In an effort to cheat the cold weather which is looming ever more ominously as we near the end of fall, Bree and I have made it a tradition to take a camping trip in Southern Utah toward the end of the season. This year, we decided to take a weekend at Zion National Park and my parents decided to join us for our Saturday plans.
This was our first camping trip to the main part of the park (we have previously stayed at nearby hotels or at Bree’s grandparents’ house) and we had pretty much done only backcountry hikes in Zion, namely Spry Canyon and the Subway. We didn’t have a very good idea of where we were going as we pulled out of my office, but having done a little research, knew of a couple of good locations for free camping on BLM land. Since Mosquito Cove was closed, we opted for what seemed like the next bet – Coal Pits Wash.
We made an unusually dinner long stop (for us anyway) at Cafe Rio in Cedar City, and then made the journey to the wash between Virgin and Rockville well after dark had fallen and quite a bit later than we’re used to hunting for a camping spot. Having only rough directions, we were unsure of whether or not we would even be able to find the wash. At the time, we had no idea exactly how well marked and how popular the site is.
Gratefully, we pulled off into the well-marked wash on a narrow dirt road and before we knew it we were surrounded by vehicles and tents. The site, which is quite literally just off of the road, was packed. We wove in and out of the sites, and finally found a suitable place that would barely fit our two tents in the far corner of the wash. It was not very flat nor the ground particularly smooth, but it worked fine for one night. Our tents went up quickly by the light of our car, and shortly after we turned in for the night.
Bree: We got a pretty late start out of camp the next morning and headed into town to get gas and a few snacks to keep us going. I was delighted to discover that the grocery store in the tiny town of Springdale carried some of our favorite European snacks that I haven’t seen anywhere since we got home.
Once we were done, we entered the park and headed into the organized South Campground to stake out a spot before we began the day. UEA weekend made it kind of crazy for the end of October, but we found a spot and then walked down to the park shuttle, headed for the Narrows.
Right off the bus, we were greeted with a number of mule deer mulling around the path, obviously not phased by the people crowding about, cameras in hand. Although we’re not exactly strangers to deer, (since they’re actually so common in Bountiful that they’re considered something of a nuisance) even we were kind of surprised at how friendly these deer were.
I headed off to the bathroom while Ben took pictures, but apparently one of the bucks decided he wished to cross the path and that he really wanted all the tourists to get out of the way for him to do so. I’m told that he growled at everyone before twisting his antlers and squeezing through the fence and then crossing to the other side.
Truth be told, we might have done a little more research about our intended itenerary because it was actually really cold and we probably should have rented wet suits (or even dry suits!) to hike in the frigid water of the Narrows, but Ben’s parents consented to wade at least a little ways up the river, despite the chilly temperature. The water was almost shockingly cold at first, but we pressed on.
After pausing for a few jumping jacks on the side of the river to get nice and warm, I was feeling pretty great and the water seemed more manageable so we headed up the river as far as we could without going in waist deep.
I had kind of hoped that everyone would want to brave it and go a little further up canyon in the waist deep water with me, but I seemed to be alone in the desire to get my clothes wet in the freezing water, so we turned back.
It turned out to be a ridiculously short hike in the Narrows, but still lovely and worth the trip.