Zion Nat’l Park, UT
July 5th, 2016
It’s just after nine in the morning when I arrive at the visitor’s center. I’m only here to park my bike (a well deserved break for her after 200 miles under the empty summer skies) and catch the shuttle to the Temple of Sinawava, or more appropriately, The Narrows.
This is my third visit to Zion, but my first to the Narrows and my first in the summer. A prerecording in the shuttle tells me something poetic about the mountains – I don’t remember what it was because an obnoxious Vegas show runner is name dropping the dicks he’s sucked just a foot away and making it hard to focus on the colorful walls we’re driving through. When we arrive, I shoulder my pack and move on.
They tell you don’t go off the trail but the trails here are clogged with human life like the arteries of an obese smoker. I pull out my notepad and write that down, humans are plaque to the earth’s arteries, then slide off the trail and snake through the woods along the shallow river that will lead me to the mouth of the Narrows.
Sparrows sift through the tall grass (or are they swallows? I can never tell) and the river water rounds along the grey mammoth rocks. Infant shores crest the water, where dumb little tadpoles await their demise – death by footstep. The ambience here is a rainbow of organic sounds.
The squirrels give zero fucks. They’ve grown fat with modern luxuries; I see them swagger along with loot salvaged from littering humans. I imagine that I’m a small human, small enough to befriend the squirrels, and one takes me to his squirrel house and introduces me to his squirrel wife. They wear bottle cap hats and sit on shoes that they’ve arranged in their squirrel living room like furniture. I sit on some Adidas. They offer me a little pretzel stick.
Sorry, I’ve been reading too much Vonnegut.
As I’m off dreaming, I catch a glimpse of movement in the distance. I kneel down along the river and see a deer (I think? It had antlers) as it closes in on my location and moves beside me with little care for its safety. These animals have benefited immensely from their life on government-protected lands. If I were a hunter I would have eight squirrels tucked into my loincloth by now and one deer swung over my shoulder. But I’m vegetarian so instead I’ll just take some pictures.
I finally enter the Narrows and watch as humans clamber through the river like there’s gum on their shoes. Their clumsy movement looks so unnatural in this environment, where everything moves like it was intended, and I realize I’m part of the world’s epilogue. Or sequel. We’re earth’s shitty sequel.
(At this point the water was getting too high so I had to Ziploc my electronics… so not a lot more pictures for the gallery, sorry I lied.)
The pack of humans thin out as I continue. They play their stereotype off with extensive precision – lazy; sunbathing in the blue lights of their cellphones; complaining about the lack of coffee shops along the trail. I fucking hate my people, and I miss the time I spent with my squirrel friends in their squirrel house.
Those infant shores I mentioned earlier – the farther in I go the wider they grow. Beaches littered with rocks and the gnarly roots of drunken trees leaning too far back and casting cool shadows under the sun. For those puddles of water parted from the main river, they are now prey to the various water spiders and other strange water creatures that seem to spawn into existence in these conditions. Those waters look like half-eaten carcasses, rotting in the sun, a testament to waters foolish enough to stray from the main herd.
There is a split in the road, and I curse. Not like a witch – like a “fuck!” but actually I think I said “shit…”
I’m a completionist at heart (for everything not book-related) so a split in the road does me no favors. People pass me as I wrinkle my nose with indecision. Finally I take the path on my right and move on. This trail is rather empty, and word is there’s a waterfall at the end. My hopes have been raised now, so there’d better be one, because I run the chance of colossal disappointment. (spoiler alert, there isn’t one. So I did whine about it, but not much).
There’s some kids ahead of me, probably around seventeen years old based off of their high school shirts, but they look thirteen. I judge them; tell myself I’d enjoy my hike more if they weren’t ahead of me and I didn’t have to listen to their garbage conversations. I manage to pass them and move on.
That picture is of a giant (it looks small, but it’s fucking perspective. You can use that excuse with your girl too) boulder blocking my way, and since I don’t have a Pokémon with me that knows Rock Smash, I sit to the side and decide this is the end of my hike. I read some, write some, and eat my bagel and trail mix (leaving some pretzel sticks for the squirrels).
Those kids I passed catch up to me, and one of them delivers a moving speech to the other three about destroying obstacles and proving yourself and doing things that expand your comfort bubble. He disappears from my view, leaving his three companions to rub their heads and cover their mouths and pace back and forth uncomfortably. I grow curious, and my six-years of seniority urges me to go down there and make fun of their attempts to move on when even I couldn’t.
But that motherfucker had climbed up there and secured a rope for his friends, and the reason they hadn’t moved on was because his friends were chicken as fuck. As a writer, I’ve built up a Trojan wall of superiority around my emotion, but seeing this was like receiving a flaming cannonball into my foundation. What totally crushed it was that he looked at me then, smiled, and said to come on up. I used his rope, and he even offered his hand, which I refused because fuck man, pride. But then I couldn’t get up, so finally I gritted my teeth and grabbed his hand, and he helped me up. I thanked him, offered to pay him with water bottles or anything else I had on me, but he refused. Guilt swelled up in my gut when I thought about the many people who needed my help during the trail and I had pretended not to hear them.
What an asshole I’d become.
Ah, I changed tenses in that last paragraph. I’m not gonna switch back now.
After climbing up that rock, the trail became barren. No traces of footsteps, no human sound, just rocks standing in the gentle trickle of the river, looking foolish with their mossy wigs. My steps weighed heavy with my shitty personality, and the devil on my shoulders tried hard to convince me not to sterilize my elitist attitude. I don’t have a little devil on one shoulder and a little angel on the other – no I just have one devil who sits on my shoulders like a child on his dad’s shoulders and covers my eyes and pulls at my hair. Sometimes I whinny and make hoof sounds with my tongue because he likes it.
That’s the end. I never found a waterfall, and I was running out of sunlight, so I headed back home. This is the part where I whined a bit, but not too much, and felt like I hadn’t accomplished much but still somehow enjoyed the trip a bit.
It would’ve been better with a waterfall.