My boyfriend and I have a bit of a tradition - we love going on trips in general, but we have a special place in our hearts for National Parks. I've personally gone on two without him - Grand Canyon and Yosemite. He's gone on more, but hardly recalls them as his parents took him when he was younger.. As an adult, he's gone to Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks by himself. Together, we've visited Yosemite, Mt. Rainier, and Olympic National Park. On May 28-June 2, we were in Utah, spending three and a half days in Zion and spending two and a half days in Bryce. Both were amazingly wonderful destinations.
From where I live in Northern California, the drive itself took ten and a half hours. It was an enjoyable ride through Southern California, Nevada, a bit of Arizona, and then into the unique canyons of Utah.
Two hours from Las Vegas, you arrive in Zion. Zion National Park kind of comes out of nowhere. We were driving and following the map when all of a sudden, we see everything towering over us. Mountain peaks with colorful rock formations say hello, and we couldn't help but stare in awe; we were in total disbelief that such a thing can exist in our world.
On our second day, after having breakfast while looking at maps and learning a bit more of what Zion has to offer, we quickly realized that four days in the park weren't going to be enough to fully explore. There were countless hiking trails that we wanted to do, but we had to pick and choose. Of course, The Narrows was number one on my list as that has been something I've always wanted to do. And let me tell you, it was more than what I expected to be. It was more beautiful, more peaceful, more awe-inspiring, but also more challenging than I anticipated. In all honesty, it kicked my butt, but oh it was so worth it.
The Narrows overall is a 16-mile hike, one-way, but hikers need a permit to go all the way as it requires camping in the area. It was never our plan to do the whole thing, so we only tried to go as long as we physically wanted to. Since there weren't any signs on how many miles we've done, we could only assume. We did decide to head back about two hours before sunset, and overall, we were down there for 8 hours. It's very easy to lose track of time, so if you go, be very alert and cautious!
Exploring The Narrows was the most adventurous thing I've done, but it was also the toughest and most grueling. You really have to take your time as you are fighting against the river's current while also watching carefully for your next step as underneath are rocks of all sizes. We rented special water hiking shoes and socks from the store near the Visitor Center, and I highly recommend this as it helped keep my feet warm and also saved my ankle so many times! In terms of depth, the water mostly went up to my knees, but there were times when it went up my belly button! It was a lot of fun walking through that water.
By the 6th hour of us hiking, I admittedly wanted to give up, but I knew I needed to strengthen myself mentally more than anything. I kept going and I was extremely proud of myself when we were finally done with it. There is nothing like being able to come back from where you started and saying, "We did it!"
We trudged on and when we got back to the campground, it was the best feeling ever. We were both extremely exhausted and sore from the hike that we ate dinner quietly and went to bed early. We slept for a full eight hours, and when we woke up, we surprisingly felt a lot better! Feeling strong, encouraged, and inspired by the 8 hour hike we just did the day before, we wanted to keep going! Thankfully, we were smart and chose a much easier trail: The Emerald Pools Trail. It was a 3-mile roundtrip hike with moderate difficulty,and it was also a much more straight-forward trail. You go up, you go down. While hiking, we saw waterfalls, emerald pools, and monoliths... it had it all. It was gorgeous to say the least. After that, we rewarded ourselves with burgers, a lot of water, and soft-serve ice cream cones.
That late afternoon, just minutes before sunset, we decided that instead of taking the shuttle back to the campground that we would walk instead. The well-paved trail was only a mile and a half long after all. While walking, we took in the fantastic views of the mountains again. Nearby, we could hear the water rushing from the river, which made our walk even more serene than it already was. Since we pretty much had the trail to ourselves, it was completely peaceful that we almost didn't notice a deer. It probably noticed us first. It was just eating, and as we walked almost next to it, I remember just watching her (yes, her, because she was pregnant!) stare at us nonchalantly. It hit me again, as nature always tends to do to me; we were nobody. Just humans. Living in a big world. We do not own it, we are not the masters of it. We are just part of it, and that's what makes it so captivating.
On our last day in Zion, we woke up early to enjoy the campground. We had breakfast and packed up as we were heading to Bryce Canyon National Park. It was very bittersweet to leave. There simply wasn't enough time to fully explore the area, but we were excited for Bryce at the same time. I guess it just means we have to go back again...