Hiking the Narrows – Zion National Park

The narrows refers to an area where the Virgin River has carved a spectacular gorge in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon: 16 miles long, up to 2,000-feet deep, and at times only 20 to 30-feet wide. However, hiking The Narrows means hiking in the Virgin River. At least 60 percent of the hike is spent wading, walking, and sometimes swimming in the river. You are literally chest deep into water on a good day.  There is no maintained trail because the route is the river. The current is swift, the water is cold, and the rocks underfoot are slippery.

When we did the hike, the current was described at “moderate” and water was a bone chilling 40 degrees Fahrenheit   A permit is required for the 16-mile top-down hike through The Narrows. A permit is not required for hiking The Narrows from the bottom up.  I’m not even sure if the top-down hike was open when we were visiting in April, so instead we ventured bottom-up approach.

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Before we could start the hike, I knew we had to get equipment.  I knew that after almost freezing in tropical water, I needed a dry-suit for this hike.  I woke up the boys and of we went to Zion Adventure.   This styling little number costs about $52 a day to rent and comes with your very own walking stick, boots and neoprene socks.

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While the water was only 40 degrees, the air temperature climbed up to 70, so needless to say things got a little warm in there.  And if you’re wondering if that walking stick is really necessary? I can tell you yes, yes it is.  I fell right from the start even with the stupid stick.

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When you get off the shuttle, the hike starts with a one mile paved walked before you hit the water.  I continued my squirrel photography and if you want to get really strange looks, walk by a bunch of people chilling in a dry-suit.  I think someone at one point burst out laughing at us.

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Within a few minutes of walking, we were waist deep in water.  Sadly, those times were not captured since I value my camera and am currently accepting all donations for a waterproof case.

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We rented a drysack thing to hold my camera and phone but we quickly found out it was not waterpoof.  Poor Tony held it and worked very hard not to fall while the rest of our group would drop like flies on a random rock.

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Every time we hit a sandy beach, the boys would decide it was time for a break

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In about a mile and a half we reached a forkroad.  We could walk down Wall Street or the other (I forgot the name).

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We started with the other, which was more shallow and had more plant life.  We then made our way back.

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What the other lacked in water, it made up with some serious rock climbing.  Although part of me thinks we just hiked past the designated trail.  Things got way too hard, way too fast.

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Wall Street kinda of resembled this only the water was chest deep.  Since you’re walking against the stream, you are using your stick as a third leg to push you forward.  Very draining and snacking had to occur often to refuel.

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Needless to say, coming back was easier.  You see the drysuits get filled with air and turn you into a floatable device.  You can basically relax and float your way back down.  Except poor Tony, because he had to hold up my camera from the water.  He doesn’t look like he minded at all, plus he was a champ at this.

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And how do you reward yourself after a treacherous battle with water? You don’t share your ice cream! Bwahaha.

24 Hours in Grand Canyon, AZ

Though widely considered one of the world’s most spectacular canyons, the Grand Canyon is neither the world’s longest or deepest gorge.  Its average depth is about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers), though the canyon ranges from 2,400 feet (731 meters) deep below Yavapai Point on the South Rim to 7,800 feet (2,377 m) deep at the North Rim. The canyon wends 277 miles (446 km) along its sinuous path.  In comparison Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon in the Himalayas as the world’s longest and deepest canyon. Its depth reaches 17,567 feet (5,382 m) and its length 308 miles (496.3 km).  (I wanna go, I wanna go)

Grand CanyonWhat I really wanted to do was hike from Rim to Floor to Rim.  In a dream world I would start in the middle of the night and do R2R2R, which is going from South Rim to Floor, to North Rim to Floor back to South Rim.  But sadly the boys vetoed all my proposals for hikes.  Usually a people take two days to do Rim to Floor to Rim (maybe 21 miles?) hike.  I think if we started at 5AM, and hustled through, we could have finished in 12 hours but the boys weren’t really feeling the 11+ mile uphill hike on the return.  One day Grand Canyon, One day I’ll be back!
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Instead I settled on a walk along the south rim edge.  Grand Canyon 3

And I focused on improving my squirrel photo skillz.

Grand Canyon 4And found the most naturally colorful rocks on earth, or maybe just the Canyon

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At its narrowest, at Marble Canyon, the Grand Canyon is only 600 yards (548 meters) across. At its widest, the gorge spans 18 miles (29 kilometers).  On average, the canyon is only 10 miles (16 km) wide from rim to rim, but crossing by foot takes 21 miles (33 km), and driving by car is a 251-mile (403 km), five-hour odyssey.

Grand Canyon 8The might Colorado river flows through it all the way down to Mexico.  The Colorado River cuts through schist, a type of metamorphic rock that is 1.75 billion years old. That’s nearly half the age of the Earth (which is 4.5 billion years old).  These relatively unaltered sediments stopped accumulating about 230 million years ago, and are older than the dinosaurs. Though no dinosaur bones have ever been found in the park, geologically recent fossils, including 11,000-year-old sloth bones, have been found in canyon caves. Many marine fossils and animal tracks also appear in the National Park’s rock layers.

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We stayed in Maswik Lodge, an outdated cabin built right in the National Park.  A little gross, but one step up from sleeping on the floor in a tent.  However, we had showers and a bed and heat, so I was happy.  They have a cafeteria but the options are shall we say limited to simple put.  So I got a salad and a bowl of chili for lunch.  Meh, but I guess you can either have nature or fine dining.

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After lunch we continued walking along the rim.Grand Canyon 12

A large portion of the South Rim is paved and very accessible.  The parts that are unpaved can be accessed with a shuttle system that runs every 5-10 minutes during daylight hours.

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In the evening you can see Elk all over the park including the village area where all the tourists congregate.  Yea this photo was taken about 1 second before Mr. Elk and Mrs. Elk showed us how baby elk are made.

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Besides  hiking you can also be carried to the bottom of the canyon on a donkey (or something).  We walked down a little bit but quickly walked up as the sun was setting.

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The sunset in the canyon will never fail to disappoint.  Only advice I can give of where to view, is pick a point where the sun is behind you so you can see the colors of the canyon better under the setting sun.