Camping Adventure in Zion

After a wild Vegas birthday night, I awoke to a quiet morning with a the road to Utah ahead of me. Peter from Salt Lake City had a little camping trip in store. I washed up and got my things together, my ass was bruised purple from the birthday paddle that had got passed around the night before. Shana took a picture of it before I left amongst the shock and laughter of the scattered friends and couchsurfers in the room.

I headed towards the bus stop, I planned to take it as close as it would get me to my favorite hitchhiking spot in Vegas when heading north, the speedway. It turned out to be a decent walk from where it left me off to get to the freeway, around an hour of walking. Water sounded like a good idea during this stroll through the desert, I didn't have much.

I thumbed out for a ride until someone stopped, a guy who worked at the Sahara Casino headed to his home in Loganville, and that's where he dropped me. I got out a little more thirsty than before, I imagined the water bottle I'd find in the next car. A young guy pulled over, barely out of the freeway, I hopped in quick and we got going. Sure enough, he had a water bottle waiting for me and I chugged it down.

He was a poker player who lived in Springdale, which is just about Zion, where I was headed. He stopped once so I could fill up the water bottle again and we kept going. He was an interesting guy, he told me about machines he built to collect pollen and seeds that he was able to sell really easily to make plenty of money.

The idea was to meet Peter in Saint George, Paul, my driver, was happy to take me exactly to where I was supposed to meet them. We stopped first at the grocery store so I could buy a loaf of bread, I had a single $5 bill and some loose change at this point, bread can go a long way.

I got dropped off and found a seat on a nice shady bench to enjoy some slices of bread, fancy cinnamon bread at that. I got in touch with Molly, my host I met in Flagstaff a week earlier, her and her friend were coming to meet us too for a night of camping. They were already in the park and had been hiking more or less all day.

Peter finally arrived, it turned out to be just him and Parker, everyone else had flaked out in one way or another. They got some food at a little cafe, the place was giving out free cupcakes so I ate one of those. We stopped for various supplies and beer and got going towards Springdale to meet up with the girls.

We met them at a gas station, they'd had a trip of a day and told us the story, I drove their car and followed Peter towards some campgrounds to crash for the night. We got there and winded through the bumpy road until we found a sandy spot, there were people almost everywhere being that it was memorial day weekend.

Some beers, some joints and alas, a fire. We all had reasons for feeling spent, but the fire kept us glued together with conversation and relaxation. We burned out when the fire did, the girls in one tent, Peter and Parker in another, and myself under the cloud cover in my bivy sack. A few stars broke out to show themselves, and a few rain drops too.

We woke up in the morning and were rolling in no time. We got to Zion park and caught the shuttle to the base of Angels Landing, a good hike I'd been on once before with Candice and her dad. The five of us made our way to the top and enjoyed the incredible view. On the way down we spotted an interesting hole in the rock and climbed up in it, it lead to a deep crack. We caught it at the perfect time, the 10 minute window of the day where the sun shined through.

We headed all the way down, Peter got my attention at one point asking if I'd seen a guy's glasses who walked past us, I hadn't. We all got on the road, the girls and I followed behind as Peter whipped up through the roads to a spot he had in mind for camping the next couple nights, the scenery was deep, red rocks, wide open spaces, very cool to see.

We got to the spot and got some food in us, we were essentially on top of a plateau in one of six camp sites. I saw what looked like a hell of a view through the trees a couple hundred yards away, we all headed in that direction.

It was an incredible view of a number of plateaus in the distance, popping out of the ground like rigid marshmallows. We all laid out for a while taking it in.

We relaxed back at the campsite later, light rain here and there, and finally a decent down pour that sent some of us into the tent, Parker to his hammock, and Kelly to the car for some sleep. We talked for a while until the girls had to get on the road.

We stayed up for a little while, but the incoming dark and rain made sleep seem like the thing to do. I had my spot in the hammock with a tarp over it, playing my harmonica to match the whipping winds and rain pounding down.

We woke up in the morning at the same time, relaxing with some cereal. We decided to walk further down the dirt road the another view point. We ran into a guy who said he'd been sleeping in his car pulled off the road a bit, but ran off by a ranger for not having a legit camp site. Peter recognized him, he was the guy with the thin glasses he'd pointed out to me on the hike the day before.

We got to talking with him more and told him he could pull into our campsite for the night, he was also up for going on a hike with us. He went to grab his car, we finished a joint in the woods and went back to to the camp spot.

The four of us hopped in two cars and went towards the trail head. The hike was pretty flat at first, a peaceful forest. We at last got to a an opening that looked out on some peaks and the wide open. We ventured down the trail some more and stopped for some food once we hit a shady spot, then continued on.

We got to the flaky slope, indian paint brush flowers growing from the rock. We decided to soldier up to the top, it was steep going. We at last made it, Pete, the older guy, just a pinch behind us. The view from the top was the most amazing geographical sight I've seen. Red rocks of all shapes, scattered greens and it was in all directions. We stayed up there with a celebratory joint, Pete didn't partake, saying he hadn't smoked in years.

