Sunday, August 5, 2012

Zion Narrows!

Phil and I have just arrived home from an adventure! This past weekend we went down to Harmony & Jeff's wedding down at the St. George temple. In order to save on a little money (for accommodations) and to make the most of our time down there we camped at Zion National Park in order to do the top-down Zion Narrows hike on Saturday. We decided a few weeks ago to do it like this, but the backcountry permits for the hike were already sold out online. We had to apply in a lottery online for the extra 16 passes, and we found out on Thursday that our application was picked. We drove down on Thursday and camped out that night. On Friday morning, Phil and I attended the wedding of my old mission companion at the Saint George temple. Everything and everyone was beautiful. After the wedding, we headed back to the park and did a pretty intense uphill hike to Scout's landing, which is near the famous Angel's Landing. It had a breathtaking view (literally - we were breathing hard by the time we reached the top of the trail!). Also, this is so random, but Zion National Park is like the top French tourist spot (or really, any European country) in the USA. I heard hundreds of French people on the shuttles, on the hike, on the river and even took a picture of a sweet Belgium couple. Everytime we heard a language all I had to do was look at Phil and say "Yep" and he would know that it was a French speaker. Besides French, we heard Swedes, Norwegians, lots of Germans (not the prettiest language...), Russian, Poles, Italians, Spanish-speakers, Portugeuse, Indians, and a few that we couldn't pin (we only knew that Poles because they told us they were from Poland when they asked us to take their picture).

on the river

Anyway, on to our real adventure: the Narrows top-down hike! I have done the hike 3 other times when I was younger, and it's grueling. It's 16 miles and usually takes about 9-11 hours to do (if you go slow and make a few stops). It follows the Virgin River down to the Temple of Sinawava, which is a spot that comes right after the Narrows where the river opens up and where the hike ends and a shuttle takes tourists down to the Visitor's Center. The hike on the river twists and turns through the towering slot canyons that are absolutely stunning, having been formed over thousands of years by the flowing river. You hike the trail by crossing the river (about 30 - 50 feet wide) all the time in order to get to a little dry ground and hike that until you need to cross again. The river and sides are covered in river rock, which is fine when they are dry, but when in the water the rocks are like, as my dad says, "greased up bowling balls." Plus, this time, the water was a murky brown-orange color (Phil said that he wanted Indian food because the water looked the color of chicken tiki masala) due to a lot of flash flooding this past week that caused a lot of the red rock and sandstone silt to fill the river and that made crossing the river even more dangerous because it was impossible to see the rocks we were stepping on and the depth of the water (more than once we went down unexpectedly to our chest). Usually people use walking sticks, but we didn't and we were surprisingly agile in the water. Phil fell maybe 3 times. I was a bit less stable and fell about 10 times, bruising up my knees and ankles nicely. But, that comes with the hike. The thing that makes the 16 miles bearable besides the INCREDIBLE natural beauty of the towering canyons and the flora and trees that grow below, is that the hike is a gentle downhill the entire time; the trail is the river. 

So, Saturday morning we packed up the car and grabbed our Camelbacks prepared with water, fruit snacks, granola bars, duct tape (for our feet and possible blisters), and the special  "poop bags" that the Visitor's Center said that we had to bring in order to "pack out" any personal items. Nice. The weather was good, which was important since there is often fatal flash flooding in the Narrows part (a 3 miles strand near the end where it is just river and two sheer 1000 foot rock faces about 30 feet apart) We took a special shuttle up with another small group of hikers. We sat in the back of the 14 seat van, trying to listen to our driver rattle on about the canyons and the hike. We tried to sleep a little bit on the way up to the trailhead, but at one point the road wouldn't let us sleep. If it hadn't been for seat belts there would have been a few repeats of that one scene in "Cast Away" when the airplane hits turbulence that sends one of the workers to the ceiling of the plane headfirst. 

At the trailhead (which edges a ranch with lots of cows for the first 3 miles before a descent into the canyon following the river), Philip and I were out fast. It was good not to be in a group bigger than 2 (as I have done previous times) because we were able to go quickly and not stop. We were following the fresh footprints of a group of people for a while on the trail (which helped us be sure of our path when we came to a few forks in the road) until we caught up to them and passed them about 2.5 hours in. They were surprised at how fast we were going.

in a more narrow part of the canyon
 looking up!

so happy.

this is one clean river entering into the murky river.

a beautiful waterfall

in the Narrows!

look at how closed in it is between those two 1000 foot high walls

What was nice about the hike is how good we felt all the way through. We ate along the way, and we didn't stop at all except for when Phil needed to change his socks. Mostly we didn't do that in order to stave off the fatigue. By the end we were hurting, but we did the hike in 6.5 hours - which is a lot faster than I've ever done. We were stiff this morning trying to get out of bed, but we were so happy to have done it.

we finished!

1 comment:

  1. Um.... Laurel. I am highly offended. German is the language of love. And everyone knows it.