The Subway

Where: Zion National Park, Utah
When: May 2008
Partners: DB & Harlan Stockman

The Subway is a world famous canyoneering objective tucked away in the Kolob Terrace portion of Zion National Park. More properly known as the 'Left Fork of North Creek', the canyon is a sought-after objective of many outdoor enthusiasts.

Having descended the Subway three times prior, DB had never done the classic canyon and we were happy to assemble a group of newbies for their first trip ever into a technical canyon. Not only that, but my buddy Harlan, a prolific hiker and explorer himself who'd never done the canyon, signed onboard. It was to be a grand time!

Meeting at the corner of UT-9 and Kolob Terrace Road in Virgin, Utah, we caravaned up to the Left Fork Trailhead to spot a car, then drove up in two vehicles to the Wildcat Trailhead. Along the way, we picked up a trio of guys from the Bay Area, including Jef Levin, whom I'd come across on Ram's Canyons group, and gave them a lift to our collective trailhead. They were going through Das Boot, on the beginning of a weeklong Zion engagement that would include descents of Imlay and Englestead Canyons.

Hitting the trail, we made good time to the turn-off to head down toward Russell Gulch and the Subway. Soon, the trail gives way to slickrock, then a forested stretch of trail, then more slickrock. Then a downclimb of loose terrain presents itself.

That's when my new hiking friends decided they'd had enough. Amidst the glory of the area, the topographical challenges and whatnot, they weren't quite prepared for the physical exertion that was required on what was proving to be a rather hot day (in which it would get to 108F in nearby Las Vegas).

Bidding them farewell, DB, Harlan and I scurried down the slickrock then hit the final steep trail that would deposit us in lower Russell Gulch just above the confluence with North Creek.

Once in, we made good time negotiating boulders, doing a cold swim, trudging along. The scenery was outstanding, the day was bright and warm, and DB was thrilled to be wearing her 7mm wetsuit. I, in my t-shirt and shorts, was doing fine, though a bit chilled in the shade.

Eventually reaching the end of the good stuff, we began the longish hike out. We stopped to admire and take photos of the dinosaur tracks, Harlan helped us identify a number of wildflowers growing along the trail, and I managed to spot two snakes.

When we reached the steep trail that would take us back to our spotted car at the Left Fork Trailhead, we started the hot hike out. By then, it was pushing 90F and we were glad to take a few short breaks on the way up.

Collecting ourselves at the vehicle, we drove up to Wildcat to retrieve Harlan's vehicle and verify that Andrea's vehicle was gone, a sure sign that they'd returned safely. And it was!

The Subway, always a classic experience!


*Harlan's pictures (Way better than mine!)