Detour to Bryce Canyon

I was awakened before dawn by a determined husband who wanted to get on the road. Since I was groggy and without caffeine and riding shotgun, I had time to ponder all kinds of things I have never thought of before, like where would I go in case of nuclear war?  I also noticed the incredible numbers of giant boulders strewn across the sides of the canyons and I did give some thought to what I would do if some mega-ton boulder came tearing down the mountain while we were driving our trusty CR-V around the hairpin turns below. I really want my last words to be something pithy and not Holy Sh- followed by permanent silence.

Bryce Canyon turned out to be a small park filled with German people and also Japanese people. Also really old people, some of them German. German people stand out because they look tall, Aryan and unwashed with serious hiking gear. German lesbians abound. They are all sweaty and serious about hiking and smell like it too. Seriously, I have video. Japanese people are all tiny and carrying cameras and, apparently, the fashion in Tokyo this year requires that Japanese citizens wear painted on jeans which are so practical on a desert hike. Anyway, we (the royal we) decided to hike the Victoria’s Garden trail, then hike to the Navajo loop trail and do the Wall Street hike. For some reason, Bryce attracts old, slow annoying people who want to loudly talk to each other about where to meet. Why they would want to do this hike is beyond me because the trails in this park are evil for people who have bad joints, which I assume all old people have. The descent was endless and I knew my knees were taking a pounding and although I am old, I am not old people old. More on this later.

I looked at lots of hoodoos and have concluded the reason they made Bryce Canyon a national park is because it is full of penis-shaped rocks and someone thought it would be hilarious to name one of them after Queen Victoria. Whoever did the signs for Bryce Canyon also has a sense of humor because the signs they have don’t match any known direction of any existing trail, nor do the park maps match what was actually constructed, so you have to take it on faith that you are going in the right direction. That led to a so predictable spat between Troy (who is always right) and me (who is also always right) about which way to go. Fortunately, I was right. Someone please note this for posterity. This park has convinced me of the absolute rightness of my proverb that you should never marry a man with a butt smaller than yours. Had I married someone lazier and larger, I doubt seriously I would have an Icy Hot patch taped to my left butt cheek.

As to the hike itself, I suppose it was stunning. What I saw when I wasn’t doubled over in pain was spectacular. Wall Street is a narrow canyon with towering walls above that you walk through. It’s a good thing you start out walking, because by the end of the trail, I was close to crawling. I know I said on day 1 that I have discovered I hate hiking. This is not precisely true. I hate hiking at high elevations. In fact, I’ll be bold and declare I hate mountains. To do anything at 8000 feet that is remotely strenuous becomes much more so just by virtue of elevation and by the time I was crawling out of the canyon, I could barely breathe. Tiny dwarves with little knives were stabbing my legs repeatedly. I think an appropriate punishment for anyone on Wall Street (say the CEO of AIG) is to have to climb out of Wall Street in Bryce Canyon on a hot day with no water wearing a suit. That’s a 500 foot climb over .3 mile at 8000 feet.  Take that you over-privileged trust fund larvae! Tonight, I would sell what is left of my miserable lawyer soul to be able to touch my toes without screaming.

Tomorrow we hike the slot canyons at Antelope Canyon. My secret fear is that my chest will not fit through the slot canyon and I will end up stuck between canyon walls and Troy will have the camera.

Postcard worthy without the pain of hiking to see it

And also:

Seriously, a sandstone buttplug?

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Zion: the Narrows

Someone told me once that the Narrows is a long river hike. Having returned from hiking the Narrows, I am qualified to say that that statement is like saying that the Grand Canyon is a big hole in the ground.  Neither adequately explains what you will experience.  It is important to note that I am a genetic, orthopedic disaster. I have knee surgeries like Hollywood people get “work done”. The Narrows is a river bed composed of river rocks which are neither stable nor easy on the ankles or knees. Now consider that it is early in the season and snow melt is still occurring. Add to the unstable rock bed the added element of 46 degree water moving in excess of 120 cfs. That’s like wading upriver on foot through Class 3 rapids.

Like all good death marches, we started ours bright and early. When we got to the trailhead, there were several other people there preparing to do battle with the Narrows. They were all dressed from head to toe in dry suits. Troy and I had on wicking shirts and shorts with neoprene shorts underneath, neoprene socks and water shoes.  We decided they were pussies. Then we got in the water. It wasn’t so bad until I fell about 100 yards in. Then I was cold. Within ½ mile, the river was running about neck deep. For those who have never had the pleasure of hiking a river with a strong current running against you, it’s exhausting and tedious. The average depth of the river for the entire run we did (trailhead at the Temple of Sinawava to the Wall Street area) was between knee and hip deep. The canyon is spectacular and it is absolutely worth seeing. I would, however, suggest you consider it later in the season when the water is shallow and warm.  I spent most of the hike trying to stay upright in the current. By the time we hit the Wall Street area it was deep, cold and fast.

