Friday, August 10, 2007

A Manly Guide to Hiking the Zion Narrows!

Of all Utah outdoor opportunities, hiking the Zion Narrows is a must-do. As an official Narrows “two-timer”, I’ve compiled a helpful guide to hiking this national treasure.

Maximize Your Experience

The entire trek spans sixteen miles of winding river terrain. Many choose to hike up a mile or two from the bottom and take a few pretty pictures. But real outdoorsmen navigate the entire stretch, from Chamberlain’s Ranch down to the River Walk. To maximize your experience, my recommendation is to attack all sixteen miles in one day. This will guarantee enough bruises, sprains and hemorrhages to convince anyone you’re a real trooper.

Bring proper equipment:

If you really think you’re going to make it through the Narrows in one day, you’d better bring the right equipment, otherwise Search and Rescue will be hauling your sad corpse out of the river by .

Shoes: Technically you can make it through the Narrows in a pair of tennis shoes. Of course, technically you can put out a forest fire if you pee on it long enough. By renting special quick-dry hiking shoes, not only do you uphold your true outdoorsman image, you also get to look like a dork for the whole hike.
Walking Stick: In the city, this is the tool of old men and pimps, but in the Narrows, anyone who doesn’t bring a walking stick should wear a sign that says “get ready to watch me fall on my butt”. That loud snapping sound you hear is coming from their ankles.

Ugly Shirt: If you feel self-conscious walking around with a cane and moon boots, try distracting your fellow travelers with an ugly shirt. Bright colors are easy for rescue workers to spot, too. No one will notice your geeky shoes if they’re staring at your green “Cuban Soul Revival” T-Shirt.
Dry Bag: Only stupid people try to haul complex electronic equipment like digital cameras on a river hike without bringing a dry bag, and no one sympathizes with them when their stuff is fried by the end of the hike. On the contrary, people do sympathize with a person whose dry bag doesn’t work, and dumps out a liter of water when it’s opened at the end of the trail.

Leave Early

It’s true that a typical marathon takes about three hours to run, but it’s also true that typical marathon runners are hyperactive alien-types with metabolic rates high enough to burn a Taco Bell burrito in 3.5 seconds. Most marathons aren’t run through rivers over algae-covered stones, either. So it’s best to start early, when you’re too disoriented to realize the pain you’ll be encountering later in the day. 5AM should work, but don’t tell everyone in your party. Half the fun is watching the non-morning people reveal their hidden talent for profanity when you wake them up.

Walk Downstream

Hiking the Narrows involves complex navigation through slick rocks and powerful currents, but one factor is working in your favor: it’s very hard to get lost. If you keep moving downstream, eventually you’ll wash up at the end of the trail. If you suddenly notice that your comrades have all turned into spawning fish, you probably should’ve stuck with your treadmill.

Beware of Rocks
The Narrows is famous for its soaring cliffs and dramatic rock formations, but if you spend all your time gazing at them, you’ll snap your ankles like twigs on the slick rocks under your feet. Halfway down the canyon these rocks become more slippery and harder to see, but with a little Ibuprofen, you won’t feel the consequences for days after your trip.

Document the Rich Landscape

No one will believe you hiked the Narrows if you don’t provide photographic proof, and even then they’ll be suspicious in these days of PhotoShop. So make sure to bring a nice expensive camera to document the landscape over the first two-thirds of the hike. No one photographs the last third; they’re too busy staggering over the rocks on swollen ankles to worry about photographing a bunch of stupid rocks.

Take Time to Have Fun

Even if you try to hike the Narrows in one day, you should try to make the most of your time in the canyon. However, even if the water seems deep enough, DO NOT DIVE OFF THE ROCKS. You never know what’s lurking under the surface. And since jumping off the rocks is officially prohibited by the park, ABSOLUTELY DO NOT LET ANYONE PHOTOGRAPH YOU JUMPING OFF THE ROCKS. These kinds of photos make insurance claims really, really tough.
Have fun!