Life & Lagniappe
Realizing A Dream
May 15, 2017
In June of 2016, I was blessed to do something I had dreamed of for over 20 years. I walked the Narrows of Zion National Park!
Mind you, this was not a leisurely stroll, a wade in the river, but a difficult hike. That said, it was worth every step, even those steps at the end. Looking back at the fatigue at the end of the hike and remembering the difficulty of lifting my feet high enough to navigate the rocks in the river bed I would do it all over again.
I saw Zion for the first time on a documentary featuring the national park system of the United States. I was smitten and wanted to go. I wanted to see those majestic cliffs rising above the Virgin River. Walk with me now. I will take you into The Narrows and tell you what my walk there taught me.
Michael and I arrived at Zion National Park the afternoon of June 19, 2016. To get to Springdale, UT, where we would spend the night, we had to drive through the park. As Michael drove, I looked around in awe! I had made it to Zion! The next morning I would walk The Narrows!
Morning found me up before the sun. I enjoyed my usual quiet time in prayer, devotion and reading my Bible. I noticed my asthma had started to act up a bit due to the elevation. Still, determination filled me as the completion of my dream loomed so close! I prayed for energy and stamina for Michael and myself.
I finished getting ready, putting on the rented neoprene socks and hiking boots. (Don’t worry the rental shop properly sanitized them each time when returned.). I packed the dry pack I had purchased before the trip, and then we were off! I wanted to get in the park and down to The Narrows before the larger crowds showed up.
To get to The Narrows, Michael and I boarded a bus at the visitor’s center. This bus would make 7 stops along the way to let people on and off at various trail heads and sites. The bus made its eighth and final stop at the Temple of Sinawava. Here began the trailhead down to the Virgin River and where The Narrows started.
I wanted to jump off the bus and run down to the river, but I don’t run unless something is chasing me. Other things needed to be tended to before heading down. Like a bathroom break, as there would be no bathrooms after this point.
The walk to the river was not bad. The park service had built a concrete sidewalk that wound around a mountain. The sidewalk had switchbacks and curves all gradually going downhill. This provided for a nice stroll down into the canyon. I did not even think at that time about the walk coming out. When you go downhill, you must eventually go back up hill to get to your starting point.
My first view of the river and the start of The Narrows overwhelmed me. I felt like a child and wanted to jump up and down and shout, “We made it!” Michael and I walked across a little beach and right into the Virgin River, then turned to walk The Narrows.
Imagine air temperatures in the low to mid 60’s, with the water temperatures about the same. Stepping into the water took my breath away! But I plunged on. A 20-year dream realized, a walk in through The Narrows of Zion National Park!
I won’t sugar coat the walk. It was tough, really tough. In one week I would celebrate my 58th birthday. Add to that the fact I was overweight, out of shape and not too sure footed. I had to walk in the water against the current over half the time. To add to this, the river bed consisted of mostly rock, not tiny rocks, but big rocks, big enough to step and stand on.
When renting the shoes and socks, we had also rented walking sticks. They came in very handy. Walking went something like this… make sure right foot was stable and walking stick firmly planted on the riverbed, pick left foot up, place left foot tentatively on a rock, test rock before placing foot solidly on a rock, pick up walking stick and move it forward, then pick up right foot and repeat.
The dry ground was also covered with rocks. At times you could pick your way around, but at other times you would have to step onto them also. When meeting people going down the river, I would have to stand back and let them pass.
By this time, I had met my goal of walking in The Narrows, now what? Walk a few minutes and turn around and go back? I had reached the river. I had walked in The Narrows! Now was a good time to say goal met, and on to the next!
Not a chance! A new goal had formed at some point on the trip. I had been studying the map of Zion National Park and The Narrows. I had read about a place in the river known as Wall Street! In this area of The Narrows, there is no longer dry ground and you walk in the water continually! Some areas in Wall Street you must swim.
Mind you, I didn’t want to go any further than the beginning of Wall Street. But I wanted to get that far! I had read the map and knew this was considered a strenuous hike, not for beginners. Still, I believed I could make it.
And make it I did with Michael at my side! Upon arrival, I took some pictures. We then walked up into Orderville Canyon a little piece and back out, sat on a log for a few minutes, then headed back. I hoped the walk back would be easier. I reasoned I would not be fighting the current going down river. My hopes were dashed as we headed back. The walk appeared to be as difficult if not more. This was in part due to the fatigue that had overtaken me. And now the current wanted to sweep my feet out from under me as I walked with it.
Somewhere on the way back, I had to stop and have Michael pull my neoprene socks off my feet. They were cutting into my ankles and making my legs hurt. Now my boots were too big with a perpetual layer of sand in the bottom of them.
We finally came around a curve in the canyon and saw that little beach where we had started. Gratitude filled my heart! I had made it! Little did I know the climb back up to the top of the canyon would be almost as difficult!
Completely fatigued and going uphill, wishing for an elevator, I also noticed the temperature was changing. What had been a cool low 60’s day had turned into a hot 107-degree day. Not only were we walking uphill, as we climbed so did the temperature!
In all, it took us 7 hours to walk 7 miles! Those were the most difficult physical hours and miles I have ever endured. They were also the most exciting and blessed hours and miles. I learned so much about myself during that walk.
I can do anything I set my mind to. I had so many opportunities to stop and go back. But I pressed forward.
I should press toward my dreams when they are new if at all possible! How much more would I have enjoyed that walk in my 30’s?
It’s never too late until my time is up. Yes, I would have enjoyed the walk more in my 30’s, but you can’t take from me what I did. I will never forget that walk or the lessons it taught me.
I may come close to falling, but if I use the tools at hand I can steady myself for the rough road ahead. This is where the walking stick came in handy.
Sometimes I need to stop and adjust my equipment. Those neoprene socks were killing me. It was better to feel that sand that to feel the pain.
The little irritations are not so bad when you are living out a dream. Those small grains of sand were not a big deal, I was walking The Narrows! Even those neoprene socks that dug in at my ankles were bearable for a time.
My pace may be different but my outcome will still be a success if I keep pressing forward! We saw so many young people running across those rocks and were amazed they didn’t fall! Yes, it took a while, but success was still my outcome.
How about you? Do you have a dream you have held onto for a while? What are you waiting for? If it’s important, find a way and do it. Don’t let the clock run out. Do it while you can. Even if you think you are too old, too broke or too whatever, take a lesson from Nike and “Just Do It!”