Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Narrows

So, when we went down to Zion National Park, we were planning on getting a permit for campsite number 2 on the Virgin River half way down the Narrows from the top. The total hike is 16 miles, and campsite number two is about 8 miles in at the confluence of the Virgin River and Deep Creek. I had been really excited to do this and had been looking forward to it for several months.

We drove down on Tuesday afternoon and found a spot to camp at the campground just inside the park entrance. We got up at 6:00 am in order to be down to the back country permit office to pick up our permit for the hike. I had been watching the weather forecasts and knew that there was a chance of flash flooding. It had been moderate for the last few days, but in the morning when the forecast was posted it called for 50% chance of thunderstorms for Wednesday and Thursday, the days we would be in the canyon. The flash flood potential went up from moderate to high for both days. And they decided to issue a Flash Flood Watch. That means that "conditions are favorable for flash flooding." The next step is to issue a flash flood warning, which means that there is flash flooding occurring or radar shows rain heavy enough to produce flash flooding within the next 20-30 minutes.

Well, I was still excited and I got the permit from the back country office. When I got back to the car, my friend talked some sense into me and said that he did not feel comfortable going. We drove over to the place where we were going to catch the shuttle to take us to the trail head and talked with those people for a bit. After talking with them, I was convinced that it was not a wise idea to spend the night in the canyon with this high potential for flash flooding. They had already seen the river rise a little bit, and it had changed to a murky color. Rain and excess debris in the river are the other two signs of flash flooding.

Since we were not going to camp in the canyon, we decided to do a day hike up into the narrows from the bottom. The trail head is at the Temple of Sinawava. You have to take a shuttle to the trail head. They don't allow cars up that far to reduce the number of vehicles up the canyon. The first mile is on a paved path. It is pretty easy. After that you jump into the river and hike up the river for as far as you would like to go. Back at the Zion Adventure Company that was going to take us to the other trail head, we decided to rent a couple of walking sticks. On the shuttle ride up and for the first mile on that paved path, I was starting to regret the five dollars I spent on it. As soon as I got in the water though, I was very grateful I had it. It made walking through the river so much easier.

It was lots of fun and we stayed cool because of being in the river so much. I just had an old pair of running shoes on. They worked just fine. I was pretty cautious with my footing even though we were going pretty quickly. We passes several people. The first set of photos I took was at the junction of Orderville Canyon.

This was looking back down stream from where we had just been hiking.

And that is me enjoying a couple minutes rest. We decided to grab a quick bite to eat right here. We were stopped for maybe 5-10 minutes. Ryan ran up Orderville Canyon for a minute just to take a look around the corner. The canyon is coming out from my right (your left) you can see the water behind me.

We hiked up for quite a ways. I am pretty sure it was at least four maybe even four and a half miles up the canyon before we stopped to turn around. At that point we decided to stop and have some lunch. We stopped for 20 minutes or so. I took some photos there too.

This is where we took our lunch. This is looking up the canyon a bit more. It was a nice little area, until the sun hit us. Because of the slot canyons, the sun was not hitting us for most of the hike. It got pretty hot when we were not in the river and sitting in the sun.

This photo is looking up the canyon (north) at the top of the canyon walls. It was so cool to see these canyon walls going so high.

This one was looking straight up from where I was sitting, eating my lunch. We contemplated how we would climb out if a flash flood came and we needed to escape. In reality if a flash flood came, we would be able to climb to high ground, 6-10 feet above the river level and sit it out while the river drained out.

There were several places in the river that we had to go pretty deep. Here is a photo of the deepest part.

This is Ryan.

And that's me.

This is not a great photo of me, but you can see the walking stick that I was using. You also notice that I was carrying my backpack Even though I had all my stuff in plastic zip-lock bags, especially my camera. And all of that stuff was inside a big garbage back. All of my stuff stayed dry. I didn't want to completely submerge my bag though, so I took it off and held it above my head.

Overall this was a great hike. On our way back down we hiked about a mile up Orderville Canyon, so total we hiked 10-11 miles and it took us six hours overall. The next day when we were driving away from Zion National Park, we heard that they had issued a Flash Flood Warning, which means that flooding was occurring somewhere. I think I'm glad, even though I really wanted to hike the whole thing, that we decided to only go up for a day hike.

On that same day we ran up Angels Landing, which needs a whole blog post to itself. And the next day we ran Wildcat Canyon in the middle part of the park. It was amazing, so I'll save it for another post, if I have time to do it.

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