Beauty and the Beast

Thursday, May 04, 2017 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Ultimate Utah, Day 13:  Springdale, UT to Page, AZ

This story of Beauty and the Beast begins with the beast, one we met before leaving Zion National Park.  As we were leaving the park this morning, we had one more hike in our plans.  Somehow, I had gotten the idea in my head that the Canyon Overlook Trail was rated 'easy.'  That was misconception #1.  I remembered reading that for those uncomfortable with the extreme heights of Angels Landing, Canyon Overlook offered views just as majestic.  Last night when Googling photos of the view from the overlook trail, I saw images that confirmed this impression, and that turned out to be misconception #2.  Here's what happened next.

We packed up and left the hotel early in order to score a parking space in the Canyon Overlook lot just past the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel.  Success at 8:15 when we pulled in to the next to last space.  I thought I remembered that the trail had an elevation change of about 50 feet over the course of a mile.  Oops!  Misconception #3.  But we did take our backpacks with plenty of water along as we eagerly set off up the stairs to the trail.  Then the fun began.
Setting out on the trail
The trail runs along the canyon rim and is often just a couple of feet wide.  The most sloped sections offer a protective railing, but many parts do not, even when there is a sheer edge.  The scariest part for me was below a dripping spring—a short, wet section of trail on an 18-inch ledge next to a precipitous drop-off.  There was nothing to help give you purchase but trying to grasp the wet canyon wall above the shelf.
Contemplating how to cross that wet shelf safely   
For someone height averse and stumble prone, my best strategy was to shut down my peripheral vision and focus on where my foot was going next.  The photos I had seen last night of the incredible view helped to tamp down my panic, knowing that the vista I would see at the top would make all this trepidation worthwhile.
I climbed all this way to see this?
What a surprise when we arrived at the vista and found it to be the same view, thought a bit more elevated, of Highway 9 snaking through Pine Creek Canyon that we have been looking at from the tunnel exit and the switchbacks for the last two days.  Really?!?
Loved the few sections with handrails and this singular example of a footbridge
Once again, a lesson on the importance of doing one's homework.  After we made it safely back to the bottom of the trail and to the car, I finally dug out the information on the trail.  First, it is not rated 'easy'; it's 'moderate.'  Moreover, the description warns of "long drop-offs" on the "rocky and uneven" trail.  It even states that the viewpoint is over Pine Creek Canyon.  Oh, and the elevation change is 165 feet, not 50.  Yep, totally forgot to study.
The trail did offer some nice views, but nothing we couldn't have observed from ground level.
With that little adventure behind us, we continued east on Utah Highway 9 to US-89, where we turned south toward Kanab (pop. 4,312), a Utah border town with a history of Western filming locations and the largest animal sanctuary in the United States.
Shelter Horses in Angel Canyon  (photo from
Our first stop in Kanab was at Best Friends, the animal sanctuary, in search of a letterbox.  We found the hidden treasure and some amazing scenery at this no-kill shelter.  Founded in 1970, Best Friends established its claim to fame with its role as the primary animal rescue organization in the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina.

Other boxes in the city took us to a memorial park, a movie museum, and the city welcome sign.  We also checked out the BLM Visitor Center for information about places to visit along US-89 between Kanab and Page, AZ, our destination for tonight.  The ranger we talked to advocated a hike to the Toadstools, a group of rock formations that look like...yes, you get the idea.  Having read about Old Pahreah (rhymes with Maria), a ghost town, I asked if it were possible to drive to it.  "Yes," Ranger Lady replied dismissively, "but the town was on the other side of the river, and you won't see any of the ruins unless you wade across."

Intending to following her advice,  I studied the brochure she had given us about the Toadstools as we drove east.  When I  realized that of seven photos on the publication, five were of the exact same rock from different angles, we became suspicious that the Toadstools were not as prolific as they were made out to be.  Though that star toadstool was pretty cool, it paled in comparison to other stone features we've been seeing, so we decided to skip the two-mile hike to check it out.

And now we arrive at the Beauty part of this story.  Since we had already made up our minds to ignore the advice we were given about the 'shrooms, we decided to visit Old Pahreah.  As we made our way five miles out Old Paria Town Road, we were suddenly greeted with a vast expanse of colorful Chinle rock formations, a stratified sandstone featuring multi-colored layers like the area of Arizona known as the Painted Desert.  The BLM agent never mentioned this treasure of beauty at Pahreah, and we wondered whether she had ever actually visited the sites she was advising tourists about.

The pictures of the area called Old Pahreah speak for themselves.  We were so enthralled that we planted one of our "Hit the Brakes" series of letterboxes there to let other boxers know about this hidden treasure.

Tomorrow we'll explore around the town of Page a bit before returning to Kanab on US-89A on Saturday.


    •  Started in:  Springdale, UT
    •  Ended in:  Page, AZ
    •  Miles driven:  140   (total 3,462)
    •  Weather:  50° to 81°, clear
    •  Letterboxes:  Found 5, Planted 1   (totals:  F37, P7)
    •  Walked:  3.56 mi.  (total 53.70)
    •  Colors in Chinle layers:  34
    •  Movies filmed in and around Kanab:  >100  
    •  Moments of panic on Overlook Trail:   too many to count

Loved:  We were gobsmacked with the beauty of the area around Old Pahreah.  

Lacking:  Adequate homework before setting out on the Canyon Overlook Trail.

Learned:  The importance of doing the research.  We failed to do so on the trail, so we made it a point to check for ourselves regardless of the ranger's recommendation for Highway 89.  We're pretty sure our choice was better than her recommendation.

I Got Your Back(pack):  Though we've tossed the idea around from time to time in the past, this trip is the first time we have consistently traded backpacks when we set off on hikes.  It has made things so much easier.  Whenever one of us needs something out of our pack, there's no need to go to the trouble of removing the backpack.  We just extract whatever we need from the pack on the other person's back and return it easily with no muss, no fuss.  Definitely a policy we'll continue.

More Photos from Today
A rare wide space on the trail
Magnificent natural amphitheater at Angel Canyon's Best Friends sanctuary
Part of the Best Friends Cemetery, which pays tribute to more than 4,000 animals. 
The lovely park honoring Kanab's founder, Levi Stewart
Kanab's town/county visitor center
A few more pictures of Old Pahreah