Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Narrows, Zion NP

One of the major attractions to the park is hiking up the riverbed through the canyon as it narrows and gains height. The trek is about 50/50 in the water or on bars. Whenever you see a picture of Zion in literature on the park, it will most likely be "wall street" up the narrows.
The water level is down considerably from normal for April. Good thing too! I donned my fishing waders, and carried my neoprene booties and thermals to combat the 45 degree water. Trek poles are not a good idea (too flimsy and wedge between rocks), so I found an abandoned walking stick. If you rent gear from the outfitters, they supply a wooden staff about 6' tall, which would be a better idea. Oh, and bring polarized glasses. The water is silty, and rocks/boulders litter both the riverbed and the shoreline. They range from softball to basketball and larger in size, and you are constantly on them. I found this fact to be the hardest part, physically, of the hike. 7 + miles of rarely having a flat surface to stand, feeling your way along in the river and misstepping on top of the rocks left my ankles, heels and calfs screaming at me by days end. At least with the polarized glasses, I never stepped in between rocks, and never rolled an ankle :).
Oh, and more importantly... even though you are, at times, 1000 to 1500' deep within a slot canyon, the sun still has a very dramatic effect on lighting :(. If you have a polarized filter for your camera, it is a must carry (unlike someone I know, who shall remain nameless), if you want to capture the awesome walls, etching and sculpturing that fills the canyon. Well, I did the best I could with the angles and contrasts for pics, but you should see what you are missing!!!
The outfitters rent full-body suits for the kids, and that was at times fun to watch. A family ahead of me had two girls in their pre-teens with them. Whenever they'd get to a deep water crossing, the girls would sprawl out and float while the parents just towed them across by their arm. At their turn-around point, I had to duck over to the canyon wall to let the two girls pass by as they floated down the river :). As mom trudged by after them, she commented as to how she should have gone for the full suit too...
As hard as I tried to capture it, I know it does not come through...Well into wall street was a section of the canyon wall that appeared to have been enameled, or laquered! Smooth and with a sheen. I am guessing that this was caused by water and minerals seeping out of the wall from above, similiar to the effect of a hanging garden. It would have to have been a deposit of something at that particular location, as I did not notice this at any other spot.
Another oddity was a diving rodent! Honest! As I was preparing to enter the water at a sandy shoreline, a mouse looking rodent swam out from under a rock, hugging the bottom all the way, to a rock outcropping a couple of feet to my left! It was spread out flat, looking "flying squirrel" like... I had to blink and shake my head in disbelief :). I never did inquire at the visitors center as to what it might have been.
With the dry winter, there was only one waterfall that I saw. And it was minimal. I would not mind undertaking the whole canyon, which starts a dozen more miles up the canyon and requires camping inside the canyon and a permit.
Canyoneering is a fun sport. If I could manage to "get on a rope" and learn basic climbing and rappelling, this park is home to some of the very best canyoneering in the world! What canyons I did explore were awesome, and I always wanted more, which was beyond my current skillset.
I met a group from Montana who had spent ten days exploring some of the lesser known canyons. They went in with ropes and backpacks, and would rappell in, go as far scrambling as they could, climb above the obstructions and then rappell back down. They had done a half-dozen canyons and were sad that their time had run out.

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