Thursday, July 9, 2009

Zion Narrows

We departed from Corey's house at 4:00 AM for what I'll always consider the excursion of a life time, a 16 Mile hike through Zion Narrows! I must admit I had a bit of trepidation attempting this at my age. I'm four days shy of my 59th birthday.

Susan was so kind to shuttle us. We drove to the main Visitor's Center in Zion National Park and dropped off Corey's van. Then up through the tunnels and on to Chamberlain ranch to begin the hike. Susan saw us off and went home the short way, by way of Navajo Lake, driving my Yukon.

We started by fording the creek, the air was 40 degrees, the water, colder. Susan was driving away and fleetingly I thought, "What have I done?" There was no turning back. The first few miles is a pleasant walk down a road within the ranch. Eventually, though the canyon narrows and we were forced to walk in and out of the creek the rest of the way. Early on the going is easy, progress fast and we began to assume that the predicted 12 hours for the journey was for slow pokes, not us.

The scenery was wonderful, the temperature cool and the companionship great! I loved hearing of Corey's passion for geography and teaching. He's found a great niche coaching soccer and is so influential in the lives of the kids he touches. He spoke of his plans for next week, showing his Inuit friend, Curtis, around Utah and Nevada. He's got his days booked solid and I was amazed he could or even would squeeze in an excursion with me. Corey has lots of friends and I found myself suspecting it was so because no single friend could keep up with him. His zest for life, though, is contagious and rubs off on me and everyone else!

Most slot canyons I've been exposed to don't have continuous running water. This one though is the water course of the Virgin river and always has good flow. You have stay out on days when thunderstorms are possible. It is quickly obvious that there are times when the water level is way higher and fatally dangerous. We clambered over occasional log jambs that displayed the enormous power a flash flood can carry. In such a confined space it would be difficult, if not impossible to climb high enough to get out of the way.

There was a wonderful 20' water fall and a convenient detour to bypass it. Ferns of various kinds and lovely Monkey Flower hung from seeps in the walls. At one point the slot is just six or seven feet wide and 2000' deep. We were in the shade much of the time.

The bottom eight miles is quite grueling. In the water 60 percent of the time stumbling over submerged, moss covered cobble rocks, described as walking on underwater bowling balls - for miles. We didn't see another soul for the first eight hours of the journey. After that we encountered several folks who came up from the canyon's mouth. One group of Scouts caught up with us from the rear, though we actually finished before most of them.

I took a pair of hiking sticks which were wonderful in helping keep my balance in the current and over the slippery rocks. It would have been exhausting constantly adjusting my balance and gathering myself up from spills. There were times of wading neck deep through slow spots, but those were refreshing and easy buoyant moments we enjoyed. There were times you could see only a sliver of sky above. I love geology and the formations, patterns and colors of the rock were fantastic. Too bad we almost became jaded at the scenery after so many hours in the canyon. We felt a little pressed for time and spent a bit too much of it hunkered down in the business of moving along the difficult stream bed rather than enjoying the pristine beauty that surrounded us.

We finished fifteen minutes short of the average time of 12 hours. Much less exhausted than we had anticipated. In fact feeling rejuvenated and refreshed by the challenge, the conversation, the break from routine and the companionship of God in His creation. The shuttle ride to the car was sweet, contemplative and still amongst the most spectacular majesty to be found anywhere.

Supper at Alberto's was fine authentic tasting Mexican food. I couldn't believe how Hurricane had grown since I was there years ago.

Thanks Corey, and Susan, for a wonderful day I shall never forget.

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