The road took me around a bend and revealed a ring of mountains. They towered over me not from a distance, but as if I was at their very feet. Sandy with streaks of iron red, their bare, flat peaks blotted out much of the sky. As I drove deeper into Zion, the mountain seemed to converge on the valley—two walls of stone closing in on either side.
Being walled in is how I felt hiking the Narrows, Zion’s slot canyon carved out by the Virgin River. There’s a section if it called “Wall Street.” The park ranger said, “You’ll know it when you see it.” It being March, the water was still cold from snowmelt. Jason and I wrapped ourselves up in dry suits that made us look like Star Trekkers, and headed into the opening of the mountain wall from which a river flowed. What began as a leisurely walk through an inch deep stream soon turned into a battle against a forceful current, forcing us to wade through chest deep water. The underlying rocks were smooth and covered with algae, perfect for stealing your balance and letting the river sweep you off your feet.
Two miles and two hours later, we stopped for a short break. I hadn’t noticed until then that the river had narrowed down to only around 20 feet wide. 300 feet of sheer vertical rock left only a sliver of visible sky. Sunlight could not reach down here. Everything was lit by a dim grey light reflected off stony surfaces.
The deeper we hiked, the more I seemed to see faces in the walls. Its smooth contours occasionally being accented by hard edges bore a remarkable resemblance to the human face, like the Easter Island heads. These colossal heads only revealed themselves when viewed upstream, their indifferent eyes directed into the canyon path as if looking ahead. When I turned to look back the faces were nowhere to be seen, hidden in the canyon grooves.