October 23 – 24, 2012
We woke up early in the Walmart parking lot and headed to Doggy Dude Ranch outside of Zion. The weather in Zion was cooler than down in Vegas but it was still too hot for Lucy to hang out in the truck while we hiked in the park. After depositing Lucy we found a campsite and drove around the park a little.
Dramatic sandstone canyon walls and formations carved by water are what define Zion. The region was once a massive sand dune desert similar to the current Sahara. The sand dunes transformed into sandstone and were then eroded by streams over time. The canyon walls are often over 2,000 feet of nearly vertical yellowish to red rock winding along stream valleys. The canyons are not barren desert landscapes though- precipitation slowly filtering through the porous sandstone produce consistent springs that feed lush cottonwood forests in the valley bottoms. The springs also feed small patches of vegetation called “hanging gardens” which cling to ledges high on the canyon walls.
Chandler had done a little research beforehand and read about Angel’s Landing which is a classic park day hike. The first 2.2 miles were on a paved trail which was relatively easy but steep, the last half mile was another story. There were chains bolted to the rocks leading the way up to the summit because there were cliffs which dropped off 1,400 feet on either side. This resulted in single file lines of ascenders or desenders clinging to the chains with white knuckles. It was a little scary at times.
When we finally got to the top it was time for a snack. Apparently we weren’t the only ones thinking that as we were quickly surrounded by 5 or 6 rock squirrels. These little guys had no fear as one crawled under my leg and another actually pulled Chan’s finger, who was too startled to respond.
Another memorable moment was when a woman called Chandler and I gals, not once but twice! (Chandler’s edit: in my defense she also misidentified a bumblebee as a fly in the same breath.)
Originally, we had planned to head to Buckskin Canyon which is a slot canyon down the road a bit, but with Doggy Dude Ranch nearby and more to explore, we decided to stay another day and hike The Narrows.
This was a hike unlike any of us had ever done before. Instead of climbing for a view, we waded up the Virgin River through a canyon. The canyon got narrower as we headed upstream until we turned around at a point where it was about 20-30 feet wide.
The water wasn’t too bad but it got colder the further up river we traveled. We saw a lot of people wearing dry suit pants which would have been warmer, but we were fine in our shorts. The deepest water we had to wade was between knee and waist deep.
The day ended well with a meal of Trader Joe’s gnocchi, pesto pasta and a few beverages around the fire at the campground.