Zion Canyoneering: Key to Narnia

Occasionally everything falls into place. Four people in four different professions aligning nearly a week off together at short notice is no small feat. Nor is obtaining last minute permits for each canyon we hoped to explore. But somehow it happened.

During near peak fall color Keri and I were joined by our friends, Travis and Amanda, for 5 days of squeezing, crawling, swimming, scurrying, and rappelling into the more intimate folds of Zion National Park. The trip was to be a grand finale of sorts. Neither of them had experienced the magical light and geology of slot canyons previously. 

Once we all returned from Zion, Amanda would be leaving town for a new job and we wanted to leave her with a lingering impression of the desert in hopes she would one day return. As for Travis, he is a close friend and we were eager for him to experience a place we found so rewarding.

We wasted no time and drove through the park's gate. Unbelievingly, there wasn't a line of cars and this luck was to continue through our trip. 

Exiting the truck, we'd instantly be taken into a private world once our feet crossed the threshold between pavement and sand. We had had found the keys to some of the parks best places, hidden from most who visit. 

Places that radiated shades of red and orange and yellow if we were lucky enough to find them in that short moment when the sun reached it's apex. 

Our own private Narnia filled with wonder and an occasional terror. 

In one twist of a canyon a tarantula greeted us. A turn later, we would be forced to reach into dark nooks and grasp at decaying leaves for purchase on a down climb, all with nagging thoughts of that same tarantula. Where there is one there can only be many we told ourselves.

Soon after, we were practicing yoga on a slick log to avoid swimming across a festering spittoon of a pothole. 

Deeper still and light faded away, leaving us in a desaturated fun-house with the walls and floor at war with one another. Suddenly with a squeeze, we were back in a world of vivid color and life. 

Keri went first and her laughter reverberated from out of sight. I popped into a deep sapphire blue pool. Frogs and lush ferns were clinging to smooth white walls, defying gravity.

Floating on our backs, digesting a visual feast, we realized the pressure against our drysuits lacked any chill. The water was warm, soft, inviting. We lingered, knowing we needed to leave but in no hurry.

Darkness arrived as we clambered from the river. We walked miles shrouded by night, joking that all our photos would be black, that Narnia was only imagined. When we eventually emerged from sand, back onto pavement, the truck was resting just like it had been hours before at dawn. It was as if nothing happened.

Travis and I had packed our cameras out of reach and Amanda's phone, having taken a swim, refused to function.

I really was there! Photo: Keri

Did Narnia really exist?


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