Wednesday, December 30, 2009

There Will Be Canyons

Green Valley Spa, St. George, Utah
Day 2, Dec. 30, 2009

After attending one stretch class yesterday, I figured I was ready this morning for a beginner's hike. The guide gathered everyone interested in any of the three daily offerings (beginner, fitness, and strenuous) and explained what would be encountered.

Initially, I thought the beginner's trail had "a mountainous spine you will need to crawl along" and the "crack of doom" which required the hiker to press the sides with both arms and legs to avoid falling into a pit. But the guide explained that those challenges were on more advanced hikes. Ours would be simpler. Not simple enough I soon learned.

After a 20 minute van ride, we arrived at the site, a truly breathtaking view even from the parking area. Our group of two guides and eight hikers including Lyle and me made our way through dusty, red sand and around a fence. There we walked over lots of loose rocks and several really big limestones until we reached our first canyon.

I am not a hiker. I am a walker. The mountain air is pretty thin. I am not. I am old. And a chicken. Plus I was not at all expecting the arduous, endless, fear-inspiring trek that this was. We climbed to the top of one canyon. Really hard to do. Huge steps, dozens of them. Then we climbed down. Sometimes, the drop was so steep we had to sit on our butts and just slide down. We slithered between rocks. Up and down, up and down. Then around a bend and up into another canyon. And down. And another. Now slip through more rocks. Finally we reached Snow Canyon.

The worst/best of all was walking in single file along a one-foot wide uneven rocky bridge of sorts that seemed to me was five or ten miles above the canyon floor. I could feel myself shaking as I fought back the tears. I didn't look down, and I just kept walking.

But lack of experience and fear weren't my only problems. I also had no idea of where I was, where I had been, where I was going, or when I would arrive. At one point, when our trip back to civilization started seeming interminable, I actually said, "Are we there yet?" with all the heart-felt desperation of an exhausted five-year old.

Now that I'm back in our beautiful suite, I feel pretty good about this hike. I guess I’m proud of myself for sticking with it. But seriously, what were my options? Sending for a helicopter to get me back to civilization? What got me through was the belief that even though I was frightened, nothing really bad was going to happen to me. I was going to be okay. I guess that's faith.

When we returned, we learned that this 3-mlle walk is the most strenuous and demanding of all the beginner trails. Here's the brochure description:
Slots is one of our most technical trail hikes. It is named for the narrow slot canyons you explore to discover rock art known as petroglyphs, left by the Ancestral Pueblans. There are three main petroglyph sites on this hike with a fair amount of scrambling between each site. The beautiful red rock canyons and manganese-capped sandstone, coupled with the Native American sites, make this one of our classics.
They do this same hike every Wednesday. Since we'll have two more shots at it, I'll be interested to see how I feel next week and the following week at this time. I’ll let you know.

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