Sunburned, dehydrated, chaffed, chapped, bleary eyed… sore of foot, calfs, quads, back, neck… physically post-tramatized, stressed, disordered, to the very brink of the valley of the shadow of the here-freaking-everafter—where life wobbles like an inertia-spent top, teeters like a drunken sailor eying the curb. It is within that "turned soil," where reality shrinks, awareness dissolves, and you can't decide between nightmare or reality, heart attack or stroke, death or life, that endorphins begin to sprout like dandelions in a spring meadow.
Bobbie and I either need to get ourselves in better condition or find some older friends to hang with. It seems the young in's in the Gang have morphed into monsters, and are having our weary asses for lunch.
We checked in at Canyonland's Needles District Visitor's Center for more information, hopeful that Suzanne's birthday wish of doing the 11.2 mile (liars) loop-hike through prime eye-candy was doable by Geezers. Ranger Gal warned that it was going to be 77 degrees, and that it would feel even hotter on the trail. She advised at least one gallon of water per person, then added, "Allowwwww (she's looking us over, sizing up our senior demographics—percent body fat to muscle ratio and such, and my out-of-the-box hiking boots, brand new never been worn, with the "Gortex" tag still in place) about 6… uh, make that 7 hours. There's a lot of ups and downs and slow going."
It was 10:30 am by the time we set boot to trail. Right out of the gate we were herded up a narrow slot with an endless series of stairs. At the top, sandwiched between full sun and a mound of reflective white sandstone with nary a breeze, I questioned my choice of black t-shirt and wool socks. Dark patches of sweat blossomed through, eventually connecting to make a continuous upper body steam bath, while exposed legs roasted to well-done in a dry sauna.
At the top of the grueling Stair-Master, Jim questioned (or maybe it was a statement… one never knows with Jim) the sanity of embarking on such an ambitious endeavor as this hike when we could do drive-bys in the air conditioned comfort of our cars, "I mean, what are we going to find here that we can't find anywhere else."
"Serendipity?" I answered. Yes, "Miss Sara N. Dippity."
Hardly a mile into our 11.2 mile (LIARS) wilderness trek, I'm pondering how to drop out, yet save face enough to remain Top Jock in the Gang's hierarchy of endurance and athletic prowess (without which I would be of little use and be dropped from the group like some over-rotted peach). What the hell is wrong? I just climbed Courthouse Mountain, for crying out loud… two thousand feet of elevation gain in 1.8 miles. The day before that I set a Personal Best Time biking home from Ridgeway… and the day before that hiked up Full Moon Trail to well above timberline!
Bobbie noted my distress and loaned me her neck-cooler thingy, all nice and soaked in water. It appeared no one else was struggling with the heat and exertion. Maybe I'm gearing up for "the big one," like ole Fred on Sanford and Son.
The heat index in Utah has it's own morbid scale. It's the only place in the world where one's insides can desiccate into powdered form, like eggs, milk, and yak cheese found in those sealed backpacking meals, yet still retain most of the properties of a functioning human being. So I added water, lots of it, hoping I would magically turn into a Denver Omelet, or at least Mac and Yak Cheese.
About 4 miles out my neck-cooler thingy lost it's freon and had become, more or less, a blanket wrapped around my neck. Having not started out with the recommended gallon Plus of water recommended by Ranger Gal, I didn't want to waste any from my hydro-pack. We finally stumbled across a little pool of water surfacing in an otherwise dry stream bed, where I promptly recharged my air conditioner… filled my ball cap full of buggy cool water and slopped it over my bald spot. Ahhhhh. Cool, Clear, Water… trickle down relief.
About half way around the loop, we came to "The Joint," it made all of the miles and suffering worthwhile, not to mention reassuring me that my purpose here on the Little Blue Marble was intact.
Call it what you will, uncanny luck or Miss Sara N. Dippity, but at that exact, fleeting minute, on a random 7 hour hike, stopping to shoot the breeze and photos here and there, Old Sol came into perfect alignment with "The Joint," illuminating what would otherwise have been a dark narrow passage of forgettable regard. It was nothing short of a brilliant, quarter mile lighted runway… surreal. We figured there was only a ten minute window to hit it dead on. One pee stop more or less, it's too soon or gone.
It was a lesson to self, then a sermon to anyone within earshot: "This," I lectured, "is the reason why we are here. This is why we choose to escape the madness of cubicles and treadmills and safety nets and travel around in tuna cans. This is the reason we must stay in shape, to reach places just like this. This always makes sense when nothing else in this crazy world does. Life and love and parents and children and even we ourselves will disappoint, but This never does. It's all I ever wanted, all I will ever want… all I need."
We had stumbled upon Miss "Sara" after all. She restored my energy, my purpose, my faith. Now, if she would just help me get the hell back to an air conditioned car, both hers' and my purpose will have been served and I can rest easy.
Just another day in Paradise… "Shallow" scenery loving people, wasting time, taking note of Beautiful things, making memories.
Panorama below… scroll right.