trip to zion national park

Day 1: Travel and arrival

The drive to Springdale took about four and a half hours and besides seeing a black Ferrari, it was uneventful. I met my aunt and uncle for dinner at the Bit & Spur, a Mexican restaurant within walking distance from our motel. We walked back together and decided to meet at 7am the next morning. Breakfast consisted of a banana and grapes and we were on our way. We left my uncle's car at the parking lot where we would end up if we were still alive and drove my car to the trail head. A ranger came to check our permit since they only allow 50 people a day on the subway trail and after verifying our paperwork we began what I like to call, the hike which kicked my butt. We asked him a few questions about the difficulty of the trail and he made a few jokes about the water being real warm and it not being that bad. A word to the wise: If you ever have the pleasure of meeting that ranger, don't believe anything he says.

Day 2: The Subway

The first portion of the trail is sandstone, which absorbs the heat like the inside of a black car. We descended at what I thought was a fairly rapid pace. I would soon laugh at my naivety while sliding down a hill on my butt, grabbing wildly for something to hold on to. Silly me, I thought, that wasn't steep, this is. I would soon curse the day I thought I knew what steep was while having a 60 foot piece of rock climbing webbing burning a mark onto my shoulder while I was rappelling down a 15-foot drop. The first part of the hike consists of mostly walking. Once we reached an overlook of the stream below us, the descent became very steep. After plopping down at the bottom, we turned the corner and found a formation of rocks (our first obstacle) that we couldn't hike around. We pulled out the webbing, wrapped it around our bodies and let the friction give us third degree burns during our descent. We were all sporting red lines on our necks from the webbing that later scabbed over and looked like we had tried to slit our throats.

The next part of the trail had about six inches of water but by stepping carefully we were able to keep our feet dry. The water became deeper and at six feet deep, we could no longer avoid getting wet. The water was shockingly cold and I let out an involuntary yelp when I jumped in. I had to swim for a bit and then found solid footing and waded through the water. It varied from being a few inches in depth to a few feet.

The next obstacle was a V-shaped rock which had a small waterfall with a five foot drop into four feet of water. There were some ropes that others had tied to the rocks to help lower yourself down and with the webbing I managed to get down without too much trouble. The rushing water made the rocks slippery and it didn't help that water was pouring over you as you tried to navigate your way down. I began to get very cold standing in the water so I swam through another very narrow pass that would make a claustrophobic person soil their underpants. I didn't enjoy the bugs on the surface of the water that bumped against my face as I swam through, but I soon reached a sandy beach-like area and warmed myself in the sun.

My aunt was the next one to go, but from where I was standing, I couldn't see what was happening. The sandy area was about 40 feet from the cavernous area so I could barely hear their voices over the sound of rushing water. I listened intently and heard my uncle explaining, "If you have the webbing like that you're not going to be able to support yourself. If you do it that way you won't have the support to...*SPLASH*." It wasn't the most graceful or preferred way to get down but in the end, it didn't really matter.

We trudged through water for another 15-20 minutes and reached the last spot where to rappel. It was a 20-foot drop to the subway (hence the name of the trail) so we decided to stop for lunch first. Eating lunch (peanuts, cookies and M&Ms) renewed our energy but my aunt and I were both a bit concerned about the upcoming rappel. From what we could see there was a loop on a log which was suspended about 25 feet off the ground. We would be forced to climb down to where the log was and then let ourselves drop down like a spider. As we were contemplating the best way to go about it I noticed that there were two metal chains at the top of a less steeply path down the side of the rock. We were able to rappel down with little difficulty and continued our hike in the stream.

We saw dinosaur tracks embedded into the rock which made me imagine what might have happened there thousands of years ago. After admiring the dinosaur tracks, I decided to change out of my wet sneakers. They were making squishing sounds and my feet weren't particularly comfortable. The trail that ran along the side of the stream was more or less consistent, although there were a few times where it would have been much easier to have splashed through the water instead of carefully picking my way around the rocks. The trail continued for a few miles and at long last we reached the exit trail, which went straight back up the canyon.

