Zion Narrows

2002 June

Zion Narrows

For his 39th birthday Henrik wanted to hike the narrows in Zion National Park in Utah. So we drove 1800 miles for the 2-day, 1-night backpacking trip. It began after work when Henrik and I drove from San Francisco down to Fresno where we met his girlfriend Anne, who was there on business. We all stayed the night and left the following morning, leaving Henrik’s truck in the hotel parking lot. Then we drove, and drove, and drove all the way to Utah where we rented a car and stayed in a Motel 6 outside of Zion National Park. The next morning we drove both cars into the park very early, got in line for permits and were lucky enough to be allowed to start our hike the same day. Next we drove the rental car to the start of the trail and were off and running.

We came out of the canyon around lunch on the second day and took a shuttle back to Anne’s car. Then we had the long drive to retrieve the rental car and then the longer drive back to the Bay Area. After dropping off the rental car Anne drove and Henrik slept in the back. It turns out he had been sick for most of the trip. Finding this out made me feel kind of bad since I had given him a hard time at the start of the trip when he tried to get me to carry some cheese. At the time I thought he was fine and just trying to load me up since my pack was so light to begin with (my pack was probably around 15 pounds while his was maybe around 40 pounds). This was not because I wasn’t carrying my share but rather due to my minimal approach and lightweight gear.

Anyway, with Henrik asleep in the back of the car Anne drove on into the night and we made it all the way to the Nevada-California State Line where we got a super inexpensive room at Whiskey Pete’s. It was either $19 or $29 but was worth two or three times the price to us since we were very tired. The next day we drove onto Fresno where Anne dropped us at Henrik’s truck, we headed back up north while she resumed her business in the area.

Three cheers to Henrik for proposing and planning such a radical trip. Everything went smoothly and to this day we still talk fondly about the time we drove so long and far for such a short trip. But hey, no regrets here, I am glad I did it and would recommend that other people do it as well.

If you do go I have three pieces of advice. First and most important is to wear your normal backpacking footgear. I wore running shoes, as usual, and they worked great. Do not, under any circumstances, wear sandals or river type shoes. Secondly, use trekking poles; of course two are better than one. And third, bring very little gear and put it all in a garbage bag (trash compactor bag is better) inside your pack.

Although the water was never more than waist deep on our trip you never know what will happen. Just for fun, at one point I walked into a deep section of the river with my pack on and as the water rose around me I felt the pack slowly lifting off of my back. Suddenly I couldn’t touch the bottom yet was floating with my head well above the water since my pack was acting as a buoy on my back. Dog paddling, I was able to continue through the deep section until I could touch again. Everything in the trash compactor bag lining my pack stayed totally dry, even though the top of the trash bag was not sealed or closed in anyway.

Day 1

Before you reach the water the trail is dry and dusty. Here Anne kicks up some dust.

Casey and Anne at an arch.

Anne admires the soaring walls while Casey continues on the cobbles.

I will admit that this picture looks like a phony, but it isn’t. I climbed up to this hole in the sandstone wall and had a bit of trouble getting down.

Henrik got in the fun on the sandstone wall as well. Finally we get a picture with the photographer.

A narrow passage although technically not the “narrows” yet. At this point Anne and I still had dry feet. Now we are starting to enter the dramatic sections of the hike.

Henrik captures me admiring the view. Feet are still dry.

A view looking upstream at our cave or “grotto” campsite.

Our cave was huge, no tent was required, just a ground sheet as you can see from this photo taken inside the cave.

Day 2

Day 2 and downstream of the cave campsite water pours out of the hillside behind me. Day hikers, who start downstream, are not allowed to go past this point.

OK, now my feet are wet! And come to think of it, I am in my underwear.

Another classic “Narrows” picture. On our trip the water was never more than waist deep.

Hey, like it says, it ain't no substitute for a topographic map. On the other hand, what the heck will a topo map tell you that you don't already know. Follow the water downstream and don't even think of trying to climb out.