Friday, July 13, 2007


For three years, my friend Chris has been inviting me to explore the great outdoors in Utah. I have barely made it up into the mountains that surround Salt Lake, let alone gone venturing into more rural Utah.

This week I got one more invitation, and felt I should take it. So Chris, Jeanette (our friend from Michigan, out on a visit) and I took off late Tuesday afternoon for Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, for a hike through a slot canyon. Little did I know the adventure of getting there would turn out to nearly eclipse the hike. I consider myself neither a city girl nor overly girly, but I learned that I have a comfort zone, and this was way out of it.

Five minutes into our four-hour drive, we realized we hadn't packed appropriate clothing. So we stopped at Ross Dress for Less for a quick shopping spree. An hour later and a little further down the road, we decided to stop for dinner since we were soon heading out of predictable territory as far as finding restaurants to eat at. Unfortunately it was a pretty humble place, but we ate as quickly as we could and continued on our way south.

By 10pm it had gotten fully dark. Jeanette and I thought we must be almost there. It was at this point that Chris announced we had two hours left to drive.

Soon we entered the Dixie National Forest, and Chris kept telling us how beautiful the scenery was, if only we could see it. Meanwhile, I kept seeing signs to beware of deer, cows, falling rocks, steep inclines, and sharp corners. For the next three white-knuckled hours I managed to avoid colliding with 7 deer, a dozen rabbits, and about half of the dozens of mice and frogs on the road. Later I found out that the locals do not drive that road after dark. I also discovered that there was another way to get there, almost entirely using freeway and open road. You live and learn, for sure.

Seven hours into our four-hour drive, we pulled into Escalante. We found the cabin to be basically an unventilated hothouse with a bunk bed. I had previously volunteered to be the one to sleep on the floor, but I knew instantly that any hope I might have of sleeping lay outside.

So I brought my tent pack from the car, pulled everything out, and proceeded to learn how to assemble my tent (these Burdines don't camp. Justin bought it and used it once, ten years ago) and get set up for sleeping outdoors. What a joke. I kid you not, five minutes after I got settled, a small animal began poking around the tent. I started to check it out, then my nose filled with the scent of old skunk perfume. I froze, too terrified to move in case I might scare it into doing something I might regret. Finally it moved on, but I slept maybe 90 minutes the whole night. I consider that my once-a-decade reminder that no, I still do not camp. And I am no longer ashamed to call myself a girly girl. I have discovered my list of non-negotiables includes a hot shower, soft bed, and a place to pee in a toilet. And preferably a place to order a steak at the end of the day.

I recovered my pride during the course of canyoneering, which really was absolutely breathtaking. We hiked to the top of a slot canyon, then walked a couple miles along the canyon floor down to the end of it. The canyon floor was anywhere from six feet to six inches wide, and our adventure consisted of climbing over rocks to get down to a lower level. Sometimes we had to shimmy through narrow areas that weren't even wide enough for our shoulders. At the end of the canyon we rappelled down a final 60' dry waterfall, which was an empowering experience. Then we hiked another hour back to the cars, and from there made our way home to Salt Lake for our own beds.

We didn't find any steak dinners on the way home, but last night Justin took me to Black Angus. I feel completely vindicated, because although service was painfully slow, we ended up getting our dinners for free. What a treat in light of Tuesday night's events!

Despite the unexpected adventure of getting TO the hike, at the end of the day we all felt enormously satisfied with our performance, and decided we should try to make it an annual event. Next time, I think I will be making all the travel plans, determining the route, hotel, and restaurants which we will patronize. I think it will work much better for this girly girl that way.

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