New Friends in Wild Places

I love the joy on display in this photo, despite its poor technical aspects (my inexperience + high ISO + shooting in a dark canyon = rough results!). It reminds me of one of the most overlooked aspects to adventuring outside….the people you meet along the way. We met this couple at the visitor center early in the morning of the previous day, where we had slept in the parking lot hoping to secure one of the few permits for a full-length backcountry permit for the famed Zion Narrows. Most people view the iconic Narrows by wading (the river is your only passage into this canyon), a mile or so upstream from the temple of sinawava, where the shuttle drops you off at the end of the scenic canyon road. For those wanting a full immersion, adventure, and chance to spend a night in the canyon however, you can attempt to get a permit for an overnight hike which involves 16+ miles of following the river through the entire Zion Narrows canyon, and this is what the four of us were after. We exchanged some small talk and headed on our way, wishing them the best.

Chris Olson in Zion NarrowsWithout planning to do so, the four of us ended up together at the trailhead the following morning, deep within Zion National Park, ready to start our adventure. We decided we would start out together. For the next 48 hours the four of us walked through, what I firmly believe, is one of the most awe-inspiring places on the planet. We talked about life, love, adventure, where we had been, where we wanted to go, what scared us, what excited us. We laughed, we shared  moments of exhaustion or pain, we encouraged each other, we joked with each other, we admired the beauty of the place together. It was beyond incredible.

Now let me take a moment aside here to explain something. I’m an introvert. A big one. No, not as in shy, or afraid, but definitely bordering fully along the lines of the ‘I hate people’ mentality. Joining up with random strangers to embark on a hike together is not usually my first inclination , but here I was having the time of my life with people I didn’t even know 48 hours earlier.

We soon emerged into the throngs of people, who would experience a small fraction of what lies in that canyon, signaling the end of our journey. The four of us exchanged information, hugged, stood in a circle with our arms around each other, hiking poles to the sky, and we just screamed at the top of our lungs. It was complete, and pure joy.

Oh, the power of wild places in bringing together wild people…



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