Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Go Hike A Canyon- Zion National Park

short intro: Pictures and narration here were from our summer 2007 trip and my very first experience of Zion National Park. This post was first published back in 2007 in my "The Joys of Simple Life" blog in Friendster. In 2009, Friendster converted fully to a gaming site, but before my blog becomes extinct, I was able to copy and save some of my posts. One of them is this post, which I am re-publishing here. 

Utah rocks rock!! From the world's largest concentration of natural stone arches to the enchanting and dramatic hoodoos to the magnificent giant Navajo sandstone monoliths, Utah rocks will rock each visitor with fascination and awe. On our first visit to Zion National Park, I was very pleased with what we saw: massive stone formations very different from Arches National Park and Bryce Canyon National park, yet equally stunning.  
 Zion's Geologic History: (source: Utah's National Parks)         
 225 million years ago, Zion was part of the floor of a shallow sea, the delta of a great river and the bottom of the lake. Volcanoes erupted leaving ash to form bright layers. The windblown sand from this great desert provided the raw material for the Navajo sandstone. The sand dunes were transformed into sandstones by tremendous compaction and cementing properties of compounds such as calcium carbonate which were brought by groundwater. Beginning 4 million years ago, streams running off of it from the Virgin River with its load of pebbles, sand and boulders carved the canyon that is now present today. 

 The nearly vertical monoliths and precipitous canyon gorges are evidence that Zion is geologically young. Rain, wind, the pull of gravity and Virgin river are the master sculptors in chiseling out Zion Canyon. Unfortunately, someday, these erosive forces will reduce the magnificent landscape of the canyon to flat plains. Our first stop after entering the park from the Mt Carmel junction entrance was the visitor's center parking lot since private cars are not allowed to drive inside the canyon. Inside the visitor's center, we asked for advise on interesting places to hike. Most of Zion's beauty are hidden in the trails. 

After getting advise, we made our plan.  We would go first to the Zion Lodge for a hike to the Emerald Pools. After the hike, it would be perfect timing to have brunch at the Red Rock Grille by the Lodge. With a fuller stomach, we would do the easier Riverside Walk first, then, we would hike the exciting Narrows. After the Narrows, we would proceed to hike to the Weeping Rock, and then, finally, the Angel's Landing at late in the afternoon which would be dramatic at near sunset. Could we do all these in one day? Find out below......

With so much excitement to carry out our plan, we took the park's free shuttle to the inside of the canyon. As planned, we first stopped at the Zion Lodge to take the trail to the lower and middle Emerald Pool. The Lower Emerald Pool is about 0.6 mile from the trail head.  
 The trail to the Lower Emerald pool was basically flat with probably only 70 feet ascent making the hike very easy. The trail was lined with trees (who thinks that deserts are treeless?) and along giant sandstone monoliths that made the hike very cool despite the 100+F temperature outside of the canyon directly under the sun. From the Lower Emerald Pool to the Middle Emerald Pool is about another 0.5 mile with probably an additonal 100 ft ascent and a few long drop-offs.
 The complete round trip hike to the Middle Emerald Pool would have been a short 2 or 2.5 hours if we were not tempted by the inviting rocks along the trail to climb them freely.
 Notice the holes, slits and cracks on the rock, they provide a good hold for hands and feet when climbing them.  After completing the 2+ mile round trip hike to the lower and middle emerald pool, it was time for brunch. However, the Red Rock Grille at Zion Lodge does not open until 11:00 am, we settled for cold garden salad, pretzels  and chicken sub at the Castle Dome Cafe. With stomach partially full, we took the park's free shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava. From the stop, we took the 1 mile paved trail that follows the Virgin River upstream, this is called Riverside walk. After 1 mile, the paved trail ends, but the hike did not. The end of the paved trail is the entry to Zion's Narrows from bottom up.

