Chasing Waterfalls and Climbing Canyons
I knew that ziplining would have to be part of our birthday weekend celebration, but it needed to be amazing. So in my research I came across the Utah Adventure Company in Ogden. Here they offered two amazing adventures, ziplining in front of a waterfall and/or climbing the Via Ferrata. While the Via Ferrata looked like something I would love to do, it took over half a day to complete the climb, and our time was precious on this trip. So I pre-purchased the waterfall zipline with an ATV ride which allowed us to save some time by skipping two miles of the 3+mile hike to the waterfall base.
Saturday morning we woke up to temperatures in the 50s. It was a glorious respite from the Central Florida heat. Our guides for the day, Jared and Colton, were waiting for us when we arrived. One other couple would be joining us, but they had not yet arrived.
To get us started, Jared drove us up the switchbacks on the side of Mt. Ogden giving us a brief overview of the history of Ogden. As we paused and looked over the city he told us of its sordid past. Once the transcontinental railroad was finished, the prostitutes that rode the rails following the rail workers were pretty much out of a job. They decided to set up shop right in Ogden opening brothels and opium dens giving Ogden the seedy reputation it was known for.
We continued our off road adventure up the section of the trail called the Death March (which we would see first hand as we rode back down) to the base of Waterfall Canyon. The easy part was over.
We started our hike by crossing a footbridge. And immediately started the ascent towards the waterfall. The path was shaded and tree lined, but the incline had my heart pounding in minutes. Add in the fact that it was riddled with jagged rocks and gnarled tree roots I see why the reviews I read called the trail short but never paired it with the word easy.
Despite the fact that I was sucking in air like a 90 year old woman on oxygen, I loved every minute. The scenery was sublime, and as I walked up that path, I was reminded of Victor Frankenstein and the soothing of the soul he found in nature. My own soul was soothed as I took in the golden aspen and red maple leaves mingling with each other and gathering against craggy outcroppings of rock or lying scattered alongside the stream we followed. It was just me and Geoff and the beauty of the canyon we were in. We both walked silently content to be together and outside when we were rewarded with two mule deer watching us from an animal path above our trail. Then they scattered each bounding off in a different direction.
The closer we got to the base of the falls the steeper the trail became, and we had to scramble over rocks from time to time. But then we caught a glimpse of the waterfall peeking through the leafless trees. A few minutes later and we were there.
We wandered around the area snapping photos while waiting for our group to join us. Directly overhead were the cables we would be zip lining on a little later. As I looked overhead, I was still unsure as to how we would be hooking up to the zip line. I did not see any ladders to climb.
My question was answered shortly when our guides arrived. We met our zipping partners and took a few minutes to gear up. While Jared explained all the gear and its purpose, Colton checked the zips to make sure they were safe for us. Once we were all fitted properly into our gear, it was time to get to the zip line. How would we do that? Rock climbing of course. I had not been anticipating climbing any rocks on this adventure, and I have to admit I had a few moments of increased heart speed and self doubt as to if I could drag myself up a mountain with no help . Everyone’s energy around me was contagious, and I wasn’t about to voice my concerns, so I just let them go first, clipped on all my safety lines, found a foot and handhold, took a deep breath, and starting ascending.
Every upward motion had me gaining more confidence. As long as I focused on the space in front of me it was easy. And as our group inched along the rock face, my anxiety slipped away because I knew I could do this.
And I am so glad I did. Because the best part of this adventure was the unexpected mountain climber moment I had would have been missed if my fear had taken over.
Our group was on a ledge waiting for further instruction on how to get to the starting point of the zip lines. First though, we were going to each have a turn “trusting our gear” and hanging off the edge of the mountain. I watched as the first two people went my excitement building. Before I knew it, I was was being locked into the safety line, putting my feet into place, and flinging my arms back. I was precariously perched 300+ feet above the hard jagged ground that I would fall to if this equipment failed. Letting go of those handholds was amazing. I felt fearless, and I flung my arms wide and smiled for the cameras aimed my way. This was the first taste of pure adrenaline I would get this weekend. Geoff followed flashing his signature hand signs as he hung off of waterfall canyon.
Then it was time for the main event. We were briefed on how our zip across the canyon would work. Each of our guides took a position on each end, and “whooped” to each other to say all clear. And just like that I was flying across the canyon, but I was so wrapped up in remembering how to stop that I forgot to look at the actual waterfall!
Zip two I was better prepared. As I raced toward the other side I did take a few seconds to turn my head towards the waterfall. As I came into the end, Colton told me to let go and slide back out to the middle. Here I was able to hang for a minute and actually take in my surroundings. I could gauge how high I was. I could hear the rush of the water pouring over the rocks. I could feel the cool autumn air on my face. Instead of zipping along like I was before, I was living in the moment. But then that moment ended, and I was forced to pull myself back to the end–hand over hand–slowly pulling all my body weight toward solid ground.
Zip three worked about the same way. Zip out, let go, pull back in. But zip four was the best. On this one, Geoff and I were hooked together. All the pressure was on Geoff to stop us as we came in much faster with our combined weight. The lack of ability to control my own stop was anxiety inducing. All I really remember from that zip was barreling towards the end, screaming, and having no control to stop us from slamming into the end. Thankfully, Geoff did stop us in time, but not before I whacked my head testing my helmet. Quickly we unhooked and waited for our new friends to finish.
With our zips all finished, we were on our own to make our way back down to where we geared-up. We made quick work of removing the harnesses, and were picking our way over the rocky trail back towards our drop off point.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that going down a trail is easy. Other than not being able to breathe, I think going up is easier. On the way down, gravity worked against me causing my boots to slide. Not only that but my knees were screaming at me from the constant impact of each step. But it was wonderful to be outside soaking up the the Utah air. The sun had decided to show itself by this time, and each layer was peeled off as I made my way closer to our ride back to the car.
Our chauffeurs drove us in the ATV the last mile of the trail affectionately called the “Death March” and with the sun beating down on the line of hikers that were passing us, I could see why. The steepness paired with the lack of shade had people purple-faced and taking frequent breaks. They were on a dirt path, I only worried what would happen when they had to pick their way over the rutted rocky path that was waiting for them. I was thankful that we had paid for the ATV ride since we still had more adventures in store for the day. I’m pretty sure had we completed the entire hike, my only adventure in the afternoon would have been a nap at the hotel.
As we thanked our guides and got into our rental car, Geoff and I both agreed that this was quite possibly the best excursion we had ever been on. If we ever get back to Ogden, we will be sure to work in another adventure with Utah Adventure Center. Maybe the next time we go, I’ll be prepared for their Via Feratta climb because after my taste of rock climbing, I’m ready for another challenge.