On Friday morning we awoke early to go stand in line to try and get a backcountry permit for Sabbath night (you can get them a day in advance). We arrived at about 6:20 am, which we thought was pretty early since the permit office didn't even open until 7 am. But there was already a long line at the window. Thankfully, most of those in front of us were trying to get day permits for slot canyon canyoneering. We only wanted a permit to backpack the West Rim, which is apparently much less popular, so we got our permit without a problem.
After securing our permit, we decided to day hike the Narrows, which is a famous and wildly popular slot canyon with the Virgin River running through it. Most of the canyon is very narrow, wide enough only for the river to flow through. Therefore, the only hiking path is the river itself. We certainly picked the right day to do it; temperatures outside the canyon reached well above 100 F. Apparently that's what everyone else decided to do as well and the canyon was quite packed for a while. However, once we got a ways up the river, the people thinned out and we enjoyed a wonderful cool hike sloshing through the Virgin River. I (Christy) slipped a number of times and managed to get myself thoroughly soaked.
After our return down the river, we found a really awesome swimming spot with small waterfalls on either side of it that dammed it up. It was quite deep and there were nice large rocks in the middle to sit on. We were too busy climbing up the waterfalls and jumping off the rocks to take pictures, which I now regret. Sorry!
The next morning we awoke early to catch the 6:30 shuttle bus to our trailhead and to avoid the heat of the day. We climbed over 50 switchbacks (yes, I counted. And the reason I don't know the exact number is because Barry and I couldn't decide on the exact definition of a switchback.) up the canyon wall to reach the base of Angel's landing, a large tower of rock that reaches out into the Canyon. We dropped our packs at the base and scrambled up the rather precarious trail to the top of Angel's landing. Thankfully, metal cables had been installed and they were very helpful. We don't have a picture of Angel's landing itself but we do have some pictures from the top. Here's one of Barry and I. (More panorama pictures are coming in a later post).
We got back to our packs to discover that some rather nosy Chipmunks had gotten in to my (Christy's) pack in search of food. Instead of taking the easy route through the openings, they had decided to do things the hard way and chew their way through. Thankfully the holes weren't large and will be easily repaired in all of my spare time while I look for a job here in CA. :)
We continued on past Angel's landing for about 5 more miles. Once the sun broke through the clouds which had mercifully hid the worst of the heat since sunrise, things began to really heat up. We had brought lots of water though and we stopped often for water breaks. Part of the trail had been blasted right into the edge of the canyon wall. It was the only way up and quite impressive.
At the top of the mesa was a spring where we filtered some water to replenish our almost depleted water supply. This was the only water source in the area so we filled up with as much as we could. We hiked about 3 miles further to our campsite. Despite the fact that the hiking distance wasn't actually very far, the hike took us well into the afternoon due to the heat and amount of elevation we were gaining.
We were super glad to arrive at our campsite and, after eating a hearty meal, we set up our tent to ward off an approaching thunderstorm. Mind you, we were on top of a mesa on one of the highest points around. It was quite spectacular, to say the least. From the opening of our tent, we watched thunder and lightening converge on us from three sides. Thankfully, it seemed to skirt around us a bit, and we both fell asleep in our tent while waiting for it to pass.
That evening we enjoyed a beautiful sunset before hitting the sack for an early morning hike out.
The next morning we hiked out (which took noticeably less time) and started our final day of driveing to Loma Linda, CA.
P.S. We've been here in CA for about 2 weeks now and Barry posted a blog over at www.barryandchristy.wordpress.com showing some things we've been up to :)