harsh winter? There are a lot of fish in that section after the big waterfall, but this dude was by far the biggest. Wonder if he’ll survive another winter down there?
We returned to the car via the MIA trail, and after a couple of wrong turns up that damned hill, we eventually made it back to the cars just after sunset, successfully (but entirely unintentionally) avoiding direct sunlight for the entire day.