October 27th – Work Party – Wild Animal Corridor – Cache In Trash Out Event

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Our 10th annual Wildlife Corridor work party was very special indeed. Just two months before the event, our Work Party chair Mike Howard, lost his life in a freak accident in the Colorado River rapids. Mike died a hero, saving his beloved wife Cheri. Our work party was dedicated to Mike’s memory. Cheri was with us and shared some very heartfelt inspiring words.

We finished the Corridor cleanup in just over an hour, painting over the graffiti and collecting 6 large bags of garbage. After heading back down the trail and arriving at our cars, we all shared fond memories of Mike, telling great stores about what he meant to us. We all miss you, Mike!

October 20th – Camp Three Falls to Lilly Meadows

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Nine hikers carpooled to the entrance to Camp Three Falls on Boy Scout Camp Road in Lockwood Valley on a very nice morning. We began our hike along the lower end of the North Fork [of Lockwood Creek] Trail (22W02). At first the trail was a dirt road that led through the Boy Scout Camp; we followed the road as it continued through low hills dotted with pine trees and interesting rock formations until we reached North Falls, currently only a small trickle of water.

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We then carefully followed a narrow trail as it climbed up the mountainside to skirt the nearly dry waterfall; this took us to a vantage point that provided us with a fine view to the southeast. The trail then followed Lockwood Creek upstream through a surprisingly verdant narrow canyon populated with heavy brush in the streambed, though no water was visible. Eventually we emerged into the lovely pine forest surrounding Lilly Meadows where we took advantage of a picnic table with benches and a couple of well-placed logs for our lunch/rest break. We had not planned to continue further up the mountain so we returned the way we had come. There were campers (possibly not boy scouts) evident in the Boy Scout Camp as we passed through it to reach our vehicles. We returned home having completed a very pleasant 7.7-mile hike with 1,370’ of elevation gain/loss.

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October 13th – Zion National Park – The Narrows in the Virgin River

After breakfast, several of the participants took the park shuttle from the Visitor Center to the Temple of Sinawava stop where they hiked one mile along paved Riverside Walk to the beginning of the hike in the river. After ensuring that their gear, particularly their hiking poles and footwear, was in working order and that their valuables were stowed safely in dry sacks, they entered the North Fork of the Virgin River and headed upstream.

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The water level in the river was relatively low when compared to its level in September, 2009 when we last visited Zion NP. The canyon’s sheer walls, carved and smoothed by the Virgin River over eons, were stunningly colorful as they twisted into the distance; there are many hanging gardens clinging to the sides of the canyon. Sometimes there is rocky land that can be walked on for short distances on one side or the other of the river requiring river crossings over submerged slippery rocks with an insistent current tugging at them; frequently it is necessary to walk in the river because the water spans the entire channel. When there is land alongside the river, there are tall trees and bushes and sometimes a short trail on the sandy land. NOTE: Big Spring, a lovely set of three cascades, one above the other, is the furthest point hikers are allowed to go without a special permit. Along the way the river passes confluences with Mystery Canyon and Orderville Canyon. The Zion Narrows clearly deserves its reputation as a world-class slot-canyon river walk. After completing their hike, the participants returned to the campground, broke camp, and headed home (as had the other participants who chose not to hike in the Virgin River).

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October 12th – Bryce Canyon National Park – Figure 8 Loop

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We left the campground early for the two-hour trip to the trailhead at Sunset Point (8,010’) in Bryce Canyon National Park; we traveled east on Hwy 9, north on Hwy 89, east on Hwy 12, and then south on Hwy 63 (which runs through the park) to the Visitor Center. After exploring the Visitor Center, we moved our vehicles to a nearby parking lot and took the park shuttle to the Sunset Campground stop from which we hiked over to the Sunset Point trailhead where we stared in wonder at the beauty of the unique landscape spread out below us to the east.

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It was a chilly morning (perfect for hiking) as we began our descent via the Navajo Trail into the wonderland of hoodoos and other colorful formations that awaited us; we passed such notable formations as Thor’s Hammer, The Temple of Osiris, and Sinking Ship on our way down into the canyon. This unique area is indescribably beautiful and must be seen in person. Reaching the bottom, we took a connector trail to the Peekaboo Loop. We began hiking the up-and-down loop, passing stunning scenery such as The Cathedral and the Wall of Windows, grateful for the high-capacity memory in today’s digital cameras. Just before we reached the junction with the Bryce Point Trail, we took a rest/lunch break. We then finished the Peekaboo Loop, passing The Alligator and the Fairy Castle among other sights. We then retraced our steps on the connector trail and began the climb to Sunrise Point (8,000’), inspecting the Queen’s Garden along the way. After admiring the near-and-distant views from Sunrise Point, we hiked over to the Sunrise Point park shuttle stop and returned to the Visitor Center stop (where we availed ourselves of its amenities). After retrieving our vehicles, we headed back to the Watchman Campground having hiked 7.5 miles with an elevation gain of 1,659’.

