It was just my birthday this past week and for a gift to myself I decided I was going to go to the Narrows at Zions National Park. The last time I had been was 2008 and I figured 4 years was long enough. So I began checking the weather for the park and with temperatures hitting 104 almost every day, it was a perfect time to go walk in a deep canyon while wading through water waist deep at times. So thus I left Friday night with my cousin Kent and my hiking buddy, Bruce.
A State on Fire
Currently Utah is facing a very serious and dangerous summer. This past winter was an extremely mild winter with little snow fall, thus leaving our dry barren desert even more dry and waiting to burn. Another factor that has not helped is that our temperatures have been a little higher then normal and have left us with the perfect situations for wild fires. As we were leaving Salt Lake, great clouds of smoke were rising from the far side of the valley threatening homes and causing mandatory evacuations of a small community on the edge of the city. As we traveled south large black clouds of smoke were darkening the sky’s out side of the Nephi area and down towards a small town called Scipio. The Scipio fires were visible from the freeway and we got a few pictures of them. So with that, please if you are coming to the state or planning on camping avoid camp fires, shooting into dry brush, and fire works.
Most of the summer hiking in southern Utah is quite a challenge. The temperatures sit in the 100’s most days and there is very little water to cool down in. Thus most locals don’t find them selves here and most web sites suggest spring and fall hiking for best experiences, but for the Narrows, this is the perfect time of year. When the sun is hot, its time to hit a cool river in the bottom of a deep canyon.
The hike begins at the last stop on the Zions bus tour. There are places to fill up water and to use the restrooms, all of which I suggest you doing. To get to the “beginning” of the trail, you have to walk for a mile on a paved and relatively flat pathway which takes you back further into the canyon. When it is a wet season there are waterfalls pouring off the cliff sides into the river down below, but currently there are only a few springs leaking out of the rocks. When you hit the trails end the river begins.
The main reason why this hike is so great during the summer is that its through a river. You begin in the river, and periodically leave its waters to go onto dry ground. So thus we began going into the canyon. The river starts off mellow and takes you through some nice scenery which includes a waterfall that comes out of some canyon. From what I have been told, that waterfall is the end of another hike that begins out side the park and ends here in the Narrows. Much of this area is sandy with fewer rocks. As you progress farther into the canyon, the ground is littered with smoothed rocks and boulders that litter the river bed and banks. These rocks make traveling difficult and potentially dangerous. Walking sticks are a huge benefit on this hike and can really save you from messing up and breaking your ankles. Also there are some shoes that I was seeing out there that are rigid with plenty grip, but are also have built in neoprene so it repels water. There are local shops that rent them out.
Note: If you have electronics I suggest having plastic bags to put them in along with other things you don’t want to get wet. Also make sure they are sealed, my cousins camera got water logged in its bag. We are not sure if it will survive.
One of the fun things to do here within the narrows is swim, so if you get a chance jump in and splash about for a bit. There are plenty of areas where the water is 6 feet deep or deeper for you to jump off into. Just don’t dive, dying sucks. You will see in the video a place where we jumped off some rocks and splashed about a bit. It was at one of these points where a funny little incident occurred.
Bruce, my buddy, wanted to climb this rock face, which wasn’t such a big deal, so with some effort he got himself to the top. Well now that he was there, getting back down became a bit more of a challenge. His shoes were wet from the river so the rock became a little more slippery, and they are not full hiking shoes so they do not have all the grip necessary to navigate safely. So me and my cousin watched from the bank and gave him directions on how to get down. Well we lead him across the rock face and as we were doing so we pointed out the cactus’s that he should avoid grabbing. Well about 30 seconds later, as he is coming down the rocks, he screams out that he just grabbed the cactus! He claims he was beginning to slip, but none the less he did the thing we told him not to do. So as he is coming down the rock his hand is in extreme pain due to the dozens of little spines now digging their way into it. The other thing that made it worse was that we did not have a pair of tweezers, so he had to take a knife and simply scrape away skin and spines to re-leave himself of the pain. Note to self don’t touch a cactus.
We continued up the canyon for probably another 45 minutes and hit a fork in the canyon. To the left is the main river and to the right is a small creek that disappears back into a smaller narrower canyon. This direction was new to me so thus we traveled the path less traveled and went down the right fork. This was about the time where both of my cameras ran out of batteries so I have no pictures of this section. We headed up for a ways and enjoyed the cool new scenery. We even had a butterfly hitch hike on Kent for a few minutes. To end our journey we came across a 10 foot waterfall which Bruce and I decided to climb. After seeing him struggle with it and going back there and checking it out for my self I determined it was unclimbable, but Bruce was determined.
With a little help from us halting the water, and him jabbing out the little particles of sand he created a couple hand holds and with some good upper arm strength and jamming himself into the crack he managed to climb up the waterfall. Now it was my turn. Following the same steps he did, I shimmied up the waterfall. And you know what, it was pretty friggen awesome.