Troy points out that I fell in the river 4 times. He never fell in. Troy says he is invincible in the woods. I have pointed out that he is completely at my mercy when he is asleep. By the time we got back, I had completely torched my knee  and had begun to cough (I now have bronchitis). This is the single most brutal hike I have ever done. I was (blissfully) unaware of the muscle connections between my toes and my scalp until I woke up this morning and I could have gone a lifetime without the knowledge.

Later, after my return to the hotel from the emergency clinic, I realized that the great tragedy of it all is that the hospital sent me back with drugs that would have been great fun if only I didn’t need them.

The Narrows:

Troy tried to kill me here

The Zion Travelogues

Day 1:

I am in Zion, which sounds like it should be some sort of Mormon paradise. However, it is paradise for people who hike. Also German people.  I hate hiking. This is a recent discovery.

We arrived at 11 pm last night after 16 hours in the car. We had intended to spend the night in Page AZ and drive in today, but unbeknownst to us, Page AZ was full of French people and they took all the hotel rooms. Bastards. Troy said I was babbling. Probably.

I awoke this morning (early) because Troy wanted to get an early start. As an aside, I insisted on breakfast and impeded Troy’ progress. We rode (with German people) on the shuttle (no cars allowed in Zion). We went to hike Emerald Pools. I swear it was the Bataan death march. The book classes the hike as “easy”. Uh huh. The hike was 2.3 miles long straight up and then straight down the mountainside. See below. All my training hikes at Warner Park meant nothing because I failed to consider altitude. My lungs were on fire. My legs shook. And that was just at the trail head. It was hot. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that if I die, Susan will try to get my earrings.

Here is what I learned today:

1) I am a creature of the inside. Hiking is hot and exhausting. They make videos so you can see what it looks like up there.
2) Girls who like to hike are earthy, perky things with washboard abs. I hate them all.
3) Sweat runs into unladylike places and then begins to chafe you. Then the flies come for you like buzzards.

Tomorrow, Troy is hiking Angel’s landing. I have no interest in or ability to manage that trail. I will stay at the hotel and guard the croissants.

Day 2:

Troy got up early to hike Angel’s Landing. Had I been more alert, I might have done more than mumble incoherently as he left as that trail is seriously and insanely dangerous and it might have been my last chance to say something sweet to my soon to be deceased husband. Instead, I pulled the blanket over my head and went back to sleep.

I woke up at 7, showered and admired my bright red forehead. Guess I missed a spot yesterday with the sunscreen. I also stared at my wadded up swimsuit on the bathroom floor I had been too weak to pick up after I returned from the hot tub last night. I note that a tankini seems like a good idea in principal, but in my case, all I got was massive cleavage and a swimsuit bottom with a disturbing tendency to roll down. I vote for a one piece next time.

I decided that lumbering along the river was a good idea to stretch my muscles. I ended up on a trail that went a good distance into Zion. Since it was early, all I saw were a few people and massive piles of horse crap, one of which greatly resembled a hoodoo formation I expect to see in Bryce Canyon tomorrow. Troy had the camera with him so I was unable to impress you with a photo of horse crap. Eventually, my legs seemed to be functioning and I grew tired of dodging bikes, so I went back to the hotel. One really excellent thing about being in a national park where hiking is the order of the day is that no one expects you to look good while you wander through the towns outside the park. I look like someone you would avoid on a street corner for fear of getting panhandled, but no one seems to notice my slightly mincing walk or oddly matched t-shirt and shorts. Bored, I did what any sensible tourist would do and I went shopping for jewelry. I bought a really sweet turquoise necklace that cost slightly less than Troy’s camelback backpack. Guess who will get more use out of their purchase?

Having spent money, the only thing left to do was return to the hotel and wait to find out if I was newly widowed. Troy stumbled in around 12:30 and I had the great satisfaction of knowing he was in the same pain I was in yesterday. I did make some sympathetic noises and got him both Gatorade and lunch. I am a nice wife no matter what Troy says.

Troy lounged around until I finally prodded him that we should go see something seeing as we are in Utah and while the hotel ceiling is fascinating, we could see it anytime. We decided to drive to Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park to see pink coral sand dunes. It was about 50 miles to the park and we arrived and stared at slightly orangey sand dunes. There was a German couple there (of course) and no one else. We took some pictures and went back to Zion.

