Friday, September 20, 2019

Zion- Even more Beautiful than I Imagined!

First stop on our Summer of 2019 National Parks tour was Zion. Honestly, I'd heard all of the hype about Zion, but I've seen a million canyons, and red rocks, and rivers. I was happy to go, but had my sights set further along on our journey when we'd be white-water rafting!!!

But my husband was really excited for us to "Hike The Narrows" so he planned it all out and helped outfit us all in water gear and shoes for the trip. Thankfully he was so prepared and excited for this hike, because our clothes and shoes were essential for the long (but AMAZING) hike!! After gearing up, we hit the road!

In preparation for the long trip, we bought this awesome Atlas. We bought it to teach the kids how to navigate the "old school" way. We also knew it would be very helpful for times without phone service, or when we wanted to check elevation or road conditions of routes the GPS recommended to us. And it was great for all of that! I was very impressed with how much the kids loved using it, navigating and reading all about the National Parks and Points of Interest. I had also purchased a Kids' Atlas for our younger two. They liked it, but everyone greatly preferred the original version. 

My daughter had baked these delicious cookies for the trip. They were spectacular. Nothing better than riding shotgun, eating these badboys, and looking at the amazing scenery. 

We soon arrived at our camping spot for the night, Zion Canyon Campground. The location was perfect, just a short 1/2 mile from the park entrance. There was also a shuttle stop right in front of the RV Resort. The campground was surrounded by beautiful reddish, orange-y mountains which shone so brightly as the sun hit them. When I went in to register, the front desk ladies were SO nice and friendly. Very refreshing. Our site backed the Virgin River, and had hook-ups. This was one of the few campgrounds we chose with full hookups mainly because we knew it would be warm and we'd want to use the Air Conditioning to sleep. And I highly recommend this to anyone visiting during the warm months. 

We were very happy with our spot, and with the campground in general. Clean, well-maintained, and those views....

The kids decided to do some "river training" in preparation for the hike the next day. It was hilarious to watch them splash and play and try to ford the river. The currents were strong, and the water was a little chilly, but it was a wonderfully warm evening and the kids had a great time!

"I have conquered the river!!"

"uh, nevermind, this river got me!"

We awoke early the next morning in time for the first shuttle, and ready to hike our little feet off! Now, park shuttles are not my favorite form of transportaion. We normally walk or bike around the parks, but this hike was supposed to be 10 miles (if you could finish it) and was 7 miles to the trailhead. My husband and I were both a little hesitant to plan a 7 mile ride back to the rv after hiking 10 miles with shuttle it was!

All geared up and excited to hike!

Even with our early departure, there was a line to wait for the shuttle. We had to wait about 30 minutes in total. But we were still happy and excited for the hike.

After departing the tram, the trailhead is directly ahead. There is a very short (about .9 of a mile) walk along a dirt path, down to the river portion of the hike.

We were so excited to dive into the riverwalk portion of our walk. The water was VERY cold. I was really surprised to see how little sunlight filtered into the river. The massive canyon walls were spectacularly beautiful, and towered so far above us. They shaded the path and the river. The cool air and water within the canyon was a stark contrast from the hot weather outside. It was amazing.

The beginning of the hike was pretty crowded, especially for 7:30 am. I was surprised to see so many people hiking. To be honest, I was a little bummed at the crowds, but at the same time, happy to see so many people all of varying physical fitness levels trying the hike. It was great to see everyone getting out there! And once we started walking, we encountered so many very friendly and kind people. Even at the crowded parts, people were considerate and friendly.

One would think (I did) that hiking it the river would be easy, and nice and cool. I thought for sure we'd need our sunscreen and U/V shirts for the hot desert sun, and that the river water would refresh us. 
Well, you're never too old to learn new things. And I sure did on this hike! The water was really cold, and because there was no sun, we were seriously chilly at first. I couldn't believe we had goosebumps for the first few hours. But soon, the exercise warmed our bodies up. I was actually happy to be a little on the cooler side during this hot summer!

And we were having SO much fun!!

The water alternated being shallow with rushing little rapids, and deeper with cool currents flowing past us. And throughout it all, the canyons....the beautiful canyons towered above us. 

