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Summer

Make the Great Escape to Lake Blanche for a Panoramic Hike

School has just begun, and maybe my memory is going bad, but I don’t remember my life ever being this busy.

I’m scrambling to get things done, and all my friends have disappeared (as well as all the required class supplies I needed two days ago). I’ve been stuck inside, and stress has been clinging to me like the smoke from a late-night summer campfire.

But right now, I step outside of myself and realize that I’ve been smiling uncontrollably for the last hour or so. My stress is disappearing as I stand next to Lake Blanche up Big Cottonwood Canyon. In the distance, Sundial Peak towers over 10,320 ft. My beating heart is slowing. I can hear nothing but the gently blowing wind, the distant trickle of water, and Ian noisily rummaging through his pack. Everything is right. It’s a condition I don’t seem to experience a whole lot lately: contentedness. It’s all beautiful, and it’s all perfect.

Earlier in the week, I enticed my good friends Ian and Cameron to join me for a hike up to Lake Blanche. We had all done the hike multiple times over the last few years, but it gave us the chance to get out into our beautiful Wasatch together. The endless onslaught of syllabi and much-too-soon homework was making me stir-crazy. I had to get out. I picked them up at 6 a.m., and we drove four-and-a-half miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon to the Mill B South Fork. We were on the trail at 6:30 a.m.

From trailhead to destination, the whole experience is lovely. Generally agreed upon as a strenuous hike, there is a 2,680 ft. gain in elevation over just 3.8 miles; it’s not the most casual walk, but approachable by all skill levels, provided enough time and water is allotted. The whole trail meanders through aspen groves and stays along a river for much of the time. Eventually, quartzite, rubbed smooth by glaciers, comes into view. It really is a fantastic experience for those looking to get a taste of the flora, fauna, and geology of Big Cottonwood.

However, despite its beauty, the entire, difficult approach is forgotten once you reach Lake Blanche. At around 9,000 ft. in elevation, Blanche is an alpine lake. It’s placid and beautiful, and Sundial Peak rising up in the distance makes for a beautiful panorama. It’s such an iconic scene that the Wasatch Mountain Club has chosen Sundial as its symbol. Two other lakes, Lake Lillian and Lake Florence, border Blanche to the Southwest, and each of them offers even more serenity, as Blanche is more popular among hikers.

Spend some time up here. There are a few good spots for hammocks, and the fishing isn’t too bad either. Bring food and have a relaxing picnic. If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the moose that roam the area. When you’re done, head back down the way you came.

At the end of the day, getting out is awesome. Whether you’re a slow hiker or a conditioned trail runner, we all need a little Mother Nature in our lives. Cameron, Ian and I returned to the car at 9:30 a.m. a little happier, a little less stressed, and a little more prepared for another day of classes.

Depending upon your skill level, I’d set aside three to six hours for the hike itself. The whole area is beautiful any time of day, but at sunset Mill B South Fork ignites, painting Sundial with fantastic hues of reds and oranges. Just be sure to bring a headlamp for the descent.

On top of all it has to offer, Lake Blanche is a fantastic overnight backpacking destination. Sleep near (but not too near) Lake Lillian or Lake Florence to get a bit more peace and quiet. But if you are in search of something more technical, try Eleventh Hour, a 530 ft. and 5.8-mile climb that ascends the beautiful north face of Sundial Peak.

t.dickinson@dailyutahchronicle.com

@thatdickinson

Lake Blanche

Directions: Drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon 4.4 miles, park at Mill B picnic area

Time: three to six hours

Gain/Distance: 2,680 ft. / 3.8 miles

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My First Time: The Pleasure and Pain of Hiking Donut Falls

I don’t hike.

I just don’t do it. I’ve lived in Utah my entire life, and climbing in, up, and around mountains has always seemed entirely uninviting to me. Nothing appeals to me about taking up precious time I could have spent on level ground by being covered in dirt, slipping on rocks, and ending with a sore body.

