I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite hike in southern Utah. I have loved them all. So many different personalities from the cold dark canyons of Buckskin to the sunny warm glow of little Snow Canyon. Each one has something spectacular to offer, though it’s not always about “The Destination.” Some offer an ever changing variety. For this reason, if forced to pick a favorite, the “Many Pools” hike in eastern Zion has to rank way up there. It’s like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. I did this hike at least twice last year and again this year, and each time the wide span of the canyon opens up a whole new playground.
With each hike into the Many Pools area, I marvel all over again at the sinuous tear-dropped chain of pools that extends down the heart-line of the canyon. Last year some pools were coated in a paper-thin layer of ice. This year, they are adorned with new “texture” in the form of debris from recent rains. Still, on a hot day, these natural pools would have to tempt a cool dip of the feet for all but the greatest of germophobes.
The lack of official “trail” in this canyon always seems to bring out the whimsy in me. It’s like I’m an 8 year old kid playing in the woods of my grandmother’s house all over again, with ramps of sandstone to be scaled, pinnacles to be climbed, hoodoos resembling old forts to explore, and puddles to hop across.
Remembering our “Pleasant Valley Sunday” in Many Pools from last year has the song “Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees” repeating on a continuous loop in my head. A feeling of boundless energy comes over me, and I have the urge to hike further and climb higher. It’s like being in the bottom of a one of those contoured skate parks, with giant sloping sides that offer a peek over the edge… if I can just get enough “air.”
Bobbie and Chris spot a yet unexplored pinnacle. “Should we climb it?” “I don’t see why not. It’s there.” They shinny on up to the top, while Mark sits in the “bleacher seats” high above me, coaching and encouraging me to the top. “Hang to your left where it’s not so steep. You’re almost there!” Once I reach that final step and pull myself up over the summit, Bobbie says “I declare this the picnic table!” and we spread out to enjoy our lunch, all alone on the top of the pinnacle, save for one big horn sheep scampering across the canyon. Aaaahhh, yesssss! It’s good indeed to “Find Your Park!”
Another of my southern Utah favorites is the intimate little Snow Canyon. This Utah State Park will always have a special place in my history book as it was my first “red rock experience.” I first visited this canyon back in 2006 over a long Thanksgiving holiday. At the time, I was in the most intensely stressful job of my life, managing a team of eight people in Product Development for business travel reporting software. On the verge of a mental meltdown, I booked a therapeutic getaway at the plush Red Mountain Spa just outside the Snow Canyon State Park boundary. Although I had done quite a lot of hiking on my 2001 RTW sojourn, this was my first “hiking destination” trip since that time.
I still remember the soothing, mind-clearing feeling of hiking up over the petrified sand dunes during that cold, crisp Thanksgiving weekend. Being even more navigationally challenged back then than I am now, I stuck to the guided hikes, which left each morning at sunrise when the fog in my brain was only eclipsed by the fog of my breath. Having spent months of consecutive 10 hour days in a cubicle, hiking the Petrified Dune in Snow Canyon was a monumental climb for me back then.
As we revisited the Petrified Dune of Snow Canyon this week, I stood on top, looked around and wondered, “Where was the mountain I climbed back then?” We all had a laugh and reckoned it was like a trip back to grandmother’s house as an adult. Everything from those days now seems so small in comparison! But just like the memories from my Little Granny’s home located literally “through the woods,” it still offers great memories of quiet escapes and havens of rest and comfort.
(Post Script: The Snow Canyon hike didn’t stop at the Petrified Dune. For a “petrifying account” of our continued hike through Padre Canyon, check out Box Canyon Mark’s latest post on “On Risk/Reward.”)