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October 11th – Zion National Park – Tourist Day

Rain fell from about 4 AM to late morning, delaying activities; leaks were discovered in several participant’s tents, requiring water removal and the drying of the tents’ contents. Several of the participants explored the Lower Emerald Pool, the Court of the Patriarchs, and the Zion Human History Museum; others explored the nearby town of Springdale, Utah or rested to recover from the previous two days of strenuous hiking. One couple drove over to Bryce Canyon NP and observed snow there (it had melted before the next day).

October 10th – Zion National Park – Observation Point

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After breakfast we took the park shuttle from the Visitor Center to the Weeping Rock stop where we began hiking the East Rim Trail on the shady east side of the canyon. The trail climbed hundreds of feet up to Echo Canyon via a series of paved switchbacks, passing the short trail to Weeping Rock and the Hidden Canyon trailhead (which was closed) along the way.

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Echo Canyon is a narrow hanging canyon that leads northeast away from Zion Canyon; it is a gorgeous canyon that offers stunning rock formations. Leaving Echo Canyon, the trail rises less gently as it approaches a junction with the Observation Point Trail after which it rises fairly steeply via sun-drenched switchbacks to a higher view of Zion Canyon. The trail gains a little more elevation in its final mile as it wends its way across a plateau to Observation Point which provides spectacular views (perhaps the best in the park) of the length of Zion Canyon including a downward view of Angels Landing. After relaxing, sightseeing, and photo-taking, the group returned to the park shuttle stop and returned to camp having hiked 8 miles with a 2,236’ elevation gain.

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October 9th – Zion National Park – Angel’s Landing and the West Rim Trail

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After a quick breakfast we caught an early park shuttle at the Visitor Center and rode up-canyon to the Grotto stop where we began hiking the West Rim Trail. After we crossed the footbridge, the trail headed northward along the west side of the Virgin River, then northwest via a series of paved switchbacks rising hundreds of feet in about a mile.

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We then entered Refrigerator Canyon, a hanging canyon between Angels Landing and Cathedral Mountain, which provides a cool respite from the morning sun. Soon we reached Walter’s Wiggles, a series of 21 cleverly engineered short switchbacks leading to a saddle known as Scout Lookout (5,370’) at the junction of the West Rim Trail and the Angel’s Landing Trail; a privy was available at this point. Half of our group then undertook the final climb to the top of Angels Landing (5,785’) which has a well-deserved reputation for its rigor and its danger – the very narrow trail rises steeply and there are vertical drops of hundreds of feet on both sides it; a fall would surely result in death. A reassuring safety measure is the presence of sections of a single chain that the hiker can hold on to on most, but not all, of the trail. There were already some hikers descending while we ascended, but there were lots more coming up as we descended. The stunning views of Zion Canyon and the surrounding mountains made the climb well-worthwhile. After resting, photo-taking, and sightseeing, we returned carefully to Scout Lookout and then returned to camp. The other half of our group had continued along the West Rim Trail, bypassing Angel’s Landing. After hiking varying distances along that trail, they returned to the Grotto stop and took the park shuttle back down-canyon. The hike to Angel’s Landing and back was only 5.4 miles round trip with an elevation gain/loss of about 1,500’ but it’s difficulty made it exhausting. NOTE: We were fortunate that the West Rim Trail (including access to Angel’s Landing) was reopened on September 24th after being closed for several months following a landslide.

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October 8th – Zion National Park – Arrival and Watchman Trail

10 Rancho Simi Trailblazers gathered at the Watchman Campground in southern Zion National Park for a week of camping and hiking in one of the most beautiful spots on earth. After setting up camp (3,970’), we walked over to the Visitor Center, then along a path next to the Virgin River to the Watchman Trail trailhead as part of a 3.5-mile warm-up hike with about 400’ of elevation gain.

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The trail climbed part-way up red-sandstone Bridge Mountain via a series of switchbacks, eventually reaching a short loop (4,340’) with a good view of the Watchman monolith as well as other nearby mountains. We returned to camp, had dinner, and turned in early.

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October 6th – Long Canyon to Challenger Park Loop

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26 hikers gathered at the Long Canyon Trail trailhead parking lot at Wood Ranch in Simi Valley on a mild autumn morning. We began hiking the Long Canyon trail as it climbed steeply 0.7 mile to a trail junction atop a ridge overlooking western Simi Valley to the north as well as the Lang Ranch Open Space to the south.

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We then followed a “use” trail down to the dirt road in Oak Canyon while enjoying views of the surrounding mountain slopes. After a short break we headed eastward up a dirt connector road to a ridge that provided nice views of western Simi Valley. We continued along the dirt road as it dropped into Montgomery Canyon and headed toward (but not quite to) Long Canyon Road (NOTE: 5 hikers decided to proceed a short distance to Long Canyon Road at that point and head back to the parking lot). The rest of us then followed a couple of trails over to Challenger Park which was deserted except for one man training a horse. After crossing Long Canyon Road and following an equestrian trail for a while, we climbed steeply up the Canyon View Trail which provided views of the surrounding area including Bard Reservoir and followed it as it undulated along a ridgeline back to the trailhead parking lot, completing a 7.6-mile loop hike with 1,687’ of elevation gain/loss on a pleasant morning for hiking.

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