Four Out of Five

There are 5 national parks in Utah. We managed to hike in 4 of them. I’ll take it – 4 out of 5 is pretty decent. But let’s call a spade a spade: we did 1 day hikes in Bryce and Zion and I wouldn’t really call our time in Capitol Reef legendary. We left a lot on the table. The biggest draw to come back (for me personally) is Zion. We hiked maybe .5 mi up the Narrows. That leaves 11.5 miles of trail left to cover some day when we’re feeling lucky, don’t expect a flash flood and don’t have the kids with us (or they’re significantly older). 40+ degree waist deep water? Bring it on.

We’ve really lucked out on how we’ve entered the parks. We always manage to accidentally fall into the most dramatic entries. If you’re going to Zion, enter it from the east. I’m sure a cursory internet search would have told us that, but we rarely read up ahead of time, preferring the surprise of finding something for ourselves instead. The east entrance has the long tunnel completed in 1930, the dramatic switchbacks down the canyon wall and a lot of big air.



We hit the visitors center to orient ourselves and figure out the bus schedule. The ranger suggested 2 trails with the kids. Usually they’re fairly conservative because of the little people and maybe Scott and I don’t look like we’re in shape enough to haul them around anything strenuous.  I understand that they see plenty of folks who overestimate their abilities. We may look a little less than American Ninja Warrior. Understood. But both of the suggestions were paved. That’s just not right. I changed tactics and went in with, “So when just my husband and I come back, could you suggest a moderate trail for us?” “Why not hike into the Narrows?” Bingo. The trail to the Narrows 2 miles of wheelchair accesible. That is a great thing (happy to share the trail with anyone who wants to be out there). It should also be a clue about it’s difficulty. At the end of it, though, is the famous trailhead. If you decide to push on, the river is the trail. There are no riverbanks… it’s wall to wall water and the walls are something like 1000 ft straight up.

The kids were game. Scott and I were game. Into the water we went. We thought we might make it a couple of miles and then turn around. The kids never actually got wet. Evie put on a brave face and said she wanted to swim. One touch of frigid water though and she put her pants, shoes and socks back on and headed straight for the backpack. Conclusion: she’s a weak link… there will be a mandatory polar bear swim this year.

I tried to start barefoot. It wasn’t so much the cold that got to me, it was numb feet and a rocky bottom. I couldn’t feel the rocks well enough to have solid footing. With Jack on my back, that’s not a great feeling. I threw my shoes back on and dealt with the wet until we got back to the car. My pants got wet but who cares about wet when you’re out exploring?! Scott and I both would have done a lot more of the trail but we had 2 things holding us back – one imaginary and the other real.  Jack still wasn’t feeling great. After spending the day before throwing up, who could blame him? He was ready to throw in the towel early and we had to respect that. Also, the flash flood gauge for today was at “probable”. We rounded a bend in the river and met a gust of wind head on. It was raining and leaves were whipping through the air. It was all very dramatic… maybe a little too dramatic. It was slightly disconcerting. We’re all about pushing boundaries, but we’re also responsibly irresponsible. There wasn’t a flash flood but with rain and the warning…. I don’t know. We called it and headed back.

There’s something about Zion – it’s lush. It felt like the air going in wasn’t sucking every ounce of water out of me. Things were green. I’ve missed green – big green. Yellowstone was green, but forest green. Zion looked more like New England in the fall. The leaves were changing. I’m clearly not doing it justice with my description. It was a full senses assault – the smell of rain, the feel of heavy air, the sound of water. You get the idea. After being in the desert, this place was like a natural water park. Even the rocks themselves leak water that’s been absorbed from snow and gardens hang off vertical cliffs. You get it – it’s really nice.

After the hike we got back to the car. Being wet, I was cold. I briefly consider riding home with no pants, but figured I’d be even more cold (yes, I think it’s perfectly fine to ride around in a car with no pants on with some minor caveats about the situation). I did take my shoes off. There’s a point to me being this specific. I grabbed Scott’s coat to throw over my legs and sat down in the passenger seat. I looked down to a terrifying sight – a hairy monster of spider on my leg. My first thought was, “Shit… that’s an orange-y/red hourglass. Hourglass is bad,” which was followed by, “I”m wearing jeans. Let’s not lose my shit in front of the kids.” Then I stopped thinking altogether and heard my jumping-off-a-bridge-in-Colombia-man-yowl in my brain because it scrambled under the jacket and down my leg. I lost sight of it. I calmly but quickly got out of the car and called Scott over in the “you must come NOW” tone. Sometimes he so obtuse. Seriously. He didn’t come right away. I called again. Still nothing. On the third try he walked over with a rueful look, “It’s a spider, Babe. Where is it?” {You and I both know he was thinking, ‘*sigh* Come on now, get your shit together.’} Me, relieved at having found it again on my shoe in the car, “There.” Him, “Oh…. huh…. weird… that’s an orange hourglass… look at how hairy it is… huh… I think it’s poisonous.” THANK YOU, CAPTAIN OBVIOUS. He killed it and I spent the next 45 minutes on google trying to figure out what symptoms appear first if you’ve been bit (of course I wasn’t but it’s still good to know) and determining the likelihood of a spider having baby spiders in a car. Kid you not, about 10 minutes after wondering about the second thing, a tiny baby spider showed up on my hand. Being a true hippie I generally don’t kill things. I move them along. But that baby spider was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Turns out the spider was a brown widow, first cousin to more famous black variety. It’s a thing. I’m not making it up. The venom is 2 times as poisonous but they put less in you and, more importantly, they are timid and aren’t likely to bite. No, I didn’t get a picture. It was about the size dime (best not to tell me that’s not very big… it’s very very $%#^#$%^ big when it’s sitting in your lap). If you care to know, they infiltrated the US via Florida and we’ve had a recent explosion in their population. They like houses, cars and RVs. I will never sleep again.











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