I don’t like hiking, and the pros have never outweighed the cons enough for me to reconsider. So when I learned about the theme of this month’s issue ofWasatch, I wasn’t particularly pleased.

Being an avid non-hiker for my entire life provided me with a perfect opportunity to write. Anything I did would be an adventure. I was assigned to hike a popular Utah trail, Donut Falls, and I immediately got to researching.

Everything I came across said it was short and easy — which was exactly what I was hoping for. There was also a slim-to-none chance of me injuring myself. Perfect. I would climb up some dirt, take a few pictures, dust off my pants, and get right back to my air-conditioned apartment.

For my crewmates, I brought two good friends — Keith and Monty — both of whom are also fairly amateur when it comes to the great outdoors. Keith grew up in the Midwest and was naturally excited to spend some time in the mountains. Monty spent most of his adolescence in the area but doesn’t have a ton of experience hiking it. Sure, we didn’t have anyone who could save us if we got lost in the woods, but the excursion was so simple that I could’ve easily taken it by myself — Keith and Monty just made for great company.

After a drive that felt unnecessarily long, we pulled into the parking lot, I grabbed my camera, and we got ready to hike.

It was a beautiful day. Very few people were at the usually swarming trailhead, and as we started walking the temperature cooled down a little. As we got to the halfway point, it was slightly overcast with a cool breeze and no one else in sight. I couldn’t have asked for more bearable conditions in which to practice my least favorite outdoor hobby.

Even I, hater-of-anything-involving-movement, was shocked by how easy this hike was. Aside from a few moments where the trail thinned or became a little bit more slippery, we didn’t even have to focus too much on how we were getting around. Maybe it’s just because of the novice-nature of the trail, but I started to understand a little about why people might hike for fun.

Every turn of the trail provided a new and beautiful view, which was something I particularly enjoyed, especially with my camera in tow. There were sprawling fields, towering peaks, and peaceful waters. I was so distracted by the beauty of it all that I forgot about the sight that would be awaiting me at the end.

Donut Falls, for those who don’t know, got its name because the waterfall at the end of the trail goes through a perfectly rounded hole in the rock. A donut!

The last stretch we had to get past before we would be as close to the waterfall as possible was the river that it spills into. Had I brought waterproof shoes, it would’ve been an easy task, but my broken-in, old tennis shoes weren’t quite up to it, which led to a miniature disaster as I tried to get across without dropping my camera in the water. After a few minutes of very calculated steps, I finally made it and reveled in the beautiful sight of the falls themselves.

I didn’t know much about what to expect on this hike, but the one thing I did hear over and over again was to not climb the rocks near the waterfall. Every website, every testimonial told me not to go near them. And by the time we reached the falls, I was already getting a tired of hiking, so staying on the safe side was 100 percent fine with me.

In lieu of putting our lives in danger, Keith, Monty, and I instead decided to climb up the trail that goes off to the side of the waterfall. This was the point in the day that I finally started to feel whatever it is that hikers feel that keeps them coming back for more. I sat with Keith on a rock halfway up the little ledge we climbed, and we talked about our experiences from the day.

As we prepped to head back to the car, Monty, who was ahead of us, warned that the trail heading down was more slippery than it looked. I laughed it off, got ready to man-handle some rocks, and put the lens cap on my camera (just in case). And then I slipped.

Both Keith and Monty agreed that it was almost cartoonish — I was only a few feet away from the ground when it happened, but was just unfortunate enough to hit what seemed like a never-ending patch of slippery dirt. After a few seconds of sliding and flailing my arms around, I fell on my butt right before I would’ve gone into the river.

“Take a picture of this,” I said. “This happens every time I go outside.”

@ivygus

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“A Walk in the Woods” features humor, friendship, and gorgeous hiking vistas

If you don’t have the energy (or lunacy) to walk 2,168 miles in the wilderness, watch “A Walk in the Woods” instead.

