Hiking Ice Box Canyon, Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, NV

This is the waterfall at the end of the trail. Some people tried to climb all the way up there (think people coming to Vegas and that never hiked before...). It is very steep and sleek. Much easier to climb than to downclimb... All of a sudden, we heard a big splash!

Seriously, people!

And a nice guy and his girlfriend helped that woman come down... She had fallen into the upper pool of the waterfall... And in the next 30 min, we saw a few (asian) tourists try to go up and get in very tricky situations... 

With a name like that, especially on a warm day, that canyon sounded very appealing! We came to Red Rock last year and did some scrambling in the Calico area and some awesome rock climbing too. Red Rock is a climbing paradise and our plan this year was to come spend 4-5 days to climb at the beginning of JF's vacation since there is no cell signal at the campground. However, since JF broke his finger mountain biking in Virgin, that plan went out the window.

We instead stayed at one of our favorite campgrounds (Las Vegas Bay, next post!) and came hiking to Red Rock. We wanted to hike Turtlehead Peak, but while doing some research on it, I found out that a woman had fallen to her death down the trail 10 days ago (lots of loose rocks on this exposed trail). However, given what we witnessed today at the waterfall, I understand that people die on hiking trails... Red Rock is only a 20 minute drive from the Vegas Strip and most people that go to Vegas, come to Red Rock... so lots of inexperience hikers doing things too hard for them or being unprepared = lots of accidents.

Ice Box Canyon was a nice hike that meanders through the desert for about a mile before dropping down into a canyon that ends at a waterfall. There is some scrambling required and a fair bit of rock hopping, which makes it a moderate 3 mile hike. 

Canyoneering in The Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah

Very early morning coffee making outside, so as not to wake up the others.

                                                      A side-trip into Orderville canyon

The ray of light that I mention later.

Looking for rocks to bring back to the kids.

The current was very strong in places.

The Narrows is a very popular hike in Zion, and we made sure to be there as early as possible to beat the crowd and were rewarded by having the place pretty much to ourselves.

The sun only enters this very high canyon around 1 pm, so we hiked the 5 miles upstream without seeing any sun. Since we were pretty much alone, the experience was completely awe inspiring. At one point, we came to a bend and saw one ray of light falling all the way down to the water. It felt completely magical. We hiked as high as possible up to Big Springs, where the current is too strong to keep going and chose a spot on a river bank to eat our lunch. As we started heading down, there was more and more sun entering the canyon and the experience felt completely different. It almost felt like an entirely different place. We passed a few people, but most of the hikers stayed in the first few miles (and missed Wall Street, the narrowest part of the canyon, and the most beautiful).

Since the water in the canyon is at 44 degrees F at this time of year, it is necessary to wear a drysuit and neoprene socks with special river hiking boots (available for rental in many shops in Springdale). We saw a few brave souls in wetsuits and some crazy Spring Break kids in shorts and sandals. The probing stick saved us many falls in the icy cold water.

When I came back, Mathilde told me: Woah! You walked 16 km in a canyon full of water?! Mom, I didn’t think you were *that* crazy! I looked at her perplexed and she quickly added: but crazy is good! Ahahahah! That’s my girl!

Hiking in Painted Canyon

This is the perfect introduction to slot canyons! The access is short and relatively easy (I would not recommend it to children 6 and younger) and it's only 45 min from Palm Desert (on Box Canyon Road). It took us only 3 hours to hike all the way out and back (the kids said it was too short!). It gave us just enough time to be back for a swim in the pool before sunset.

The Fiery Furnace, Arches NP

The Fiery Furnace is a maze of canyons and slickrock where it is highly recommended to go with a guide in order not to get loss. You can however get a special permit to go in there by yourself. With JF as a guide, we felt pretty safe! 

It was so special to have this whole place to ourselves, to go explore slim canyons, climb on fins, crab walk over ridges, back track and explore some more.

It was the perfect last hike with our sweet friends. We went back to camp at sunset and ate our meal together around the bonfire. We watched movies we had prepared for each other from pictures of the last 6 months and GoPro footage. All of a sudden, in the darkness of the night, fireworks exploded from the other side of the mountain and colored the sky. It felt like a perfect ending to our amazing adventure.

I recounted our funny tour with self-righteous Ranger John in the Fiery Furnace two and half years ago.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands NP is covered by wave after wave of deep canyons that have been formed by the currents and tributaries of Utah's Green and Colorado rivers.

We went to the Island-in-the-Sky district of the park and hiked to Mesa Arch. This area sits atop a massive 1500 foot mesa, quite literally an Island in the Sky. From the viewpoint of the arch, we can see over 100 miles, a panoramic view that encompasses thousands of square miles of canyon country.

Last time we hiked here, it was covered in snow

In Slot Canyon Country: Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch

Entering a slot canyon is a totally unique journey, a journey inward, in the womb of the earth. It’s almost a spiritual journey, completely different from the exhilarating feeling of reaching the summit of a mountain. Walking in this cool dark space, letting your hand drags on the slick walls, you feel reverence and grace. You are invariably led inside yourself.

Wire Pass is a gorge of tilted Navajo sandstone. Log jams high overhead attest of the power and volume of flash floods. From Wire Pass, we arrive at its confluence with Buckskin Gulch. On the right wall after the arch, you can see original Navajo petroglyphs. 

*Buckskin Gulch is the longest continuous slot canyon in the USA. I love what this excellent guidebook says: Canyons are like people. Both are more interesting when scoured to their essence. And the most thoroughly scoured canyon on our planet is Buckskin Gulch.

 

Rock climbing in Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon is well-known by rock climbers. It is a sandstone paradise! The approach walks are challenging and fun (a 30 minute scramble up) and the view is amazing. Once we reached our destination, we had the whole wall to ourselves (there are nearly 2000 routes in the park, so the climbers are pretty spread out). The kids did their Junior Ranger activity booklet while JF set up the route. We were on the South facing slope, so the sun was cooking and we were soon looking for shade under the rocks.

Notice the barrel cactus at the bottom of our route (covered with a cloth bag in case JF had a fall...).

Two tailless lizards...

You can see the barrel cactus under our route pretty well in that picture! It sure was an added challenge!

*Many of the pictures have been taken by my friend Jennifer, since I didn't bring my camera (that's also why there are more pictures of me!).

That day is undeniably up there in our top 10 memorable adventures. It is so fun to have met friends that are just a little crazy like us and love a good adventure!

If ever you plan on going rock climbing there, we highly recommend you get this rock climbing guide book. It would have been pretty impossible to find a route without it. This place is a real maze (but a super fun one!).

 

Hiking in Painted Canyon, Mecca, CA

Canyons are one of our favorite places to hike (especially slot canyons) and we were thrilled when JF found out about this place, an hour from our campground. There is something exhilarating about scrambling over rocks, squeezing between rocks and even climbing up and down precarious ladders. The last time we were in a canyon was two  years ago, in Utah. Our friends had never experienced a hike in a slot canyon before and it was so fun to share that wonderful moment with them. Children and adults alike exclaimed at each turn. Some parts required quite a bit of teamwork to get through!