Backpacking the Trans-Zion Traverse Day 5: Echo Canyon to East Entrance

Backpacking the TZT_Day 5

Day 5: Echo Canyon to East Entrance Trailhead, 7 miles

After our long, hard day yesterday, we both sleep soundly through the night and don’t wake up until the alarm goes off. It is 5:00 am. Again. We are tired, but we are determined to get moving early. Today is supposed to be the hottest day on the trail yet, and, after being cooked crisp yesterday, we are eager to get as much distance on the trail as possible before the temperatures begin to rise.

We break camp quickly, saving breakfast and coffee for when we filter water at Stave Spring, a mile and a half or so up the way. The warm updrafts from the canyon are still keeping the temperatures comfortable, but, as soon as we get some distance away from our camp, we become chilled. We try to savor the feeling, knowing it will only be short-lived.

Within minutes on the trail, we pass through a beautiful meadow filled with sage bushes, and the pleasant aroma of the fragrant shrubs is overwhelming.

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When we finally arrive at Stave Spring, we are a bit shocked by what we see. We had heard that the water was low and that it comes out of a metal pipe, but it is running at a mere trickle. At this rate, it will take forever to filter enough water to fill a hydration bladder, so we decide to collect only enough to make morning coffee. Instead of filtering, we purify it by boiling it with our new JetBoil stove.

Have we mentioned how much we love our new stove yet? We do! It’s really compact, and it boils water super quick. It is much cleaner than our old trusty WhisperLite and packs away so much easier. We love that stove, too, but this will definitely be our new go-to stove for any US-based backpacking trips in the future.

As we are sitting there, we keep thinking how happy we are that we had enough water to stop short of here last night. One of us would have lost it for sure if we had pushed on when we were feeling so exhausted only to arrive here at this so-called spring that is actually just a trickle of water. Sometimes, it pays to listen to what your body is telling you.

The most marvelous thing happens over breakfast. A variety of birds come to visit the spring for their morning breakfast, too. We grab our binoculars and watch as a western bluebird, a pee-wee flycatcher, and a pair of pretty lesser goldfinches fly in for some water. The true highlight comes when a bold broad-tailed hummingbird zips in for a drink straight from the trickle. That is impressive in itself, but he’s not done with his show just yet. Our eyes nearly pop out of our heads when this beautiful little bird dips himself into a tiny puddle of water for a hummingbird bath!

How cool is that?!?! We squeal with delight feeling like we have witnessed something magical, something that you can only see in Disney cartoons or fantasy movies. We set up our GoPro next to the spring in hopes that the pretty bird with his flashy red throat will return for another quick dip but no such luck.

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On a high from our private CBS Sunday Morning Moment of Nature, we pack up our stuff and hit the trail. We soon pass Team San Diego’s camp. They did a much better job of getting themselves off of the trail than we did last night. We exchange pleasantries across the shrubs separating us and commiserate about how tough yesterday’s hike was. They are still packing up, so we continue on. We are hopeful that they will catch up to us before trail’s end, so we will have the opportunity to chat more with these friendly fellow trekkers.

The trail gently meanders up and down along the sparsely-forested plateau. With our pack’s at their lightest weight and the TZT end within our grasp, we are grooving on this gentle grade and moving along at a pretty respectable pace. We skirt around Jolly Gulch and cut through the forest to the far edge of the gulch. From our high vantage point, we can see a trail far down below us and hope (knowing full well we will be proven wrong) that it isn’t our way out. How can we still have that much distance and elevation loss to go?

Though less dramatic than the west side of the park, this last leg of the TZT is still beautiful in its own right. Despite the extreme temperatures, there are lots of pretty, delicate wildflowers lining the trail. The combination of interesting rock formations, small shrubs and colorful flowers reminds us of a coral reef that has been drained of all its water.

At the end of the canyon, we come to a hairpin turn and begin the dreaded descent down into the canyon, now knowing for certain that we still have a respectable distance to go before we finish this last leg of the trail. We pass a few dayhikers heading in, and we do our best to resist the temptation to ask them how much longer we have until reaching the trailhead. Our experience has taught us that it is much more satisfying to discover that sweet bit of information on your own.

We cross the small wooden bridge that we saw from above, and, when we finally see our first good views of Checkerboard Mesa, we know the end is close. We pass a small trail sign indicating “Entering Zion Wilderness” and stop to take a photo as a symbolic finish to our time on this amazing trail.

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Though only five days in length and just shy of 50 miles, our traverse through the spectacular desert landscape of Zion National Park will be etched in our minds for many years to come. We get to the car, strip off our boots and socks, set up our camp chairs in the shade to celebrate the accomplishment. 

Cheers to the end of another awesome backpacking trip!

This was just the beginning of an epic summer of backpacking for us.
Be sure to stay tuned for plenty more hiking adventures and some exciting
Take a Hike Photography news coming soon!

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