As I make my way home from Zion national Park, through rain showers I realize how quickly Weather can come in. Knowing, that had we been in the Narrows when the canyon flashed, I wouldn’t be writing this now. It’s a hard pill to swallow when you wake up to slight overcast with blue skies. In your mind, you think let’s go. Why not? We can make it through? But the reality is, if there is an expected flash flood you should most definitely not enter a slot canyon. It makes me think of my boys, and realize I have more at stake than my own life, I have more to think about than myself. I must admit Dave was the rational mind between us all, he was the one who was 100% we’re not going. We are all adults, capable of making our own decision, I tend to take the advice of the group to make sure the wisest decision is being made. Usually the easiest decision is the bad Choice. Though this hike has exceedingly eluded me, I know it will be there tomorrow and I shall live another day to make this amazing trek.
When I arrived in ZNP, I immediately checked in with the Ranger station. Carefully viewing the forecasted weather conditions. Hearing the park service ranger say that it was currently on Flash Flood Watch. That they didn’t close the canyon until it was at Flash Flood Warning… He quickly informed me, it will move to a warning by Sunday. If they close the canyon, you can still enter at your own risk. But it is HIGHLY recommended against it.
I went back to camp and began to set up. I made some dinner and promptly decided to go watch the sunset from the Canyon Overlook hike. Best 1/2 mile hike I’ve ever done. With a steep drop to one the south into a shallow slot canyon. This made for a great view while hiking out to the overlook. Scrambling over slick rock, a man-made wooden bridge, up and down man carved steps in the mountain side. This hike is definitely easy enough for the novice hiker, but still satisfactory for any hiker seeking an awesome view. On my descent back to the road, I struck up a conversation with 2 sweet young ladies who were nice enough to take my picture at the overlook. Phoebe and Sophie told me how they were visiting from Phoenix and Chicago, and would love to hike the Narrows with us, if only they could stay all the way through Sunday. They were leaving Saturday afternoon. So we exchanged goodbyes, and it was lovely to meet you, and went our separate ways. I find it much easier to talk to and approach people on the trail.
The next morning, while cleaning up breakfast, I was visited by a Doe and her 2 young fawn. They walked right up to my camp table and straight through my camp. It made me aware how peaceful life is away from civilization. Discovering how time spent alone in the wilderness is the best cure for a life hang-over.
Just before noon, I set out to summit Angels Landing, a classic hike in the canyon, they say everyone (not afraid of heights) should do. Though I passed pretty much all the hikers I encountered that afternoon. I was a bit disappointed by the large amount of people I saw on the trail that day. This hike is only second to the opening mile of the Narrows bottom start. It’s hard to find serenity 1,500′ above the canyon floor when you have people trying to act tough and climb a pinnacle atop the tower. That my friend, is how statistics are made. Though I do not regret making this epic hike, I’m not in any hurry to go back unless it is in the winter time. I would love to see the valley covered in glistening snow.
I found that I can descend from a hike in Ludicrous speed… As when I was younger and we always ran down the trail from a climbing approach. Now I walk, but in “stay at home mom” speed walking fashion. I passed everyone on the trail, catching those who left 10 minutes before me. And met up with Dave at the lower Emerald pool. We got back to camp and checked in one more time with the ranger station. No good news on the flash flood situation. And we had pretty much made our decision, the Narrows would have to wait for another time. Plan B I thought would consist of hiking Observation Point. Another amazing hike that was still on my ticklist. The rain had arrived at camp, so we decided to take a quick hike to Canyon Overlook, so Dave could see this awesome 1/2 mile trek. And since cooking at camp in the rain pretty much sucks, I threw out the idea we go to Zion pizza & noodle. Good pizza, good beer, and good-looking waitresses. The blondie that works there is especially nice. And after a few beers, we had a nice a little chat with her about my kick ass 5.10 bandana, only to find out she is a climber. She gave us a nickname… The “Zion Hooligans”. And kind of taunted us about not hiking the Narrows the following day. Telling us she would be the first person to say “don’t go in if there’s flash flood warnings… But we looked to be in good shape, we could probably rally and make it through in time.” Soon after we for there, our 3rd joined. Jordan arrived to find out we had pretty much decided the Narrows was a no go. But we would still make the most of the weekend and crush an elevation hike.
The next morning we awoke and began our ascent up Observation Point. An 8 mile round trip hike gaining 2100′ in elevation, with the best view of the canyon there is. Over looking this site, you see how the Virgin River has carved the canyon throughout millions of years. The hike parallels an amazing slot canyon (that I will most definitely return to discover). And takes a switch back path carved in the side of a sandstone wall, no wider than 4′. When you reach the viewpoint, you can literally lie down on your chest and look straight down the canyon walls. The view makes Angels Landing look infantile. We did the entire hike round trip in 4 hours, an hour of which was looking over the view, discovering the slot canyon and snapping pictures. Our timing was impeccable, the rain didn’t come in until we had almost reached ground level again. Since we had a flood conditions coming down, we opted for pizza again, and Dave and I got a little drunk. Taking a walk in the rain through the campsite, we noticed 2 young ladies struggling to erect their tent in the dark. “My sister said it was idiot proof” exclaimed one of the girls. It took us almost an hour, but we succeeded, and I told her she could let her sister know “she met 3 idiots in Zion”….
The water in Zion National Park came down so fast that day, it went from 90 CFPS in the morning to 4,000 CFPS in the early evening. Forming a waterfall half way up the main canyon. Water pouring over the sandstone walls, where there isn’t normally a waterfall. We quickly realized, we had made the correct decision. I’m usually the one who is always ready to weigh reward over risk. I remind myself of my own mortality. Sometimes the strongest hiker, climber, back country adventurer is the one who makes the correct decision. If you’re not clear of mind, making the educated, proper decision, you needlessly place your self at risk. As I live everyday for these sites and experiences. I imagine, I won’t die for it…
Products used on the trip:
Have you ever had to change plans mid trip?
Have you ever had to make a tough decision that may have saved your life?