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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Subway, Part II... The Last Hurrah In Zion

After three hours of "bouldering," we reach the final approach to Subway. North Fork canyon steadily morphs into the shape of a "keyhole." The oval bottom resembles a tube with graceful crescent walls... a sensual Rubenesque waistline, if you will, that steadily wraps around us like a corset.

Walls close in and force us to wade a wide, shallow creek. It ripples over red-rock with a surface texture resembling pine bark. Born from subdued reflected light, and things that grow in such darkness, an amalgam of salmon pink, radiant red and nuclear green casts an eerie glow out from under the wall's shadowed veneer.

The creek bottom is slick and treacherous... we must use hiking poles as third legs in order to stay upright. 

Minor waterfalls must be negotiated on tired legs and empty stomachs. But it's too damn beautiful and intriguing to complain. Onward. 

To one side, a deep, straight-as-a-pin groove carries miniature white water rapids... outracing surrounding ripples like some freeway HOV lane.

Another series of watery steppes lands us in Subway's wondrous foyer. It is ours alone... to take in piece by piece, wonder by wonder. The where and why of its Subway name is quite obvious.

We enter the near darkness of a bizarre tube... almost a tunnel... trying to fathom it's geological form. A slit of a skylight overhead illuminates our way, almost closing in one spot.  Probing deeper, three perfectly round, sandy bottomed pools dot the tunnel floor. They resemble hot tubs, but a quick dip of the hand reveals the heater must be on the fritz. Cold water might feel pretty good in July and August. 

How did this happen? Where's Mr. or Ms. Ranger when I have a valid permit, and need a few questions answered?

Around the bend in the photo below is a way deep pool of water. On the other side of the pool is a falls that requires ropes to negotiate. Most Subway explorations are done top to bottom, so it is only necessary to repel instead of climb. It takes a long day's hike, sunrise to dusk, to make the entire trip. It patiently awaits on our Bucket List. Soon, we hope... perhaps next year. 
The "clock" ticks...

Finally, lunch... in Subway's foyer... followed by a long, arduous boulder trek back to the parking lot. 


  1. Nature is so cool. Some would say you are lucky to do these hikes, but I say it is because of your determination to just do it. I hope to be able to do some of these hikes someday.

  2. Ernie- you are right. I need to spend time out. West. Great post. Thanks mark.

  3. "too damn beautiful"... you got that right!!!

    Thank you for going!

  4. We were in Zion this fall and saw signs for the Subway. Thanks for the great pictures since I'll never hike it.

  5. Absolutely amazing! Looks like a good place for Brian's water shoes too. A subway slot. Next year for sure.

  6. Hey Mark..Bobbie...Did you see the shooters tonight?..I've seen 50-70 since 9 P.M...Up here by Lake Chelan..I've got a crook in my neck and my toes are cold..I'm thinking Saline Hot Springs in Death Valley would be a swell place to be right now..Have you been there?
    Still out here looking in to your site.

  7. Next time you do the subway let us know and we'll bring the ropes for rapelling-NOT! -scamp

  8. Wow, what a geological wonderland! Reminds me of walking through the lava tubes at St. Helens but they were ugly compared to this.

  9. aaahhh, you have given me two more very worthy entries for the Bucket List...the Subway, and the Narrows.

    More importantly, two very good reasons to try to keep this aging human form in shape through yet another winter..."Move I must, if I stop, I'll rust!"

    Phenomenal photos!

  10. Impressive! Not sure we could do that hike with you guys. We might make it there but that "long, arduous boulder trek back to the parking lot" doesn't sound like fun. Perhaps we could we take the Subway back?

  11. Teri,
    I hope my "determination" can over rule the aging process :) Thanks Teri, maybe we'll do one of those hikes together someday...

    Walden Steve,
    Thanks, now get your butt back out here :)

    Wow, thanks for commenting!

    Meow Mom,
    Indeed... thanks for commenting

    Barb and Ron,
    Well, at least now you have an idea of what the Subway is :))

    Good boots will do the job... waterproof helps, unless you pull and Susan and fall in :)).

    Up River,
    Yes, been to death valley and thinking of going back. beautiful desolation there... thanks!

    Come on, what is with the "not?" Let's do this thing and live to tell about it. :))

    C and M,
    Subway does resemble a lava tube but I don't think it is... Enjoy your winter, see you next summer here in Lovely ouray.

    Aging Human Syndrome sucks... but is better than the alternative... to a point, anyway.
    WARNING: Your bucket list will grow if you keep checking in to the BCB :))

    jim and Gayle,
    I know you could do it... We'll warm up with gradually more intensive day hikes around Zion... kinda like we did here in Ouray this summer :))


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