After four fun-filled days in Chicago/Evanston, Illinois celebrating my friend’s wedding, I packed my bags to fly to my next destination, Utah. Actually I was landing in Las Vegas, renting a car, driving three hours, and then I would arrive in Springdale, Utah. My plan was solid and well thought out, except I didn’t expect to wake up with the start of a sinus infection on the day I was heading out.Yuck.
After landing, I hit the open road from Vegas in my tiny pale yellow Chevy Spark feeling like crap, hungry, and exhausted. As I got closer to my final stop, things got a little precarious. Driving around an unfamiliar place, at night, on very curvy roads, and with no streetlights is not an adventure I would suggest. After a miserable day of travel, I made it to my hotel close to 10pm. I spent the first night, tossing and turning with fever. It was a rough first day. I did end up being very sick the first few days and had a lingering cough the whole trip, but I took it easy, medicated, and managed to have a great time despite feeling shitty. Now that the complaining is out of the way, time to hit the fun stuff.
Utah entered my travel destination list about two years ago when I stumbled upon photos and a little write-up about the Narrows. A hike up a river through a slot canyon in the most beautiful area was something I had to do. I knew I wanted to go in October to avoid the crowds and heat, so when my friend scheduled her wedding around the same time I decided to tack on a quick trip to Utah.
My itinerary included four days in Zion, two days in Bryce Canyon, and two days in Capital Reef National Parks. The following day I would take the long drive back to Las Vegas and fly out. Unfortunately the travel gods were not on my side, I cut my trip short and missed Capital Reef to avoid horrible weather that would have prevented me from visiting the park. Since Capital Reef was a last minute add on, I was still able to visit the places that were important to me.
A few thoughts and observations about Zion National Park (some of these are true about Bryce Canyon as well). The scenery is outstanding, larger, and grander than it appears in photos. The park services are very efficient and it was super easy to travel around. The food and restaurants are expensive and left a lot to be desired. I ended up buying groceries after the first couple of days and making my own food.
Apparently, the park is popular with the foreign tourist. I especially heard a lot of German sounding accents. On one hike there were so many foreign languages around me that I approached someone to take a photo of me, and I had to clarify if they spoke English before asking for the favor. There was no one from Louisiana. Actually I’m sure that’s not true, but I was met with surprise and interest whenever I told someone where I was from. Come on LA, it’s time to start traveling!
Since I was sick, I didn’t get to do as many hikes as I would have liked but I managed to squeeze in a few. My favorite of course was the Narrows and I’ll go a little more in depth about what it entailed. There are two popular ways to conquer the hike. One is to start from the bottom and hike up the river. It takes about six hours round trip and is the route I chose. The second is to start at the top and hike all day then camp overnight, completing the second half on the following day. Most of the trek was hiking in the waters of the Virgin River, at times up to my hips, so I rented a walking stick to help with balance on the slippery stones and neoprene socks to protect my feet. I already had good hiking shoes made specifically for water use, so I opted out of renting shoes.
The slot canyon doesn’t get much sun so the water was pretty cold and the air stayed chilly the entire day. My insulated jacket and quick dry bottoms helped to keep me warm. Unfortunately, my photos are a lame attempt at capturing the geology surrounding my hike. There is so much going on color and light wise that I would have needed some special equipment to capture it all properly. This time was for the experience, next time I’ll bring the photo gear.
Many of my hikes lead to grand expansive vistas. By comparison, I loved the experience of being in a contained area, and the massive sides of the canyon weighing down upon little ole me at the bottom. It was fun to climb over and around boulders, through tiny spaces, and across running water. The canyon felt otherworldly, the sounds of the water encompassing and every turn was a new intricate and incredible view.
If you are interested in taking the plunge, but don’t have time to devote a full-day, many visitors go for an hour or two hike and turn around. You get a glimpse at what The Narrows has to offer, but the trade-off is the solitude. The further you get from the entrance, the less people you see. At times I was alone wading through the river, and I had camaraderie with the other people that I did see. We had a shared experience of making it deep into the canyon. It was worth all the hype, and is one hike that I would love to do again.
Phew you made it to the end. Since when do I write 1,000 word blog posts? Stay tuned for a future post on my time in Bryce Canyon.