Walter and Sara Let the good times roll
In Part II we left off as we drove south from Beaver, UT on our way to Zion National Park. It wasn't a very long drive and we rolled into the Watchman Campground around noon. Our spot had a nice shade tree but it was hot nevertheless (mid 90's). So we packed a picnic lunch and headed to the Visitor's Center to check the weather reports. Good news, 0% chance of rain and thus no danger of flash floods for our hike in The Narrows the next day. Bad news, it was predicted to be 104 at the Visitor Center for the next couple of days.

We took the free park shuttle up to the Grotto Picnic Area for lunch because I remembered it as a shady cool place. That might have been the case in the spring but in the late summer, while it was cooler than down canyon, we had to keep moving around to maintain our shade. The picnic benches weren't all that comfortable so after lunch we hopped the next shuttle out to the Temple of Sinawava which is the farthest up canyon the road goes. It was much cooler there and we spent a few hours sitting on rocks along the river in the shade watching folks wade for short spurts in the 57 degree water. Funny how quickly water that cold will cool you off.

In the late afternoon, we took the shuttle back to the Visitor's Center and then hiked to the bus stop for the shuttle that goes into town to pick up our gear for our hike in The Narrows. We each rented neoprene socks, canyoneering boots and a stout walking stick from Zion Adventure Company in Springdale, UT. When you hike The Narrows you spend the majority of your time either crossing the river against the current or wading in it. Since the water was only 57 degrees the neoprene socks keep your feet warm. The canyoneering boots assure secure footing on the slippery rocks and the stout stick helps in crossing against the current in deep sections. They had a great orientation film about what we needed to take (water, food, wind breaker and fleece even when it's over 100 degrees at the Visitor's Center) and how to recognize and deal with flash floods if they should occur.

We got back to our campsite in time to watch the sun light up the rock formations on the eastern side of the canyon.

Watchman Campground Zion UT

This is the Watchman. It's amazing to me that the campground has such a fabulous view.

Watchman Zion National Park

That evening the temperature dropped to about 75 while I was cooking dinner. Hallelujah! Then the wind came up and the temperature went back up to 82. Boo Hiss. The wind blew hot air around all night but things did finally cool off down below 80 sometime after 1 am. The wind was still blowing in the morning and I was a little concerned what it might be like in The Narrows. No worry. The wind died down by the time we set out for the shuttle back up to the Temple of Sinawava. On our shuttle ride we saw a pair of California Condors way up on the canyon rim sitting in an old snag. The condors were reintroduced in Grand Canyon several years ago and they've made Zion part of the territory.

From the Temple of Sinawava we hiked the Riverwalk (a mile-long paved walkway along the Virgin River) out to the beginning of The Narrows. Along the way we saw a number of flowers in bloom in the little hanging gardens on the canyon walls.

We saw Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis).

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

And Scarlet Monkey Flower (Mimulus cardinalis).

Scarlet Monkey Flower (Mimulus cardinalis)

The river flow was at 39 cfs and a great deal of the river bed was visible at the end of the Riverwalk.

Beginning of The Narrows hike Zion  Sara Narrow Begining April 2009

You start the hike by crossing the river to get to the next little beach up canyon. You then get to walk a little ways on that beach before crossing back across the river to the next little batch of beach. You repeat this over and over again as you move up canyon. At the beginning of the hike the canyon is relatively wide but it doesn't take long for the walls to start to close in.

The Narrows Zion Stage 1

And then you to come to the first section where you have to hike in the river rather than just cross it. One thing you can say about hiking The Narrows when the river is low--you won't be lonely. There were people everywhere along the way, wearing every kind of footwear imaginable including no shoes at all. Most of the folks is sandals and bare feet didn't get very far but there were a few who made it the 2 miles to Wall Street.

The Narrows Zion UT

The key to wading (or crossing) the river is to stay away from the dark blue/green sections which are the deepest. Every once in a while I'd get to watch someone setting out straight through one of these deep pools only to end up waist deep in water. Most of the time you could manage to navigate it all at about mid-calf deep but there were spots where you ended up thigh deep. I'm proud to say I only got the hem of my shorts wet once!

Wading the river The Narrows Zion

Around the bend from this wading section we came to a waterfall. The day before I'd talked to someone who said they'd done a hike that had required that they rappel down a waterfall before wading out. I wondered if this was the one...

Waterfall The Narrows Zion UT

Here's Walter taking a little rest opposite the waterfall while I took pictures. This section actually had a pretty wide little beach which was on the whole unusual.

Walter resting opposite waterfall The Narrows Zion

Here's the view up canyon from the waterfall. It was hard not take photos of every nifty bend in the river.

Upriver from the waterfall The Narrows Zion

Slowly but surely the walls of the canyon are closing in.

The Narrows Zion UT

Everyone seemed to stop and take a picture of the canyon when they reached this section. It's the first straight shot where you can actually see the steep canyon walls.

The Narrows Zion UT

After taking photos of a pair of fraternal twins who were hiking the canyon (she in gear like ours, he in bare feet) I had my picture taken too.

Sara Schurr The Narrows Zion

Walter always has to take a close-up of me when he takes a picture of me, so here it is. By this point I was beginning to wonder if he had forgotten how to make the camera work.

Sara Schurr The Narrows Zion

Rock formations got more and more interesting and beaches became less and less frequent as we went up canyon.

