So we made it home after a long drive through the back roads of New Mexico and Texas… 2 weeks went by so fast but now that it’s over, thinking back on everything… it’s hard to believe we really crammed that much in. I know t his is the final entry or recap, but I’ll go back in time a bit and finally do my Zion write up. Reny and I both agree this stop was what made the trip. Truth is, nothing extraordinary happened. At least not by most definitions of the word. It’s just something about those canyons, the early morning winds through the trees, the cold brisk water of the Virgin river, the desert sunsets, the hospitable people…everything. On top of that, sharing those moments with my son who equally appreciated it made for a perfect adventure.
You see, we never had any intentions on hiking the Narrows. Hell, we didn’t plan on going to Utah until the night before. About an hour before we went to sleep to be precise. After we got back from dinner in Vegas, I got on the computer and was Googling some camping spots for the Grand Canyon and ran across Zion. I had heard of it before and saw pictures but never knew it was Zion and that it was that close.
The drive from Vegas was fairly quick. Going by memory, I believe it was under 5 hours. More like 3.5…but I could be very wrong. We drove a total of 4,800 miles in 2 weeks. lol. Anyways, we arrived about noon. Luckily there was some camp sites available! Zion has 2 main camping areas, The Watchman and South Camp. I don’t think they reserve so get there early if you plan on trying to camp. Weekends would probably be booked up and weekdays you have to take your chances. We scored a decent site in South Camp! If go during the summer, don’t expect to be “needing” the warmth of a campfire at night. It drops enough to be tolerable, but it certainly isn’t cool. The park is full of wildlife too! From Squirrels to deer. And most take no fear to humans as you can see in this shot just feet from our tent.
Anyways, once we setup camp we had a couple hours to waste before our Jeep tour so we took a ride up the main road of the park which goes winding up the mountain. If you are not used to driving mountain roads, this one will surely break you in. It’s narrow, bumpy and has great views as you drive up…of the edge and road below. This road actually leads to Hwy 89 which takes you to the Grand Canyon North Rim…by flight is only 80 or so miles. Driving it was little over a hundred I think. Come 5 oclock we headed back down to town to catch our tour with Zion Rock Guides. One of the area’s premiere guides services in the area. Check out their website for more info. They will do guides from everythign Mountain biking to climbing to canyoneering to simple Sunset Jeep tours. Unless you get our driver. Jorge
I thought for sure I had a better picture of Jorge, but then again…the mystery fits it perfect. Initially I was looking for follow ride tour. Basically something we could follow in our own Jeep. But nothing was offered. However, Jorge said he’d be happy to let us follow him around! But after a little thought, being 3k miles away from home and using the only vehicle we had to get back…I decided to just sit in with the experienced guide who knows the trails. Our trip was actually supposed to just be a Butte and Mesa tour. Basically taking us atop for the views. Which it was! But Jorge style. We took some of the roads less travelled and to some of places only the locals know about or go. I won’t repeat my blog about this tour, but will say Jorge was worth the money. I gave him the address to the site so I hope he’s reading, had read or will read this. It was good to meet you Jorge and look forward to crossing paths again.
The diverse trek through Zion’s premier canyon is one of the most touted and breathtaking adventures in America. Extraordinary beauty and unique character describe this amazing gorge. Hanging gardens burst from dramatically colored perpendicular walls while trickling water threads its way through moss covered boulders. Gentle slopes give way to sheer walls funneling streams of water into fluted slides and twisting channels cutting deeper and deeper as the journey continues its path southward. Along the sandy perches of the banks, towering ponderosa send their roots downward, hungry for nutrients and water. The entire trip is wondrous. The Zion Narrows deserves its reputation as one of the best, if not the best, hike in the National Park System.
We had no intentions of attempting the Narrows hike. Everything I had read kinda made it sound like you really sh ouldn’t do it unless you planned well for it or had someone who did it with you. But take it to Jorge to urge us on. Actually, come to find out the true Hike for the Narrows is from the top down to the main park. This route being some 16 miles and usually requiring an overnight camp somewhere mid way. Requires a backwoods permit too… But Jorge said do the bottom up route. Which basically starts off at the end of the park and you trek upstream as far as you want. Most people only go a few hundred yards, some a mile in and some reach Orderville Canyon.
Orderville Canyon connects to The Narrows about 2 miles upstream hike. I’m not exactly sure how far it goes, but it’s fairly narrow in comparison to the Narrows 2 miles from the bottom, which makes for some very cool views. Jorge told us we have to reach Orderville. Everything will tell us to turn around and go back, but trek on and at least get to Orderville. It was worth the trip. Sure enough, it was worth it. A little about about the hike…It’s not exactly dangerous per se, but it can be strenuous. The danger CAN arise if there’s a flash flood. So if you don’t know how to swim, it’s more of a risk. The guides say most younger athletic people who are prepared and educated can get through a flash flood, but the elderly or young are the ones that end up in trouble. But Google canyoneering and flashflood and you can see anyone is at risk with a big enough flood. What makes the hike strenuous is the terrain you have to navigate. You are basically hiking through a river bed. Stones of all sizes with rushing water over them can be tricky to navigate at times. i f you have bad ankles, you’ll surely want to wear some support or don’t even go. I twisted mine quite a few times on loose stones. Had I not had the hiking sticks (provided by Jorge!) I may had fallen a couple times. You dont’ need hiking sticks, but it’s a good idea. It acts as your third leg…(no jokes please…lol)
The water is refreshingly 65 degrees! A bit chilly at first, but after treking through it for a while, it feels wonderful! Some parts of the canyon you don’t even have to walk in the river, but some parts you are up to your waist and higher. There were a few spots we ran into that we couldn’t feel the bottom, but you didn’t have to go that route and swim. There was always some part of the canyon that allowed you to walk through.
This really was an absolutely wonderful hike. Not far from Zion there’s also Bryce Canyon ,Canyonlands , and Arches National Parks. All equally possessing some great country to explore. Utah is definitely some place I’ll plan another visit to some day.
Every now and again during the hike I’d beat myself up for now having brought a backup camera. If you read my earlier blogs…my 5D had a malfunction and I had to leave it at Canon in Orange County, CA. So besides the cheap waterproof film camera shots, ALL of my vacation shots are with the iPhone 3GS.
Once we reached Orderville, we hiked in a bit further. Orderville’s river bottom wasn’t all rocky like the Narrows. It was more slate and slippery. And we ran into a few spots that were more than inaccessible by anyone without some climbing capabilities. The climbs were worth it though. Orderville was much narrower than the part of the Narrows we had hiked up. What scared me though was the walls were wet about 15ft up. No water was dripping from above so, my reasoning was the levels were that high at some point during the day.
IDK…or the rock’s were sweating with condensation…either way, the narrow walls and hardly any hiding spots to get behind in case of a flash flood made us not venture more than a mile in.
After that point, we turned back for the Narrows and hiked in about a quarter mile more then realized, we have to hike BACK to get oout. At this point we were 4 hours into and tired. The hike back was a bit faster since we knew the easier routes and didn’t stop much to site see.
I can’t wait to go back. Tammy already agreed to do the 16 mile overnight hike from the top down with me. On the river we ran into a few people who were making there way down with that trip and said it was well worth it. Long and tiring, but well worth it. I can’t see how it couldn’t be…
Well, I had full intentions on completing this recap blog of the whole trip but just realized it’s almost midnight! I have to get up for 6am cardio! Check back tomorrow after lunch for the official recap!