The Subway is a canyon in Zion that, amazingly, looks like a subway. The canyon has a quarter mile stretch of rounded walls and train-like tracks splintering the ground. Because of the sheer beauty and the relative ease of access, (technically speaking, anyway,) it’s one of the most popular canyons in Zion. Because of this, it’s also nearly impossible to get a permit.
So when a friend of ours called up and said he had achieved the impossible, we knew we had to make it happen. Back country permits are given out via a lottery system, and if you are lucky enough to get picked, a date is assigned to you. If you cannot make this date, you give up your opportunity. The permit we were given was just two weekends after getting back from our Scotland trip. After pleading with my boss for more time off, we were ready to hike.
The weekend we tackled Subway the high in Zion National Park was 118 degrees. The technicality of the terrain, mixed with the heat and the general agreement that we didn’t want to be rushed had us starting early in the morning, knowing that the 9.5 mile hike would easily take us 11-13 hours.
We hiked for a while on a beautiful mountain trail that reminded me of the alpine slopes of Big Bear and Northern California. But soon we came to the splitting point, where half our group would continue on the non-technical approach, and half of us would go to a parallel trail that led to a short slot canyon, called Das Boot. (Named for the podiatrist that lost his boot there. Really.)
Das Boot was dark, dank, full of flies and muck, and quite a lot of fun. It also held a few of the more challenging potholes of my experience, and took a lot of organized thought to keep my focus. There’s a lot to say here about Das Boot that might just have to be for another post in the future. But bottom line for now is that it was just another part of our day of The Subway.
We finally reached the bottom of the canyon and the beginning of the portion that the spot is named for. The walls stretched high above us, and in a stroke of luck, there seemed to be cloud cover. The water was crisp and cool, and splashing in and out of icy cold pools made the heat easily tolerable.
The two groups got back together and we trekked on, running into other groups along the way. This is another spot where I can rant and rave for much longer than necessary about being prepared for the back country and not, generally, acting like an idiot. But I’ll save that too.
The famous Subway.
We played around more as we hiked, and the miles and hours stretched into the long light of afternoon.
Finally we hit the final ascent – a grueling 1/4 mile climb back up the canyon walls that had been shading us all day. It was much more like climbing and less like hiking, and everyone was on their last legs before we even started it, which made it extra-super-fun. When we reached the top we were greeted with a meandering nature walk back to the shuttle car, a friendly trail that would, seemingly, never end.
I started singing to my legs, talking to myself and marching “left right left right” on and on and on. I tried pretending my legs weren’t actually attached to my body and I was just watching my feet move on their own. Every mental trick I knew I used, my body had so incredibly hit the wall.
And then I looked up, and saw this.
Soon after, we all got to the car. 11 1/2 hours and an incredible day.
My legs didn’t work right for a week. But it was worth it.