"We have more reasons to love each other based on our common humanity than to victimize one another because of any difference."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Zion & the Back Country Pass Debacle

The first time I set foot in Zion National Park I was 9 years old. The park held some kind of awe inspiring magic in it then and as I currently sit looking out at the trees lining the river and the famous Utah rocks I’ve happily discovered things haven’t changed.

We arrived yesterday to beautiful weather and the perfect forecast for our 16 mile backpacking adventure that begins tomorrow at 6am. So if everything is going so wonderfully why did we happen to have one of the most nail biting and stressful mornings I can remember?

The Narrows is one of Zion’s most popular and beautiful hikes. What is unique about the hike is that the entire hike takes place in the river, the Narrows. The Narrows is aptly named because the narrow river has cut through thousands of feet sandstone to the canyon floor. There is no way to climb out of the way of a flash flood and canyon walls at some points rise a majestic 2,000 feet.

Most people start at the bottom and hike up as far as they feel and turn around. You pass by incredible waterfalls, ferns growing out of the side of sandstone, and lots of hairy European men in…I think Ben called it a banana sack… We had done the day hike a couple of times and felt this time we were ready to hike the 16 miles overnight backpacking Narrows. We hired someone to drive us the hour and a half to the top of the trail head and from there we hike down.

To hike the Narrows you need back country permits and a campsite. To get those we set two cell phone alarms for 3:40AM. Mom and Ben got out of bed and drove a couple miles down the road to the Zion Visitor Center. We needed 4 back country permits and one of 12 campsites available for the Narrows hike. The window opened at 7AM and we were told if you wanted a chance at one you should get there by 4AM. By the time they got there there were 10 people in five groups in front of them. They panicked. We knew there were only five Narrow sites left. Mom and Ben laid their sleeping bags out and tried to sleep to no avail. Ben saw a fox. At 6AM they were awoken to an angry ranger telling them no camping was allowed and that there was a 500 dollar fine and he wouldn’t fine anyone if they left immediately. Mom panicked. We got a call and since Dad and I didn’t have a car we had to jog/run/walk to the Park to try and help out. At the end of a long night and a stressful morning I couldn’t believe it I was so happy when the park ranger handed us a map with our camp site on it and… our solid waste bags…great!