What a place! What a route! It's easy to see how the early Mormon settlers found biblical inspirations in the place.
The Zion Traverse is now a fairly well known 48 mile route that connects the East and West Rim Trails of Zion National Park. The Fastest Known Time (FKT) is currently held by Mike Foote and Justin Yates in a time of 7 hours and 22 minutes- quick! We however were not planning to make an attempt at the FKT, but rather enjoy a long adventure and get a great training run in. I never had any real time goals, but I figured 10 hours or so would be reasonable and would put us back to camp in time to drink beers in the river.
|At the Emerald Pools on a shakeout run the day before|
Gabe and I had a great early morning run, reaching the East Rim of Zion Canyon not long after sunrise- just spectacular. The descent down from the rim to the Grottos was fun and fast, and we stopped to take in some cool sections of trail through the slot canyons on the way down. Gabe's knee flared up a little bit and made us nervous part way down, but it seemed to sort itself out and we made good time to the bottom of the canyon. After a short section of road (around a mile) we arrived at the Grottos proper, greeted by the day's first wandering tourists. We refilled water there, took a bathroom detour, and ate a bit of food before starting the climb up toward Angel's Landing.
|Gabe enjoying the sunrise and cool morning weather|
The climb up went pretty fast, chatting with one another and hikers on the way up, alternately hiking and running.We took the "detour" at the top to go out to Angel's Landing for a view. There was already quite a few tourists attempting the scramble, so we did a fair bit of dodging around them when possible, but otherwise waited our turn to pass certain sections. Most people saw that we were trying to move quickly and kindly offered to let us pass, but it still took us maybe 45 minutes round trip with a brief stop for photos and to take it all in. I had done it once before in a brief stop on a road trip through Zion, when I had gotten up around 5 am and ran from the Watchman Campground to Angel's Landing for a spectacular sunrise that I had essentially to myself. It's a great short hike, but I do wish that they hadn't installed all the chains and carved the various steps into the rock. The NPS has always seemed a bit confused to me with all its rules and restrictions on backcountry camping, permits, and off-trail wandering, but then it paves every path coming out of Zion Canyon with miles of concrete and installs intrusive, scarring permanent fixtures to enable more tourists to risk their lives for a better view. I know the agency has changed a lot since the establishment of these trails, but it is still a bit confused in my opinion.
ANYWAY. Gabe and I made fair time running and powerhiking our way up toward the West Rim. I felt like the pace we were moving at felt harder than it should at the time, but it was probably attributable to all the water I was carrying, roughly 2.5 liters from the Grottos. Gabe filled up his water from the tiny trickle that was the West Rim spring, but I still had enough that I felt okay skipping it to save time. We finished the climb onto the plateau and headed out the West Rim Trail and were rewarded with some of the most spectacular views of the day, views that most park visitors never see. Way rad.
The next section of trail was relatively flat and fast, but we started to feel the heat around the Potato Hollow. We didn't stop at the spring there since we were moving well and it felt like we were pretty close to our "aid station," with the trail sign indicating it was 4 miles to the trail junction. Gabe's GPS watch died shortly after, and those 4 miles seemed more like 5 or 6. Could have been the sun and heat, but those were the longest four miles in memory. We were excited to round a corner and see Gabe's mom up ahead at a trail junction. She waved and started hiking up the trail, expressing that she thought the junction was confusing and didn't want us to miss it- mom's are great, aren't they?! The girls had beaten us there by about 15 minutes and were still hanging out when we got there- perfect timing! There was a short climb up to the parking lot and I was already feeling the heat quite a bit, so when I stopped at the car in the sun and the breeze stopped, the heat felt suddenly quite overwhelming, and I started to feel a bit dizzy for a moment. I went straight for a bit of shade under some shrubby trees and drank some cold water and felt better pretty quickly. This was a little alarming knowing that it was only going to get hotter as the day went on, but I focused on re-hydrating and refueling in the shade. Everyone was in great spirits, and it was fun to have little Ella cruising around, happy to see her parents. The girls took off maybe 10 minutes after we arrived, and Gabe and I accidentally hung out for much longer than we planned, maybe 40 more minutes? I think we both were subconsciously dreading the heat of the next 22 or so miles. But it was only 22 miles, right?!
|On the way up Angel's Landing|
|One of the many fantastic views from the|
West Rim Trail
|The verdant Hop Valley|
|Gabe deep inside the pain cave with only a |
couple miles to go
I've run a handful of days since then, and was relieved to feel pretty damn good overall. This is essentially my last big training week before my first 100 mile race on June 20th, the Bighorn 100. Anticipation, excitement, and anxiety are building. I was happy to come out of the Zion Traverse feeling optimistic rather than intimidated by the idea of a 100 mile race. As my first 100, it will be a big experiment, and I'm just hoping to have my own best day possible there- we'll see what that means on June 20th!
Thanks for tuning in, and happy trails!