Our Winter Hiking Trip: Some Wonders, Some Woes…

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My 5 year old granddaughter Amelia (AKA “Punky”) cracks me up. When she comes over, it starts with the typical grandparent greetings…

Me: (getting big hugs) “Hey, Punky, how are you?!? Whatcha been up to?

That sort of thing.

Amelia and fans

Amelia and her fan club (me and her Aunt Kenzie)…

But Amelia doesn’t stop with the obligatory “fine,” or “good,” or “nothing much,” as it usually goes in the way of canned greeting responses. Oh no. This girl has a list for me. I think she secretly composes it riding in her purple princess carseat on the drive over.

The list goes something like this:

  • Eli touched my carseat.
  • Dad made me wear these socks and they’re itchy.
  • Mariah said I’m not her best friend anymore.
  • Mom took my new make-up kit from Aunt Kenzie away, I only put a LITTLE lipstick on the dog.


James and I refer to it as “Amelia’s List of Woes.” We always look forward to hearing what the latest list will be. I’m telling you all this because, well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Keep this in mind as you read on.


Stef’s List of Winter Hiking Wonders (and Woes)

James and I just got back from a winter camping adventure. “Lance,” our RV, proved to be a stellar winter basecamp and overall we had a blast. We actually hiked or snowshoe’d every day for 8 days straight, in temps ranging from 10 to 35 degrees.

Hiking Zion

It might sound cold, but we weren’t at all. With the right gear, the cold doesn’t touch us. But as usual, it wasn’t all flying puppy dogs and chocolate fountains out there. Here’s how our hikes REALLY went.


Zion National Park and the Ice Skating Trail

When we arrived at Zion, we decided we’d start by warming up on the EASIEST-TRAIL-AT-ZION, called the Riverside Walk. I wanted to do that one because it ends where the famous trail “The Narrows” starts. I wanted to get a look at conditions on The Narrows, since we were thinking about renting dry suits and swimming our way through The Narrows later that week. So, we hit the easy breezy Riverside Walk. But first, let’s park. Or maybe not:

Parking at Zion in Winter

Ah, the serenity of Zion in the winter…

The parking area was completely filled up at the Riverside Trailhead. We drove about a mile down the road, found a pullout, and then schlepped our way back.

I’ll admit it, we can get a little cocky. We’re fit, we’re quite competent on hiking trails, and we like a good challenge. So, when James said, “should we take the Yaktrax?” My reaction was, “pshaw, for the Riverside?!” And we both got a good laugh. The Yaktrax, our beloved traction devices that slip over hiking boots, stayed with Lance.

But once we hit the trail, we weren’t laughing anymore.

Hiking Zion Winter

The entire trail was a sheet of ice!

James fell once, we slid by a dad with his daughter crying who probably broke her leg, and we realized how stupid we were leaving the Yaktrax behind. Eventually, we did make it to the end, and were able to see the start of The Narrows:

Hiking Zion Narrows

To hike The Narrows, you get in the water, and follow it through that narrow canyon you see in the picture. We ended up not doing the Narrows this time, I’m sad to report. It’s my biggest regret of the trip. We’ll be back next winter, Narrows. And next time I’ll even bring my Yaktrax.


Snow Canyon State Park Which is Mis-Named

It should be called “Sand Canyon.” We had our friend and fellow Travato owner, Sam, along for this hiking adventure, and it started out great.

Hiking Snow Canyon

This is “nice” sand. We were about to learn the difference…

No crowds, sunny weather in the mid-30’s, and great scenery, we felt like we hit the jackpot, especially after the crowds we’d been hiking with at Zion the past few days. We did a bunch of trails without incident, and then decided to finish with the 3 Ponds Trail. The 3 Ponds Trail is a dried-up sandy river bed. But not like normal sand, like the type along the ocean. And not like the “nice” sand you see in the picture above, where we stayed on top of it. This stuff was much finer, and we’d sink much deeper, making our slog through the sand rather grueling. As our enthusiasm waned, I tried keeping Sam and James motivated with suggestions, “Swing your arms! It helps!” James got oppositional and glued his arms to his sides to prove arm-swinging in fact does not help in sand that thick whatsoever. Eventually, we made it to the 3 Ponds, an out-and-back trail.

