3 years ago we had planned a hiking trip to Zions. Particularly we wanted to hike the Subway/Left Fork Canyon. In preparation for this, we had to procure a variety of "gear" including food, first aid kits, and of course, stylish hiking sandals known as Chacos. These sandals were our hiking foot wear of choice as they are specifically designed for such activities. Plus, I like how they wrap around the big toe. We both got some new Chacos but of course, felt it would be prudent of us not to make the Subway their maiden voyage and thus, broke out ye old Hikes of the Wasatch trail guide to pick a nice short trail to break in our new shoes. Lake Blanche was the winner. It mentioned wild flowers, a sparkling lake at the top (first clue... TOP), and was only about 3 miles (come to find, 3 miles ONE way). And our enthusiastic hikers eye never rolled over the elevation climb of this "easy" hike (2700 ft). We hit the trail around 10:00am that fateful day 3 years ago. Our hike climbed thousands of feet in elevation in only 3 miles and every time we thought it was "just around the corner" we hit another football fields length worth of ascending switchbacks and death climbs. We. Were. Not. Prepared. Words were said... crass words... as we kept praying for the end to come. Once it finally did, it was breahtakingly beautiful and well worth the climb. However, since we had not been very mentally prepared for such a hike, we didn't explore much and rather, rested for an hour and turned around and took on the descent aka the very worst part of the hike. I'd MUCH rather ascend then descend - if you know what I mean. OH and it was hooooooot. So hot. And much of the trail did not boast much tree cover. Of course, we felt really good about ourselves for accomplishing such a surprising feet, regardless of the exhaustion and blistered feet from our "break our shoes in with an easy hike" venture. But we also came out with a goal: "next year, we're going to take that thing on and be prepared for it."
And we did just that. Except this time, even though we were mentally prepared for the ascent, the switchbacks, and the elevation climb, we did not have enough water. I know I know. What kind of hikers are we not having enough water? We both had our camelbaks, but alas, we started a little late in the morning again and ran out of water halfway down the trail... it being very hot and we being very dusty, it was not pleasant. This round we did explore a lot more and discovered this hike is even more of a gem than we'd originally thought. There are several hidden lakes near Lake Blanche (Lillian and Florence respectively), with streams connecting them and flowers, fantastic rock formations, and wild life. Incredible. So even though the hike beat us again that year with our running out of water, we were determined to push through again.
Well last summer I was in Provo and when Death Hike time came around, I actually ended up being in San Francisco. SO! Lets skip right over that year to this year... year 4 I guess it is!
We were going to lick the hike this year. Lick it REAL good! We had snacks, we had plenty of water, we had excellent shoes, sunscreen, cameras, and an 8:00am start. Perfect! Except for... those ominous looking clouds. Hmmm. Well, the ominous looking clouds turned out to be awesome for awhile. It kept the trail nice and cool for the grueling ascent. Another happy discovery was because of the unusually rainy Spring we've been experiencing, the foliage was very abundant and we felt we were bush-walking through a jungle at some points. Another treat was the incredible abundance of pink, orange, white, and yellow wildflowers growing happily on the mountain face. It was so lovely... and then the rain. Just as we reached the top, it started to sprinkle. It wasn't too bad and we didn't mind it much as we continued to cross over the red rock cut by the glacier that created Lake Blanche millions of years ago (I'm such a smarty pants). We approached the lake and had ourselves a little snack time as we observed its wonder yet again. Then, the rain started to come down a bit harder... and the wind picked up a bit... and before long I had goose bumps and was wishing I'd brought a jacket. That cut our sitting still moment short and we decided it best to walk about. We started towards the other two lakes and felt we needed to explore more than we had in previous years. As we were walking, I noticed a "animal" movement not 50 yards ahead of us, "Dude! Look over there at that thing... I know it's weird... but it totally looks like a monkey!" It really did look like a monkey, and I was fascinated by what in the world it could be. Well it scurried off and I was determined to discover how monkeys had found Lake Blanche. We followed it for a time and finally realized it was, in fact, a beaver. I'd never seen a beaver before and was pretty excited about the whole thing. I tried to take some beaver video, but it failed so I didn't. Just think of Narnia and "the Beavers" and that's what it looked like; squat, maybe about 20olbs, and fuzzy. I was pretty excited about the whole thing.
Eventually the rain let up but it remained overcast. To be honest it was perfect hiking weather and though we had hoped to gain some sort of color on our pale skin, it was nice to not worry about the heat. We lounged about the top for awhile and then decided it was time to descend. And it's a good thing we decided when we did - because suddenly the rain returned and the wind picked up something fierce. It was freezing and I'm thinking the whole time "why can't we beat this hike!! There's always SOMETHING!" And of course, the descent is always hell. Ha! It's really rough. I mean - clearly after all the ascending you have to do all the descending, and I always find myself wishing for the thing to just end. Our legs were all sorts of wobbly when we finally make it back to our vehicle - BUT - again it's always well worth it - as the next pics will happily prove:
A bit of the trail... you see how lovely? Yes.
Nik hiking down to Florence... or Lillian... whatever.
Lets say the previous pic was Florence.... and it makes this Lillian.
I would like you to note that this tumbling waterfall was in fact NOT a tumbling waterfall last time I went. It was a trickling waterfall ending in a pool of sun-warmed water and leisure. It's amazing how nature works, isn't it?
Say cheese flowers!
Next year, next year we'll do it ALL perfectly! Nik and I joke that we are going to make a Death Hike Album showing our Death Hike ventures each year... and you'll be able to see our life progress through each pictures. One year men will appear, and then children, and then more children, and then big children and their mens and womens, and then grandchildren, and then dead old people smiling happy amongst the wild flowers as the Death Hike has finally fulfilled it's namesake. Seems about right.