Thank God there are things you can do to mitigate the stifling heat. Even when it’s 100º here, there are places here to escape. I call one of them Quiet Canyon. It’s a little oasis of cool and green on the trail to Angel’s Landing. It’s cool early in the day before the sun gets to it anyway. It’s also very quiet, at least if the other hikers heed the signs to be quiet which are at either end of the canyon. You can hear people talking in a normal voice when they are out of sight hundreds of feet away. You wonder when they are going to come into view. You wait and wait and wait, and finally they appear. That’s why I call it Quiet Canyon… because of the signs at either end and because sounds travel, and well, when other aren’t making noise it’s really, really quiet in there.
Besides the coolness and quietness of the canyon–which by the way you could say is something of a slot canyon being narrow with roughly vertical walls of sandstone on either side–the contrasts of colors and textures found within it make for a banquet of visual delights. Swirling patterns of richly colored sandstone in a myriad of textures contrast against various bright greens of the transilluminated broadleaf trees and the tangy blueness of the evergreens. I lost myself in visual joy for an hour or so in this tiny little canyon and in its stillness and quiet coolness. Despite the baking heat just 100 yards away I actually found myself becoming chilled by the cool air–as well a thrilled by the all the eye candy. (Click the images for larger versions.)
Quiet Canyon was a joyful, serendipitous surprise on my way to Angel’s Landing, a peak that rises nearly 1500′ above the canyon floor and offers sweeping views of Zion Canyon in all directions. This 5.4 mile round trip hike includes a half mile section at the top where chains have been attached to metal pipe driven into the sandstone making something of a handrail with which to hold on… for dear life! The trail, and I use the word trail loosely, has steep narrow passages and precipitous drop-offs. It’s a vertigo inducing, dizzying affair which for people like me with a thing about heights makes for more than a few exciting moments.
Another cool trick, which is to say a way to stay cool, is to take a hike up The Narrows. This hike follows the Virgin River from the northernmost point of the park road. When I say it follows the river, I mean the hike is IN the river. When the water is low as it was during my hike there are places along the side of the river you can walk on dry land, but not all the way, not all the time. The best you can do is cross the river repeatedly in order to seek out terra firma. The hike goes on for
miles as I understand it, but I stopped when the water was getting about waist deep and some darkening clouds seemed to threaten rain. You really don’t want to be in the river when it is raining or when it may be raining anywhere nearby–flash floods and all.
As The Narrows hike follows the river upstream, besides the delightful coolness of the water on your body and in the air, you are treated to the visual splendor of the canyon through which the river flows. Here too cottonwoods and evergreens combine with the patterned sandstone to delight the visually inclined.