Hiking Snow Canyon 2

We did some scrambling past the 3 ponds, and climbed the narrow canyon to this lookout point. I had packed us some peanut butter sandwiches and grapes, so it was a perfect lunch spot. Now if only we could call a helicopter to come and lift us back out instead of having to face the not-nice sand again…


Bryce Canyon National Park is a Winter Wonderland

Even Amelia would have a hard time finding things to gripe about when visiting Bryce in the winter.  Speaking of Amelia; look what I found written in the snow along a Bryce trail!

Hiking Bryce Amelia

James spotted it; I had breezed right past it. I had James snap that photo and then I sent it to Tyler and Anna so they could show Amelia. She doesn’t have her own cell phone yet, but these days, it seems like kids get them about the time they start walking…

The crowds at Bryce were a mere fraction of what they are in the summer, and the snow on the canyon walls was a feast for the eyes. What an amazing way to spend New Year’s Eve day…

Hiking Bryce 2

The only requirement for hiking Bryce in the winter is you’ll need some sort of traction device to slip over your hiking shoes. We weren’t pulling another moment of stupidity like Zion. We were prepared with our Yaktrax this time.

Hiking Bryce

Can you believe I snapped all these on my cellphone? You don’t need to be a great photographer when you’ve got Bryce as your subject.

Hiking Bryce 4We had our friend Sam along at Bryce, too, so we actually have photos with both James and me in them together!

Hiking Bryce 3

Okay, fine, I’ll stop with all the Bryce pictures. I’ve got nothing to bitch about and you’re probably getting bored with all the shiny happy we-had-a-great-time-and-you-didn’t stuff. Trust me, we suffered on the next hikes. Read on.


Kodachrome and the Trail of Stef’s Tears

This was the hike to end all hikes for me…and I’m sure my war stories about it will get bigger and bigger over time. I’m just happy I’m alive to tell you about it.

After our two days in Bryce Canyon, we said farewell to our friend Sam and headed to the nearby Kodachrome Basin State Park. We were thrilled when we realized that besides us, there was only one other family in the park. We had the whole place to ourselves!!!

Hiking Kodachrome

Whatever could James be taking a picture of? The scenery? No, of course not! It’s Lance!

The first night of hiking, a day before the epic Trail of Stef’s Tears, we got lost. It was stupid, but then stupidity seems to follow us.

We decided to do a sunset hike, up to a lookout point to enjoy the sunset.

Hiking Kodachrome Sunset

Sunset over Kodachrome Basin State Park

It was actually pretty cool, sitting up there all alone, hearing nothing but the slight breeze. Serenity at its finest. And as the sun was setting, it turned the rocks an insane reddish color, we were enthralled:


But then it got dark quickly, and we were still dawdling up on the ledge. It was a loop trail, so we quickly continued on. And here’s where winter hiking can get dicey. So few people come through places like Kodachrome in the winter, it’s easy for jokesters to switch around trail signs. The rangers aren’t walking the trails as frequently, or perhaps less are on duty in the winter, so things like screwed up trail signs can get overlooked. And when we’re hiking across solid rock, we depend on the signs. That’s how the “lost” thing happened; the arrow signs were turned in wonky directions. We were smart enough to have our headlamps with us, so I wasn’t in full-on panic mode. But if you’ve ever been in that position of being even just a little lost, it’s a pretty freaky feeling. We eventually gave up and picked our way back the way we came, but as dark as it was getting, it was nerve-racking. My inner Mildred was showing, and I fretted we wouldn’t be able to spot the way we came either. But alas, we made it out. I was VERY happy to see Lance’s gorgeous yellowness glowing in the sunset and welcoming us back to safety.

And that wasn’t even the worst of it! The NEXT day after getting lost was my most terrifying hiking experience ever. Even worse than the buffalo attack at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

And here we are at The Epic Trail of Stef’s Tears. See? I told you the tale would grow over time. It’s already grown to “epic.”

