A four-day weekend: The Narrows in the winter (Zion National Park)
The Narrows hike in Zion National Park has been on my bucket list for the last couple years - I'm not even sure how I found out about it. On this hike, you wade through the Virgin River at the bottom of this deep gorge, surrounded by walls of over one thousand feet -- how could you NOT want to live this amazingly unique experience? So, when my friend wanted to go to Vegas for her birthday, I seized the opportunity to tack on a trip to Zion National Park, convincing our small group of girls to hike the Narrows with me. I must say, our four day weekend sure hit the extremes: clubbing in a short dress and heels one day, and then hiking through a river with a full dry suit the next!
We stayed at a cute little motel called the Pioneer Lodge in Springdale, UT, which I highly recommend at such a reasonable price (only $70/room). It was the first motel in Springdale, is super cute with its cabin decor, and the staff are super friendly. They recommended a great place for breakfast, The Park House Cafe, that had amazing food and service. The motel also is walking distance to a Sol Foods Supermarket (great for snacks and lunch stuff) and Mimi's Cafe (great coffee). I didn't realize how quaint and enjoyable the town of Springdale would be!
Anyway, we drove to the from Vegas the night before (less than 3 hours) in the dark, which made waking up the next morning a wonderful surprise, as we had no idea what our surroundings looked like. Seeing the sun's warm glow on the rocks surrounding the town, especially against the deep blue sky, was truly best way to start our day.
Most people aren't aware that you can hike the Narrows in the winter, but you can rent full dry suits at Zion Adventure Company for about $55, as well as dry bags and backpacks. They even had a special dry bag for my DSLR camera! The woman there, Shannon, was an amazing resource, giving us great tips and humoring our group's excited goofiness and sheer cluelessness to what we had in store for the day.
Oh, and one other logistical side note: I ended up buying an Annual Pass instead of paying the daily entry fee, and I am already so happy with my purchase. For $80 for an entire year, you get free day use entrance to all national parks, wildlife refuges, monuments, and forests for you and all your passengers in a personal vehicle. Considering that the daily entrance fees for both Zion and Bryce (each) were $30, I am already well on my way to breaking even!
My friends and I agreed - winter was the best time to go. We saw only two other groups of people (compared to throngs of visitors in the summer months) and the contrast of the snow and ice against the warm colors of the red rock were truly spectacular.
Anyway, I'll let the pictures do the most of the talking, but I just have to say, this was really a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for the circumstances that created this opportunity; awe for the amazing feats of nature that created this place; appreciation for the friends (both on this trip and elsewhere) that showed me new places and perspectives and supported me; vigor in knowing that our experience could only be had by physically exerting ourselves and wading through the river. Something about the hike in the Narrows--perhaps the symbolic journey that we were taking--made me feel uniquely ready and eager to embrace the opportunities and unknown in life ahead of me. And especially on the heels of a long-term relationship ending, that optimistic feeling of agency, independence, and opportunity is something that has given me great comfort in what's been a huge, albeit positive, transition for me this year.