Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reference Hunting: The Narrows

By Justin Gerard

In 2004 some friends and I hiked the Narrows at Zion National Park in Utah.  Of all the hikes I have ever been on, this was perhaps the greatest.

During much of the hike, the 100 foot vertical sandstone walls of the canyon close in so tightly that you must hike in the water itself, which is murky, and full of bowling balls, making each step a perilous lesson in jujitsu.

When I was working on the St. George illustrations, I kept coming back to this place in my mind, and in the end, I used it very closely for the images of the last showdown with the dragon.  Part of this, is that amidst all the natural splendor of the Narrows, there is an element of danger, depending on which time of the year you are hiking.

When we got into the park we were told that it would be very dangerous to hike the canyon because if it rained then, there would be a good chance that it would flash flood in the canyon. This would result in either severe injury or death or both.  But only if it rained. And it was suppose to rain.

Also, there were cougars.

After looking at the forecast, my friends were justifiably alarmed that we might get rained on half way out in the gorge and then be overtaken by a chocolate mud-slide of bowling balls and angry cougars. I was only able to convince everyone to go by showing them pamphlets for the hike, which offered glowing, happy pictures of elderly couples and very young children hiking in the stream, unmolested by mud-slides or cougars. If they can brave it, being elderly and infirm, surely we can.

(Confession: The pamphlets were actually not for the hike we would be taking, but a separate, safer one with guided trails. I lied and I am sorry.)

But in the end it never rained, and we weren't caught up in a flash flood or eaten by the indigenous fauna.  Instead we witnessed one of the most amazing places I have ever seen on planet Earth and the most memorable hike I have ever been on.

If you ever get the chance, go to Utah, stop by Zion National Park and hike the Narrows.  You will not regret it.

(But check the forecast first…)

                                                                          Image: Jon Sullivan


  1. Wow, those are some pretty imposing walls. To think water did that! That last image has some kind of horizontal-vertigo, pulling-the-viewer-in type of thing happening. Awesome. And always some spots of green. Man! How I miss that colour :-(

  2. Lovely! The bottom one is my favorite!:O)

  3. Though I've never hiked the Narrows, the "Subway" nearly did me in. The beauty is worth the risk. I definitely see the influence of these photos in your painting.

  4. As a Utah native I can attest to the beauty of this state. The people are great and the geologic formations are some of the most beautiful to be found anywhere. Goblin Valley is also very much worth the trip.

  5. We are heading down to Goblin Valley later this month. I can't wait to see it. Though I have been to Zion before, I have never hiked the narrows- makes me want to go! Thanks for the tour Justin.

  6. Cool. Looks very similar to the canyon I visited in Turkey a couple of years back... At least on the inside.

  7. Awesome. These photos look almost exactly like my photos of Petra. (The lack of water in Petra is the only difference. ;) ) I likewise took many photos for reference.

    Amazing how you can be half the world away, but certain things still look the same, eh?

  8. I have hiked the Narrows and also taken Jujistu. I KNOW what you mean! :D Makes for an awesome soggy day.

  9. wow an amazing place, i will tell some friends that we must go, I'm a climber and i like everything related which the nature is a very important part of it, thanks for the pictures.


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