Saturday, July 12, 2008

An Adventure in Zion Narrows

Our recent vacation began at Zion National Park. It was our second visit in just over a year. It's such an awesome place that on the first day of this trip we decided to come back on our way home to do some more hiking. We made another reservation for the nice, comfy Pioneer Lodge and we were set.

So, after the week in Park City we made our already reserved stop at the Cedar City KOA (this was suppose to be a rest stop on the way home) and stayed in one of their cute little "Kabins". "Cute" and "cheap" are probably the perfect way to describe them. If you're looking for a comfy bed and a good night of sleep...forget it! The beds were horrible! Even our teenage daughter woke up aching. Here's a picture of it's cuteness....

In the morning we dressed for hiking, loaded up, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and headed straight to Springdale (about one hour away) to catch a shuttle into Zion National Park. We planned to hike "The Narrows", a hike we did last year and absolutely loved. So far, it's the best hike we've found anywhere. It's sooooo much fun! The weather forecast was great...sunshine and 0% chance of precipitation. It was going to be a great day!!!

The hike starts at the far end of the park, where the shuttle has to turn around because the canyon gets too narrow. There is a paved path for about a mile or so from "The Temple of Sinawava" (the name of that area). At the end of that we went down some steps to begin the best part...a hike up the river. The trail is mostly in the river with a few areas here and there where there is some dirt, rocks, and vegetation on one side or another. The canyon walls are probably 1,000 feet or so straight up on each side and there are parts of the river trail that the canyon narrows to widths around 20 feet (I think there are some areas that are much narrower). Generally, the water level is ankle to knee deep. On a hot day it's the perfect hike! The picture at the top is of a wider area near the beginning of the trail.

Here are some pictures of narrower sections. Notice the tall walls and the beautiful color of the water...

We hiked several hours up into the canyon where we noticed red dust and rocks that had recently blown down from the top (maybe the day before in an afternoon wind or thunderstorm?). Later, wind started blowing down from the top dropping leaves and dust onto us. The sky (what we could see of it through the top opening of the canyon) began to cloud up. Shortly after that we turned around and the sky began to rumble. Our daughter got a bit nervous and so we picked up the speed of our down river hike. Then, a few drops began to fall. Hmmmmm? (Remember, it was forecast for 0% precipitation!). We picked up our speed a bit more as it really began to rain.

I noticed other hikers were also moving quickly and now quietly downward. The raindrops were bigger than we had ever seen or felt. They were so big that they pounded down the brim of my husbands hat and within seconds we were completely soaked. Whoa! Ok! We'd all thought about the possibility that this could happen and of what to do but now we were in it. I suggested a small indent area on the side that was well above the river to hang out in but my husband said, with nervousness in his eyes that I'd never seen, "let's keep going".

We picked up our pace from quick hiking to running, even in the water (not easy). He remembered an area that he thought we were near and was trying to get us to. Whew! We made it! It was high above the river and had ledges even higher (if we were to need them) and it was like a wide open rock cave that the river had dug out over thousands of years. High and dry (the spot, but not us!!!) It was perfect! And, just in time. The sky opened up even more. Within a few minutes of the rain beginning we started to notice waterfalls showing up on various parts of the canyon walls. The short amount of time that these grew from nothing was astounding!

Here's one that was probably over 1000 feet above us, to our left, that may look small but it was so big that we saw a log come over the top....

A few minutes later we noticed a trickle of water come from up above us and over to our right a bit. As we said, "oh...look..." it became a big waterfall that fell so hard that water was falling the width of that canyon and hitting the other side. Rocks were coming off the top with it. Pictures just don't show the true beauty and power of the water and the falls. Here's a picture of when it first got started. This looks like it was taken close to the river level because we hiked down a bit from our "safe spot" to take it. Notice the edge of the overhanging rock that we were under...

We knew we were in a good spot and that even if the water were to rise many feet we would probably be fine. We just didn't know how long we would be there. But, Now that we were in a safe spot we were able to enjoy the sights.

It was interesting to see how other people were reacting to the situation. There were actually some people heading up the river! Crazy!!! We saw one man running and dragging his young son down the trail and river...I warned him of the falling rocks and pointed out the safe area we were in but he yelled at me and kept going, through the waterfall and rocks. Wow! That could have been deadly! I guess that's what panic looks like.

We felt so good that we had remained calm. We were blessed to come upon this space at the right time, and that we were safe there with four other really nice people. The seven of us discussed the situation, enjoyed the beauty of nature and the spectacular show it was giving to us, took pictures, and waited.

When the waterfalls had receeded and we felt it was the right time, we went down the river together, as a team. It seemed like the best way. The water had risen at least a foot or more. On the way up we were ankle to knee deep in water. On the way down it was mostly knee to waist high and the current was a bit stronger. We looked out for each other, caught one person as she fell and started to get swept away, and we all made it down safely.

Here's a picture of our group. And, in the words of the nice man in the middle front...."this will be the best picture of the whole day". is!

What an awesome adventure we had that day! It's something we have never experienced and may never again. It's something you try to avoid. But, it was amazing, thrilling, beautiful and we feel extremely lucky to have experienced it and blessed that it all worked out so wonderfully!

Yeeeeehaa! Here's to vacations, the thrill of adventure, and awesome people! :-)

Back to the Pioneer Lodge to check in, shower, eat and get a good night of sleep.


Sel and Poivre said...

I got goosebumps reading your account of the events prior to you finding a safe perch above the water!It is interesting how reflecting with hindsite on having kept one's cool feels so good!

vicki said...

What an unbelievable adventure! You did a fabulous job with this post - the photos - the details - you could be a travel writer!

Thank you so much for answering my questions about this wonderful hike- your information is immensely helpful. We definitely want to do this hike and I am even more inspired to do so now that I have talked to you and read your wonderful post.

I appreciate the heads up that storms can come - even with the 0% chance of rain - a level head is always the best option for safety. The waterfall picture is killer!!

Thank you so so much!

ps - we saw tons of people wearing those shoes from the adventure company - so I think that is definitely what we will do~~