Based on the 1998 book, the movie follows author Bill Bryson (played by Robert Redford) as he attempts to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail along with his bumbling buddy Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte). The two traipse through the landscape, combatting bears, camping on the side of the trail, and reminiscing about their prime. It’s a story of rekindled friendship interspersed among the trees.

The plot of the movie diverges from the book on one major characteristic: age. Redford, 79, and Nolte, 74, portray the characters as much older than Bryson and Katz were when they hiked the trail in 1998 (they were in their mid-forties at the time and more concerned about their subpar physical fitness than knee replacements and funerals). This shift changes the dynamic and some of the recurring jokes — a hardship for diehard fans of the novel — but the story otherwise remains fairly true to the original, if a bit quicker in pace.

Redford’s performance is unexceptional, and he tends to overpower the character of Bryson as more of an environmentalist than a dreamer. He does, however, deliver quick retorts and sharp dialogue to comically balance the few heartwarming and serious moments in the film. Nolte, on the other hand, shines in his role as the womanizing, warrant-evading, formerly alcoholic sidekick, supplying plenty of laughs and physical humor with perfect timing.

Though she makes only a brief appearance in the film, Kristen Schaal as Mary Ellen is a comedic jackpot, playing the ever-enthusiastic gadfly of the trail with a three-season tent and an oversized backpack. The film also, notably, includes Emma Thompson, Bryson’s endearing and overprotective wife, Catherine, and Nick Offerman, the know-it-all REI salesman. The lively and charming cast aids the idea that hiking the Appalachian Trail, though secluded, is just as much about the people you meet along the way as the journey itself.

Complementing these portraits, the film is filled with stunning visuals of the trail (thankfully, watching hiking is nothing like watching golf). The most breathtaking are the overhead shots that show the grand scale of it all.

Through this montage of great scenery, “A Walk in the Woods” ends, somewhat obviously, without Bryson and Katz reaching their destination. A clever scene involving postcards concludes that though they didn’t finish, they did accomplish their goal: to hike the Appalachian Trail. It’s profound and impressive.

c.tanner@dailyutahchronicle.com

@CourtneyLTanner

 

Where • All major theaters

When • Opened Wednesday, Sept. 2

Running time • 104 minutes

Rating • R for some coarse language and a few sexual comments

Rank • Four of five stars

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Must-Hike Moab Destinations: Millcreek Canyon and Fisher Towers

Moab, Utah is my second home. I can always count on a four-hour road trip south into the red rock with my family or friends at least once a year — more than once, if I get my way.

As a result of these frequent trips, I’ve had plenty of time to learn the lay of the land and have experienced some awesome Moab hikes. Though many people who travel to Moab are focused on seeing the big tourist sites and taking the popular hikes, such as those in Arches National Park, there are plenty of beautiful spaces without the tourist frenzy. The area truly is a hiker’s paradise, with trails criss-crossing all varieties of desert terrain. These are the top two on my list of must-hike Moab trails:

Millcreek Canyon

My favorite place to spend the day hiking in Moab — and really my favorite hike anywhere — is Millcreek Canyon (not to be confused with the canyon up north in the Wasatch Range). This is an especially good option for those who are staying in or around town, as it’s a short bike ride from the center of town. This is also a great option if you don’t have a whole day but just a couple of hours and want to experience the best of red rock country; you can make the hike as short or as long as you desire.

The trailhead can be a little tricky to locate the first time around. Just ask at any local restaurant or gas station for directions, and you’ll be on your way in no time. Once you make it up the short gravel-and-dirt road to the parking area, you will inevitably encounter a few other hikers, most of them locals during the week. Though there can be quite a few people on the weekends, there are plenty of places along the trail to branch off for a quieter walk.

Also, keep in mind that if you’re there over any holiday weekend, the place will be swarming with Jeep drivers. It’s usually good to avoid the area during this time, even if it is fun to watch them attempt to drive up the cliffs.

