Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rebecca & The Narrows

Rebecca is leaving home to go to college. I am excited for her especially since she will be playing soccer. She will be living on her own for the first time like many college freshman. The college she has chosen is a long way from home (Iowa Western Community College) and therefore will limit the number of visits to her if any at all. This summer she and I made a list of things to do together before she left for school. We did a multiple pitch rock climb in Snow Canyon State Park (Leopard Skin a 5.7 Olevsky classic). Then we went canyoneering in Zion National Park (Pinecreek, a Zion classic). We did lunch together and I took her shopping (about 14 minutes worth) and got her a bracelet. The final thing on our list was an overnight backpacking trip. For various reasons including weather and proximity Rebecca agreed to hike the famous "Zion Narrows" with me overnight. I have done this trip many times with the scout troop and my sons Marty and Eric, but for some reason Rebecca had eluded this trip while growing up. She and I have had many adventures in the back country of Zion whilst canyoneering but not usually long enough to spend the night. We chose a hot July day with a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms to do it. To avoid driving two trucks over we caught a daily shuttle van (with a generous charge) at the Visitor Center in Zion National Park (ZNP) early in the morning. A few hours later we were hiking down the dirt road past Bulloch's cabin along the headwaters of the North Fork of the Virgin River the usual start of the Narrows hike. Soon we were wading in the cool waters as we began to cross the stream many times. The water is usually clear this time of the year but apparently an intense thunderstorm the evening before up near Cedar Breaks colored the water a pale reddish hue which stayed with us the whole trip. This made the hike more difficult as with each crossing of the river we could not see the rocky bottom. We did encounter a few other backpackers in the first couple of miles, but soon we hiked alone with our faster pace. I think the forecast chased off many would-be day hikers as just two days previous an intense thunderstorm in ZNP had nearly killed 3 men canyoneering in Spry Canyon. The day grew hot, but the stream kept us somewhat cool. Sure enough in the early afternoon just after we passed the junction of the North Fork and Deep Creek a thunderstorm bore down on us. Lots of thunder echoed through the canyon and it briefly rained hard. Enough to wet the sandstone walls and cause of few runnels of water to flow down but not enough to sprout any significant waterfalls. We ducked under an overhang along the river to stay out of the rain and avoid getting soaked. This cooled down the canyon and soon we were hiking in sunlight with rain drops still sprinkling down from above. It was very beautiful! Our assigned camp site was #11. There are twelve designated camp sites in the Narrows. All are in the upper reaches of the canyon above Big Springs before the real "narrows" begin. Finally we came to our site about 8 hours after beginning that morning. Rebecca was glad to get there and drop her pack although we had gone super light for this trip and it was not very heavy. We ate a very simple dinner. A bagel and gourmet cheese. It was tasty and surprisingly satisfying. Another thunderstorm pestered us but we ducked into our tent and watched a movie on my i-touch until darkness came. The rain caused the night to be rather humid but the sky cleared up and the near-full moon was bright. With first light in the morning we got up and quickly broke camp. We hoped to finish the canyon before noon as the weather forecast was for more intense thunderstorms the next couple of days. Not far down the canyon we came across Big Springs and filled up our Nalgene bottles. There I ran into a friend and we chatted for a few minutes. He had come down Coral Hollow the day before. I had previously descended that canyon a few years ago in the fall and we talked about the obstacles in that drainage. I usually savor the "narrow" section of the Narrows, but this trip it was more difficult than in times past because of a higher river flow and mostly because of the muddied water preventing the ability to see the drops, rocks and boulders underfoot. It was still awesome to pass there again, but I could tell that Rebecca wasn't enjoying the experience as much as I. It is such an incredible place! Rebecca thinks that once you see one section of the canyon that another 17 miles of it is not any better. I don't think she is going to make this trip an annual thing with me. Just saying. The weather was perfect for us and we soon encountered day hikers coming up from the lower end of the Narrows. A sure sign that our trip was coming to it's end. Orderville Canyon also had very muddied water and added to the already dirtied Virgin. While hiking the last mile on the paved trail it is difficult to keep your eyes on the canyon walls and the beautiful scenery because of the hordes of tourists strolling along. "People Watching" becomes impossible to avoid. It is always a shock and a great contrast in atmosphere to emerge from the Zion back country into that sea of humanity! The shuttle ride was tolerable but annoying as usual. A lunch stop at Oscars for the "Murder Burger" with sweet potato fries was completed as planned. Rebecca and I had finished our list and I had shared the Zion Narrows with her. Maybe in another year or two she can begin another stage in her life and we can make an excuse to make another list of things to do. Maybe she will climb a "big" mountain with me next time.