The last part of the hike truly is the most difficult, but if you get that far and simply stop, you will regret it FOREVER! The switchbacks go on for what feels like miles, then at the top there is still another stiff amount of hiking.
Above, there’s a small shot of the switchbacks… Fun, right? At the top, we had packed a lunch and ice cold beer, so it was absolutely perfect! We got all of the goofy photos, the views in every direction, and hiked around a little bit. The sights and scenery are simply spectacular! Always being around Yosemite and the National Parks in the Northwestern and Northern United States, I seriously underestimated how much Zion would wow me. The towers and canyons stick straight up in to the sky, providing this stark contrast of smooth walls of red, black, and white to the blue sky peppered with cumulous clouds. Climbers also appear as tiny dots on the walls, making their way up the classic routes. It was a moving sight to take in, and I wish every single person could understand and get that feeling of how fortunate we are to have all of this land protected and preserved for everyone on the future!
Since we didn’t have much of the day left, we headed to our home for the night, Zion Mountain Ranch. All of the campsites were full inside and outside the park, so Jenny and I splurged (for once) and got a cabin at this ranch. The entire ranch is a buffalo reserve, and the views are spectacular. Our little porch had a rocking bench that looked out over the fields and buffalo grazing, flowing hills in to the mountains, and a sunset that rivals the ones back home. There was no cell service, very little wifi, and it created for a perfect chance to check out of technology and relax. We studied, read books, wandered around exploring, and got some quality sister time that was long overdue. Living in different cities (and oftentimes countries), I seize chances like this for moments with my sister.
We definitely could have packed in another hike that day, but we chose to catch up and relax since it was only 2 days until I left for good as well.
Day 2 was an interesting one. We had an image in our minds to go trek the narrows. We got up very early, checked out, and boogeyed in to Zion before the sun was over the hills. We wanted to start early, beat the crowds, and experience the Narrows with as few people as possible. This turned out to be KEY in more ways than one. For example, as we were leaving the Narrows later that afternoon, the water that had been a beautiful turquoise for our trip was a dirty brown from all of the dirt being stomped up. The water didn’t even resemble the incredible colors and smoothness we had experienced, and many of the people beginning their trek would never know what they had missed.
BUT, back to the beginning: as we hiked in to the narrows, Jenny and I were in long-sleeved shirts, shorts, and Chacos (Tevas for her). Everyone else was in Gore-tex pants, wading socks, Gore-tex boots for trekking, and heavy jackets and coats. Wait, don’t forget the classic Zion logo walking stick! Yes, it was chilly, hence the long-sleeved shirt. The water was pretty cold as well, there were rocks tumbling around our feet occasionally, and 5 miles in, all of that starts to add up to freezing toes. For the average hiker, I definitely recommend the rental gear for a more enjoyable experience. Jenny and I grew up hiking, fishing, camping, and constantly around temperatures like this, so I was perfectly fine hiking in sandals. It’s really not that cold… IN MY OPINION. However, the Sierras have given me a very different opinion on “cold”…
As we trekked miles and miles in to the Narrows, we passed other early morning hikers that had the same idea we did about trekking early. Hiking up slot canyons in water anywhere from ankle to waist deep, we saw a beautiful turquoise river flowing through. At points, the canyon was 6 to 20 feet wide with wacos filling the walls and tiny fractions of sunlight sneaking down the walls. The colors were vivid, changing wall to wall for an abstract, dynamic view from the bottoms of the canyons. Deep in to the canyon at Wall Street, Jenny and I climbed atop a large boulder and unpacked lunch in our packs for lunch. What an amazing place to sit and soak in these views! Our toes were “numb and dumb” as Jenny put it. The early morning chill and shadows made everything just a wee bit colder than I anticipated, especially after 4 miles in the Narrows. As we let them warm and regain feeling before our jump back in to the water, we ate our lunches and watched the different colors of the water. We got the last 20-30 minutes of peaceful moments on the river before the crowds started to catch up. Our trek back was with the current, not against it, so it was far quicker. However, it was terribly crowded, making me eternally grateful that we did the early trek. The peace, the serenity, the colors, and the lack of fellow tourists are more than enough reason to get up early and see the beauty.
Only 2 days is never enough time. But if it’s all you have, it’s easy to make the most of it!