I first heard about Zion, and more specifically The Narrows, from my ex-fiance. He’d hiked it prior to us meeting … I can’t remember now if he’d hiked it with a friend, or his cousin, or solo, but I vividly remember him telling me about it. He may have even showed me a picture of him standing in the river, sandwiched between two vertical cliffs, with water coming up to his knees. If he didn’t, I created that mental image in my mind and can still picture it today
He had traveled through much of the West and told me about countless hikes, rodeos and camping trips from Nevada to Wyoming. To a girl from the Chicago suburbs, his adventures sounded like tales from a Wild West novel. But, for some reason, The Narrows stuck out to me among the rest.
So… why did 11 years pass before I hiked The Narrows myself?
Dressed in the lime green and gray waterproof suit and hiking boots I had rented from the Zion outfitters shop, I looked more like I was going to outer space than hiking. The shuttle bus on the way to the trail head was crowded. It was Spring Break after all. I stood in the center aisle clinging to an overhead hand grip with one hand and my walking stick with the other. Gazing out the window I pondered my question. The answer came quickly…
It took me so long to get to Zion and hike The Narrows because, prior to that moment, I hadn’t thought I could.
For two reasons:
1. I doubted my physical ability.
I have never been what you’d call a physically strong, tough or athletic person. In fifth grade I stopped in the middle of my basketball game, looked at my mom, and whined “I can’t run anymore!” In high school, I didn’t even make it through the first track practice before I quit the team. (It started to snow in the middle of running the mile warm up. No thanks!)
My first hiking experience was at camp when I was about 11 years old. We went on a long, multi-day, hiking, canoeing and camping trip. We had to carry everything we needed with us- including canoes, tents and cooking gear. I loved it but was by far the slowest hiker and only able to carry the bare essentials on my back.
2. I didn’t have anyone to go with.
When I first heard about Zion, my boyfriend at the time had already been, so it wasn’t on his priority list to go again. Never would I have thought to hike The Narrows solo. Never. Back then I wouldn’t have thought to go hiking on my own.
I thought traveling solo, especially hiking, was way too dangerous for a girl. Even if the friends I hiked The Narrows with last month would have been willing and able to go with me ten years ago, I would have never trusted our female, Chicagoan, selves to navigate the Wild West on our own.
Looking Back On It Now
I don’t think I knew that I doubted my physical ability or was afraid to do anything alone. These weren’t conscious decisions. These were beliefs embedded into my subconscious.
I accepted my status as “weak” (especially when compared to my athletic sister) before I was ten.
Where the whole “girls can’t do things solo” mindset came from, deserves a lot more analyzing. But, regardless of how the belief developed, somewhere along the line, I bought into the lie that it was okay for men to go on adventures by themselves, but not women.
If someone would have brought these beliefs to my attention back then, I probably would have denied them. If I did recognize the existence of these beliefs, I probably wouldn’t have seen anything wrong with them. To me, it was all I knew, it was normal, it was my truth.
I shared these thoughts with my friends as we trudged against the current of the Virgin River. My revelations surprised both of them. I’ve always been independent and strong- emotionally and mentally. And, in the last few years, I’ve come a long way in my physical abilities and in traveling solo. These debunked beliefs and the girl that was inhibited by them are almost unrecognizable to me now.
It got deep in the narrows.