- The second morning in the desert found me having a breakfast of Blueberries and chorizo and oatmeal. For some reason, the blueberries were pretty cheap!
- After cleaning the dishes I packed up my backpack, and started walking! I started in camp, and walked to the park entrance, walking into the park after flashing a pass because I’m such a baller. The tactic was to follow a trail called the Pa’Rus trail down to the crossroads where I had bouldered the day before. (The Pine Creek boulders, fyi)
- Once on it, the Pa’Rus trail was very pretty, although it does go surprisingly close to many campsites… like basically right
next to their tents. And it was still pretty early, so I was always a little fearful of waking people up.
- I have most of the trail to myself, but I do see a few cyclists and runners working their way past me. Some of the runners even come back for a second pass, on their way back into town.
- At the crossroads I catch a bus to the Narrows – the specific stop being a place called “The Temple”. And on the bus? I meet girls! A whole bachelorette party, actually. They’re on their last day in the park, hiking The Narrows as well! So we decide to roll as a group. Because every group of bachelorettes needs that one hippy guy, right? (Ed Note: Thank you “127 hours” movie, for making us random adventurer guys seem cool!)
- I keep rolling down the trail with the girls; the beginning of the trail is “handicapped accessable”, which means it’s a completely paved path. I actually turn around for a bit, since I lost my shades when I went to the bathroom. But look as I can, I can’t find them… so I cut the $7 gas-station shades as a loss and run back to catch up with the girls. It’s fun to be running again… though it takes way too long for me to catch my breath again.
- The squirrels around here have nearly been domesticated. The rangers have signs everywhere reminding everyone to not feed the wildlife, and to secure any food. But these squirrels just walk up to you, begging for food. So the rangers get… aggressive… about it. I actually see a ranger notice a squirrel, look around to make sure no kids are nearby, and then full-force punting the squirrel off the path… heh. Punting.
- We finally get to the end of the paved trail, and head onto the main trail! Which is literally just a river. So we just walk straight into a river. It’s awesome!
- Quick recap of the trails I / we took:
- The Riverside Walk – This is the trail that leads to the Virgin River… it’s paved, very pretty, and really interestingly done. It’s half carved, and half grown out of the canyon wall, and there are tons of excellent views and neat grottos and such.
- The Narrows Trail – This is the fun part. Boots in the water, pants in the water. Everything gets wet, and it’s totally cool. Literally. Cold, even. The temp out by camp was in the 90s, but down here it’s down in the 80s. And the water is chilly too… but thankfully I expected this, and prepared accordingly…
- A note on gear: Clothing is critical to any adventure. Clothing choice will literally save your life, or could easily end your life if you don’t plan correctly.
Cotton kills. This is the mantra that we hear in gear stores across New England. Cotton holds moisture; in the winter, it keeps you wet and pulls the heat away from your body. I’ve seen too many people develop low-level hypothermia in the fall, just because their jeans got wet.
However, cotton saves lives in the desert. The same properties that freeze people in New England cool hikers down in Arizona. Cotton pulls the desert heat away, and is light and airy to keep the sweat off you.
Wool and synthetics keep you warm. In cold climates, when your boots get wet, wool socks keep feet from freezing. Underarmor leggings keep joggers from freezing in the winter, and good synthetic shirts keep hikers warm while ascending Mt. Washington.
But wool and synthetics don’t regulate heat as well – wearing wool in the desert is tantamount to suicide, because you’ll (quite literally) boil yourself into heat stroke.
So what do I wear on this hike in the desert?
Wool and synthetics. Because I’ll be wet all day – I’m hiking in a river. Because I’ll be cold – there won’t be any sun in the canyon. Because I’m wicked smaht.
The day before though? Cotton all the way, to keep me cool and sane while bouldering.
- My gear holds up surprisingly well; and my poles are life-savers in this current, and the underamor & smartwool socks keep my legs and feet happy. Every step is slogging my legs against the full weight of the river, and it’s tiring as hell. Thankfully, the group is setting a sane / steady pace, and the constant moving from one side to another, combined with the rock hopping and such, makes for solid breaks and rests. I love it.
- And to make the whole adventure even better, one of the girls in the group is a professional photographer! One downside to amazing solo adventures is that it’s kind of hard to get pictures of myself… but having another shutterbug around? Well… that makes for some significantly awesome pictures!
- The hike lasts for a long time… this is one of the heaviest hitting trails in Zion, after all. But we press onward – the goal of hitting the Narrows always ahead of us. Though I admit… it was a little difficult to tell when we actually did get to Wall Street, the famously narrow section of the canyon. I mean… everything was narrow! And it was more narrow than any of us had seen before, so…
- But we do make it to Wall Street – and when we do, it’s pretty obvious. The billion people sitting around taking pictures is one hint (there were only millions everywhere else), but the fact that it started getting wider again afterward was the real cincher.
- And with our arrival, there was a departure: the bachelorette party had a plane to catch. So they turned around, and left me to finish up my adventure the way that I’d been adventuring for most of this trip: solo, with a spring in my step. Or… a current actively trying to knock me over. Ut whatever, I was having fun.
- Then I hit a deep pool… ok. I can deal with it – take off the backpack, and slog through up to my chest. Then I hit a second pool… and see a third in the distance… or more, I see peoples heads, barely breaking above the water. OK. We’re done here. That’s enough of a watery adventure for me! So I just turn around and head back.
- But I don’t head straight back – I mean, I don’t have anything else to do today, right? I was debating trying a hike called “Angel’s Landing”, which is the second-most popular hike in the park… but it was getting late, and starting to drizzle a bit. And since Angel’s Landing is a very steep rock scramble… yeah. Not doing that in the rain.
- So I explore the side canyons a bit, taking my time and enjoying the scenery… For a little while. I admit it. About an hour after turning around (of the three hour hike back) I started noticing a… need. Damnit I need to pee.
- There’s nowhere to pee. The canyon is thin, with only a river and people at the base. So many people. Hordes of them!
- No way out. Drums in the deep. We cannot get out… need to pee!
- So I do what the Fellowship did, down in Moria when they were surrounded by Goblins and Cave Trolls. I pushed hard, gunned the engines, and finally make it out of the deep and to the beauty of a public restroom in a national park. I barely even noticed the stench!
- But when I came out, it was starting to rain in earnest. So I formally forfeited my plans for Angel’s Landing, and took the bus all the way back instead of walking.
- Once I make it to camp I jump into a dry change of clothes, put on some rain gear (mostly just my hat) and walk in the drizzle to the nearby grocery store to get dinner ingredients. I get some excellent food, and even make a quick stop to get some surprisingly cheap – and most definitely delicious – ice cream.
- I then cook up dinner in my usual, efficiently delicious manner, before getting surprised by a visit from my neighbors – a couple named Thomas and Remy. Their kids are finally asleep (yep, they were my unexpected alarm clock the last few mornings), and it seems like they need some “their own age” company – so we share some whiskey, eat some food, and cavort into the evening.