Millcreek Canyon sports an easy-to-follow trail that meanders along the creek, while crossing over it from time to time. Recent trail markers have made it easy to keep on-trail throughout the creek crossings. Your feet will get wet on this hike, so it is always nice to wear a pair of waterproof sandals that you can comfortably wade and hike in. Not only is there potential for wading, but there’s also a nice spot for a cool swim. The natural swimming hole at the end of the short canyon is a great place to relax and take in the scenery.

The proximity to the water makes it an excellent choice for a hike with your four-legged pal, but be careful because the sand can get too hot for a dog’s paws at times. If you want a longer hike, you can hike out of the canyon and follow the creek from above.

Fisher Towers

My other favorite hiking area is farther from town, which entails a scenic 30-minute drive down Highway 128, snaking along the Colorado River. The drive alone is worth the trip, but the destination — Fisher Towers — boasts a pretty awesome hike.

Once you see the sign and turn off the highway, you are faced with a long dirt road and an awesome view of red drip castle-like towers looming up the hill. The hiking trail starts at the top of the road from a small parking lot and winds its way around the base of the awe-inspiring rocks.

The trail can be hard to follow at first, as it’s not clearly marked, but there are enough cairns built up along the way that you aren’t lost for long. The hike is an easygoing four-and-a-half-mile round-trip. The relaxed trail presents views of mesas, valleys and canyons as far as the eye can see. It is especially spectacular when a storm is moving across the landscape, dropping low clouds and some occasional lightning.

Fisher Towers is also a popular spot for climbers, so most likely you’ll be able to gaze up at the brave souls scaling the vertical formations as you traverse the trail.

In case you don’t feel like making the return journey right away (you won’t), there is a small campground situated just beneath Fisher Towers with secluded sites overlooking the valley all the way to the river. The campground is especially spectacular at sunrise and sunset.

f.rhinehart@dailyutahchronicle.com

@Unchained116

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Make Your Way to Millcreek for Three Great Hikes

Millcreek Canyon is a great place with a number of fun hikes. There are trails for every skill set, from the first-time hiker to the more advanced. And the canyon is open year-round, offering hikes for all seasons close to Salt Lake City.

To get to the canyon, take Interstate-215 to exit 4 on 3900 South. From there, head north on Wasatch Boulevard and turn east on 3800 South towards the bottom of the canyon. There is a $3 fee per vehicle as you leave, but the experience is well worth your money. Depending on the day, the canyon is also dog-friendly and open to mountain bikers.

Desolation Trail

One of my favorite Millcreek Canyon hikes is Desolation Trail. It is the longest trail in the canyon, going up to 14 miles one-way with more than 3,570 ft. of elevation gain. If you are looking for a longer hike, this is definitely worthwhile. It is one of the more difficult hikes with a lot of switchbacks in the beginning, but the views over the Salt Lake Valley are extraordinary. Since camping is allowed within the canyon, I recommend planning this hike as an overnight trip. It is close to home, but you can still get the whole backpacking experience.

Grandeur Peak

A short trail with a fantastic ending is Grandeur Peak. From the Church Fork trailhead within the canyon, the hike is only 5.5 miles with an elevation gain of about 2,400 ft. This is more of a moderate difficulty hike that takes about three to six hours to complete round-trip depending on your experience level. The best part about the trail is the view from the top of the peak. You can see the entire Salt Lake Valley, as well as a great view of Millcreek Canyon. Another nice characteristic of this peak is that it is low enough in elevation that you can reach the top at any time of year; it’s not too technical, so it can be accomplished in the winter months, as well.

Pipeline Trail

You can do just sections of the Pipeline Trail depending on how long you want to hike or you can complete the entire trail from the Mount Aire trailhead all the way to Rattlesnake Gulch. The entire length is about 14 miles roundtrip. This is a good place for trail running or mountain biking.

p.creveling@dailyutahchronicle.com

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Essentials, extras, and luxuries: What to pack on a day hike

They say the hardest part of any journey is the first step. But when it comes to hiking, those people are dead wrong — packing your gear is by far the greater feat.

