Went on a trip recently to Zion National Park in Southern Utah with my friend Barrett Donovan in his Silver Ford Taurus. It was a photography trip, though sadly, I don’t think we got any photos of the Taurus. It looks more or less like the one below, except his has a sticker that reads “reklats” or “stalker” if you’re reading it off your rear view mirror.

There was some debate as to it’s willingness and/or capability to handle dirt roads, which remains unresolved. I contend that the forces exerted on the suspension are greater at 60 MPH when encountering even a minor bump than they would be at a reasonable speed on a dirt road. Barrett doesn’t see it that way. I’m in the precess of devising a test and technical study of the matter, but i digress…

Leaves and Waterfall, Orderville Canyon

A miraculous arrangement of Canyon Maple Leaves on the wet rock of Ordervile Canyon. Photo by Mike Henderson

I’ve been to zion twice before this trip, though the first time I was injured, and the second time my wife was sick, so i hadn’t really explored much. One thing we had done was to hike up into Hidden Canyon, which is a slot canyon accessed by a steep switchbacking trail with engineered ramps and a catwalk chiseled into the sandstone with chains to grab onto. It was totally kick ass!

This time I was looking forward to seeing new things and getting some decent photos of them. I’m an enthusiast photographer, shooting with my new Canon 7d, though Barrett is a pretty serious amateur landscape photographer shooting with the Canon 5d Mark II. Check out his travel and landscape photography here. Barrett has made Zion something of a priority in recent years, hitting the park several times a year to catch the good light in Wall Street and The Subway. So those two spots were our main objectives, given that both prostitution and good beer are illegal Utah…

Wall Street, Zion National Park

Wall Street, photo by Mike Henderson

Our first goal was to get some photos of Wall Street, the deepest slot canyon in the world which is part of the Virgin River Narrows. Zion National Park is like a mini sandstone Yosemite, and the park road dead ends at the mouth of the narrows. Much of the hike is in the water, at least for the first couple of miles until you get to Wall Street.

Just down stream from wall street is Orderville Canyon, a cool narrow canyon with twists, waterfalls to climb and amazing scenery. It might be tempting, after slogging up to Wall street to skip Orderville. That would be a mistake.

When hiking in the river, at least in the fall like we did, you want to have something to keep you warm or dry or both. We rented Canyoneering shoes and dry pants from Zion Adventure Company. The canyoneering shoes are made by 5.10 and have thick soles with rands that protect your feet. You can also rent neoprene socks for warmth. The pants are gore tex and keep you dry and warm. There are two flaws to the dry pants however.

Dry Pants Fashion

To maintain waterproofness, you need to layer properly. This is not the proper way mind you...

For one you look like a retard. They are comfortable and completely effective, but they aren’t going to get you laid. Since it was just a dude trip, that wasn’t a concern. The other thing is that if you’re the slightest bit gassy and you have the top of the pants cinched tight against your abdomen, and you’re frequently squatting down to look through a camera on a low tripod, you generate positive pressure in the pants, which pushes the stored gas up into your jacket where it provides a charming bouquet of unhappiness every few minutes.

The second day I hiked up to the Canyon Overlook from the Weeping Rock Trailhead which is an invigorating 6 mile hike that produced a profound body funk from the backpack sweat mixed with the residual dry-pants-ass-funk from the day before, but no decent photos. Barrett went back up to Wall Street and shot this. So all was not lost.

Path of Light, Zion

Path of Light, Zion River Narrows. Photo by Barrett Donovan. Click the photo for more.

Click on the photo and post a gushing comment on Flickr. Barrett will send you one of 75 pine tree air fresheners that he had in his dry pants for the narrows hike. They’re going fast.

That night we broke camp, had some pizza at Zion Pizza and Noodle company. A great little pie shop with tolerable beer from Wasatch Brewing Company. Then we drove up to the Left Fork of North Creek trailhead which is where the hike starte for The Subway. There is no legal camping up there at all. It was a cold night.

The trail to the Subway wanders through the forrest, then drops steeply down to North Creek. From there you bushwack and cross the river a million times for 4 miles or so. It’s a long, rough, strenuous hike. While the Narrows hike is portrayed as a big deal, and with the potential for flash flooding, It’s not that big a deal really. But the Subway trail is rough. We didn’t have any problem with it, we’re hard core. So was the dude who lugged a 90 pound pack with an 8 x 10 film camera up the trail. [Just found out that this guy was So Cal FILM Photographer, Ben Horne. This is his report from that day.]

The subway is awesome. You have to go there. But if you’re a photographer, go early. [There’s a different angle of the photo below in this blog post by the the guy on the end. Check the video @ about 6:20. The rest of the video is a good overview of what the Subway trail is like.]

Photographers in the Subway

Crowded Subway...

There was a fixed line in place so we were able to climb up and access the canyon just upstream of the Subway. It was sketchy, and there was a high chance of slipping, falling and getting generally jacked up. But that didn’t happen, so all good.

The light changed, and then changed some more, and then changed again. The guy with the 8 x 10 camera said that the light was about as good as it was going to get, so i snapped a couple more. Including this one.

The Subway, Zion National Park

The Subway. Photo by Mike Henderson

We hiked out and promptly drove back to Ely to camp for the night. Left behind was my duffle bag in the trailhead parking lot. Which sucked. I called the visitor center, and they actually told me that if it got turned in they’d send it back. I didn’t get turned in.

But I did get a call from Tim Lundin the day after we got back. Said he found it in the parking lot, stuck it in his trunk, hitchiked up to the upper trailhead from where he canyoneered down to The Subway to take pictures. Haven’t seen them yet, but he did pop my bag over to the UPS store and sent it back to me. He didn’t even complain about the backpack-sweat-ass-funk-medley that his trunk must surely be infused with now… Thanks Tim!

-M