Hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park

Trek Diary: Day Twenty (16th July)

Our day began like many other mornings on the trip, with the two groups feeling exceptionally fragile. Breakfast was skipped whilst we pieced together the memories and antics from the night before. I called shotgun again as i felt it was the best option for my current state – full access to a window and door, just in case the motion of the van proved too much to handle.

We had one more day of camping left before we hit Vegas, which meant one more night of campsite cooking. We stopped off in the the town of Kanab, Utah to pick up supplies…and some 10am fried chicken. The hangover cravings had kicked in and many were tempted by the thought of greasy food.  We then sampled some warm Twinkies and Ding Dongs and all before lunchtime. Oh, America!

A few hours into our journey, we stopped off to look at some buffalo, where Charlotte then puked up her Twinkie. This was probably the best idea, as it is pretty much saturated fat covered in sponge. You can almost feel your arteries clogging up as you eat it.

"You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd..."

The drive into Zion National Park was relatively quiet.  Admittedly, this was mainly due to the volume of alcohol that had been consumed, but there was also a feeling of sadness too, for me at least. It didn’t help that “Untitled 8” by Sigur Ros came on and it dawned on me that we only had a few days left with each other.  I was hungover, a bit depressed but extremely grateful for the few days remaining. I knew that there were going to be tears when the time came to say goodbye.

The campsite we were staying at was just outside of the park and was situated right next to the Virgin river, nestled between the famous sandstone cliffs. Still feeling suitably hungover, the girls decided that putting a tent up sounded a lot like hard work. Instead, we all flopped on the ground whilst Natalie took a snooze in the van – we were in no state to go hiking. Steve then reminded us that we would probably never be visiting Zion again. With that in mind, we ignored the vomity feelings and put on our Walmart aqua shoes, apart from Charlotte who was still feeling the effects of the Twinkie/booze.

This photo needs a Charlotte!

Just like the Grand Canyon park, Zion has a network of free shuttles buses that stop off at different areas of the park and hiking trails. One of the most popular is the Narrows hike, which proved to be the perfect hangover cure. I have heard that exercise can get rid of those morning-after feelings, but had never quite managed to test the theory. It seems that with the addition of freezing cold water and walking on unstable rocks for a few hours, you end up forgetting how horrendous you feel. The river is a short walk down from the shuttle stop and you can then hike upstream, negotiating the rocks and varying water levels. At one point we were practically swimming, although the majority of the walk is at knee height or lower but it would depend on what time of the year you visit (the trail is closed during the winter due to the danger of flash floods.) It may be 40·C+ outside but the cliffs are so high that the river is mostly in shadow and therefore the water is very cold. It was one of those situations where you need to grit your teeth and dip  – or else the slow descent into the water is torturous. You also have to walk back the way you came and will end up repeating the whole process. Better to get it over and done with!

Its amazing how physically and mentally draining walking up a river can be, although it may not have helped that my liver was trying to escape my body at the time. It is an activity that takes a lot of concentration and it is important that you find stable rocks to stand on. One bad move and you may end up in the ER with a smooshed up face. You can hire walking boots and hiking sticks for about $20 – but having stable footing totally takes the fun out of the whole thing!

After a trip to find ice cream and having to make-do with a Klondike bar from the vending machine, we made dinner – comprised of yet more pasta. A Trek classic. Have you ever tried to drain water from 15 servings of pasta? Its tricky. I think i managed to burn everyone who assisted me.

Bed time was rather early and I fell asleep listening to the group talking. It was our last night of camping which meant no more sleeping bags, smelly tents, bugs and above all else – microfiber towels! I complain about the camping but at times i do miss it. I miss being outdoors, sleeping under the stars and the campfire chats – things that you would never get with a hotel/hostel based trip. Besides, when you get bitten to death by wildlife, battle creepy crawlies in the dark and get sweaty together in tents…its one big bonding experience!