Zion Canyoneering II: Pine Scented Train

*If you have not read Zion Canyoneering I: Key to Narnia, please do. This is part II of that trip.

Hungry. We'd planned on an long day and eating dinner in town, but long became prolonged . Arriving at the truck half way between sunset and sunrise meant there wasn't an open door to be found in town, nor a warm meal.

Back at camp, Keri and I fired up our heater while warming up leftovers and took hot showers. We cracked a beer. Maybe two.

Looking through Rita the Casita's windows, Travis and Amanda dumped anything wet on the ground and climbed into their truck bed. They wrapped themselves in puffy down everything while wolfing smoked salmon from a foil packet and yogurt for dinner. Keri and I could see their breath.

For a second, I almost felt bad and considered inviting them inside. A gong from the tailgate squelched the thought and their lights. Exhausted.

We initially planned to complete our longest, most challenging canyon on day three of our trip, giving Amanda and Travis ample time to gain experience and confidence. After our extended foray, however, we agreed as a group not to set any pre-dawn alarms and enjoy a shorter variation of the original plan. Following a solid night's rest and bountiful morning sun, it would have been easy to second guess our change of plans, but a flat front tire helped deflate that potentially poor decision.

When we did arrive at the upper trailhead for the Subway, Zion's single most popular canyon, it was devoid of other vehicles. Our luck from previous days remained and the uncontrolled giggling echoing throughout the canyon was our's alone. Conditions were simply spectacular and it is easy to understand the Subway's popularity. Deviating from our original goal was well worth the cost, as we had no shortage of time to enjoy light and geology that can only be called ethereal.

Eventually we did have to walk out and back to reality, even arriving to town before restaurants closed.

Travis and Amanda, though full of tacos and guacamole, decided they still had an appetite for one additional canyon. Something shorter, something to be a cherry on top.

We snagged one final permit.

Merely a candy wrappers toss from the road, Pine Creek offered up quick access to bigger rappels, darker passages, and eye-popping geological cathedrals. Keri and I had been there before, a year previous, and had fond memories we were eager to share.

Our first trip down followed a fall monsoon and we swam 90% of the route. How would Pine Creek be this time?

Much drier, as we discovered before our first rappel, only minutes from where we'd started. In a spot we swam across last year, we instead dropped 6 feet into a pothole before climbing out the far side and tossing our rope. Stumps that had been half covered in water, requiring slick problem solving  now levitated 10 feet overhead, presenting no challenge.

In other spots, what had been cold, easy swimming were now slick-sided bowls that needed a friend's knee and major oomph to overcome. Though vastly different, Pine Creek was no less fun and just as memorable. 

Our time spent floating together in a clear, spring-fed pool proceeding the final rappel was more filling than any palatable dessert could ever be.


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