Big Rock guards the exit from the famed Wall Street section of the Narrows in Zion National Park – a beautiful and welcome sight after hiking down (and directly in) the 16 wandering miles of the Virgin River's North Fork from Chamberlain's Ranch, buried deep in the backcountry of Southern Utah.
Out of Darkness
We started our hike at 6:30am that morning, after riding 1 hour and 20 minutes in a rugged 4x4 off road vehicle up treacherous mountain sides reminiscent of that famous death road in Peru. The driver told us countless stories of times when the hikers had to bail out as the vehicle began to slide off the steep, narrow, slippery mountain road and off the precipice into the forests below. Finally, after a very bumpy and long journey, he dropped us off in the middle of absolutely nowhere, high in the Utah mountains, from which point we would hike all the way back down into Zion National Park, down the North Fork of the Virgin River walking in rapids-filled slot canyons and over boulders the whole way, before finally arriving at the famous Temple of Sinawava exit point and then taking another 45 minute ride back to the park entrance.
While on the way down the river, I came across this gorgeous scene showcasing the beautiful aquamarine blue water there. Virtually all the photographs I’ve seen of the Zion Narrows emphasize the red and orange tones found farther downriver, but I’ve seen very few that capture the soothing blues and greens there. This large boulder is located farther upriver from the more photographed sections of Wall Street, where my “Out of Darkness” (photo was made. I feel the cool soothing tones here give off a more relaxing vibe than you get from the electric orange tones in other parts of the canyon. This really shows you the paradise-like atmosphere that is present there.
This is the most long and strenuous of the three ways to hike the Narrows, and to do it, we had to enter and then win a lottery, apply for a wilderness backcountry permit. (Where you give them all your vital information and emergency contacts for Search & Rescue to use if they need to go look for you, and sign a few pages of warnings, notices, educational text and disclaimers.) Then comes a long and expensive shuttle ride to the start of the route.
Most people hike bottom-up, which is only 5 miles in water. Hardcore hikers do the 16 mile version top down in two days of 8 miles each with an overnight camping stop in the middle. We did the most hardcore version, which is to take on the 16 miles nonstop in a single grueling day. For those of you thinking 16 miles is easy, this is 16 miles directly in knee to waist deep icy rapids and over large boulders - not on a trail. It was quite the adventure, and I'm absolutely glad we completed this awesome bucket-list route! Many people dream of doing this for years, and I've been blessed to do both top-down and bottom-up in the same two weeks!
Then we hiked the even more brutal Subway top-down canyoneering route, the very next morning. That's a story for another day.