Take a look at this picture:

Hiking Kodachrome Trail of Stef's Tears

Notice anything wrong with it? I didn’t either, as I happily and ignorantly was snapping pictures of James up ahead of me. LOOK AGAIN, GUYS. Notice anything missing? Like, the trail itself? Look about 50 feet in front of James. The trail was washed out. And remained so for a good 30 feet or so.

The freaky thing is, it didn’t even dawn on me until I was actually traversing the washed-out part of the trail. I was completely consumed with taking pictures, with the scenery around me, that I had started across the cliffside unaware that my feet weren’t on a trail. I snapped back to reality as I started sliding with the loose soil that now resides where the trail once was. James, who was a spider in a past life, was already across and didn’t think anything of it.

Some of you already know this, but I have a horrible fear of heights. I’ve written about this many times, and I know it’s an irrational fear, but it rears its ugly head every now and then. Finding myself standing on a cliffside with only loose dirt under my feet turned out to be one of those moments.

Step one: Freeze and scream for James.

Step two: Don’t die.

Step three: Cry and panic loudly.

Step four: Take James’ hand. My God I love this man.

Step five: Yell at him because he’s way too far out and about to fall off the face of the cliff.

Step six: Keep screaming and crying and yelling at James as he leads you to safety.

I’m happy to report we both survived and neither of us fell off the cliff. Even though we were safe, I was pretty much ruined for the rest of the hike. My heights fear stayed in the “on” position, and James had to continue to hold my hand, endure more tears and wimpering, and had to listen to my fretfulness, “what if the trail signs are all screwed up again and we have to go back the way we came?!?! I won’t! I won’t!

It wasn’t my finest moment.

Hiking Kodachrome Trail of Stefs Tears 2

Here’s another view of the washed out trail, looking back at it after the whole terrifying ordeal. The washed out part is actually in the shadow and harder to spot from this angle. And what you can’t see is how long of a way down the slide off this cliff was.

So, yeah, Amelia would be proud of my list of woes from Kodachrome Basin State Park.

But we weren’t done with our winter camping trip yet. It was time for the hardcore stuff. Snowshoeing time.


Fishlake National Forest and Umm Honey Should We Be Snowshoeing Across This Lake?

Fish Lake is a high alpine lake at an elevation of around 9,000 feet located in south central Utah. There are campgrounds open in the summer, but everything’s closed down in the winter. It’s a snowshoer’s paradise. There’s nothing like the experience of being the first one through the snow, and that’s what you get everywhere at Fish Lake. The only other prints around belong to the wildlife.

Hiking Fishlake

That is, until you get near the lake.

Hiking Fishlake 2

Many ice-fisher-people set up shop on the north end of the lake, near the highway. There’s James, who snowshoe’d over, and was talking to a few. He wanted to ask them how safe the rest of the lake was. Hmmm. Umm, maybe you’d want to find that out before snowshoeing across the unused part of the lake to ask that question?

Hiking Fishlake 3

But apparently the random strangers reassured James that the lake was safe everywhere to hike, so off we went. As we trudged along, inner Mildred fretted about falling through the ice, and whether or not it was wise to take the word of random strangers who were sitting around a hole in the ice eating Spam and drinking beer at 9am, but I pushed all that down. I tucked Mildred away, took a look around, saw James up ahead and thought, wow. Even though this past week I skated through Zion, trudged through grueling sand dunes, got lost, shed tears, and almost fell to my death, I realized how amazing the whole experience actually was. No trip is going to go perfectly, I learned this long ago. It’s the imperfections that make us smarter, stronger, and more resilient.

I think this was one of my all-time favorite trips.

And someday, when Amelia’s much, much older, she’ll read this and smile. Because she’ll totally get it.

Hiking End of Trail

After 15 years as an educator in both the public K-12 setting and the University level in Special Physical Education, Stef made the leap to her true passion… the fitness world. She’s currently a personal trainer and wellness coach specializing in seniors, medical conditions, and injuries. Stef loves running, cycling, and being “Mugga” to her two favorite mini-humans — Punky and Marshmallow. ❤️

    15 thoughts on “Our Winter Hiking Trip: Some Wonders, Some Woes…

    1. Wayne

      Nice article Steff. Beautiful scenery.
      As the fitness guru of the Fitrv team, do you find winter RVing an additional challenge to maintaining fitness?

