Humorous Hiking Trip to Kolob Arch

Kolob Arch in Zion Park

Normally I don't write articles like I would a journal entry or a travel log, but this one was too funny to not include that kind of narration.

First of all, I was up at 4:30 in the morning for this trip. I really resent getting up that early, especially because that is only three hours after my usual bedtime. I did my share of getting up before the butt crack of dawn when I was in the military, and now I am determined that only the direst of emergencies will conflict with that mission statement.

Unfortunately for me, getting the opportunity to visit Kolob Arch just might constitute such an emergency.

So, I was up only a few hours after I had stopped doing homework and gone to bed the night before (I say night since it was dark outside, even though the clock read AM). My wife was asleep still, my little girl was dreaming of kitties, and my dog was snoring on the couch-and probably also dreaming about kitties.

It was pretty brisk out when we left Utah Valley, and the temperature only dropped as we drove down into the desert. A few hours later found us driving into Cedar City.

As we were entering the outskirts of town, my dad noticed a deer running parallel to us along the side of the road, within the fence that separates the outlying areas from the highway. He slowed down and pointed it out to me. Just as I looked, the deer swerved onto the road and into the side of the truck, smashing the windshield right in front of my face and breaking off the side mirror.

I still don't understand what kind of panic or instinct leads them to do that; it seems counterintuitive to survival, which as far as I am aware, is paramount to their brains.

We pulled the deer off of the road and then stopped in town to make sure the car was still drivable, and then continued on down to Kolob Canyons.

Our excitement for the hike had been somewhat tempered by the death of the deer and the smashed up exterior of the truck, and even the majestic canyons of Kolob did not hold their normal spellbinding power when we initially turned in to the park.

But we parked at about 9:30 AM, and started down the trail. I consider myself a pretty good hiker, and I can go all day in sweltering heat or bitter cold, laden like a pack mule and rationing water. But I think that I was mostly blessed with good genes, because as old as he is getting, my dad treks like a mountain goat.

We made amazing time down those canyons and into the Timber Creek drainage. The evergreen forests below the Kolob plateau provided shade for us that later in the day we would be thankful for, though now brought frigid cold. The warm sun was ever behind the massive walls of stone to our left as we passed Gregory Butte and dropped down into the La Verkin Creek drainage. We knew that once we reached the bottom of the drainage, we would find the sun, so we trekked on, enjoying the glow of the sunrise against the Kolob red rock.

I was particularly interested in the color of the water in the various creeks that we crossed. La Verkin Creek was a silty light brown, but both Timber Creek and the creek below Kolob Arch were a beautiful color that ranged from yellow gold to a deep copper or brass.

Deeper in the drainage, a few groups of backpackers were holed up in their tents in the middle of wide, sandy camping spots beside the river. The camping sites need to be reserved before starting down into the canyons, but they are well worth the effort; they are scenic, peaceful, and well-maintained.

After a little way, the Kolob Arch trail leaves La Verin creek and ascends a side canyon behind Gregory Butte on the way to the arch. We stopped at a boulder fall that has created a series of gorgeous little waterfalls, their golden waters spilling in one cascade after another into small, glimmering pools.

We spent a few minutes filming the gurgling waterfalls and greetings that two hikers that passed us there, and then moved on. As we were climbing up above the pools, the embankment crumbled out from beneath my dad's feet and he fell, twisting his ankle pretty severely and landing hard on his video camera.

The ankle was definitely sprained, and we were 6.5 miles south of the trailhead. The video camera was scuffed up, but still servicable. The battery on the other hand, had broken in a few places and would only work if we held it to the back of the camera the whole time it was rolling.

Dad decided that he needed to rest it for a while, so I continued ahead with both cameras. It turned out that he had sprained his ankle only two hundred yards away from the end of the trail. I rounded a corner, still within hollering distance to my dad, and there was Kolob Arch off to the left.

Kolob Arch clings to the backside of Gregory Butte, a few hundred feet above the creek drainage. Though the titanic arch is certainly impressive, it lacks the picturesque qualities that make some of its siblings instant hits.

Delicate Arch, for example, sits by itself along a sweeping bowl of sandstone, high enough that it can be seen from multiple sections of Arches National Park. Landscape Arch stretches gracefully for almost 300 feet, appearing so dainty that a slight breeze should be able to knock it over. Double Arch, also in Arches National Park, sprouts two arches from the same base of red rock.

Kolob Arch on the other hand is hidden in the bottom of a series of canyons that hardly anyone even knows about, much less visits. As if that weren't enough, it clings to the top of an enormous cliff that makes it pretty much inaccessible to sightseers and photographers except from afar. Even its viewing area is far below it, and is crowded by thick groves of evergreen trees.

Even so, Kolob Arch draws hundreds of visitors every year. A chance to visit the second longest arch in the world is enough to bring a lot of people out of the woodwork. Even more important to many visitors is the journey itself-the hike through the La Verkin Creek, Timber Creek, Hops Valley and other trails display some of the most rugged and pristine country in the park.

So I ran up to the viewpoint and snapped a couple of photos and shot some video. I couldn't very well use the tripod for the video camera now that I had to hold the battery in, so I just shot from the hip so to speak. I quickly found that the viewpoint was not much of a viewpoint at all. It was very low, and surrounded by large pine trees that made it impossible to get an unobstructed view of the arch.

Searching for a few minutes, I found a trail that climbed up to a ridge above the viewing area. Up there, standing on a rocky ledge, I had a very satisfying view of the arch and the surrounding red rock.

Returning to the creek, my dad and I started combining our packs so that I could carry them both on the way back up the trail. Stupidly, I stuffed my large Camelbak into the larger pack on top of the video camera. Then we began our hike back toward La Verkin Creek. My dad warned me that he would be hobbling along and that this return trip would take much longer than the trip down.

Within moments of starting the hike, I noticed that a large amount of water had started dripping out of my pack, and onto my shirt and pants. Taking the pack off and investigating, I found that valve at the end of my Camelbak hose had opened up when I had carelessly stuffed it into the bag, and that I had just emptied almost 2 liters of water all over my dad's video camera.

Disaster relief for that mess took another 10 minutes of our time, and we decided to carry the video camera out in the sun for a while so that any remaining water could evaporate before it had the chance to do any further damage.

Now-with me feeling a little sheepish-we started out again. Though he was limping badly on a pretty severely sprained ankle, the pace that my dad set going back up the sometimes steep and rocky trail had us passing every other group that we encountered.

Six and a a half miles later we were back at the car, having completed the 13-mile hike in under 8 hours, even with sprained ankles, submersible video cameras, and plenty of sightseeing.

My dad is a tough old guy, though I am sure that the Geritol helps...