As is the case with most canyons, it was a very steep climb. My legs were near exhaustion and I had to take frequent stops in order to recuperate and forge ahead. When I reached flat land again I was a bit ahead of my aunt and uncle and continued on what I thought was the trail. After a few minutes the trail died out and I saw my aunt and uncle walking along a trail about 50 yards away and 30 feet below. I had ascended more than necessary and to add insult to injury I had to blaze my own trail through heavy underbrush which was unpleasantly prickly. I reached the correct trail again, verifying that it was the correct one by their footprints. They were far ahead of me at this point and as I walked I was so beat that I didn't even bother shooing away the flies. I felt like one of the little Ethiopian kids I'd seen on TV commercials.

Reaching the car was a glorious moment, especially when I was able to sit down and drink some water. We drove up to my car and drove back to the lodge. After cleaning up, we went to eat at a local pizza shop and my appetite was so large that I could have eaten the entire pizza without any trouble. After a dessert of bumbleberry pie and ice cream we returned to the hotel where I collapsed into bed and slept like a log.

Day 3: Observation Point

We got up at around 8:30am, though I could have slept much longer. We caught the bus to the trail head and began the hike. If my legs could have vocalized their feelings, they probably would have asked what I thought I was doing. The trail consisted of steep switchbacks covered by cement so the terrain was fine, but the rapid altitude gain was tiring. The sun was already shining in its full glory and sapped what little energy I had left. This forced me to take even more frequent breaks to rest and drink water. The total climb was about 2000 feet in three and a half miles. The last mile was relatively flat, a welcome gift for my weak legs. We ate lunch at the summit (peanuts, cookies and M&Ms) and began the descent. It was far easier than climbing and took less than half the time. We ate at Zion's Lodge and the food was quite poor. My salmon was good, but they loaded up the rest of the plate with some wheat-based food that had very little taste. I wouldn't recommend eating there.

Day 4: The Narrows

We slept until 9:30am, much to my delight and the hike was by far the easiest of the three. There was a full sidewalk all the way to the water, where throngs of small children were playing, attesting to the ease of the path. It was still very scenic and the water was cooling so that I didn't need to stop at all. We splashed through the stream for a few miles and reached a five foot waterfall which we could have scaled due to the low water level, but we decided to turn back so we would have time for other activities in the evening.

We were amused by a teenage hiker who had brought along an inflatable frog and was attempting to ride it down. He probably would have made better time crawling but he pointed out that he was more concerned about the quality of the trip rather than the speed. On the way back I had become rather adept at negotiating the rocks in the water and decided to turn on the steam. I passed over fifty people with my simple method of putting the walking stick down and taking a step. If my foot slid off a rock while taking the step, I had my other foot and the walking stick for support so there was no danger of falling. I noticed that most people took each step gingerly, which really slowed them down. I got back to the sidewalk trail 15 minutes before my aunt and uncle and spent my time batting squirrels away from my legs and backpack.

I have never seen squirrels of such boldness. They kept repositioning themselves in order to find a way to penetrate my backpack. I even patted a few squirrel butts with my walking stick, but it didn't deter them for long. The would scurry away, just out of the reach of my stick and then turn around for another attempt. A young girl pointed out that the squirrels were ganging up on me and her assessment wasn't far from the truth. Four squirrels had gathered around me and appeared ready to do battle, but a few deft blows with my walking stick convinced them to make a hasty retreat. The walk home was pleasant except for the squishing of my sneakers. We ate at the Bit and Spur again and the food was excellent, along with the friendly atmosphere.

Day 5: Drive home

I awoke at 6am and said good bye to my aunt and uncle. He was leaving for his 14-mile hike which I didn't feel like doing, given my difficulty with the 9-mile subway hike. It only took me four hours to drive home and the time went by quickly and I soon collapsed into bed, grateful to be home.

Updated Oct 25, 2016