Tomorrow: Bryce Canyon. This is high elevation territory so I expect to pass out in the parking lot. Give me sea level any day. On the plus side for Brenda, this park lacks the dramatic cliffs from which Troy could push me so I will likely survive another day. The bad news is that the Narrows remains closed due to high snow melt runoff so Troy’s plan to drown me on the hike through the river bed has been thwarted. Since the hike through the Narrows is one of the main reasons we are here, it would suck to not be able to do that hike.

Troy has put together some video of his Angel’s Landing hike which has been uploading on youtube for 45 minutes thus far. In the meantime, to hold you for the time being while we wait, here’s a picture some old man took of Troy at the top. Points will be given for the best caption. I am merely irritated that an old man could do that hike while I would have died 20 feet in.

Troy at Angel's Landing

So, so close to the edge

The desert is hot

I am a creature of the indoors. I like electricity, running water and fluffy mattresses with 600 thread count sheets. On the list of things I do not like:  sweating, chafing, being eaten alive by sand fleas and long hard hikes up the sides of cliffs. Clearly,  a trip to hike in the desert in Utah in June was an excellent plan for a vacation. There are serious flaws to being married to a man with a butt smaller than mine, not the least of which is that he is a) morally superior when skipping up the side of a steep slope and b) is not sweating or chafing in unfortunate locations while skipping up the side of a steep slope. In the abstract, the desert southwest is a great idea for a vacation. Beautiful, sweeping vistas and stark landscapes that inspire awe. In reality, you may be awed, but you will also be sweaty.

I present Delicate Arch for your consideration. Delicate Arch is the state symbol for Utah. It’s on their license plates and it’s really really famous. It seemed like a good idea to hike up to see it. I mean, it’s only 1.5 miles to it, so how bad can it be?

The answer is really really bad. It was hot. Sweat was running down my body and into dark places that did not need watering. I frankly do not enjoy rivulets of sweat running down my ass crack, but maybe it’s just me. Also, I am a white girl with red hair. Imagine the Pillsbury Dough boy with long red hair and you have the idea. Guess what? SPF 45 sunscreen does not do much to help really white girls avoid sun burn. I roasted, even through my shirt. As I roasted, I complained to anyone who would listen that I was also dying a slow, miserable death. I now know exactly what a lobster feels like as it is being cooked in the shell in boiling water, except the lobster was not marched to its death uphill first. Troy did not look like he had even broken a sweat. I really hate him sometimes. The worst was listening to people seeing you on the way back down saying “You’re almost there and it is sooooo worth it.” It makes you feel like a loser if you decide fuck it, I’m heading back to the car and air conditioning. So you soldier on. And at the end, you turn the corner and you see this amazing arch sitting way up high on the side of a slick rock cliff.

Delicate Arch, Arches National park

So yes, it is amazing and I suppose it’s worth it to have seen this sight. (Side note: the little white speck to the left of the arch is Troy to give you a sense of scale. I can’t believe I didn’t rush over and throw him off the edge when I had the chance).

Gringoglyphs

The desert Southwest is full of all kinds of archealogical treasures, but I am personally enthralled by petroglyphs. For those who don’t know what they are, petroglyphs are ancient Indian drawings left behind on canyon walls.  Much smarter people than I can talk about their meanings, but the drawings are powerful even to the untrained eye.  Canyonlands and Capitol Reef both have outstanding examples of petroglyphs that are worth the trip just to see them.

Petroglyph at Capitol Reef

Petroglyph panel on Potash Road

However, some people just can’t leave well enough alone. They feel the need to add their mark to the world by adding to the tapestry on the cliffs. I present to you: Gringoglyphs.  Now, for all time, Bill and Judy and their love are memorialized on a petroglyph panel in a side Gringoglyph. They must be so proud.

Gringoglyphs

Negro Bill Canyon

Yesterday I learned there was good news and bad news about the fate of Negro Bill.  The good news: Bill left his canyon under his own power. The bad news: he did it to avoid being run out for selling moonshine to the local Indians. Still, his canyon is beautiful and there are worse things to have than a beautiful canyon named after you. I will note the locals tell me his name was not always Negro Bill. Apparently, the state of Utah decided it was probably not OK to refer to him by the less acceptable form (hint: rhymes with “chigger”) sometime in the 1990s when the trailhead signs went up.  I suppose calling it Mr. Granstaff Canyon was too much to hope for.

Negro Bill Canyon trailhead just outside Moab UT

Dead Horse Point

We went this morning to Dead Horse Point just outside of Canyonlands National Park. I learned it is called Dead Horse Point because cowboys used to round up wild mustangs, corral them on the natural point and then pick the ones they wanted to take, leaving the rest of the horses to die from lack of water.  This caused me some alarm as I pondered the fate of the namesake of Negro Bill Canyon.

Dead Horse Point