Hiking The Narrows

Before planning a trip to Zion National Park with my sister, Anna, and brother-in-law, John David, I had one reservation. I did not want to camp in The Narrows. The Narrows, a 16 mile stretch of The Virgin River, cuts through a canyon. With a permit and a walking stick you can hike down  the entirety and camp for a night in The Narrows in two days. Camping in The Narrows was my only non-negotiable. I had previously read an article about a group of proficient hikers who had died in a flash flood, and I wanted nothing to do with it. I would take the short day hike overrun with people instead. The risk did not seem to outweigh the reward to me even though I knew the hikers who had passed away had not heeded the high warning of flash floods. Alternatively, we went forth planning another backpacking expedition on the West Rim Trail atop the canyon, away from the flash floods.

Fast forward to our trip and peak season at National Parks. We did not get a permit for the West Rim Trail. If we wanted to camp with the gear we lugged from Oklahoma and Texas all the way to Utah, we had to camp in The Narrows. When John David returned with this information, I froze. He proceeded to say, “now at one point you will need to swim with your pack because the water gets too deep. Oh, and you will need this poop bag. But the flash flood warning is only a 2 out of 10”. Unfreezing, I jumped into action and began freaking out. What about floods? HOW DO YOU SWIM WITH A HUGE BACKPACK? But like, a poop bag? Can’t we just dig a hole? I would much rather dig a hole than carry a poop bag. We were not camping until the next day so we ventured to explore the park and continue discussing it. After much consideration we decided to go for it and bought out all the dry sacks the Hurricane, Utah Walmart had in stock.

The morning arrived. We loaded into a 15 passenger van and were driven the hour and a half to the drop off point at Chamberlain Ranch. Feeling a bit like a tribute from The Hunger Games, once dropped off we all awkwardly began to group off and make our way down the poorly marked to trail to what we hoped was the river. Anna and John David brought walking sticks, and I begrudgingly rented one at the last second, which in hindsight I highly recommend.

We set off, much like Rue from District 11, secretly following a group that looked like they knew what they were doing. It took awhile to find what we thought and hoped The Narrows would look like. I questioned if we were going the right direction. With slight assurance, we trekked onward. The sights captivated me.

Now, for me something like The Narrows, blows my mind. The twisting turning canyon, the changing trees, the way the light reflects off of the canyon walls, all of it. Once in the canyon it felt like God was writing me a love letter with the beauty of His creation. The canyon walls glistened in the sun. Their colorful striations waving along the towering canyons that seemed to encircle us. Realizing we had not seen any of the campsites knowing it would eventually get dark, we began to pick up our pace fearing walking through the river, where mind you we may have to swim with our backpacks, in the dark would probably prove no fun.

Then it happened. Because we planned to hike the West Rim we did very little research about what to expect. You can imagine my surprise when I realized the river became a waterfall and we were at the top. It dropped about 12 feet. I will not lie to you, I panicked, a lot. Eventually we read the map and discovered that a path went down on the left. This moment resonated with me. Traipsing through The Narrows mirrored walking with Christ.

Hiking The Narrows became this beautiful metaphor of what walking out a life with Christ should be. I did not know what to expect when I started and admittedly I let fear overcome me a bit,  but I had heard from others that this hike promised incredible once in a lifetime sights. As The Narrows twists and turned the river ebbed and flowed. Sometimes I could walk on the high riverbank on solid ground, but others times I trudged slowly through the current on unstable rocks. At times I needed help navigating the rocks leaning heavily on others or my walking stick. At times I felt alone in the vast canyon taking up either the front or back of the line and other times we came upon other groups or large crowds. Every single place I looked it seemed God drew me deeper to Him.

My relationship with Christ goes like this. There are times filled with loneliness and times filled with others. The Narrows path has sharp turns and open stretches. It narrows and widens. Sometimes debris blocks the path and I must maneuver to figure it out. But the beauty in the journey through The Narrows pales in comparison to living a life with Christ.

He knows where the river flows. He created the path and knows the turns it will take. He also created a plan for what to do when you come to a waterfall or fallen tree when we seek Him. He has not forgotten us when we sit atop the waterfall freaking out. He has not forgotten us when we have to lean back into our big backpack and kick to swim through The Narrows. He woos each of our hearts and longs for us to walk with Him on the greatest journey ever.

God sees you in the trials and He sees you in the mundane. As we tromped through The Narrows for 16 miles Anna and I grew weary at times. The repetition of the beauty that once captivated us seemed to grow somewhat dull and stale over time. What once caused me to stand in awe now scarcely grabbed my attention. How often in life does this happen? It is easier to think about where you are not instead of see the wonder where you are. Fight that urge. Do not let the repetition of beauty negate the beauty that surrounds you. Fight to be continually captivated by the love song God is writing you in the current season He put you, even if you stand atop a waterfall wondering how on earth you will get around it.   

In the end I am glad that I did not let the fear of flash floods rob me from such a unique experience. Seeing The Narrows shift and change provided me so much more than a 16 mile hike. It gave me a small glimpse into the uniqueness that journeying with Christ provides each of us. Sometimes we just have to fight to see it over the repetition and debris.  

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Hiking in The Narrows with Anna and John David

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