I mentioned in my last post that there were two places I wanted to visit in Kanaraville. The Red Ledge RV Park would provide the best possible position to explore them both. I knew the park was within easy driving distance for the Tracker to make it to Cedar Breaks National Monument. What I didn’t realize is that it would be within walking distance of my second destination, Kanarraville Falls.
I wanted to visit Kanaraville Falls during my 2015 visit to Zion. But the weather turned cold too fast, and the conversation fell flat at the first mention of “…but you have to get your feet wet.” No amount of lobbying could persuade any of “the gang” to cast their vote my way when planning our hikes. So with this being the season of “seeing new places,” I set my intentions to do it this year regardless…even if it means going it alone.
I talk to Kevin, the Red Ledge campground host at length about this hike. When he’s not working in the office, he leads first timers on the hike. He assures me I’ll be fine, saying he recently took a 94 year old man into the falls. He gives me lots of pointers on how best to dress for the cold, what landmarks to recognize, and at what point to give up on keeping my feet dry. And then he does what no other camp host has ever done before….he says, “Check in with me when you are back please, so I will know that you made it back safely.” Filing a flight plan with Kevin makes me feel much more comfortable about going into the slot canyon, up ladders and into waterfalls alone.
Kevin also tells me “If you want to make it to the falls, it’s a ‘wet hike.’ Give up all hope of avoiding it.” I am still plagued by my nagging “cave cold” I caught in Great Basin, sounding like I just cut back to a pack a day. So my better judgment is questioning a hike where staying dry is not an option. Just the thought of hiking for most of a six mile hike in sloshy shoes is giving me “cold feet.” The high for the day is only supposed to be 57 degrees. But one of the benefits of hiking solo is, I can abort the hike at any time without inconveniencing others. I tell myself I will wait until the middle of the day until it warms up, but truthfully, I am working on getting up my nerve.
It’s only three blocks from the Red Ledge RV Park to the trailhead and by walking, I save the $10 parking fee. Kevin tells me that crowds in the summer can number up into the thousands, and the town had to construct designated parking lots to keep people from parking on personal property. There are two large parking lots on either side of the road for $10 per car. But today, there are only 3 cars in the lot.
It’s a mile and a half up a dirt road until the canyon starts to close in alongside Kanarranville Creek. It’s possible to boulder hop over the first half a dozen creek crossings, but then I meet another couple on the trail, and ask “How much further before keeping my feet dry is no longer an option?” They tell me the slot canyon, filled with ankle-deep water, is only 15 minutes up the trail. So I just decide “screw it” and wade on in. It’s not as cold as I anticipated at first, but the further I go up the canyon, the colder it gets.
The first slot canyon is dramatic in its steep walls and narrow passageway. The undulating sculptured sandstone on opposing sides of the canyon walls always beckon me in, like being absorbed into the mouth of Mother Earth. It’s not long until I come to the first ladder, which is a series of aluminum “steps” bolted onto a tree log. The log is sturdy, and the climb is relatively easy with a rope bolted into the wall for balance. So I decide to continue.
Kevin has recommended that I go beyond the second waterfall, taking time to descend down from the main path to view the cascades. Then continue on through yet another slot canyon to what he calls “the third waterfall,” which is the more scenic of the two ladder falls. But this one appears to be missing a few rungs. And some are wooden, not aluminum, pivoting on only one nail. I decide to brave it anyway, despite the fact that it is less secure, more water gushing over, and the rungs are spaced impossibly far apart without a serious hamstring stretch. I make it to the top of the second ladder, feeling pretty good about my conquest until I look on the internet afterward to see the more primitive ladders used 3 to 4 years ago, barely more than a bent tree limb. By comparison, this one looks like a Home Depot Deluxe model.
I continue on up the canyon as the scenery continues to unfold beneath the tall walls now glowing from the afternoon sun, reflecting back copper light on the creek. But in all honesty, getting back down that second ladder is really nagging at me. And having gotten a late start due to my trying to get up my nerve, I have approached my turn time. I’ve been hiking for 3 miles now, at least half of that through frigid water with toes so numb, I am starting to lose feeling and agility. I am surprised my cold feet have carried me this far!
Once out of the water, I pick up the pace, and it doesn’t take long for my Popsicle Toes to thaw. I make it back to the outskirts of town within signal range to check in with Kevin just as he’s closing up shop. I tell him “I’ve made it back to the water tanks at the top of the hill, and I’m on my way back, soon to be safe and sound!”
And just in case you are wondering…If my friends were to change their minds and decide to brave the cold, wet feet, would I ever go back? Well, let’s just say this is not where the story “ends.” 😉