Yes! Here it was! The morning of not only one of the most anticipated parts of this trip, but one of the most anticipated hikes of the past decade and a half…the Narrows! While Angel's Landing was a test in the fear of heights, this one proved to be the complete opposite, hiking Zion National Park's Narrows was a test in our threshold for claustrophobia…and this one, I found myself MUCH more comfortable with. I don't know what that says about me, but the only thing I was afraid of here was getting my camera gear wet as, over the next 48 hours, we'd be hiking through Utah's Virgin River for 18 miles.
So we broke down camp, threw everything in the car, parked at the Visitor Center, grabbed our packs and our crap bags, and met our shuttle driver Chad from Rare Form Shuttle Services, an extremely personable and knowledgable cat, at the pre-arranged meeting spot, where he, thankfully, convinced us that our Soloman and Vasque trail runners would do us just fine in lieu of the heavy bulky river shoe rentals…
…and off we went.
We began the 90-minute drive up through Zion National Park, through the tunnel, up and over the ridge to the plateau at the top of the canyon and made our way into Chamberlain's Ranch. This is where the trailhead lies for the 2-day 'Top Down' hike option, which is the option you'd want if you were looking to hike the entirety of the Narrows, and option I HIGHLY recommend.
The start of this thing is a mild 2-mile hike across a meadow on one of the plateaus that flanks either side of the canyon that is the masterfully crafted centerpiece of Zion National Park. It's a mild walk amongst fields of fresh grass, cows out to pasture, a few abandoned old barns and tool sheds, right along the lazily flowing Virgin River. After two miles, the landscape begins to noticeably change with each step. What's essentially happening here is, you're starting atop the plateau that forms the 2000-foot walls of Zion Canyon, and over the course of 2 days and 18-miles, you working your way down to the bottom along with the very waters that have carved this cavernous masterpiece over millions of years.
As you proceed, the sandstone walls begin to get higher…and higher…and higher…and higher on each side of you - they basically start to close in on you, the direct light begins to disappear as you navigate your way through the slot canyons illuminated by the soft diffused sunlight that has spent that past 1000 feet bouncing back and forth against the warm-toned stone by the time it gets to you. The river begins to become impossible to navigate around, and that's when you realize that, well, you're going to be walking right in it for the majority of this jaunt, and considering the fact that the temperature outside it was closing in on 100 degrees (38C), that was perfectly fine with me.
As you slosh through, you can't help but do it in absolute awe and with a guilty grin cutting into both sides of your cheeks. The colors, the scenery, the smells, the fact that this ever-changing exercise in excitement-restraint had only just begun and there were still 30 hours of this to go!?!
As we made our way deeper into the canyon and became more acquainted with the nuances of the crevices, what started off as a soft and easily grippable gravel underneath our feet began to turn into larger and larger rocks that took a much more planned and careful approach to safely make your way through it. This is where our trekking poles became much more essential in making sure that certain parts of the river weren't too deep and to be able to feel our way around the boulders that we were hopping, only they were under water. This certainly began to take a toll on our ankles and energy, but just as our legs began to get wobbly and huff and puff as our blood sugar was in desperate need of a boost, we reach our campsite, one of 12 along the banks of the Virgin River deep within the Narrows. We dropped our Osprey and Gregory packs, fell upon the sand, and next thing you know, we're waking up an hour later just as the sun light begins to disappear, the moonlight begins to illuminate the canyon with a silver glow, the bats start fluttering around, and the stars pop up bright in the slots of sky we see in the canyon above.
We popped out our GSI Dualist and MSR Pocket Rocket, boiled up a few Backpackers Pantry meals, set up camp, and jumped into the tent for the night to escape the creepy crawlies that started to seemingly infest the sand around us. The sounds of the Virgin River flowing beside us coupled with the endless melodies being chirped by the critters that are fortunate to call this canyon home, helped close out a glorious Day 1 in Zion National Park's Narrows.
Below is a gallery of some more pics from the first part of the hike, and for the second part of the hike "3 National Parks, 3 States, 2 weeks, 1 Crap Bag - Part 4 - From The River To The Rodeo," click here.
And here are links to the first few parts of this adventure:
For Part 1 of the "3 National Parks, 3 States, 2 Weeks, 1 Crap Bag" Saga, "Curing an Extreme Case of Wanderlust," CLICK HERE
For Part 2 of the "3 National Parks, 3 States, 2 Weeks, 1 Crap Bag" Saga, "Almost Used The Crap Bag," CLICK HERE