Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Canyoneering Morning Glory / Ephedra's Grotto

I was in Moab for a day back in 2008 and with this trip, I wanted to be sure that I experienced something different, especially if I was taking a solo trip.  I signed up with Red River Adventures to canyoneering/hiking Morning Glory / Ephedra's Grotto, the thought of rappelling kinda scared me, I did indoor rock climbing once about five years ago, and the first climb and rappel were scary, but I got used to it by the end, I was hoping that little bit of experience would help me with this, since instead of climbing up a wall, you are going down it, a lot less work.   But, naturally, I still panicked.

The first rappel - 85 feet
We start the hike by going over petrified sand dunes to get to our first of the two rappels was.  The first was a 90 foot drop through a classic water carved chamber that was quite narrow towards the top before opening up at the bottom.  Our tour guide set up all the ropes and attached himself so he could belay us from above.  He went over how to 'brake' by the position of our hands and the rope and ideally how to go down smoothly.   Walking backwards over the cliff is slightly terrifying at first.  I didn't look down, just straight ahead at my feet against the wall.  I kept taking deep breaths while slowly moving the rope through my hands to slowly decent and next thing I knew, I was on the ground.  Hands shaking a bit, but I was so proud of myself and was really glad I signed up for this excursion.

We exit this area through a small slot and need to scramble through rocks to get to a more open area.  Here our guide went to set up for rappel number two and we had a moment to explore a grotto.

Second rappel, 120 feet mostly free hanging
The second rappel was next to Morning Glory Bridge (243 feet span) and was a 120 foot drop down, with about 20 feet at the top to walk down and the rest was a free hanging drop.  Our ropes were attached to a stone pile and a tree, not anchored into the wall like the first.  Going over the side, I slipped and dangled until I was able to readjust my feet against the wall.  This area was more open and having just did the first one, I was slightly more comfortable, but yet a little worried what the free hanging part was going to be like.  Within moments the wall slipped back and very slowly I maneuvered down.  Sadly, I didn't really take the time to enjoy the view behind me, which many say is pretty, but focused on the fear and adrenaline and my accomplishment of having done this.  Since I was the first one down, I played photographer for the rest of our group and helped them release their ropes when they got to the bottom.

The hike out was on the Negro Bills Trail, which was about 2 miles crossing over, several times, a small stream with cottonwoods and willow trees and next to sandstone cliffs. Our guide pointed out where the poison ivy was, rock formations, soils, erosion, and other interesting information along the way.

I am so glad I tried this.  Would I do it again?  Yeah, I would...but I would want to go indoor rock climbing prior to get 'ready' so I could enjoy the views more next time around.

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