Day Three on the Zion Traverse: Potato Hollow to Zion Valley
After yesterday’s wet and soggy ordeal, we decided that today would be our last day. Jeff’s feet skin was peeling. I was doing fine but I couldn’t leave my adventure partner behind. We both had about 3L of water left to finish the last leg of the trail down into Zion Canyon. From there, we’d take the bus out to the Court of the Patriarchs trailhead and hitch a ride back to my rental car up at the East Entrance.
We woke up around sunrise again and packed up. Jeff hit the trail before me. I dawdled behind, eating my Mountain House Breakfast Skillet (seriously the best freeze dried breakfast because hash browns). I was a little bummed that today was our last day. I wanted to finish the trail and exit out the east side of the park to be done with it. Surprisingly, I felt in better shape than I thought for having done two 15-milers back to back with 5L of water. I shouldered my pack and set off to catch up with Jeff.
Every trip report I’d read prior to leaving for Zion had said that the West Rim was easily the most scenic part of the trail. Up until now, the West Rim had been pretty unimpressive. Aside from one spot the day before, it was underwhelming. Scenic in some spots, but not the rock my socks off, write home to Mom kind of scenic. Potato Hollow where we’d camped for the night was reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie. It wasn’t terrible but if I was going to be slogging through less than ideal conditions, I wanted something to take my mind off my misery.
Today, the West Rim delivered. After the climb out of Potato Hollow, the fun began, and it felt like we were actually on a rim, looking out into awesomeness. I caught up to Jeff and we temporarily parted ways at the junction to Telephone Canyon. He’d take the shorter route and I would finish on the Rim. We’d meet back up where the trails connected again to continue to the Valley. If you are faced with this decision, choose the West Rim Trail. It’s not that much shorter.
Those views that everyone had been raving about… I’d finally found it. I set a goal to try to beat Jeff to our meeting spot, but I kept going off the trail about every five feet to snap photos. What was it like, being a creature living on one of those little desert islands out there? Have they ever seen a human? Has anyone ever climbed up those walls to the little green oasis? I had so many questions, but not enough time. If I didn’t make it to our meeting spot by noon, Jeff would come looking for me.
I didn’t beat him to the trail junction, but I was only ten minutes behind. Jeff grumbled about how he had to hike some sketchy, snowy ridge, following in the big footsteps of someone in front of us. He said there were no views in Telephone Canyon. I gleefully told him about all that I’d seen. And I let him know that the trail had been relatively flat and easy-peasy. Our meeting spot was also by the last spring on the West Rim, by campsites 1 and 2. It was flowing. I had about a liter and a half left, which I knew would take me all the way to the restrooms at the trailhead. Jeff filled up on water again. Just in case.
We then continued onward to our destination: Zion Canyon. The trail steeply switchbacked down. Sandstone walls towered overhead, like the Yosemite walls of the desert. We began to see more day hikers, little by little. The trail flattened out for a bit and we could see across to our last climb of the trip: up and over to Angels Landing, then all the way down.
Angels Landing was a bit of a shock. After seeing no more than 10 people in the backcountry, the hoard that swarmed staging area before the cables was overwhelming. The pit toilets were overflowing with waste and toilet paper. People. Were. Everywhere. Jeff was still a ways behind me. I’d mentioned to him that I’d head up the cables, but with the crowds, I decided to save it for another time. I sat down in a small patch of shade to wait and people watch. Finally, I saw Jeff emerge from the throngs of people, and then I ran all the way down to the bottom of Zion Canyon. The End. Almost.
We hopped on a bus to go to the Court of the Patriarchs bus stop to hitch a ride back to my rental car at the East Entrance. Hitchhiking within the park was an experience. Empty car after empty car passed by. Some people waved. Some people gestured rudely. Jeff even considered waving wads of cash around. After about 30-45 minutes of waiting on the side of the road, a nice, elderly couple from Iowa picked us up and schlepped us the East Entrance. I drove Jeff to his car back at Lee Pass. The Zion Valley to East Entrance leg of the trail would have to wait until next time. I pointed my car at Vegas and sped off because ramen awaited.
Personal Gear: Arc’teryx Kea 45 Pack (similar), Western Mountaineering Summerlite Sleeping Bag, Therm-a-Rest Women’s NeoAir XLite, Arc’teryx Sabria Pants, Pivotte Touring Tank, Arêt Basewear Toura Top, Patagonia Performance Better Sweater Hoody, Outdoor Research Filament Down Jacket, Merrell Agility Peak Flex Trail Runners, Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Poles, Chaco Z/1 Sandals