“Don’t do it. You’re going to end up as one of those people we read about in the book.”
I had just finished telling Dom about a book called Death, Daring, and Disaster: Search and Rescue in the National Parks, and now I was about to do something a bit daring myself.
I had hiked across a very narrow peninsula in the air, standing above Bryce Canyon. It couldn’t have been more than three feet wide. I wanted a picture from atop. At one point there was a giant step. I had to place my arms on the higher ground and push the rest of my body up. While I was successful at reaching the plateau, my trekking pole scraped against the ground and came loose. Gravity snatched it from me. I saw it plummeting and somersaulting down the canyon, bouncing off the rocks and echoing around me.
“I’m going to go get it!” is what I proclaimed, and that is when Dom pointed out the ridiculousness of the idea. I was telling him about the book I had been reading and all the stupid and ridiculous things people do in National Parks which put them in danger. He was clearly listening well to me, because his pointing out of the parallel between the present situation and the book was well stated. He made an appealing case to not pursue my run away trekking pole, but regardless, I didn’t listen to him.
This trekking pole and me have been on way too many adventures together for it to end like this. Can one truly get sentimental about his trekking pole? Well this adventurer can. My cousin Jonathan bought it for me when we both went to Yosemite National Park for the first time. This was my first major hiking and camping trip, and it was an amazing life experience. This trekking pole was with me the whole time. Also, the pole could adjust easily to varying heights. I could jab it into the ground and unscrew its handle to fasten on my camera and have a sturdy monopod. It was so practical, so useful. It was a gift. I didn’t know how much something like this cost. I’m frugal. I was going to go retrieve it.
…Or at least I was going to thoroughly assess the situation. So the canyon wasn’t very deep at this point. It was probably thirty feet down. It wasn’t a straight drop. There was a very steep diagonal slope of crumbled rock. There was the possibility that I could sort of surf my way down the crumbling rock. I turned around to Dom. “Make sure the camera is recording,” I instructed. This had to be properly documented.
Recounting this experience, I’m not sure if the next event was a part of the plan, or if gravity took me by surprise, but next thing I know I’m sliding down into the canyon, uncontrollably. I couldn’t stay standing. I’m falling. My feet are pushing and digging into crumbles of red rock before me, but it’s not enough to break the fall. The rocks are crudely climbing up into my pants. I look down and I don’t know how this is going to end. Dom is right. I’m going to end up in that book, I’m thinking to myself. Then in all the excitement and distress, it comes to a screeching halt with my rear planted on a cactus.
I stood up. Thankfully this cactus was wimpy so no real damage was done, but very fine cactus needles were clinging to the back of my gym shorts and it was not comfortable. I grabbed my trekking pole and we were reunited. Mission accomplished. Now, to get back up! It looked daunting. This was not going to be easy if possible at all. I scouted the perimeter of penisular rock formation I fell from. The only chance of getting back up would be from the way I came down. With that thought in mind, panic set in. I could be stuck down here, and what concerned me is I didn’t even know this place. I only got here a few hours ago. I did know that mountain lions live here. I’m going to be stuck in a canyon all night with mountain lions. Perilous thoughts started to snowball out of control. Okay, I’ve got to get out of here, I told myself.
I began my ascend. It was so steep that I realized once I began, there was no backing down. There was no grip to successfully back down. It would entail another fall, and perhaps not as merciful as the initial fall. Gripping onto the crumbling rock was of course useless, and I started to slide backwards, so I grabbed onto part of the canyon wall jutting out. This had to be my route up. I found cracks and rock shelves to place my feet on, and when possible I balanced one foot on the crumbling rock and the other on the canyon wall. At this point my heart was racing, feeling as if it’s going to jump right out of my chest and take off on a marathon. I realized this was not safe, but there was no other way. I could only go upward, and I was not entirely sure I believed in my ability to bring myself to safety. In this moment I remembered bouldering with my brother at a climbing gym the month before in Louisville, Kentucky. It was only my second time bouldering, and I didn’t do so bad. This canyon wall in Bryce Canyon required the same skills, the same focus and determination. I stretched my arms and legs to their widest extent, said a quick prayer, and started pulling myself up, unsure if my efforts would prove fruitful, but it worked! I eventually made it to the plateau.
I was so thankful and excited to be safe and on a trail, and ready to make a commitment to never do anything so careless like that again.
I raced back over the Dom, who had taken a seat to relax during my daring shenanigan.
“What an experience!” I exclaimed.
“Was it worth it?” he nonchalantly questioned.
Definitely worth it if you captured it all on video, I’m thought to myself. Come to find out, none of it was recorded except that last piece of dialogue. With disappointment, but a riveting adventure tale now in my pocket and sturdy loyal trekking pole, we continued on our journey around the Fairyland Loop.
Check back for my account of hiking the Fairyland Loop in Bryce Canyon.
Read the previous entry “Onward to Bryce Canyon,” here: https://joshthehodge.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/onward-to-bryce-canyon/