Labor Day weekend in Zion

29.-31.8. 2003

I got reminded of Zion Narrows about a month ago when a one friend of mine mentioned it. So, with my faithful hiking companion Mari, we started weaving plans how to do the hike. Turned out that only four of us ended up going, me, Mari, Rob and Dina. The plan was that me and Mari, Group 1, drives south on Thursday afternoon, gets permits for the Narrows for Saturday and waits for Group 2 that arrives Friday evening. We leave one car at the Zion visitors center, drive the other to the Narrows trailhead, do the hike on Saturday, pick up the other car and hang around on Sunday.

After being stuck in traffic to Provo for 2 hours (BYU football game), we arrived to a nice campspot on a BLM land south of Zion in the dark. Bright Mars was looming in the southeastern sky and I was wondering, what it's going to bring. Having forgotten alarm clock, we woke up at 6.15am at the crack of dawn, quickly packed, and were at the visitor's center at 6.40. They start giving the permits out at 6.30. There already was a line, and thermarests lying around suggested some people camped there for the night. One line was for the Narrows, the other for Subway. After about 20 min. in the line, we got permits for the Narrows (NPS allows 80 people per day, we were around no. 30). In the time we waited, we were listening to people in the other line, mainly that the permits for Subway for Saturday were already gone, but, there were some available for Friday (today). There were some doubt, as the weather forecasted 30% chance of rain, we did not know the route exactly (I had a vague idea), and we had only one car (the hike is point to point). We decided to get the permit anyway, it's only $5 per group, and see. I figured I have the necessary gear (waterproof bags, ropes).

We had breakfast at the visitor's center parking lot, and after it opened at 8am, we bought a guide book and map to take with. Then we drove to the Wildcat trailhead, where we were the lone car at 9.30am. We quickly got ready and went off, I was a bit nervous about the several harder sections in the canyon, and the weather, but, everything turned out quite well. Details on the hike with clickable map are here. The navigation was very easy, trail down to the canyon bottom was well marked, so, we did not need a map at all (I was in the lower part of Subway before). We needed rope on two obstacles, in a waterfall above Subway and in the Keyhole Falls bypass. Both were not too high (3-5m), but, I was not too comfortable on the rope. Guess time to take some climbing class. It was quite chilly in the section where one had to swim several times, but the sun comes out before Subway, so, we warmed up quickly. The sun got behind the clouds once we exited Subway and stayed there till the end of the hike. Since we left our car at the one end, we tried to hitchhike from Left Fork trailhead (exit) to Wildcat trailhead (entry). We were not very successful initially, as we walked on the road, but, after about 1/2 mile, an unknown couple from Washington state with a pickup truck gave us a ride. I want this way to thank them for making the last part of this trip a success. We then drove back to Springdale for a dinner and to Zion Visitor's Center to wait for arrival of Group 2.

Group 2 arrived late, so, we did not get to the Chamberlain Ranch, start point of the Narrows hike, till late night. To my surprise, we were the only ones who camped there that night. The night was cold, and the place where one can sleep is a bit slanted, so, we did not sleep that well. We were woken up at 6.15am by a cow mooing right next to our car. It was pretty cold, so, we were setting up slow. In the meanwhile, several groups of people arrived and passed us. We finally got off at about 7.45 am. Pictures and details on the hike are here. We were done with the hike at about 5.15pm, in 9.5 hours (source say it averages about 12 hours). The evening after the hike was quite strenuous, too. It took the shuttle quite a while to get to the vistor's center, so, we left to pick up the other car at around 6.15pm. The drive to the Chamberlain ranch takes 1-1.5 hours, so, we were back in Sprindale at 8.45pm, too late to take a shower at the campground there (they are open from 8am to 8pm). So, we got some beer and drove south to camp again on the BLM land. We made a small fire, roasted sausages, and finally had some rest.

On Sunday, everyone was lazy, so, we did not leave the camp by 11am. Then, went to check out ghost town Grafton, which was quite a ripoff, although it was free. So, we drove to the Zion Museum, which is remodelled old Visitor's Center. We watched a marketing film for the park and listened to an interesting ranger talk about the park's geology. After that, it was time to go home, while Mari and Rob stayed for one more day.

U of U / CHPC / Cuma / Travel / English / Zion 03