Monday, September 04, 2006

Zion National Park

Arrived in Zion National Park after Harvey's little hiccup! Have a campsite just outside the gates, where we can pick up the excellent free shuttle bus services into the park. It's so nice to not have to get ourselves anywhere - can just be lazy and be driven everywhere in Zion Canyon between 5.45am and 11pm!! Yesterday morning hiked up to Angel's Landing - 1500ft above the valley floor with fabulous views up & down the canyon. It was a very 'trecherous' walk - very narrow paths - sometimes only a couple of feet wide along the top of the fin of rock that is Angel's Landing - with long drop offs either side of us back to the Canyon floor!!

This morning we walked 'The Narrows'. Basically the top of the canyon where it gets really narrow. The path IS the Virgin river. Without a permit we could walk 5 miles upstream then turn around and come back out the way we came. We hired 'Canyoneer' boots - great things! Chunky ankle boots worn with neoprene socks and heavy duty rubber tread soles, along with an essential walking pole to use to 'feel' your way through the enormous 'pebbles' and rocks lining the river bed. In places the canyon narrowed to 10 feet wide with wall to wall water. Had to watch for high ground opportunities as it's prone to flash floods!! (great!) Much of it was wading in water mid thigh deep but apparently there were 3 swims to get to Big Springs which is the day-hikers turn around point. We only found 1 of them! (Lucky us!) And in fact with a little probing Chris did actually find a route through that only involved chest high water (by which time I'd taken the plunge and swum my way through 10 yards of water!). Awesome hike to have done. Took us 4 hours 45 mins to do the 5 miles to Big Springs which is super-slow for us as it was hard going. (In comparison we did the downstream hike in just 3 hours and normal hiking we'd have down the one-way distance in about 2!)

As it's Labor weekend here it was busy and at the outfitters yesterday every man and his dog were kitting themselves out with boots for the Narrows so we'd figured on an early start to beat the crowds (in the water about 7.30am - it was fresh!) - in fact we saw just 5 other people heading upstream in the morning (Along with a handful of down hikers who'd camped along the full 16 mile route) Coming back was a different matter though - it was a zoo! Most people apparently don't make it as far as the Big Springs - and we saw many turning around at the deep water (they missed the best bit!) By the time we were heading downstream it was way warmer - around noon the sun hit overhead so we did see sunlight for a while, we were quite happy about the getting wet part by now - in fact at times it was quite refreshing!

Absolutely shattered now - and I have very sore inner thighs from 8 hours of wet shorts rubbing have taken their toll - ouch! And we now definately deserve a good lie-in!

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