TheBigOutside Blog

Michael Lanza, creator of TheBigOutside.com and Northwest Editor of Backpacker Magazine, writes about hiking, backpacking, climbing, backcountry skiing, paddling and other self-powered outdoor adventures

Mid-life Crisis: Hiking 50 miles across Zion National Park in one day

La Verkin Creek, swollen and bellowing with spring snowmelt, charges past us like a stampeding herd of bison—with a force and noise level that can make a reasonable person question the wisdom of stepping into its path. Deep in the Kolob Canyons in the northwest corner of Utah’s Zion National Park, it’s tearing enough dirt from its banks to turn the water muddy brown, making it impossible for us to gauge its depth. The pitch-darkness of shortly after 5 a.m. doesn’t help in that regard, either.

We need to get to the other side.

West Rim Trail, Zion National Park

Seven of us are just two hours and a bit over six miles into an ambitious plan that we are reluctant to abort. If all goes well, our odyssey will culminate about 18 hours from now on the other side of Zion, with us hiking a bit over 50 miles, traversing the entire park in one day.

So we point headlamps at the torrent and explore the riverbank for a safe place to ford, everyone fully aware of the dangers of a fast-moving creek.

As some of us discuss possible crossing points, we notice that Mark has taken off his shoes and socks and slowly waded in alone. Conversation stops as everyone watches him probing with and leaning on his poles, taking slow, difficult steps forward. The creek rises to his knees, then his thighs, then his crotch. It escapes none of us that Mark, while one of the strongest hikers in our group of friends who have all logged 30-mile days and longer, suffers from a form of vertigo that causes him to stagger down a trail when hiking by headlamp in the dark.

Now he’s fording a raging creek… by headlamp in the dark. I don’t think I’m the only one among us contemplating what to do if Mark gets knocked over and swept down La Verkin Creek.

Two-thirds of the way across, he stumbles in the pushy current, struggling to stay on his feet…

Read the entire story and see photos and a video from that trip at thebigoutside.com/50_Miles_Across_Zion. See other stories about outdoor adventures at TheBigOutside.com.

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2 Comments»

  Ann wrote @

I usually enjoy TheBigOutside and always love your excellent, inspiring photos. But why do so many of your trips involve squeezing as many miles as possible into the shortest possible time period, e.g. 50 miles across Zion in 1 day, rim2rim2rim in the Grand Canyon in 1 day, killer dayhikes, etc. etc.? You talk about the beauty of the places you go, but when do you have time to actually see that beauty?? I wish your blog was less about being macho-man, and more about taking that magically spectacular “path less travelled”!

  thebigoutside wrote @

Thanks, Ann. You’re right, a couple of recent posts have been about extreme dayhikes. But I think that if you check out TheBigOutside.com more, there are far more stories about family adventures and trips most adults could do. I write about the extreme stuff occasionally because I like to do it and some readers do the same things, or at least enjoy the stories. It’s honestly not about being macho, and we do see an awful lot more wilderness in a long day than in a regular day.


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