Floating the Narrows in Zion has been a goal trip for a decade and a half, and since before I had one a packraft was the obvious tool. Circumstance and skill have just not yet come together, something which will remain the case, as we were in town the past few days, with perfect water levels, and no Narrows were seen.
Ever since the Escalante a few weeks ago my left shoulder has been odd. Somewhere in the course of all that paddling something was pulled a bit too much. It flares up at odd times, and has kept me off the mountain bike entirely. At the worst point, when I did try to ride on it, for 12 hours after it hurt to pick up LB or even to pick my nose. A few days of rest sorted that out, and we’ve done a few packraft outings since with no issues, but my initial excitement that flows for the Narrows would be perfect was squished flat by the realization that going into a total commitment run with a potentially debilitating physical issue was a non-starter.
So plans got moved, first to a packraft from the lodge down to the visitor center, then when doubts about my shoulder and mindset persisted, to the much mellower stretch from big bend to court of the patriarchs.
It wasn’t possible to see this as anything other than a demotion and missed opportunity. I learned many years ago that in the outdoor opportunities don’t just happen, and don’t just hang around for long. They have to first be created, and then seized. I was in a position to seize packrafting the Narrows, and in the process ticking off all three of the packrafting objectives I had created for myself this spring, but injury and lack of hard paddling (i.e. training) had failed to create acceptable conditions. The objective was simply not possible.
So I embraced and enjoyed the scenic class II- in the heart of Zion. The river provides a great view of everything, from cliffs to blooming Cottonwoods to turkeys, and stays remarkably far away from both roads and trails. The day before I had cursed, repeatedly, the traffic and parking problems which have in Zion become so much worse since we first started regularly visiting, but on the river they were easy to ignore.
The Virgin at 300 cfs was also fast, a welcome difference from last time, and I made it to the court of the patriarchs in an hour, plenty of time to pick and portage my way through the crux sections down to the visitor center, for an almost complete run. My shoulder held up, and a good dosing of face shots and overhead waves convinced that when it came to whitewater I wasn’t a totally spent force.
It can be a difficult thing; making the distinction between shouldn’t go and don’t want to go. Failing to lay the physical or technical groundwork is a sure red flag, but making sure you seize all reasonable opportunities without being foolish can push on ones ego in a complicated fashion. I’ve never been especially hesitant when it comes to saying no to technical difficulties, but as I age inertia will if left alone dull the edge down to a garden trowel. And that doesn’t get many things done that I still want to do, so compromise and a little discomfort and edge-pushing needs to happen, often.