I think he is trying to kill me for sure

We are heading to Zion National Park in less than two weeks so that I can attempt to finish the hike that quite literally broke my neck. This is where I broke my neck in 2009:

Canyons are excellent places to kill unwanted spouses

Because my stubborn streak exceeds my intelligence, I am going back to do it again, this time (hopefully) without all the injuries. Currently, there is very little Troy can say to me because I hiked out of a canyon under my own power with a badly-damaged neck. Any time he complains about pain, I just tell him, “Yeah, but I hiked out of the Narrows with a broken neck.” This tends to quiet him down.

Just some cool scenery (Emerald Pools) where Troy won’t try to kill me because there will be witnesses.

Of course, Troy is driving out alone because a) I hate driving 26 hours anywhere and b) he is going to take his time on the way back so he can attempt to kill himself  do Blue John Canyon. For those not in the know, this is the remote Utah canyon in which Aron Ralston cut off his own hand to free himself. I am flying out to Vegas and will meet up with him. Troy booked my flight. On 9/11. I told you he was trying to kill me.

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I am too weak to hike Burgess Falls in Tennessee

Every spring when the trees turn green and the flowers bloom, I get the itch to hike. This is not an itch I had before I married Troy as I was very much a city girl who smoked, wore black and swilled martinis regularly. Once married, I developed a fondness for seeing places that you have to work to get to and that most people are too lazy to ever see. This fondess is in direct conflict with my intrinsic laziness and my loathing for sweating, chafing, etc. Since late April, I have been trying to get a weekend free to hike Burgess Falls, which is a picturesque little state park an hour or so east of Nashville not far from Cookeville, Tennessee. Since the state parks allow dogs on trails, we take our more athletically-inclined dogs with us.

Only two get to go hiking. Also, I suck at vacuuming.

The weather has been a problem this year. Lots of tornadoes, tons of flooding. I am not fond of the duck and cover approach to outdoor events, so it took a while to get a weekend when it wasn’t raining, hailing, blowing, etc. Finally, we loaded up and headed out. As someone with legendarily bad knees, this hike is one I can even manage without a lot of trouble. However, I failed to consider the effects of taking chemo dugs on my hiking abilities. (note to readers: I do not have cancer, I have lupus which sucks, but not nearly as badly as cancer). I take a cocktail of things to keep the lupus at bay and recently started on the chemo route again when my eyes started to swell and other drugs did not work.  On the plus side, I no longer look like an extra from Twilight with blood red eyes. On the downside, I can’t drink martinis and I find that I am really missing the red blood cells I used to have in abundance.

Burgess Falls is a gorgeous hike and with all the rain, the falls are in full show:

Burgess Falls, Lower Cascade

This is the easy part and pretty much the first thing you see in the parking lot. The climb up starts after this:

Burgess Falls, Middle Falls

Getting to Middle Falls requires a mild cardio workout with lots of steps and a steady incline over a short .5 mile climb. On chemo, it’s painful. When I have to rest at the overlook, this is a problem. I really miss my red blood cells.

At the end of the trail, you see the big falls which are really quite impressive and a good 50+ feet tall:

Burgess Falls, the reward for breathing hard at the end of the trail

Inexplicably, the trail was heavily populated by tourists from India, some of them swathed in saris and sandals, which I do not consider a good choice for hiking on rocky trails. Their children all wanted to pet Bess and Zoe:

Zoe, Bess and their Daddy pose for the camera, and Indians.

One last little bit of pretty:

Cascade at Burgess Falls

A simple little 1.5 miles and I am nearly defeated. This bodes badly for the upcoming trip to Yosemite. Encroaching old age sucks.

Penis rock, Arches

Some things need no explanation

You will not find this in any guide book. If you look to the right (of the you know what), you will see the famous Double Arch in the Windows Section at Arches National Park. Oh sure, I know you claim you were looking at the arch the whole time, but we all know where your mind is. Pervert.

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?

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

Glacier National Park, part deux

I saw a headline today that said that Tennessee as a state is the 5th laziest state in the United States. This makes me want to work harder at slacking. I loathe sweating and if I feel a bead of sweat rolling down my ass crack, it’s a pretty safe bet I am unhappy. This is why it continues to mystify my friends that I go to national parks for vacations where I swear I am going to hike. Part of it is being married to a guy who thinks a 12 mile hike at high altitude is a fun day and not wanting to look like the complete slacker I am.  I blame the rest on the Title Nine catalog.  If you buy the clothes, clearly you can do the hike.  Consumerism creates delusional behavior.

Unlike normal people who see a photo of a beautiful mountain scene and admire the beauty, I look at it and think, I could train to get in shape to climb that mountain and then my obnoxiously fit husband could kiss my ass the next time he makes some comment about how I use the cross trainer to hang wet bras out to dry.

If you buy the right shoes, you can definitely hike to Grinnell Glacier, even if you drive to the corner market rather than walk.

There is one major problem with hiking in the mountains. It’s the word “mountains”. Mountains are steep. Steep is hard to walk up without sweat running down your ass crack and I hate sweating. I much prefer the kind of hiking that’s suitable for old people. If the trail is groomed enough for someone to ride a Rascal scooter on, I am all over it.

Even better, take awesome pictures of Goose Island on St Mary Lake 10 feet from your car

There is another problem with mountains. Mountains are cold. They have ice and snow. Second to sweating, I hate freezing. Glacier National Park is named after glaciers. Glaciers are moving giant fields of ice. Ice is cold.

This is Grinnell Glacier. It is cold. Troy hiked here to take this picture as I had nothing to do with the actual taking of this photo

Troy hiked to Grinnell Glacier. He said it was very cool and the alpine valleys were scenic. For all I know, he went to the bar and had someone photoshop the picture, but he swears he hiked there.

Troy at Grinnell Glacier. Note the awesome hiking stick.

He may have hiked 6 miles up to Grinnell Glacier, but I staggered out of the car and up a field to take this picture of wildflowers at Many Glacier. Troy will never pick up chicks hiking to glaciers. We want flowers, not hunks of glacial ice.

Just as scenic, 40 degrees warmer and no difficult hike.

I hiked to St Mary Falls to prove I was not a total loser. It is beautiful. I sat on the rocks and contemplated tossing Troy over the edge into the roiling waters for taking this picture. If Chaka Khan was a white girl with flaming red hair and she hiked in Glacier National Park, this is what she would probably look like.

Photographic proof that I was there for my doubters

Note my awesome hiking pants. They are not quite as cool as Chuck Norris action jeans, but they are close.