For me personally, I tend to be a Mary Poppins in my packing habits. Instead of a simple first aid kit, I could pull an entire operating room out of my backpack. I only wish I were joking. But for all the backbreaking woes of over-packing, bringing too little is also a problem. If you get stuck on a mountaintop without a Band-Aid, you could hemorrhage from a simple paper cut (just kidding, of course, though I’m sure I could find a WebMD article to back me up).

To be fair, what you pack really depends on how far you plan to hike (though, to be honest, I’m a proponent of Band-Aids for any length of trip). For those hiking the more-than-2,650-mile long Pacific Crest Trail … good luck. For those going on a day trip in Utah, you can pack pretty light — and I’m here to help. I’ve compiled this list of essentials, extras, and luxuries to help you prepare for all of your Wasatch adventures, hopefully making your first step on the trail a little easier.

c.tanner@dailyutahchronicle.com

@CourtneyLTanner

ESSENTIALS

-Good hiking shoes (seriously, I can’t stress this enough — break ‘em in before they break you on a tough trail)

-Water, water, and some more water

-Snacks (granola bars, beef jerky, trail mix — the usual)

-Sturdy backpack

-Pocketknife

-Compass + map (and know how to use them)

-Jacket (if you pack one that’s water-proof, you can skip bringing a poncho)

-Watch

-Hat

-Flashlight or headlamp

-First-aid kit (with Band-Aids, of course)

EXTRAS

-Poncho (I like one that’s big enough to cover my backpack if it rains)

-Matches (you probably won’t need these, but they’re good to have on-hand for emergencies)

-Camera

-Rope

-Bandana (doubles as a headband or a bandage, if needed)

-Bug spray, sunscreen, bear spray (put in a Ziploc bag to avoid leaks)

-Whistle

LUXURIES

-Trekking pole (preferably one that’s compactible)

-Binoculars

-Book (once I’ve reached my hiking destination, I like to sit and enjoy a good read)

-Water shoes or sandals

-Journal + pen

-Sunglasses

-Extra socks

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Top Five Hikes for You and Your Furry Friend

If you’re sick of binge-watching TV and your dog is even more tired of fighting Netflix for your attention, then it’s time to take things outside and hit the trails. As the summer heat begins to settle, it’s prime hiking time. Here are my top five trails for you and your canine. They’re laid-back, scenic, and will give you both a chance to hone your skills.

k.broschinsky@dailyutahchronicle.com

@KamrynLinda

Jordan Parkway Trail

40 miles (total length)

For trail-goers who love to be surrounded by nature without straying too far from civilization, Jordan Parkway is a perfect choice. It’s a 40-mile stretch of suburban trail that runs parallel to the Jordan River. The parkway also hosts an adjacent and equally popular paved bike path. In addition to the scenery, fresh air, and water features, the great thing about the parkway is that you can leave any time you want because you’re not deep within the wilderness. This is an easy hike, and both dogs and horses are welcome.

Big Water Trail/Dog Lake

6 miles

If you’re looking for a dog spot, then look no further because Dog Lake is the place to be. Millcreek Canyon is one of the few areas that does charge a usage fee, but it’s worth the $3. The canyon is extremely dog-friendly, so plan on seeing a multitude of slobbering and curious canines on your hike. On odd-numbered days, your dogs can even roam off-leash. This hike is a great beginner or intermediate hike; it’s mostly level with a just a handful of switchbacks. If you don’t feel like you’re in “Fern Gully,” you’re in the wrong place.

Killyon Canyon

5.6 miles

This trail follows a stream for almost the entire length which is great for your furry friends to drink from when they get thirsty. The path eventually forks, and you can go left for a longer hike up to Lookout Mountain. Avoid Killyon Canyon in rainy and snowy seasons, unless you and your dog are into mud wrestling. The trail is fairly narrow, so when you and your pooch encounter others, be sure to be courteous and friendly.

