Lions in Zion
Krissy Moehl and Luke Nelson find adventure in attempting Trans-Zion National Park records.
Our skin sunburnt by the desert sun and legs torched ...
Photo by Fred Marmsater
Luke Nelson and the author running a slickrock ridgeline in eastern Zion before their Trans-Zion attempts.
Our skin sunburnt by the desert sun and legs torched from scaling slickrock over the past few days’ recon, Luke Nelson and I sat on the tailgate of his truck at 6 a.m. on May 3, 2012, poring over the map for the last time before setting off across Utah’s Zion National Park. We were about to attempt to set individual records for the Trans-Zion traverse. Lacing up our trail runners, we made final bathroom stops and stripped down to T-shirts and shorts before making our way over to the trailhead, our start line.
I met Luke Nelson on the trail three years ago at the inaugural Pocatello 50-Mile Trail Run in Pocatello, Idaho. Around mile 30 I had left the aid station before him and on the next climb he caught up, explaining his massive bonk and decision to hang with me till the finish if I didn’t mind. We chattered away, likely I more than he, and soon found ourselves quickly closing on the finish line, tying for second place overall. Luke, now 30, was then finishing up his schooling to become a Physician Assistant. He is now married with two kids, is an amazing ski-mountaineering racer and has bragging rights to countless other can-dos.
In the spring of 2011, Luke and I began scheming about Trans-Zion records. The point-to-point route connects from rim-to-rim. Starting from the east, you drop into the canyon from Observation Point and the Weeping Rock Trail. Once in the canyon, you must pound the pavement about two miles to The Grotto before heading up Walter’s Wiggles towards Angels Landing and making the bend to finish the climb to the West Rim Trail. That trail takes you into Potato Hollow, Wildcat Canyon and Hop Valley, where you start to feel the pull of the finish, but must first crisscross La Verkin Creek countless times then climb the final 800 feet in about four miles to tag the sign at Lee’s Pass Trailhead, the finish.
Luke and I stayed stride for stride for the first half mile and exulted in how cool it was to finally be attempting our goal. We wished each other well and Luke picked up his pace and I settled into mine.
At The Grotto, 12 miles into the run, we each accepted aid from UltrAspire’s Cherie Santiago (Luke about 15 minutes ahead of me at this point), swapping bottles for hydration vests as it would be another 20 miles before the possibility of a water refill.