going up the country / baby don't ya wanna go

July 14, 2006

80 miles, in and about Arches NP & Moab. We set the alarm and woke up early for the cool of the day. Which more or less worked; except, ya know, that it’s the desert.

We were hiking fiends today. First thing, we headed to the Delicate Arch trailhead, and hiked 3 miles to and from the iconic arch. I’ve discovered that the most annoying thing about hiking -- apart from the sweat and lack of breath -- is the encouraging folks on their way back to their air-conditioned cars. “You’re almost there!” “Just around the bend!” “Hang in there; it’s worth it!” Assholes. (On the way up, anyway. On the way down, they’re not assholes; they’re me.)

I wanted to stay up there forever, but we had hikes to hike!

Next stop was 1½ miles on the Primitive Trail all the way around The Windows. Most folks simply walk the paved path to the overlook, but we got to see it from behind with nobody in sight. Lovely.

We headed back to the campsite, ate lunch, and dipped in the pool & hottub to prepare us for the late afternoon hike, which was a guided hike; 2 miles through the Fiery Furnace. This hike is not to be missed if you find yourself at Arches. Go first thing in the morning to the visitors’ center to make reservations; they have guided hikes twice a day.

There were about 25 of us on the hike, but one family in particular will stick with me. A male/female couple and his parents. The parents were Mexican and spoke limited english; the wife/girlfriend was white and spoke limited spanish, and the son translated often between the two languages. Despite the language barrier, the 4 of them seemed quite comfortable. A lot of non-verbal communication, kindness and support and love displayed through touching and smiling. The mother struggled mightily with the hike; and I mean really struggled. But she never once gave up or complained or stopped enjoying herself. The rest of the family rallied behind her and was so patient, you can't even believe it. They never rolled their eyes or sighed or got embarrassed. One of them would go ahead, reach out for the mom; one of them would be behind giving her a boost up or a steadying arm, the other would spot to make sure no-one slipped. This simple patience and good nature overwhelmed me a bit. I am ashamed at how easily I lose patience with the immediate world. Especially, perhaps because I love them and know them so well, those I love. Extra-especially, my folks. And what very important thing am I on my way to do that affords me the egocentric luxury of being so impatient with people? This trip has been so good for me to be quiet and examine what kind of person I want to be. Not just say I want to be, but actually be. Add patient to that list.

Shoogie will kill me for spilling this, but it's too fucking funny not to. About half of the group got to go through narrow crawl-through while the other half held the bags & water bottles and took the not-as-fun shortcut. Because I totally rock, I sent Shoogie through the crawl-through. It was really narrow, and Mark was the last one through, so we were all waiting for him, watching him. I joked to the group about what would happen if he got stuck, and people laughed. And then he scooted through, and kind of shrugged and said, "Oh I should have let her go." Everyone laughed again, and he came up to me and whispered, "Was it really loud?" As Shoogie had squeezed through the opening, he also squeezed out a fart, which he claims echoed like crazy in the crawl-through, and was positive everyone had heard it. I swear, you guys --- I was on the fucking ground I was laughing so hard.

The ranger (a young kid; new college grad) stopped us all at a place called Surprise Arch and told us about the discovery of the area. This was his favorite place in the whole park, and he often would hike out here by himself for contemplation. He asked us all to be quiet for a moment so we could hear why. And he was right - I've never heard such quiet in all my life. Amazing.

We also saw Turtle Arch, so named because it looks like 2 turtles kissing; and Skull Arches, because ... well, guess.

We ate dinner at a much-lauded local steakhouse (Buck’s), and had the inside to ourselves because everyone but everyone wanted to be seated on the porch. Crazies. I was thrilled to be cool & dry for once that day. We were in the throes of glorious, giddy exhaustion. We felt a little drunk even before we downed our several mojitos. The dinner was perfect, we ate way too much but didn’t even care. We were too tired to do anything but gaze & smile & giggle at each other over our food.

I wasn’t sure I could do this hiking thing with any kind of grace. I’m pretty game, but I am fairly out of shape. “Easy” hikes make me feel like I accomplished something sincerely major; “moderate” hikes make me want to commit murder once or twice along the way; “difficult” hikes make me cry and (worse) whine. Six and half total miles for me in one day is HUGE, and I feel sinfully pleased with myself.

It’s relatively early, but you just try to keep me up. I’m sleeping in tomorrow, mofos.


on the road again; like a band of gypsies we go down the highway

It's back ... ... ...

July 13, 2006

227 miles. Wow, it’s hard to believe we made so many miles today, considering the entire morning we were RAFTING ON THE MOTHERFUCKING COLORADO RIVER. (There are certain things I imagine myself saying at dinner parties when I’m rich and famous and yet incredibly approachable, fun-loving and down-to-earth. Name-dropping the Colorado River is one of them.)

Shoogie has never been rafting, and I hadn’t been in, like, 20 years.* It was incredibly fun, but after we got over the anticipatory terror of the first few rapids, I think both of us wished there had been more continual excitement. Apparently we’re secret thrill-seekers. I suspect rafting is something we’ll do again. Our guide’s name was Jamie. She’d grown up in the area, and regaled with tales of her wayward youth -- which Shoogs & I ate up, but the family with us was a bit non-plussed. Jamie pointed out a bridge where it was now illegal to jump from. Because of her, actually. When she was in high school, she and a friend jumped off it as a senior stunt, and “some bum” saw them and decided to follow their lead. He jumped too close to the bank and broke himself. They dragged him out of the water, but he died. “Why did he do that?” the daughter asked. “Because he was stupid,” Jamie replied. It was freakin’ surreal. I still don’t have a handle on how to feel about that entire exchange. Soon after that, we anchored at “the Boxcar Eddy” and jumped in to swim. It was cold, but no colder than Lake Washington & certainly warmer than the Columbia River. Refreshing. I swam in a famous river.

Then we had this great lunch at a brewpub in another nameless town I want to retire to. I drove the rest of the way to Moab, UT while Shoogie slept most of his cold away. We decided to take it easy this evening. We went for a dip in the campground pool and hottub, and did a little cold-plunging to detox and relax. Lucky us, we’ve hit the desert in a heatwave.

*I can’t believe I’m old enough to say things like “20 years ago” and have it actually mean something.