The one constant throughout the hike, was these river rocks. At the beginning of the hike, I glorified in their bright colors, their beauty, the smooth roundness of each of them (from rolling and rushing through the river). During the hike, as I got more and more fatigued, I seriously thought I might sprain an ankle as my feet very periodically rolled as the rocks moved and slid around underneath my feet. And there was no escaping walking on the rocks. Well, very few escapes. Only when the water plunged into deep pools, and we got to swim. Then, the icy cold water was a welcome respite for sore ankles, and feet. 

The kids loved finding spots where the sunlight found its way down to the canyon. I loved to see the light filtered through the cracks and shining through tree leaves. Just beautiful. We stopped for lunch and snacks and the kids always found the sunny spaces. 

The entire Narrows hike goes far back into the canyons, following the Virgin River. You are only allowed to hike 5 miles upriver and those same 5 miles back down the river, unless you get a back country permit. We did not expect to be able to do the full 10 mile hike, but once again, our kids surprised us. 
 They leapt and swam, and scrambled over boulders, and rushed through the river. My husband and I could barely keep up with our midde little girl. She was truly in her elment! It was so much fun to watch her just LOVING this hike!

And actually, all of the kids did amazingly well. We all declared that this was one of our favorite hikes of all times. And we have been on some AMAZING hikes!

We found waterfalls...

and caves...

And amazing spaces that the water had eroded away...

And as we hiked and hiked, and splished and sploshed our way through....the crowd dwindled down. 

And as we hiked further and further, we were soon nearly alone. 

By this time, when we encountered someone, it was a backpacker (or group of them), obvious pros and skilled at hiking. Many of them were coming back down from a backcountry hike. I was so surprised by how happy they seemed to see us, and so encouraging too. They all cheered us on and congratulated the kids. Some of them helped us over some huge boulders (and we returned the favor) and warned us about a huge, deep waterhole ahead. The kids were excited to jump in and swim, but Aaron and I had backpacks on, so we were happy for the warning! We removed our backpacks and swam with them over our heads. 

The entire hike took us over 8 hours! Can you believe that? But the time really flew by. The sights were spectacular. The water rushing around us was cold and clear and beautiful. And the canyons were just gorgeous. None of us could stop looking up!

I mean, it's amazing, right? Just so beautiful.

 It was one of the most beautiful hikes I've ever gone on, and I was so happy to share the experience with this crew. I love them all so much!

Remember that "short" 9/10 of a mile trail back to the shuttle stop I told you about at the beginning of the hike? Well, as I walked the few final steps in the river, my feet, my poor feet were aching. Like, such bad pain on the bottom of my feet and my ankles that I could not believe it. I started becoming afraid that the rest of our 2 week vacation was going to be agony for me....but then I just concentrated on making it back to the shuttle stop. 9/10 of a mile uphill never felt so long! Once again, I was amazed by my kids. They didn't complain ONE BIT. Not a bit. They were so into this hike (and apparently in much better shape than me!) but I could see the fatigue in their eyes. When we made it to the shuttle stop (HOORAYYY!!!) I was SO thankful we had decided to take the shuttle. I could not, even imagine biking or hiking 7 more miles afterwards. 

As we took our spot on the shuttle, I have NEVER, EVER been more grateful for a bus in my life. We had the best, most amazing day ever! And great news! When I woke up in the feet didn't hurt at all- and neither did my ankles. This was seriously one of the most spectacular hikes I've ever gone on. The beauty of that glowing water, the filtered sunlight, the rushing currents is just something you have to experience. Hopefully with people you love. Because moments like these, shared accomplishments of completing a 10 mile, 8 hour hike together, have brought my family and I so much closer together. I love being able to look back at the pictures together, and reminisce about the time the girls tripped and went rushing down a natural waterslide together, and about our sore feet, and the waterfall we found, and the caves the kids explored. Just priceless memories. My heart is full. 

Oh, and major props to my husband for choosing this park. And this hike. And for plannning it all. And for helping us all pick the appropriate gear and footwear. Yeah, seriously. I was wrong. He was right. What's new? :)

Jeep-ing around Big Bear

Since Big Bear was only a few hours away, we decided to bring the Jeep along with our  RV. This way we'd be able to try out some of the ...