 Hiking the Narrows was probably the most adventure-filled part of our Utah hiking trip. The hike was really fun and can be enjoyed by hikers of any ability level. No wonder why this is the most popular hike in Zion Park. Serious hikers hike from top-bottom, this is a strenuous 16 mile hike and requires a permit. Most people, like us, hike casually from bottom-up, this route does not require a permit. This is not a hike however to be underestimated. More than 60% of the hike is spent wading, walking and sometimes swimming on the river.
We hiked about 4 miles upstream on the Narrows before returning back to Temple of Sinawava.  The walls in the Narrows squeeze to slot canyon dimensions: 1500 ft tall and as narrow as 20 ft to 30 ft wide in some places.
 The hike was super cool despite the 100+ F temperature outside. The coolness was due to the fact that there was little light entering the canyon floor, water was cold (in the low 60s F) and really nice cool breeze blew steadily. The rocks underfoot were very slippery. It required balancing on an algae-coated rocks in the middle of a siwftly moving river. We started at first walking in bare foot, but learned our lesson from our every fall. One of the hikers who saw us kept on falling, told us: " You keep on falling because you don't wear your shoes. I hope you are not hanging those shoes to protect your shoes. Your shoes are meant to protect your feet, especially on these conditions. "
I felt bad hearing him said that since it was I who advised hubby to take off our shoes, since we walked barefoot on river streams when I was younger. But definitely, not as long and not as rocky as this one. Back then, we would take off our shoes whenever we cross wet streams because we did not want to ruin our shoes because it was expensive to buy another one, so we thought. As I realized, walking on barefoot, sandals and or river shoes are inappropriate as they often led to twisted ankles. As we found right after wearing back our hiking shoes, wading and walking through the river on hiking boots with very good ankle support are definitely the best for this hike.  Balancing on slippery algae-coated rocks became easier and the hike faster.  
On our way back to the temple of Sinawava, heavy rain started to pour. Luckily for us, we were already close to the paved trail when heavy rain poured. Nature intervened intervened with our plans, since once it rains, the Angels Landing trail would be closed for safety. Anyway, the rain probably saved us from possible legs exhaustion.
There is always a risk of flash flooding in the river during heavy rain. On hearing thunderstorms and seeing some lightning, not seeing any structure to hide nor an open space to distance from the raging river and tall trees, we decided to walk as fast as we could to the park shuttle stop to hopefully get a refuge inside the shuttle or rest area. That was about a mile of walking fast or almost at a running pace for us under heavy rain downpour, but being careful enough not to slip on the slippery paved trail. We were dripping wet when we got inside the shuttle, our only consolation was that almost other passengers inside the shuttle were also soaked by the heavy rain. The driver called our attention to a waterfall that suddenly appeared at the Temple of Sinawava because of the rain. Some passengers went out of the shuttle and braved the rain again, enjoying the splendid display of an appearing tall waterfall. I, however, was too conscious of my heavily soaked condition, also afraid to expose my camera from heavy rain, that I did not bother getting off the shuttle at all.

Our plan to hike to the Weeping Rock and to the Angels Landing after the Narrows was thwarted by the heavy rain. Our only consolation was that we escaped the raging current in the river. We decided to relax instead at the gift shop, bought some souvenir shirts, and had dinner at the Red Rock Grille. Despite not hiking at Weeping Rock and Angel's Landing, still, it was such a wonderful and fun-filled experience hiking the canyon of Zion National Park, especially in the Zion's Narrows, the most fun hike I ever had! 
Indeed, nothing can compare to the joy of getting up close to nature. Like what my souvenir T-shirt says, "Go Hike A Canyon - Zion National Park". You will enjoy it immensely and long for more.

Update: After our first visit to Zion National Park, we loved this park so immensely that we kept on coming back here to hike different trails each time. I have shared several posts of Zion in this blog, such as hiking Angels Landing and Hidden Canyon. Zion has become one of my favorite National Parks to go back to, again and again, exploring different trail each time. However, I would not mind hiking "The Narrows" again with more interest in photography. 
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  1. What an adventure! I am surprised by all the trees and water. Awesome pictures!

  2. I would have liked to hike the Narrows but when we were there there was so much ice water coming down that we were up to our middle in the ice water. We had to go back and it was mid July.


  3. Throwback weekend! So happy for you that you've saved these photos and story. Awesome.

    I love the photos with falls and the photo where you were walking on the water. Very beautiful.

    Happy weekend!

  4. Wow! You were going to beautiful places even back then. I'm glad you were able to save this old post to share with us.

  5. Wow, feeling like I've been there too, glad you were able to salvage this.. must have been a wonderful experience.

  6. Such heavenly scenery! The waterfall is just beautiful!

  7. Wow! breath taking pictures as always Sis :-) I really love them all. You are indeed very adventurous :-)

  8. Good for you Mam Betch that you have saved some posts from Friendster. I actually migrated everything from Friendster to my computer and Multiply. I checked Multiply and my pc and it was all good but all of a sudden the pictures were gone. I was really upset.There are so much memories in our Friendster years like this one that it's really worth sharing.

  9. I wish I can transform Cerok Tokun into one of your beautiful places.

    Following your blog is never enough.

  10. I can't stop saying wow Betchai! and imagining walking through the water with you! each photo is a marvel! Joys of Simple Life! I consider myself so lucky to have met you in person and to be travelling and seeing nature virtually through your lens!

  11. I'm simply amazed by the wonders Utah offers. Great rock formations. Another fantastic adventure Betchai.

  12. amazing trail. wish some day I can travel there to experience it

  13. what an experiencing that could have been, really wanted to try that trek into the canyon... that'd sure be fun! :)thanks for sharing! :)

  14. not so sure if i have read this before on FB but I am glad you were able to save and re-publish it here Beth.

    Hope you had a great weekend with Angels' fambam. Have a great week ahead. :)

  15. I said this before, and will say it again: you're a super woman, betchai :)
    The photos are stunning! I would have taken my shoes off to in the water, but now I know! Glad you found that out and share!

  16. i still remember this friendster post. :)
    this is one of the reasons why i want to have a vacation there.
    oh and the Narrows! wow

  17. hiking through that narrow lane looks really stunning but scary too..

  18. your american landscapse shots never failed to amaze me. when I see your photos, it feels I am actually there. stunning.