In the distance we saw a pyramid looking rock with a flat top and spires in all corners. We were intrigued, after a bit of debate we were set on getting to it. As mountains go, it's tough to say just how far away it was. We started going straight down another face, different from the trail we came in on. It was much steeper and flakier, but we made our way down.

Instead of jumping back on the trail we spotted, we headed along a little valley until deciding to cut up. Before long it was clear we were well off the trails without a clear sense of where one was. The pyramid itself that we were headed for was of questionable location now too. We kept trucking in the general direction.

Parker questioned whether we should turn around or keep going, it wasn't clear which would even be quicker to do. Peter and I were set on adventuring forward, Pete was somewhat indifferent, but clearly wondering what he'd gotten himself into. His water bottle was dwindling, all of our water was, we'd come with just enough for a short hike.

We ventured down the side of the slight hump we were on, down towards the dried up river bed. We came across a human looking footprint in the rock down there and continued on. Parker became a bit frustrated with our situation, water was on his mind. We wandered out of the river bed and up towards a peak. We finally reached the top to realize that we were in fact on top of the pyramid we were looking for in the beginning. It was pretty amazing, like a courtyard on top of the world, a decidedly great camping spot for a later date.

We were still a bit disoriented and off trail, unsure of the way out. We climbed out of the courtyard and winded around a bit more until we found a high point to get a view. Sure enough, we spotted a road in the distance. We were high above, a valley and another small mountain range between us and the road. Peter scouted forward down a crack to see what it looked like as far as getting down, turned out it was a sheer cliff, so no getting down that way.

At this point there were increasing murmurs about the possibility of forced camping out in the wilderness, without water or much, if any, food left. We opted to head for the river and follow it, if we could find it. We curled around the way we came, back through the high pyramid courtyard, down and around a ridge. We found ourselves following animal paths most of the time, seeing all type of cat tracks and droppings we couldn't reliably identify.

After cutting through some pretty thick bush we finally found the river bed and got to rock hopping our way down it. Alas, we came across a small stagnant puddle of water. Parker took out his water filter and him and Pete crouched around it filling up their bottles, Peter and I watched and waited. I still had a few sips left in my camel bak, I figured there'd be more water later.

They drank their slightly tinted water and we continued on. A ways down we came across a whole mess of running water, Peter and I filled up at that point, it was cold and refreshing hitting the spot, we'd been hiking for five hours or more.

We finally came across an actual trail, and then people. "You're almost there!", a group of older guys shouted to us, they were loaded up with gear. We skipped down the trail, it eventually started to go straight up. Pete stopped a few times on this stretch to catch his breath, he'd soldiered through the whole ordeal with us for the most part with no complaints. The steep bit was through and turned to a nice flat home stretch that led us, finally, to a parking lot.

We all headed for the road to get to hitchhiking to get back to the cars. A perky girl called to us from the parking lot and we went over to her, she was drinking a sierra nevada pale ale. She told us her boyfriend would be back in a minute and could shuttle a couple of us up, and that's what he did when he got there.

Parker and I waited while Peter got shuttled up and then came back with his car to take us back to the camp site. We reflected back on the day, estimating between 15-20 miles covered, the sun was just dropping from the sky now. We got some food in us back at camp, then I got a fire going. We sat by that discussing the stars and whatnot until sleep was the thing.

We packed up pretty quick in the morning and got on the road. Outside of the park we stopped at a diner called the Wagon Wheel, Peter picked up my breakfast which was a tasty one. I went into the bathroom and cleaned up a bit, I had to wipe a few days of camping off me in anticipation of hitchhiking to Vegas where Nick was waiting.

Peter and Parker dropped me off at the south end of Saint George and I was on my way. I stood by the on ramp until a pickup truck with an older couple inside picked me up. I sat in the backseat amongst tools and other things they'd just picked up form home depot, they were headed back to their home in mesquite.

My next ride came from a guy who'd been out driving in search for future camping and fishing spots, he lived in Vegas. He got me to the far north end of town and dropped me off near a bus. I barely had enough money, but I hopped a bus, switched to the Deuce, and made my way all the way to and down the strip past Mandalay Bay. I had some time until I had to meet Nick, I scraped up just enough coins to get a burger at McDonalds and sit there for a while with my laptop, left with about 30 cents to my name.

I wandered down the way to what I thought was the shopping center Nick said his friend worked at. I went into the book store there and waited for his call. I shot him a message after a long while, turned out he was and had been 10 yards behind me in the same store for a little while with his friend.

We got on the road and drove all the way to Phoenix, Nick dropped me off at Larry's place somewhere around midnight. It'd been a good week, and now in Phoenix I was ready to put in some time getting Trip Hopping rocking, this would be the story of the weeks to come.