Bonneville Shoreline Trail/Ensign Peak

100 miles (total length)/.86 miles

The shoreline trail is a work-in-progress that stretches over 100 miles. Dogs are welcome on- and off-leash on many sections of the trail. While the shoreline has many easily accessible entrances, the best places to hop on are by the U, close to Red Butte Garden, the top of the Avenues, and off the Ensign Peak trail. Coupling Ensign Peak with the Shoreline trail is great because Ensign is a short hike (only 380 ft. of elevation gain), but with a great view of the Salt Lake Valley. Whatever you feel up to tackling, the shoreline is perfect for an all-day excursion or a quick out-and-back with your four-legged companion.

City Creek Canyon

1.2 to 6 miles

City Creek Canyon is nestled right in the heart of Salt Lake City. Depending on who you ask, it could be considered more of a nature hike than a trail. City Creek offers options for people of all skill levels. Whether you’re a marathon runner or simply looking for a quick hike with no technical maneuvers, this is the perfect spot. City Creek Canyon has a trail that begins in Memory Grove Park with plenty of shade, so you and your dog can stay cool.

k.broschinsky@dailyutahchronicle.com

@KamrynLinda

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Thrifty Trips: See dinosaurs and other natural wonders for $90

If you haven’t heard of Harpers Corner, don’t worry — you’re not alone. Overlooking the confluence of the Green River and the Yampa River, the trail is located just outside Dinosaur, Colo. It is a beautiful desertscape situated 2,500 ft. above the water. My most recent trip there cost me just $90.

To get to Harpers Corner, you’ll first need to travel to Vernal, Utah, which is about 170 miles from Salt Lake City on US-40. From Vernal, Harpers Corner is just about 70 more miles away. After Vernal, keep straight on US-40 towards Colorado through Jensen, Utah. If you want to stop by and see the Dinosaur National Monument quarry (there’s a $10 entrance fee), turn left in Jensen just before you cross the Green River. Drive past the large pastures at the foot of Split Mountain.

In the dinosaur excavation building there are also replicas of a few different dinosaur skeletons. One of the coolest displays is a skull of an Allosaurus. It looked like a fierce creature back in the day and could have definitely ruled the land.

Once you’re done with the dinosaur exhibit, continue your travels east on US-40. Once you reach the Colorado border, you’ll immediately drive through the city of Dinosaur, where all the street signs are dinosaur names. We turned on to “Tyrannosaurus” just because we could.

Keep driving until you see the Canyon Area visitors center; then turn left and continue on the windy road for another hour to Harpers Corner. As you make your way up the plateau, you’ll see all sorts of landscapes every which way. There are a few overlook pullouts that you can stop at to see how vast the area is.

Once you reach the trail parking lot you’ll be enthralled by the beauty of the area. But hang tight — you have to get your hiking shoes on and walk the trail for about 1.5 miles to get to the vantage point.

Be sure to bring a lot of water because this area heats up fast. The beginning of the trail is all downhill and then flattens out. It is amazing to think that the river carved each of the deep canyon walls over millions of years.

While at both sides of the vantage point, if you look down on the river — be careful not to go past the fence — you might see some rafters floating during the hot summer months. The river is green because of all the active erosion taking place, but it is still beautiful to see.

When you’re done looking at the amazing scenery, head back the same way you came.

On your way back through Vernal, you’ll come across an iconic pink dinosaur welcoming you to the city. Go ahead and indulge your inner tourist, and snap a quick picture to remind you of your trip to Colorado.

k.creveling@dailyutahchronicle.com

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Editor’s Note, August 2015

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When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a professional explorer (sort of an Indiana-Jones-meets-Bear-Grylls type but with better hair and a flashier fanny pack).

