Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Outdoor Adventures, parts 2 and 3
Before we left the lake, we toured a houseboat (the most popular and seemingly best way to see the lake), just for fun. There are some pretty ridiculous house boats--with 4 full bedrooms, slides into the water, flat screen tvs, and hot tubs! It is definitely the way to travel.
Around 3:00 we headed out of town and straight to the Grand Canyon. The most 'touristy' side is the South Rim (that's where the new glass lookout is, if you've heard about that) so of course we headed to the North Rim, which is only 10 miles away as the crow flies, but it takes almost three hours to drive between the two.
We had a recommendation from Liz and Mike (our friends in flagstaff) on a great campsite, and we knew this part of the trip would be simple after our logistic-laden paddling trip, so we relaxed in the car and headed to the Rim. When we were about 25 miles down a dirt forest service road, at least an hour from the nearest store, we tuned back in and realized we had no water, and not much to eat for dinner. But we kept going anyway. Luckily, just down the road from our prospective campsite was a group on a mountain biking tour. So we sidled up to them and hesitantly asked for some water. We ended up staying for dinner and desert (delicious pasta and chicken/veggie stir fry then homemade brownies), chatting with a few from Seattle, and watching the sun set.
Our recommendation was spot-on; the campsite was amazing- we literally slept on the Rim of the Grand Canyon- and the bikers were the only other people we saw the whole time we were out there. The next morning we set off on a short mountain bike trip (the group had convinced us of its beauty the night before). Once again the recommendations came through, and we had a great ride on the North Rim Trail.
After a quick visit to the North Rim visitor's center and lodge for one more view (definitely not as good as from our campsite!) we headed off for part three of our backcountry visit: this one to Zion, National Park. We did not get there until well after dark, and got lucky finding a campsite inside the park. We knew little about the park, except that it came very highly recommended and the best thing to do was to "hike the narrows" so we went to the visitor's center the next morning, and inquired about the narrows.
Zion has been a national monument (and then park) since 1909, and in the last few decades has become one of the most popular national parks to visit. With over 3,000 visitors a day during the summer, and only 400 parking spots, the park service knew they had to take action. Instead of "paving paradise to put up a parking lot", they banned cars in the most popular sections and put in place a free, propane-fueled bus system (propane cuts down on both noise and fuel pollution).
The national park is made up of many canyons (a similar landscape to the grand canyon, mixed with the red rock of arches) with the Virgin river running through the most famous slot canyon, appropriately called the Narrows. A slot canyon is a very narrow canyon carved out by rain and flash floods until it is impressively deep.
We took the bus into the canyon as far as it went, until the canyon got too narrow for a bus, then walked down a paved path, until the canyon got too narrow for a path, and then continued into the Narrows, where the only way to go forward was through the Virgin river. We spent the next 5 hours or so hiking, jumping, wading, rock-hopping, and almost swimming up (and then back down) a very cold river that was between 1 and 6 feet deep, 20 feet across at it's widest, and had 1,000 ft cliffs on either side.
And those numbers just don't do it any justice. Once again we have run into the limitations of language, and are frustrated with the prospect of describing such a unique and magical place. So hopefully the pictures help illustrate it, but again we tell you-- go see it for yourself!!!