I can’t remember, but I am almost positive that the second canyon I ever did was Pine Creek Canyon. I didn’t remember much from my first time. I only remembered dropping into the first little water hole, the cathedral, and the rappel at the very end. The rappel anchors were located way out on the end of a rock that overhung a 100 foot drop. Sounds awesome to most people, however I am terrified of heights. Which is why when I did Pine Creek the next spring it was the last time I would do it for 8 years.
One of my great friends, Dawn, planned a trip to Pine Creek. She invited me to the event and then happened to change my RVSP to ‘Going’, which obviously meant I had to go. I made it perfectly clear how bad I hated Pine Creek, and Dawn gave me the ‘check-in-the-care-file-look’, which pretty much sealed my trip to Zion. The problem with Dawn is that she is so damn likeable. You give her what she wants, because you are afraid of hurting her feelings. Combine that with the fact that my wife can’t stop thinking about Canyoneering and my fate was sealed.
We ended up meeting with the rest of the group at the Zion Ponderosa, an amazing place to stay in the Zion area. It has campgrounds, cabins, a zip line and swimming pool. Its great to be able to do a canyon, shower and sit in a hot tub all in the same day. We didn’t get there until late because we left late and decided to hike up the Zion Narrows before reporting to the campsite. We were going to have a full group and all but one person was already there.
We got up early in the morning and headed to the beginning point which is just after the eastern entrance to the Zion Tunnel. During the busy hours of the day, rangers stop traffic heading through the Zion Tunnel. The tunnel which was created in the early 1900’s isn’t big enough to allow several of the modern RV’s through at the same time. In order to accommodate the traffic, they only allow traffic to drive through in one direction at a time. This leads to long back-ups on both sides of the tunnel when traffic isn’t allowed through. The best part about this is that the tourists get to watch you change into canyoneering gear while they are waiting for their turn to drive through. Not knowing about canyoneering, they have no idea why you are changing into wetsuits and helmets during 110 degree weather in the middle of the desert. They look at you like you are a fucking alien.
From what I remember about Pine Creek, is that I didn’t really like the canyon. However, similar to Baptist Draw, I forgot a few things. Pine Creek has a lot of cool deep narrows, sandwiched in between a couple sections of rappels. The first section features several single or dual stage raps. The first two times we did them one of the raps was a dual stage. This time a large log had been washed into the area and provided an anchor for another rap that broke the dual stage into two separate raps. The second dual rap, is often split up into two raps. The anchor, for the second part of the rap is strategically placed in a slick zone. Several people have slipped and fallen trying to switch ropes here. Like the two times before, I set it up as a single rap so people would not have to switch ropes. The bottom of this rap ends into a cathedral chamber.
The cathedral is almost always full of water and debris that has been washed in from flash floods. When there is a lot of debris, it has a tendency to look like you are rappelling into beef stew. This time there were only a few logs and the water was deep. Some of the most amazing canyoneering pictures have been taken in this area. I remembered this area pretty well from my first two trips. It was the area after that I had forgotten. Immediately after the cathedral, there is a small down climb into another pool of water. The next section was dark and had deep narrows that never seemed to get more than 15 feet wide. Streaks of light would reach through the walls to the floor in several places, making for a surreal feel.
After several minutes of walking along the canyon floor, we came to another short rap that I had forgotten. It was only about 10-15 ft into another little pool of water. It was only a hundred yards after that when we came to the second to last rappel, a 60 footer in full sunlight. Immediately after that was the final rappel, the 100 footer with an anchor in a crazy place, the one that I didn’t like. However, now there were two anchors in two different places. We decided to try the new anchor that was a little bit up canyon but was still a free hanging rap.
The legendary, Max Power, wanted to go first. He had a camera and wanted to get pictures of everyone as they descended. Max didn’t get his wish because another person really wanted to be first. While the first person was descending, Max decided to change into his ‘surprise outfit’ which consisted of a thong and a cape. We could only imagine what the first person down would think as Max descended the rope.
The rappel wasn’t as bad as I remembered. It was far more pretty than the other rappel location that was 20 feet farther down canyon. However, it didn’t make as great action pictures as the other one rappel location would have. We gathered for a rest and a beer before we headed down the 2 mile boulder-hopping-slog that was required to get back to our cars. Occasionally along the way we encountered some swimming holes in which everyone would stop and cool off. Some people were jumping off boulders and others were just relaxing.
Once we reached the parking area, the tourists there asked a lot of questions. Why the helmet? What kind of hike were you on? How long did it take? Its something that you get used to if you do a lot of canyons in Zion. Even though I had a great trip, I still don’t like the hassle associated with canyoneering in Zion. The canyons are amazing but too much work goes into preparing just for the opportunity.
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