At 3:00 a.m. (or 4:00 a.m., depending on the clock), the
four of us pulled ourselves out of bed and prepared to leave the comfort of
the motor home for the rough conditions of the wilderness in what would be one
of the biggest challenges of my life: backpacking the
Narrows. Armed with maps
of the area and descriptions of the trail, we loaded our packs into the car
(which had been charging overnight) then drove to the Temple of Sinawava. We
parked the car along the side of the road (because there is no overnight
parking at the Temple) and walked to the shuttle stop, arriving fifteen
To kill time, John and I took a short walk down one of the trails. Along the
way, we found a deer grazing in the grass, just a few feet away. The deer
looked up at us for a moment then went back to his business. For us, it is
unusual to be so close to wildlife, so we were fascinated, because whenever we
see animals out in the wild, it is always from a distance as they run away
from us so quickly.
At 6:00 a.m., the shuttle arrived, and the four of us climbed in...along with
nine boy scouts, their two scout leaders, and three day hikers! (The
wilderness was already too crowded, and we were just getting started!) For
nearly forty-five minutes, we were packed like sardines in that van as it
drove over the bumpy, winding dirt road leading to Chamberlain Ranch.
When we reached the gates of Chamberlain Ranch, the van stopped, and the
driver let us out, explaining that he was not allowed to enter the property.
Before leaving us, he told us that the trailhead was a half a mile down the
road once we entered the ranch. With that, the boy scouts and the day hikers
began their journey, but we lingered behind a bit so that our driver could
take a picture of us -- a "before" picture!
At 6:43 a.m. (Arizona), we reached the trailhead, the place where we first
touched the waters of the Virgin River. After fording the river, we began
hiking the trail, the first two miles of which is a dirt road that winds
through the Chamberlain Ranch. This section takes about an hour to complete
and proved to be very easy. Just before the road dead ends, there is an old
cabin, in which we found several old, stinky mattresses, a ripped-up sofa, and
a broken kitchen. A faded sign on the open door told visitors that they may
look inside, but they must leave the door closed.
Then the fun began as we got lost for the first time. The road soon dead-ended
on a ridge, with the river fifteen feet below us. Unsure of where to go, John
and I backtracked to the road and found where the trail continued, on the
other side of the river. Bill and Erika, however, hiked along the ridge and
eventually came to the river. At the same time, we met up with the boy scouts
again. They were very loud, and as they crossed the river, they splashed
around in the water. We decided to let the boys get way ahead of us, so we
slowed our pace down. It wasn't until much later that we finally lost them.
It was around that time that we started to fall behind. According to the trail
description we received, it can take up to twelve hours to complete the whole
trail as a day hike -- six hours to reach "The Grotto", which we thought to be
the mid-point, and about three hours to reach "The Falls". However, three
hours later, we finally entered the first "Narrows". This was largely due to
the fact that we had not yet developed a good technique for crossing the
river, so we spent a lot of time fighting the strong current. Also, once again
I managed to get injured when I took a nasty fall after fording the river.
(Ironically, I banged up my leg in precisely the same place as last year,
I fell in Clover Creek, leaving me to joke, "I hope that this is not going to
be an annual thing!") That slowed me down quite a bit because it was a very
painful injury that left an ugly, six-inch long bruise on my shin.
Passing through the first Narrows proved to be an exciting experience. We were
wading through knee-deep water, through a chasm that was only thirty feet wide
at some points, with walls towering two hundred feet above us and no safe high
ground to protect us from a flash flood, should we be unfortunate enough to
become stuck in one. (Fortunately, there was no rain in the forecast, and we
didn't get any rain the entire weekend.)
Six hours after beginning the trail, we arrived at the Falls, where the river
fell over a fifty foot cliff. In order to get around this obstacle, we had to
climb through a crevice that was probably only five feet wide, if that, then
scramble down to the bottom of the falls, where the trail continued. At that
point, we realized just how slow our progress was, because we were now two
hours behind schedule. We had only seen one campsite so far -- campsite number
one -- and we didn't know how far we still had to travel to get to number six.
Would it take us several more hours to reach camp? We were already very
exhausted from the strenuous hike.
Shortly thereafter, we found campsite number two. Then, at campsite number
three, we reached the junction with Deep Creek, which provides two-thirds of
the Virgin River's flow. (The rest comes from the North Fork of the Virgin
River.) It was interesting to see the two rivers merging, as the Virgin River
was murky and dirty but Deep Creek was clear. For several feet, the two waters
flowed along side of each other, until the dirty waters finally engulfed the
We pressed on, through the river and on dry land, until we finally found
campsite number six, at the junction with Kolob Creek -- the halfway point
along the trail, eight hours after beginning our hike. As promised, this
campsite was one of the prettiest sites, set high up on a ridge and sheltered
by sycamore trees. Completely exhausted, we dropped our gear and proceeded to
set up camp.
As we cooked dinner over our backcountry stoves, we passed around the bottle
of Scotch to celebrate the end of our first day of hiking. It was at that
moment that we made a shocking discovery: our silverware was missing! I had
unpacked it earlier while looking in my backpack for the first aid kit. I
suddenly realized that I must have left them on the boulder! Since dinner was
already cooking, we had no other choice but to be inventive. John and Bill
used pocketknives to stir the food, and we used pieces of the rice packaging
as spoons. It worked, and we were able to enjoy our hot meal with little
It wasn't long after dinner that we declared bedtime; Bill and Erika were in
bed well before dark, and John and I followed suit at dusk, after polishing
off the last of the Scotch. I took some Nyquil then crawled into the tent,
where I immediately fell asleep, sometime before the first star appeared in
Another Verley Adventure.