The Narrows Zion UT

I was excited to be able to see the top of the canyon at this point!

The canyon rim The Narrows Zion

Here's Walter demonstrating how to use your walking stick when you cross the river against the current. There were places where things narrowed down and the current was really strong. I can't imagine how much more work this hike would be with the river flowing at a decent clip rather than the lazy flow rate we had.

Walter crossing The Narrows Zion

The plants growing in the cracks in the canyon walls are called hanging gardens.

Hanging garden The Narrows Zion

The slot canyon got narrower and narrower and odd striations started appearing on the walls of the canyon--as on the right of the photo here.

Striations in rock wall, The Narrows Zion

The dry land began to be pretty precious at this point and the sunshine more and more rare.

Walter Cooke The Narrows Zion

Now the cool part really begins--literally. The rock walls are so steep in here that there's very little sun and the temps are now down in the 70's at the most. Splashing in and out of the water for a couple of hours I'd begun to get a little cold.

The Narrows Zion UT

This is the last little bit of beach before you reach Wall Street itself. We found a rock to sit on and have our lunch. I put on my wind breaker but it just wasn't enough so I put on my fleece. Much better--I could put my icy hands in my pockets and get warmed back up.

Entrance to Wall Street The Narrows Zion

Wall Street is a section of The Narrows that is true slot canyon. There are no beaches and no place to go to escape a flash flood. There are some areas that are shallower than others but that's about it. You have to wade in the river looking for shallow spots to find your way.

Wall Street The Narrows Zion

But it's worth it. Look at the canyon walls!

Canyon wall Wall Street The Narrows Zion

I took a whole series of photos of that little bit of sunshine that was shining on one section of the wall.

Wall Street The Narrows Zion

And just for kicks look up and see the rim!

Canyon rim Wall Street The Narrows Zion

Walter rested while I hiked a ways up Wall Street. The current was strong and mostly the water was thigh deep. I turned around before I'd hiked it's whole length.

Wall Street The Narrows Zion

Orderville Canyon splits off of the main canyon just as Wall Street begins. It's another slot canyon with nowhere to go in case of flash flood. I hiked a ways up in time to see these folks coming down this little chute--straight into a thigh deep pool! When you're going up canyon you have to climb UP the little waterfall from the deep pool in front. I decided I really didn't need to see what was around the bend.

Orderville Canyon The Narrows Zion  Orderville Canyon The Narrows Zion

This is the view from Orderville Canyon back towards The Narrows.

Orderville Canyon The Narrows Zion Orderville Canyon The Narrows Zion 

Here's Walter getting ready to head back. He wanted me to take a shot of the weird erosion pattern on the walls behind him. On the right you can see a broader view of the area that leads up to Wall Street. And you can see how deep the water is right along the walls because it's green!

Walter Cooke The Narrows Zion  The Narrows Zion UT

The canyon starts to open up again about 1/2 way back. Hiking back is much faster than hiking up for two reasons--you don't need to stop and take so many photos AND you're going with the current rather than against it.

THe Narrows Zion UT

When we got back to the waterfall we could see people at the TOP. Here's a view with someone at the bottom just to give you a sense of scale.

Waterfall The Narrows Zion

And here's a hiker rappelling DOWN the waterfall. It was a real treat to get to see this. We stayed to watch him get all the way down but didn't wait for the rest of the party to make the descent.

Hiker repelling down waterfall The Narrows Zion  Hiker repelling down waterfall The Narrows Zion

We were back at the beginning of the hike in less than an hour and a half when it had taken us 2 hours to do the hike up. That included a nice rest on a sunny beach about 1/2 way back. At that point it was warming up again and I had to take my fleece off. We were both tired but very glad we'd done this hike. If you ever decide to hike The Narrows, I highly recommend renting the basic equipment package. My feet which are notorious for being cold were always comfortable and neither of us slipped and fell even once. And the stout walking stick was way better than our hiking poles for dealing with the river crossings.

Sara Schurr The Narrows Zion

We meet a couple from England as we changed our gear for the hike back on the Riverwalk and visited with them as we walked back to the shuttle and then rode the shuttle back to the Visitor Center. After we returned our gear in town I noticed this sign across the street from the Zion Adventure Company. O.C. Tanner was our friend Joan Reddish's father. She'd mentioned once that there was an amphitheater at Zion named after him and sure enough there it was!

O. C. Tanner Amphitheater Zion

It was hot when we got back to the campground. It had been 104 the day before and I'm sure it was that hot again. We sat outside in our camp chairs till dusk when once again the temperature dropped--this time to 72--before the wind came up and it warmed back up to 81. I guess it does that nearly every night when it's been hot but I thought it was downright weird.
The next morning the canyon was smoky! No, there wasn't a fire, it was smoke from the fires up in Beaver blown straight down the canyon in the night. We broke camp and headed south to spend the night in Flagstaff, AZ where it was relatively cool (in the 80's) and we could have showers and prepare for our days in Phoenix. We drove through the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument but since it was hazy --yes the smoke had blown all the way to Arizona--we didn't stop and take any photos.

The next part of our trip included 4 days in Phoenix for our nephew, Brian's wedding. We won't bore you with photos of that. Part IV will take us instead to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Get out your woolies. It's gonna be cold, especially after it being 104 in Phoenix.