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A Caterpillar to The Narrows' Butterfly (Zion NP)

Sunday, 18 September 2022, LAX

Time for a curtain call in Canyon Country, one more morning in nature before heading home. Our target: the Kolob Canyons in the northwest corner of Zion NP, 20 miles north on I-15 from Hurricane. I visited here once in the 80s, but my archived pictures show a canyon hidden in fog. Today promised a much nicer day.

We stopped at the remote Visitor Center to get our bearings and recommendations. "It used to be that very few people made it up here," the ranger told us. "But to avoid the crowds in Zion Canyon, more people are discovering this beautiful corner. In the last few years, about 15% of people touring Zion check us out."

To our query about hiking trails, she told us this corner holds three: 14 miles round-trip through "some of the most colorful canyon walls in Southwestern Utah" to Kolob Arch, once thought to be the world's largest freestanding arch. (Sounds awesome, but too long for today, said Papa Bear.) A half-mile jaunt to Timber Creek Overlook. (Too short, says Mama Bear.) Finally, a 5-mile roundtrip with minimal elevation gain, past two homesteader cabins to Double Arch Alcove. Lace up your hiking boots, Baby Bear!

One mile down the dead-end road brought us to the Taylor creek trailhead, with several cars already parked there. The trail immediately descends a log staircase to the creek before levelling off. The stream had only a trickle of water coming down;

near the top it dried up completely. Glimpses of cliffs through the trees promised wonderful scenery to come.

We quickly crossed the creek, easily finding a rock to get us across.

The trail re-crossed it, again and again as we entered the canyon. In the spring, the flow must increase considerably, and the Zion website warns you to expect to get your feet wet. A simile occurred to me: if The Narrows is the flashy butterfly of the park, then Taylor Creek must be the caterpillar - an attraction that has yet to reach its potential.

As we pushed deeper into the canyon, the cliffs grew closer and taller.

We passed the first cabin about one mile in; it sat in a state of arrested decay. You couldn't enter, but could look inside through the windows. No furnishings inside, just rotting floorboards.

I lost track of how many times we crossed the creek - quite a few.

At this low water, we never risked getting our feet wet. At one spot, a recent storm had washed out a few feet of trail, but we easily detoured around it.

After passing the second cabin, I noticed a large arch/overhang forming in the cliff wall to my left. It impressed me, and I kept hiking, hoping for a better view. False alarm! The real reward lay to my right.

I rounded the final bend, and ... there it was. An alcove hollowed out from an overhang.

Swirling rock canted at angles.

The interplay of red and white stone, stained by seeping water, mingling with the green of ground cover.

A single tree, straining up to grab glimpses of sunlight.

The scene mesmerized me. I wandered back and forth, shooting photos. After several minutes soaking in the atmosphere, we moved on, letting the next group of hikers enjoy the solitude we'd experienced.

On our way downstream, we passed several hikers heading up the trail, and we assured them the alcove was well worth the effort. The changing light as the sun rose in the sky changed the feel of the canyon as we trod back down the trail.

Without the 'surprise' of numerous creek crossings, I enjoyed the creekside scenery for its sense of peace.

After the last crossing, I headed back up the steps, Bill close behind. When I stopped suddenly, he nearly ran into me. "Is that what I think it is?" I asked him.

Yes: the first time I've seen a tarantula in the wild. We confirmed it with the ranger, who said they are busy mating right now. looking for love on all the right trails.

For our curtain call, we drove to the overlook at the end of the road. There the Kolob Canyons stretched across the sky, hinting at the wonders lurking inside.

And that brought the park part of this journey to a conclusion. We now endured a long drive back to Las Vegas, where we encountered a Sunday afternoon traffic jam en route to the airport. Before I boarded the plane taking me to my LAX red-eye flight back home, I handled the last obligatory bit of business, donating my $5 to the gambling gods. The slot machine may have displayed a losing screen, but this trip ended with three cherries!

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