We woke in the morning when the sun warmed our tent and we enjoyed coffee from our sleeping bags while contemplating our options for the day. The storm clouds in the distance seemed to have retreated and the river below appeared to have the same amount of water flow as it had the evening prior. We packed up our camp mid-morning and made our way back to the river to follow the official route into Zion National Park. We stepped into the river and quickly got used to the cold as we walked in the knee deep waters. When we reached pools of water that were deeper than I was tall we spent extra time figuring out ways to balance across fallen logs, scramble over huge boulders or make our way along narrow ledges to avoid having to swim. At one point the river narrowed into a rushing torrent through a tight channel of fallen rocks and we spent over a half an hour figuring our way through the stone and water obstacles finally giving into the fact that the waist deep wade through the pool at the base of the falls was unavoidable. We continued our way down river until we reached a small waterfall coming from a side canyon indicating our location to climb up and out of this gorge through a route called “fat man’s misery.”
The calm pool of water at the base of the side canyon was deep and crystal clear with shades of greens and turquoise reflecting from the deepest points. I dipped my toes into the pool to help clean off some of the sand that had filled my socks and was surprised to find the pool was much warmer than the icy river we had just exited. I happily stripped down and waded into the warmer pool to help take the chill out of my skin and rinse a layer of dirt off my body. Goose was skeptical at first, but when he saw me go deeper into the waters he joined me as well. After warming up and rinsing off we hoisted our packs back on and began to climb up a crack in the cliff wall which was filled with boulders and loose rock from decades of deterioration. As the climb got steeper, more difficult and more terrifying we began to question if we were headed in the right direction, but our maps and descriptions of the route seemed to indicate we were on track so we continued to climb. By the top of the chute we were hauling our packs to one another and climbing up near vertical rocks that crumbled and slipped under our feet and hands. We were thrilled to finally reach the top of the canyon and were not too shocked to see a cairn at the top confirming that indeed the dangerous climb was a part of our intended route.
We were now on the top of the white cliffs in Zion walking across the rolling ridgelines through junipers and sand. We were within five miles of the National Park road and decided to make another early camp to prolong our time in the quiet wilderness that we only had to share with the lone buck that we startled near our tent site. We climbed into our beds when the sky was still light in the early dusk and we settled into our familiar, comfortable home that we had been living in for the past months. We were thrilled with our achievement in reaching Zion, but we were not quite ready to reach the very end of our journey.