On my exploits, I planned to bring with me only a compass, my disdain for maps, and an equal devotion to adventure — the fanny pack was just for looks, not utility, of course. I was prepared to fight off Sasquatch with my bare hands, discover a hidden treasure that was actually in plain sight all along and valiantly defend the sable fedora (you’re welcome, Harrison Ford).

But now that I’m older, I’ve realized that’s not exactly a profession, at least not one the IRS would recognize, so I save the adventuring for my free time. Luckily in Utah there’s plenty of opportunity for that and I don’t have to go without the chance to channel my inner Bear Jones (Indiana Grylls?).

With this month’s Wasatch Magazine, we want to help you, too, find your inner professional explorer with our “Summer Adventure” issue. Among these pages, you’ll find stories on rappelling down red rock cliffs, hiking to hidden lakes, and sliding through slot canyons. You can also check out our guides to camping in comfort and climbing outside your comfort zone.

So go ahead: have one last crusade before school starts.

c.tanner@chronicle.utah.edu

@CourtneyLTanner

 

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Conquer Your Fear of the Cliffs and Go Rappelling

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I’m a native Utahn, which means I was born with an appreciation for both snow-capped mountains and red rock arches. But while I love both terrains, I favor the desert hills and dunes slightly more.

That’s why Kodachrome Basin is one the best places in the state. It’s an under-appreciated gem that I would never have discovered had it not been for a class trip.

The basin got its name from Kodak’s color film because of its vivid and photogenic nature. It’s about a six-and-a-half hour drive south from Salt Lake City, only 20 miles southeast of Bryce Canyon National Park. At 5,800 feet above sea level, I was surrounded by stunningly barren, sun-soaked canyon walls. It looks like a scene straight out of “Planet of the Apes.” In the heart of red rock country, I drove through the monolithic towers, double arches, hoodoos, and sandstone chimneys.

As I prepared for my trip, I had no intention of letting myself be strapped into a harness and dangled horizontally over a cliff-face, but with my final grade for class on the line, I had no choice: I was going to rappel.

Rappelling is all about the descent. You wear a harness fitted around your waist and upper legs, forming a makeshift woven seat. It’s supposed to be comfortable, but really it’s not.

Luckily, rappelling is a team sport — this calmed my nerves. There is a belayer down at the bottom of the cliff and then, for safety, another person on top to keep an eye on you from above. You say, “On rope!” to let the belayer know you are prepared for your descent; the belayer then replies, “On belay!” to let you know they are ready.

Another important word for rappellers is “rock,” which is used to alert anyone below you that something is plummeting towards them. Whether it’s shale, a rock, a boulder, a sandwich, or your dignity and confidence (as was the case with me), this lets them know to be aware and protect themselves, if need be.

While rappelling may look fun, it’s also pretty scary. Imagine it: You’re at a 90–degree angle to a cliff face with no faith whatsoever in your lower body strength and a terrifying number of total strangers responsible for your safety. I felt a fear that can only be described as a “127 Hours” degree of hopelessness.

The only thing not trembling was my right hand on the rope behind me. My legs had completely forgotten how to function, and I relied on muscle memory as I tentatively took my first few steps down the cliff face. I had to tell myself that it was just a few feet. Just a few vertical feet. That you have to walk down. While suspended. In the air. And backwards.

This was something I’d never done before, something I’d never thought of doing before, and something I never thought myself capable of doing.

For the rappelling experts reading this, I’m sorry. I’m sure you know that 75 feet really isn’t that far and, realistically, each individual rappel only takes about one to two minutes. That is, unless you’re me and you need 10 minutes, which actually feels like 10,000 years, and you can’t remember a time in your life when you weren’t hanging upside down having someone yelling at you from both above and below.

For those of you who haven’t rappelled, I have one piece of advice: Do it. Bring all the right equipment, choose your partners wisely, and for the love of God, don’t go any time between July and August because you may actually melt. But do it because there is no reason why rappelling won’t be the best experience of your life. Despite my fear, it certainly was for me.

k.broschinsky@chronicle.utah.edu

@KamrynLinda

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