I’ve heard a lot of information on the hike to the Subway. Most of it was bad. I’ve heard it was steep. I’ve heard horror stories of the water levels. I’ve heard tales of not making it back for dark, and not being able finding the route. It’s long. It’s hard to keep on track. It’s slippery. Everything built me up to fear this hike.
Well at 6am on Thursday morning Rob and I set off to find out for ourselves. The view 15-minutes from the trailhead, just before you descend into the canyon is amazing. We didn’t have great clouds or anything…but just to sit for a moment and look out at the red rocked canyon, laying ahead of you is stunning. The drop down to the water along the canyon IS steep, But unmanageable? No. It takes a bit of time, and some scooting in places…but really it’s quite easy, and not nearly as scary as I had figured it would be. No real treacherous areas near sheer drops offs or anything. 15-minutes of descent and you’re at creek level.
Then it’s up stream. We both had special boots and pant set ups…so water wasn’t going to be a big issue. Though the hike could be done without special pants (the boots are WAY helpful) however, we wanted to be able to take the easiest route possible. When it was easier to trek through water…we did. When it was easier to go around…we did.
The hike is about 4-5 miles each way. The first 3 miles are pretty dull, comparatively speaking. Then you reach the first set of cascades, which is slightly deceiving. If you’ve seen as many photos of this hike as I have….it’s easy to think that this first set of cascades is THE set of cascades that everyone stops to photograph….right before the entrance to The Subway. These cascades, while pretty, are NOT those cascades that everyone normally photographs. They are about a mile from those cascades.
None the less, we shot a few images before proceeding on, thinking we would be coming to the subway at any moment. When we hit more cascades about 30 minutes later, I was a bit thrown off. It’s always kind of funny when you think you’re at one area, and turns out you’re not…and the area you’re at is FAR cooler than the area you thought it was it originally. Once you hit the real cascades, then the area becomes amazing. There’s a slew of areas available to photograph, including the cascades, and ’The Crack.’ This is all before you even get to ’The Subway’ proper…..which is why you made the hike in the first place.
Seeing The Subway in person is so much better than seeing it in photographs. You’re finally there, looking at this place you’ve been thinking about forever. The Subway for me was totally backwards of how I thought it was. TO get to the ’typical’ view of the subway…you have to walk up into it, and then turn around and face the direction you came from. Then you go…”AH-HA….NOW I recognize it.”
The area is also dangerously slick. I was having a bit of traction issue even with 5-10 canyoneering shoes on. It really is like an elephant blew his nose all over the rocks in there.
I think everyone has ideas of ‘When I go to The Subway, I’m going to find a new and exciting comp…that hasn’t been done before!” You think that…but then you get there, and really there’s NOT a lot of options. It’s about 15 degrees colder in ‘The Subway’ than it is outside…which makes focusing on compositions a bit tougher. I’ve seen a few different shots from folks like Floris and Kevin McNeal that I really like…but for the most part…You’re getting your own versions of the same shots everyone else has. You think, “I’ll come back when…there’s more water, snow, more leaves, ice, etc” I found one composition I’d like to get, but I was unable to scale the wall to get it…so maybe sometime when I’m a bit more ambitious and bring a ladder…I’ll give it a go…
We saw only 2 other people while we were in The Subway. One of the poor guys found out the hard way how slippery the rocks were. He ate stone in a hard, unpleasant way. I felt bad for him…not only did he get wet the places he’d hoped to keep dry, but he fell in front of all of us. Including his friend…who, if he is anything like me and my crew…would NOT ever let him live it down. It had to hurt too…even though he tried to hide it. Rob wanted to leave shortly after that…as did I. We both had horrible thoughts of one of these old guys breaking a hip or back down there. Then it would fall on us to save them.
We didn’t feel like playing rescue, so we bolted.
The hike back out is less fun. You’ve seen the good things, and now are trying to remain focused so you don’t twist an ankle, or miss your trail back to the top. We did find some very cool dinosaur prints on the way back…those were interesting…for 5 minutes or so. The hike back seems far longer than the hike in. We kept thinking, ‘We should be there by now.”
Eventually we were ‘There’ which meant we had to hike BACK to the top of the ridge…which, while not any fun at all…was less unpleasant than I had been told it was. The hike up from Havasu Canyon, or Plateau Point is 3x as rough. This was 20 minutes of pain….the others take hours. It helped that it was only in the 60s outside…
Once back at the top we made another go at photographing ‘The Watchmen’ in Zion…which sucked. The sky teased more this night than the previous…and left us with a dull grey sky. Mike Jones was going to be meeting us around 9pm that night, and while he told us he was bringing a crock-pot full of food…and NOT TO EAT. We had hiked almost 10 miles that day on nothing more than beef jerky, and some snacks. We were hungry.
After complaining on Facebook how horrible my Mexican food was…I was pleased to receive some valuable information from my friend Sean who recommended the ‘Zion Pizza and Noodle House’
Funny, but I had eaten there about 19 years earlier….and didn’t remember it until I was inside. The food there is plentiful…and very good. Plus they had a great beer menu…which, after a long day was just what the Dr. ordered. We finished dinner, and then relaxed by the fireplace in the coffee shop next to the restaurant. Rob made a comment to a lady there, simply asking her what language she was speaking. This got us both dirty looks from her boyfriend who looked like the lovechild between Cro-Magnon man and the lead singer for Coheed and Cambria. This was unpleasant, and we decided to leave to meet Mike at the ‘Terrific free campground’ he recommended.
There’s a little area about 15 miles from the park entrance. It’s where the cheap-o’s sleep. Being as we opted to sleep for free whenever, and however possible…this place was perfect. Even if the dirt was so fine it made me fear I would get stuck if it began to rain.
Mike arrived a little after 8:30...and as promised had brought a crock pot full of food. We were still hungry, and helped Mikey with the food. After dinner his dog Spot ran off…and Mike spent some time trying to find her. When she came back she was so happy she humped Mike’s leg. He let her. He always lets her. I’m not sure who has more issues. Mike or the dog.
The plan for the next day was to hike ’The Narrows’, however weather was not looking promising…so we decided that if the weather wasn’t cooperating….we’d spend the day in Zion and make a decision at mid-day whether we wanted to stick around…or head out to greener pastures.
A little after 9:30 it began to drizzle rain. This made me nervous…so to avoid having to think about it. I went to sleep. I just resound myself that Mike would tow me out if the Prius got stuck in mud. Plus I was exhausted….it was a long day. Mike and Rob stayed up to chat a bit longer.
I woke around midnight…and I had to pee…bad. It was raining a lot harder outside now…and honestly, getting dressed is pretty tough in the Prius….let alone finding and putting on shoes. Rob had left an empty Gatorade bottle on the floor…which he planned on using for a water bottle. I, however, had other plans…and used it for a toilet. Twice that night.
Gatorade is cheap. Wet feet suck. I’m trying harder to avoid peeing in my own water bottles now a days (I still owe you a Gatorade Rob…I know)
The rain never let up…and in the morning…it was still miserable. Luckily Rob hadn’t floated away…but the tent was a mess. I hadn’t seen a tent that miserable since the infamous Death Valley trip. We broke it down, and shoved it all in a plastic bag….in hopes it would stop raining at some point and we would be to set it up to dry.
We gave the Virgin River a peek on our way into town…and it was running fast and brown. Not good for a hike into The Narrows….we would need other options.
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