A Narrow Escape

If the Valley of Fire gently self-identified as MY rocks, Zion National Park threw me a welcome home party.  Of all the incredible places we’ve seen on this journey, Zion stands out as my all-time favorite, something that became evident as some of the topographic landmarks grew on the horizon.  Looking through a bug splattered window did nothing to dull my giddiness and I couldn’t help but take pictures of our progress toward our 6th National Park.

Even after taking a day to regroup following our evening on the Strip, we chose to depart our swanky Vegas campsite at a “gentlemanly hour” (Flight’s phrase) to arrive in the late afternoon.  We efficiently sped through our Setting Up Camp Checklist in this middle of all this glory.

Once set up we went for a little stroll to stretch our legs and become acquainted with our new neighbors.

The next morning we headed to the Visitor’s Center and planned out (read “crammed”) our short visit with plenty of hikes.  Although, mostly owing to safety, we refrained from fully experiencing two of the most well-known Zion hikes: Angels Landing and The Narrows.  Flight and I did a quick Operational Risk Management assessment and decided that because we had three kids ages 6-11, we didn’t think zone defense was the best approach to tackling this:

Angels Landing
Image taken from http://www.wiredforadventure.com

Or this:

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Photo by Karan Chawla on unsplash.com

What could go wrong?

Owing to my struggle with intermitted bouts of vertigo and a healthy respect for my fear of heights, missing out on Angels Landing didn’t trouble me much.  Flight however was a little bummed to have made it so far and not check those boxes off.  Ah well, next time…

I, however, only felt the tantalizing siren’s draw to don neoprene and wade my way through the famous slot canyon.  I nearly exhausted my brain trying to find ways to complete that 16-mile (one-way) hike as a family.  When I entertained “What if we alternate carrying WoodSprite…” who could fit into a single pant leg of the smallest dry suit available, I knew it was time to cry Uncle.  Instead we brought a picnic lunch to eat near the Virgin River before we began our modest trek beside the waterway to the start of the Narrows.

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Appropriately sated, we began our Riverside Walk ambling beside the river, occasionally pausing to throw rocks.  I was really surprised (and thankful!) to notice how few people were visiting Zion in November.  It felt as though we had the park to ourselves…

Other surprises included seeing how beautifully green and clear the river was.

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The girls were eager to find the perfect spot for a rest…

We took our time making our way because there were so many boulders to climb and so many nooks and crannies to explore.

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And then there are the moments that are pure ham…

Our family made it all the way to the start of the Narrows hike where the journey in water begins in earnest and I heard the siren again.  Completing that hike has taken up residence near the top of my bucket list…

To commemorate our family’s trek to the start of the 16-mile hike, we had hoped to get a great family picture and asked one of the few other park patrons to capture our image.  Once again, we were disappointed to learn that not everyone has an eye for photography.

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Although the perfectly centered picture has our family in it and all looking at the camera, which is truly half the battle, despite our being far, far away, there is no indication of the surrounding majesty.  Sigh…  I guess we can take solace in knowing that WE know what the backdrop truly was?

Keeper got a nice one of me and Flight…

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As we made our way slowly back along the river, Keeper got more than he bargained for – !!!  As he was bounding from rock to rock along the river’s edge, he lost his balance and went for a brief swim.  Flight was nearest our son and only realized he had fully submerged when others were gawking and pointing in the direction he’d disappeared.  Fortunately, Keeper had picked the best place for his unplanned “swim” as it was deep enough to submerge, which he managed without smacking his head, and a ready-made easy river egress route was readily apparent.  Once we determined Keeper was no worse for the wear, we started snapping pictures to document this unexpected experience.  As Flight will often say, it wasn’t a disaster, but we could certainly see it from here…

His brief dunk could have gone horribly wrong, but he managed to keep his sense of humor and even offered the opportunity to complete an after (right) selfie:

Perhaps his surge of adrenalin was initially keeping him warm, despite being sopping wet on a brisk November day, but it was not until about fifteen minutes later when he was unable to control the chattering of his teeth did Keeper accept the offer of my dry middle layer.  Interestingly, he didn’t even know how cold he was until put on my shirt and then, as profusely as an 11-year old can manage, offered his thanks.

The pictures taken on the return hike were far fewer owing to Keeper’s being soaked through, but here are a few of my favorites…

We returned to our campsite to allow Keeper a quick change into dry clothes (and maybe manage a snack) before we headed back out for our second hike of the day.  The Canyon Overlook Hike is touted as a “short-and-fun out and back” hike.  That sounded like the perfect way to wind down our rather eventful day.

It started off fairly innocuously…

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However, Keeper and I especially noticed that the hair-raising plank walks over said canyon was a glaring omission in the standard description.  We were more than a little disconcerted by the seemingly support-lacking boards over which were supposed to tread.  Clearly Flight and Firebolt had no such concerns…

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After a few deep breaths, tread we did and, despite our consternation, we powered through and were rewarded with this incredible view.

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The girls were entirely unflappable and found the best seats for their respective bums to finish their Junior Ranger Badge requirements.

Judging the speed at which the sun was make its way for the horizon, we chose not to linger too long and steadily retraced our path back to the car.  I surprised myself by luxuriating in a deep sense of peace during our short drive back to the campsite, likely inspired by the surrounding landscape.

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Following an easy dinner in the Instant Pot, I wrapped my contentment around me as I burrowed into the warmth of our duvet, giving thanks that Keeper escaped his swim unscathed and eager for our (modified) Angels Landing hike in the morning.

 

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