We’ve just arrived at Las Vegas after flying from Seattle and renting a car from Hertz. My girlfriend-Karen and I drove in the middle of the night and arrived at Zion National Park around 4am to take a quick nap before lining up to get our camping permit.
Our Zion Narrows adventure started in the visitor’s centre at 5am in the morning. We were told that the camping permits usually sell out pretty quickly, and that we would need to line up at 5am in order to obtain one. The visitor’s centre didn’t open until 7am in the morning and we…were…really…exhausted…
We had been traveling since noon the previous day, and did I mention that I also drove three hours from Vancouver to Seattle? Our first flight was from Seattle to San Francisco, and then we to had to transfer planes to fly to Las Vegas. We had been on the go for about 19 hours before finally being able to talk to the park ranger to purchase our camping permit.
“There’s a 50% chance of flash flooding”
Karen and I glanced at each other after hearing about the weather condition in the Zion Narrows. We have wanted to do this hike since we first visited back in 2014, but at that time, we were not ready to risk drowning.
“There are deep pools that go up to your shoulders and no escape zones” the park ranger said as she tried to discourage us from doing the hike.
We checked out the Zion outfitters nearby and we were told that the water levels were low, and that the chance of flash flooding was also slim for the next day. We weren’t sure whether we could trust their advice as they obviously wanted us to rent their equipment and pay for their shuttle services.
Karen and I decided to be cautious and so waited until the next morning before deciding to do the hike.
The weather was beautiful. The sun was blaring and we just knew that it was meant to be for us to do the hike that day.
We proceeded to head over to the Zion outfitters and to Chamberlain’s Ranch (trail head of the Zion Narrows).
After the first mile and a half of hiking Chamberlain’s Ranch, we finally arrived at the entrance of the Zion Narrows.
The water level was not that high yet and it was a nice leisurely hike at that point.
After hiking another mile and a half, we finally reached the upper narrows where the walls were much higher.
The upper narrows is the first section of the hike, the walls are really high… Unfortunately, there is no higher ground to escape to in case there is a flash flood. Luck was not on our side as rain and thunderstorm came out of nowhere while we were in the middle of the upper narrows! My girlfriend and I were terrified of the possibility of flash flooding.
We started to walk really fast, I could see the fear in Karen’s eyes. We didn’t know if we could move fast enough to get away from the Upper Narrows and find higher ground in case there was a flash flood.
After speed walking and running for what seemed like forever, we finally reached a clearing with higher ground. Coincidentally, the sun also came out at that time. Karen and I were extremely relieved. We were both exhausted from being in the state of fight or flight for over an hour. We were able to take some time to rest and grab something to eat after that terrifying experience.
After some much needed rest, we started moving towards the next landmark – The Zion Narrows Waterfalls. Karen was in a grumpy mood at this point because we were both unbelievably exhausted, and our trapezius muscles (shoulder/neck from carrying our backpacks) felt like they were about to explode from pain.
After hiking for another two hours, we finally arrived at the waterfalls. We needed this morale boost badly to replenish our spirit and willpower after the mentally, physically, and emotionally demanding hike.
We were finally on our way towards the camp sites.
It was getting late in the day and we were extremely tired. We needed rest and food. We finally reached campsite one, two and three. Upon arriving at campsite, three the ladies that were in the same shuttle as us told Karen and myself that our camp site was really far and that we should grab the next available camping spot before dark.
Our designated campsite was #10, but it was getting dark so we listened to the advice of the friendly ladies and decided to settle into campsite #4.
Sporks are awesome for camping
We prepared our meals using the stove we rented at Zion Outfitters and cooked our food in a little metal pot. Our food was freeze-dried chicken and rice that we bought from Walmart – it was delicious!
We were also dehydrated and did not get a chance to filter any water until this point. I went to the muddy river to get some water for us to use for drinking and cooking.
That water in the bottle doesn’t look sketchy at all… but we were told it was safe to drink.
The whole hike had been miserable so far. It was our first time hiking with a heavy backpack, and our first time doing an overnight camping trip, not to mention the dangerous terrain. Everything in the hike was new to us and we were ill-prepared to say the least. We were short on water and food, and the feeling of impending doom lingered in the air as we mentally prepared ourselves for the next morning.
I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. I spent the entire night making sure Karen was warm so she could get some sleep. The night was very cold…
The next morning, we started getting ready. I got a chance to try out the poop bag; surprisingly, it wasn’t as nasty as I imagined it to be!
We also started preparing our breakfast. Beef stew cooked in muddy water! Karen said it was fine because the mud water was the same colour as the stew anyways!
Finally, some food!
After breakfast, we packed our tent and got ready to head out. We have a long day ahead of us…
Our first goal was to reach big springs where we heard there was an excellent source of clear clean water. We spent the next hour hiking towards that landmark. I was getting very dehydrated.
We finally reached big springs and helped ourselves to tons of water for hydration.
At this point, we started to see a lot of people. Most of them were hiking bottom-up. It was a huge relief seeing other hikers because we hardly saw anyone on the first day. Our mood brightened up, and we felt more enthusiastic to make it to the end. We quickly ate lunch and took some time to chat with the other hikers.
The next big obstacle was coming up: the “deep pool”…
We finally arrived at the deep pool. The water went all the way up to my chin, and for Karen…well… her head went under water. Initially, she was holding onto my backpack, but after reaching the deep pool she lost her grip and got submerged under water. She was screaming in terror. Well, I couldn’t hear her of course…I was also frightened and trying to get through the deep pool. After realizing that Karen was no longer behind me, I quickly went back and pulled her out from under the water. It was a very scary moment.
We started heading towards the next area called Wall Street.
Wall Street is the part of the Narrows that you often see in pictures. Once again, the walls are high and there is no escape if a flash flood comes through.
Upon arriving at Wall Street, we stopped and stared in amazement at the beauty of the Narrows. We wished we weren’t so tired so that we could take the time to appreciate and admire our surroundings. Pictures and videos don’t do justice, seeing the Zion Narrows in person is a must!
After Wall Street, it was the final push to the end. I was dead tired and was turning pale. I was very low on energy because we ran out of food. Karen already had a few breakdowns and we were still two miles away from reaching the entrance of the Top-Down Zion Narrows.
Around the final one mile mark, I was so pale that Karen had to start asking other hikers for food. A kind lady came along and gave Karen and myself some cookies and vegetable drinks. We were thankful for the kindness the lady showed us. She gave us enough food so that we could make it to the end. We were saved!
We were walking like zombies after having to walk on what felt like bowling balls for the last seven hours but finally, we saw the entrance to the Zion Narrows! We made it!
After hiking to the shuttle pick up location, we rode back to the visitor’s centre. I couldn’t move my legs when we arrived, I was in so much pain. We barely made it back to the Zion Outfitters to return the gear we rented.
After the hike, Karen and I took a shower then ate the best pizza we’ve eaten in our lives. Although it doesn’t sound like it, the Zion Narrows was one of the best hikes I’ve done, and to this day, I don’t regret doing it. Usually, the most difficult situations make the best memories. Karen and I have learned some important life lessons such as not taking things for granted. We also learned that we could’ve died that day, but we got lucky and nothing bad happened, we are definitely more laid back after that. The greatest lesson we learned was not to take things too seriously because if you are not in a life or death situation, you are probably okay, and you just need to relax and take it easy.