Nestled between two towering red rocks in southern Utah flows the powerful Virgin River of Zion National Park. We have heard stories about the trek and have seen photos of the pristine site, but the experience of the Narrows trail firsthand can never be fully justified by photos nor tales. With that being said, take this for what it is.
Jason and Carly, our Australian traveling mates, my best friend, Daryl, and I trekked in the sweltering heat. The arid environment left my skin and lips dessicated. My mouth begged for liquid, so I took a swig of warm water. It was not the most ideal beverage, but we were in survival mode and needed any kind of replenishment. Our burning glutes and screaming calves hated us for what seemed like days walking to this popular trail. Eventually, we heard crashing water in the distance. The waves continually flowed like complex music. A gentle breeze evaporated my sweat. With a new found motivation, we briskly walked where our ears led us. There it was, the beginning of the Narrows trail.
Jason, the risk-taker of the group, climbed into the water fully clothed while his girlfriend, Carly, a meek introvert, cautiously followed. She was always worried about his impulsiveness. The two really complemented each other. Carly’s teeth chattered as she gradually dipped into the 50 degree water.
“Yahoo! Come awn, slow pokes! The wawta’s heaps of fun!” called Jason in his thick accent from down under.
His invitation snapped me back into reality. I had been admiring my surroundings and it was about to get even more mind-blowing. Daryl and I gave each other a nod and a hint of a smile as we approached the crashing river. I took off my shoes and felt the blistering earth beneath my calloused feet. I dipped my right food into the water. My body jolted as my foot experienced a sharp temperature drop. I blanched my other foot so I was standing ankle deep. Water molecules quenched my dry skin as I sunk deeper and deeper. Refreshed and finally acclimated, we began our trek against the flow.
We collected thick sticks to use as balancing tools. Even though I have excellent balance as a former gymnast, the water was too strong and it knocked my center off. The rushing water was opaque, making it impossible to see our path. Stepping on jagged rocks or slipping to our knees was not uncommon behavior in the Narrows. Everyone walks out with a few bruises and scrapes. One step at a time, we inched our way a couple of miles up the river. There were times where the floor dropped and we neck deep in the water. You can never predict the depth.
The four of us vagabonds frequently glanced at each other, beaming and shouting over the thundering rapids, “THIS IS INCREDIBLE!”. Gigantic red rocks towered over us, making us feel so small and humbled. We found occasional nooks and caves in the rocks. Wanting to foster my adventurous attitude, I attempted to climb up into a small cave. My wet body slipped down the rocks; it was too difficult for me. But Daryl and Jason made it to the top and they helped me up. I sat on the smooth surface with my feet out in front of me looking down below at the other hikers. I took in my emotions and the marvelous scenery.
After a few hours and about three miles, our freezing, shriveled bodies were drunk off of the Narrows’ beauty and we had to get back. The trek back was much easier than the trek forward because we were flowing with the river this time. Other hikers had the right idea and brought inner tubes to ride back. When the water got deep, we would let our feet up and flow with the river. It was entertaining seeing Daryl’s head bobbing above the water. He looked like he was having a great time until he realized he had little control of where he was going and then his knees collided with the rocks when the water got shallow again.
After we came back to where we started, we were shivering in the what was once the scorching air. We climbed on some large rocks and laid out for the sun to quickly dry our bodies and clothes.
It was an exhilarating time and I look forward to going back again. Zion is a magical place that needs me to discover it more. Just the two days we were there, each hike was unique and took us somewhere special.