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Zion Traverse

February 11, 2013

Turning corners and navigating terrain, trail runners often find themselves startled by dramatic vistas, intense native interactions with flora and fauna, and otherwise spectacular moments of elicit awareness.  This periodic astonishment and inexplicable amazement almost becomes an expected and normed experience for trail runners, including myself. Fortunately, the Trans-Zion run is not devoid of any of these transcending moments.

Last week, a cartel of impressive runners, sharing the likeness of Hermes himself, reached out and invited me to join them in a casual 48 mile adventure transecting, Zion National Park, which is oft referred to as The Zions by the LDS locals. To my dismay, I did not take any time to sample a Mormon tea, which are prolific in the area. However, we did take in the astonishing scenery of the La Verkin Creek, Kolob Arch, Kolobs Canyons, the Hop Valley, Wildcat Canyon, Lava Point, the West Rim, views of Angels Landing, the Three Patriarchs, Weeping Rock and Jolley Gulch.  So many inexplicable moments are still echoing in my collective memory, if for nothing else I will be BLOGGING this for my own sake. If you are looking for some other folks have detailed the route, including perhaps a much better description then I might attempt to articulate. ………

For me, the adventure actualized many hours before the run. To the dismay of my lovely and abundantly gracious wife, I left immediately after work for The Zions. Fortunately, I was able to negotiate the company of Matt Hart for the drive to The Zions. After exchanging a few small conversational oddities, we dove into more elaborate conversations of theology, implications of institutional religion, scarcity and living lives of introspection and inspiration. Having significantly differing perspectives, we humorously engaged in invigorating dialogue that I can h=only hope Matt enjoyed as much as I did. SO enthralled by this verbal ping-pong, I missed the exit, thus extending our discussion and subsequently missing dinner with the already arrived constituents in Sprindale. Circumlocating our selves, we eventually reached our destination, a holiday oasis at the feet of The Zions. Through the generosity of Jay Aldous, winner of the Zion100 amongst many other accomplishments, donated us of a prize hotel stay for our adventure. The amenities were exceptional, I would highly recommend any to stay at the Cable Mountain Lodge, whether running Trans Zion or simply as a destination.  Much sympathy and applause is awarded to Meghan Hicks, writer/contributor/senior editor at iRunFar , for her amenable attitude while having to negotiate the overt masculinity of 5 guys in short shorts, exuding repulsive sounds and smells, while stretching and performing yoga positions amidst awkward conversations of bleeding nipples, sausages, and such. As we finally wound down in preparation for the run, we cast lots for beds, while Meghan volunteered sleeping closest to the door (perhaps out of trepidation). To my advantage, I cast a spot in the master bed, with Ben Lewis, one hunk of a man=). Setting an early departure time, we quickly nestled into our luxurious beds, dreaming of breathtaking vistas.

All of us agreed that a restless night was a perfect prelude to the adventure we were about to partake upon. Driving to the Eastern most trailhead at Lee Pass, we shared coffee, thanks to Jason, stories and jokes to warm ourselves on this brisk morning. To be expected, we required a respite before our predawn start. Even at 6am the trailhead, along with the La Verkin trail, were extremely easy to find, except one section where a stream had washed out an otherwise noticeable trail.  The trail descends quickly along several sets of stairs and then along the creek bed of what is called Timber Creek. Much of this portion we ran in the early dusk, but has the sun gently rose we turned heading up stream the La Verkin Creek. I especially enjoyed this portion of the run as the sun shone upon steep walled canyons rose above us the creek babbled a beautiful tune. I for sure was barely cognicent of the slightly gentle slope to the intersection with Kolob Arch.

The side trip to Kolob arch was an excellent diversion from our route. The arch itself is not exceptionally spectacular, at least in comparison to many other arches in Utah, however it is noteable nonetheless. Kolob Arch is the second largest arch in the world, second to Landscape Arch in Arches National Park. The trail leading to the arch was enjoyable for its technical aspects and was a nice contrast to the remaining sections of the run which are largely on sand washes, paved trails and well buffed single or doubletrack.

Leaving the arch we climbed out of La Verkin Creek to Hop Valley. The gentle climb was quickly rewarded with an awesome descent into the open sand washes of the Hop Valley. The spectacular open floor stood adjacent to 500 ft. red walls. To all of our surprise, the cold evening temperatures made for easy crossings of the creek and sand washes. Even those more familiar with the terrain, made note of the ease with which it was to cross due to the frozen sand. This valley was immaculate and only surpassed, in my humble opinion, by the West Rim Trail and the main canyon trails. (Here I need to apologize, as I am getting bored of hearing my own voice, I feel obligated to just wrap this damn thing up. Feel free imagine the remaining aspects of the run. Or I would rather hope that you create your own memories of these trails with friends)

Trans Zion Run from Peter Stoughton on Vimeo.

However, as I suggested earlier, inexplicable moments are by nature unexpected and elicit awareness. For me while the run was an adventure, I prefer to reflect on the adventure that is to have begun and is still reverberating into my psyche. Much of this I can give gratitude to those who shared their journeys with me, especially Ben Lewis and Matt Hart, whom have re-inspired me to investigate my cerebral inclinations through the vices of literature. Take a moment to read their recent posts on what these Runners Read!

–       What Matt Reads

–       What Ben Reads

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