It had been a couple of years since my first trip through the Subway and I had been dieing to get back. I finally put in for permits back in June and was able to score 10 total. My intent was to get my brothers together (I have 4 of them), my son, my brother in-law Bill, and whomever else I could get to help fill the permit. A couple of my bothers were not able to make it, so I made room for my brother in-law Brock and his son Johnny. This was Johnny's 10th birthday so it would be a good time to break him in to some light canyoneering and a good day of hiking.
We met up with Bill in the dark at a campsite about a mile off the Kolob Terrace road and quickly set up our tents for a short night of sleep. We were up by 5am, packing, then setting off to the trail head. Bill had scored permits to do Russell Gulch, so he and his cousin, Quinn, set out from the Wildcat trailhead around 6:45 in the morning while my brothers and I took his truck back to set our shuttle vehicle. By the time we set the vehicle and finished packing we were on the trail about 8am, which gave Bill and Quinn a good head start so they had time to do Russel Gulch. We planned to meet them at the bottom where it empties into the left fork.
The hike in was as beautiful as I remembered it. Starting off in a high pine forrest and wandering your way down sandstone, you can't get much better views than that. I did not remember the approach being as long as it was and was thrown off a bit after you get down the slick rock bowl, thinking we were supposed to go more left and following a trail which ended up being the route to Das Boot. I quickly made our correction and found our way over to the scramble down into the canyon.
We arrived at the pool at the bottom of Russell Gulch and only had to wait about 5 or so minutes for Bill and Quinn to join us (perfect timing). They both donned their wetsuits for the trip, which I eventually became a little jealous of, but I did fine without mine (likely because of the "extra" insulation I naturally possess).
I was surprised at how little water there was in the upper left fork (just random puddles here and there). We made our way to the first official rappel and were all able to down-climb the crack on the right (LDC). We quickly made our way down the canyon and before you know it we were at the famous bowling alley. The last time we hit this part we had to bypass on the left because of the flow of water (it was the day after flash flooding the previous day), so it was fun to climb up on top and get down the other side for a swim.
We then were at Keyhole falls quickly as well and we down-climbed this section as well. Unfortunately for me (for the second time) most of the great swimming sections were covered in sand, so it was a simple walk over these areas. I'm hoping someday to hit it in better conditions, but that wasn't going to deter from the fun we were still having.
We spent time at the keyhole slot, then over to the Subway where we prepared for our short rappel. Bill belayed johnny down due to his inexperience, which I think made him more comfortable. Again, due to the previous months flash flooding, most of the pools were buried in sand, with only a little water going over some of the lips slowly washing out the sand over time.
We ate some lunch below the subway section, then packed up and worked our way on out, taking a bit of time for some pictures at the red waterfall sections below and this is where we began to see groups working their way up. I still cannot fathom doing this hike from the bottom up, missing out on all of that beauty above.
The hike out was eventful at times. We saw a lot of brook trout in the creek in various spots and my son Caiden found a nice sized Tarantula as well. As we started to exit we began to get hit with rain and a bit of thunder.
The remainder of the trip we had planned (with permits) to do Keyhole Canyon the next day, but that night the area got hit with some major rain storms and flash flooding. So bad that they had to close down the park on the east side, which is where we ended up camping (Zion Ponderosa). After doing the subway we killed some time out at the old downhill section of the Redbull Rampage and watched the amature bikers play around for a bit before heading to camp. We hung out Saturday to see if the rain would let up and it never did. We passed a bit of the time hanging out in the recreation barn before finally calling it a day and heading home. Bummed out about not being able to fully utilize the time we had, but satisfied that we were able to do the Subway.
Caiden (my son), who rarely expresses if he liked a hike or not, was adamant that we come back and do this one again, which made me happy. I don't like to push things on him, but I truly hope he develops a love for the outdoors that I have.
At the Wildcat trailhead
Dropping down into the canyon
The first are we got wet
Billy decided to go all in
Such a beautiful canyon
Caiden on rappel
Billy on rappel
Johnny on rappel
Brock on rappel
Caiden and I below the red falls
The friendly Tarantula
Johnny, taking cover from the rain while we snack before exiting the canyon
Looking back on the canyon we came out of
Downhill biker jumping across a 15" section of road.
Waiting out the storm at the recreation barn
It was coming down hard
Video from our hike through the Subway