It is not an adventure for the faint of heart or feet. The Zion Narrows is a 16-mile hike in water ranging from ankle to chest deep. Our journey started at the top of Chamberlin’s Ranch, where the air was cold and the Virgin River was still shallow. As we walked deeper into the canyon, its rising walls started closing in over our heads, the water became gradually deeper, and we were alone.
What we saw was a feast for the senses: the clear, blue river – gentle at times, rapid at others. The steep, wavy canyon walls surrounding us in shades of deep orange, red and brown. We felt incredibly small standing on the canyon floor, 2,000 feet down, staring up at the crack of blue sky overhead. All around us were reminders of nature’s power. Washed up trees lined the bends in the river, creating roadblocks that we had to pick our way over. Frequent flash floods stained the rock 15 feet over our heads. Deep pools, wide rapids and slippery boulders were constant threats to our toes, ankles and sanity.
The most surprising discovery was the sense of complete isolation we felt at the end of the first day. No cell phone, GPS or park patrol could help us get out of trouble – a terrifying reality check when you’re 10 hours into the hike, with the daylight fading and water depth increasing, and you still haven’t located campsite 12.
The intense physical exertion was a small price to pay in order to gain a new level of respect for nature’s power to transform and persevere.