June 01, 2012

Through the Narrows

Morning light in the Narrows

Imagine hiking for hours through icy cold water that rises sometimes past your waist while you pick your way through a riverbed filled with misshapen bowling balls. Okay, maybe they aren’t bowling ball rejects, but river-worn basalt rocks. Even though the rocks make you stumble and you can feel the river grabbing at your buoyant dry pants, you aren’t really watching where you put your feet because you’re staring up the whole time at the incredible sheer cliffs of red or brown or black, towering walls of rock on either side of you. That’s the experience of hiking the Narrows.

We knew we would be hiking through icy cold water so we rented equipment the night before: neoprene socks, boots, dry pants, and a dry bag for my camera. The young man who rented us the equipment handed us walking sticks as well: “You’re going to need these.”

The slot canyon is so narrow that it’s in shade most of the day, and we hiked for a couple of hours before we even found a patch of sun. During the first part of the hike, the canyon was fairly wide, with piles of sand and rocks deposited on the insides of the curves. I soon figured out the rhythm: we’d walk for a couple of minutes on the shallow side of a curve, then cross the river to get to the shallow part of the next curve. The deep parts of the river were dark and green, while piles of rocks created white water that we could hear throughout the hike.

After hiking trails that meant climbing upwards in hot desert sun, the cool shade of this slot canyon felt wonderful. When I had to cross deep parts of the river, I found the stick useful as a brace: the buoyant dry pants I was wearing kept my legs dry, but created more resistance to the water current that threatened in places to sweep me downstream. The slot canyon got more narrow and more beautiful the farther we hiked — it goes on for miles — and I felt increasingly intoxicated by the way that light shimmered down from the top through the sandstone walls.


Melissa Sarno said...

This is STUNNING. I hate being cold but I would forget the ice while caught in this spectacular view. Wow. So cool, thanks for sharing.

Sandy said...


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EVA said...

Wow! Absolutely spectacular.

Heidi said...

That's an incredible shot.

chicago foodie girl said...

Wow. That is spectacular.