One year honeymoon around the world...17th April 2007 to 9th March 2008! Yes we're home!!

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Zion National Park, Utah

Drove from Vegas and arrived late afternoon Sunday. Went straight into park to check out permits for Narrows hike and bought an annual pass for the National Parks. We were planning on camping; campsite looked nice but no showers. Zion was so warm reckonned we'd need a shower after a day's hike and found a nice motel to stay in.

You can only get permits the day before or day of your hike so we went early to the Backcountry Office and got permits for Narrows hike top-down and a campsite.

The Zion Narrows
The Virgin River has carved a spectacular gorge in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon: 16 miles long, up to 2000 feet deep, and at times only 20-30 feet wide. The Zion Narrows; walking in the shadow of its soaring walls, sandstone grottos, natural springs, and hanging gardens can be an unforgettable wilderness experience.

It is not, however, a trip to be underestimated. Hiking the Zion Narrows means hiking in the Virgin River. At least 60% of the hike is spent wading, walking, and sometimes swimming in the stream. There is no maintained trail; the route is the river. The current is swift, the water is cold, and the rocks underfoot are slippery. Flash flooding and hypothermia are constant dangers. Good planning, proper equipment, and sound judgment are essential for a safe and successful trip.

The park has a shuttle bus service to connect the main trails and sights which also means no cars allowed past the visitor centre making a much nicer park. We took a ranger-led shuttle bus and got some info about the park whilst checking out the park from the bus. We wanted to hike Angels Landing to check out "Walters Wiggles" but the sun was scorching so we went on the easier Emerald Pools hike. Bit disappointing as the pools weren't very green, more brown. Might be wrong time of year for the algae. Trail nice though and you could do a round trip of the 3 different pools.

Was still a bit hot so we went back into Springdale to get supplies for our hike. The tent was getting it's 4th outing. We bought a new stove - PocketRocket - boils the water sooooo fast. Very good when you finish hiking and you're very hungry and we got some dehydrated dinners (I will never eat 3 minute noodles again - nb. Torres del Paine)

Back to park and at 4.30pm we headed up Angels Landing. Much better temperature as virtually all the trail was in the shade. Walters Wiggles is a steep section of switchbacks.

After the Wiggles we reached Scouts Lookout then headed up the last part of the trail along the mountain ridge with lots of chains to hold onto. Views were great - could see up and down the valley and because it was relatively late in the day we sat on the top by ourselves (plus a cheeky chipmunk).

Tuesday - The Narrows Top-Down Thru Hike
Took shuttle mini-bus at 9.30am to Chamberlain's Ranch at the top end of the Virgin River. We were to walk 16 miles over 2 days and we were already aching from Angels Landing hike. The first 11 miles you have to have a permit so we were on our own virtually the whole day which was lovely.

We saw tonnes of frogs as we walked along the start of the trail; they jumped into the river as we approached them. Most were small, about 5-10cm long but we saw a couple of large ones. Ben also spotted a little water snake.

There are 12 campsites along the river ranging from 8 miles along the trail to 11 miles. But mileage wasn't always significant as it depended on the river flow and if there was land to walk on - a difference of 2 hours between the first and last campsite. Ours was number ten as we reckoned we'd be better having a longer first day. We were shattered! The trail was spectacular, but hard work. The first few miles we could walk by the river most of the time but were constantly crossing the water.

We had hired neoprene socks which keep your feet warm when wet. We put them on about mile 6.

Journal entry...(mini-pad from a hotel rather than lugging big book down canyon)
"Exhausted! Fantastic hike but shattering. We've just filtered the river water to cook dinner and I think I may be too tired to eat :-) Dehydrated pepper steak, rice and hash browns - yum...??

Scenery amazing - the rock formations are incredible. Hike is down the Virgin River and trail is wherever you want it so end up crossing the river every few minutes..."

Dinner was pretty good. But when we got to step 3 on the hash browns (step one - pour in boiling water, step two - leave to rehydrate) it said, 'fry with oil in a griddle' - yeah like we brought a griddle with us!

As it got dark a few furry friends joined us so we put up the tent. Turned out to be the right move as it rained during the night.

Intended on getting up early and away for 7am, but we must have been tired as we overslept and faffed around so were away shortly before 9am.

Second day tougher as pretty much all in the river and a lot of sections we had no choice but to wade through. The 'Wall Street' section was spectacular again with the high canyon walls but not quite the same as on day one as by 11am there was an increasing number of day-hike people on the trail.

Great trek in all and would definitely recommend it. Absolutely shattered by the end. We took shuttle from Temple of Sinawava (end of trail) to Zion Lodge and Ben got me an ice-cream whilst I slumped on the grass (Thanks Ben x)

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