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Surprisingly, it’s been just the opposite, Wayne. In the winter, our RV trips are geared around physical activity…snowshoeing, hiking, skiing, etc. We spend hours engaged in these each day, and feel like we get more fitness on our winter trips than on our summer ones!

    2. Andy & Kim

      What a great 4 seasons shakedown adventure! We were at Bryce and Zion in September but without the ice.When we get our new rig a winter return is now high on our list.
      We did not go to Kodachrome but will definitely go there next time EXCEPT for “That Trail”! I didn’t show Kim those pictures because we are exactly the opposite of you two. Kim is the “Fearless Sprinting Mountain Goat” and I am the “Acrophobic Plodding Donkey”. Stef, I feel your tears!

      Thanks for sharing the trip,
      Andy & Kim

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Ugh, I totally get it, Andy. If we ever get out hiking together, I’m sticking with you. Let the goat and the spider scale all the cliffs they want…

    3. Al and Sherryl

      Well you and Mackenzie look like twins, so there!

      P.S. Did James get the Fodera Yin Yang bass he was wanting for Christmas? While we don’t have any Foderas here, we do have some 4 and 5 string Fenders and Dingwalls here for him to slap if he (you two) venture out this way! 🙂

      1. Stefany - Post author

        LOL! For Christmas James got a new inverter. That was PLENTY. And those bass guitars would definitely get some play time if we ever find ourselves on your little island!

    4. Mike

      Beautiful scenery – even the washed-out area! Can’t decide which I like more, the first Zion scenery pic or the sunset.

      1. Stefany - Post author

        Interesting choices! I always love hearing others’ perspectives. My favorite pic was probably Bryce, us about to walk through a little arch. But then I was there so I’m biased, lol.

    5. Juan

      Great trip report guys I got to see Zion and Bryce last month and Zion was icy then. Walked real slow on the River walk trail as I had no desire to kiss the ground!

      I did not know about Kodachrome state park , how far is that from Bryce? Looks like a fun trip aside from Stef’s epic hike of doom. ( Stef you are not alone I got scared standing at Rim Trail inspiration point in Bryce to chicken to walk to the end)

      1. Stefany - Post author

        I think it was only about a 30 minute drive from Bryce…I’d definitely recommend it as a fun side trip. Just remember your headlamp, bring a map, and watch where you’re stepping!!!

    6. Velda Solomon

      Such beautiful places to travel vicariously with you! Glad overall the trip was wonderful. I still don’t like it when my kid in MN shares with me that he spent a weekend on a lake camping with a stove to keep warm alongside a hole they cut to fish through . I mean where does it make sense to drive your pickup on ice and have a source of heat next to a hole in ICE then drink beer and go to sleep ?

      1. Stefany - Post author

        LOL, Velda! I can see how ice fishing creates a sense of solitude, a way to relax, and an excuse to get outdoors, which is probably much of the appeal. Me, personally, I’d be bored in 30 minutes. But I can’t even get past 3 holes of golf…

    7. Al and Sherryl

      Wow. Amazing scenery and the trip, overall, sounds and looks like it really was a once in a lifetime experience, with memories forever. Sorry to hear about the scary moments on the trail!

      Glad that Lance was up to the task of winter camping. We are sure that James did a great job of modifying certain aspects to make it a pleasant winter trip. However, we do suspect he has more new fixes on his list 😉

      PS, we always marvel how much Stef and her daughter look alike! James must think he’s caught in a time warp at times… Be safe!

      1. Stefany - Post author

        James would be lost without a list of projects for Lance! You’re most definitely right, there is a list, with new things being added all the time, lol. And what a nice compliment, saying Mackenzie looks like me. Every time I look at her I marvel at how beautiful she is (and not just the outside). I guess that’s just the mom in me. But still, you made my day!!!


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