Tag Archives: hiking

The Narrows – An Instagallery

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.

Shuttle

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.

Infant Shores

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.

Squirrel who doesn't give fucks

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.

Deer

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.

Tree

(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.

Boulder

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).

Book

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.

Silence

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.

This is me barfing all over your feed.

Hot steel is a steep contrast against the chilly spring sunset. Breaking speed laws helped me get out of the city in less than twenty minutes but it also overheated the capabilities of my 250cc engine. The dealership told me I wouldn’t hit a hundred so I’m always trying to prove them wrong. It’s a sore spot, I guess. People telling me I can’t do something. People or, whatever, myself I guess.

DSC04950

I pull off the road and kill the engine. The trailhead is a mile up this stretch of desert but I’m not going to risk my tires on these jagged rocks. I lock my helmet under my seat, retrieve my girlfriend’s camera, and shoulder my backpack before heading out. (I spent about ten minutes considering that oxford comma).

A trip like this isn’t for the hike. It isn’t for the instagram filters or the soul searching. A trip like this is because your gut is in knots and you’ve got frustration burning the skin off the tips of your fingers. A trip like this is spent hunched over like Golum with a notepad and pencil in your hand consuming blank spaces like you’re getting paid for it.

But you’re not. Well, I don’t know if you are; I’m not. And fuck me for trying.

I don’t fit in here. Hikers pass me by in neon things. Shorts, jackets, shoes. Bright things. I wade between them like a fly among flowers. Buzzing along in a leather jacket and jeans and the kind of haircut that looks less like a haircut and more like a mistake.

DSC04958

The terrain is dead. Twisted branches gnarled into arthritic fists clenched at the heavens for their fate. Is the desert a reflection of my insides or my insides a reflection of the desert?

Because I’m fucking lost. I’m the little monkey on your child’s mobile running in circles. What do I do – write? Writing like this and hoping it’s going to turn into something of a life? I can’t. What then? College? I should’ve gone. I should’ve bent at the knees and let societal standards fuck me in the ass for four years so I could get a piece of paper that could get me a better job. What job though? Every notch on this retail ladder I’ve climbed has only bored me more. Mechanic, maybe. Work on bikes only. I could do that. Grease stains and loud music. Just enough money to live but not enough to ever quit. But the words – the fucking words.

In my head. In my chest. In my fingers, throbbing, wringing, aching, stinging, breaking, bringing frustrating rhythms to my brain and spilling flame like gasoline’s in them, words filled to the brim with the will to just give in and type, or write till the pencil tip splits and resigns or till I’m reminded of my drive to survive, why I’m designed to comply to the lines in my mind every lie, every sigh, every moment in life that I’ve questioned these words they’ve come back twice as bright, twice as mighty but twice as likely to deny my plight, well I’m pleading tonight with my knees to my eyes will the need to write finally cease or realize that a life full of words is still meaningless… right?

Stop. Clear my mind. I’ve reached the peak of the trail and the sun’s dropping behind the mountains. Those ageless giants. Up here silence is so fruitful it becomes company.

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On my way back down a woman says something to me. I look up and see a group of people (I don’t remember how many – at least four) led by a blond woman with a bob-cut and wearing neon sneakers.

“What?” I ask her.

“There’s deer.” She’s pointing to a hill adjacent to the trail. She must’ve seen my camera and thought I cared.

“Oh,” I say. “Thank you.”

I guess I did care because I crossed over the desert and took a couple of pictures (I’m not going to post them here because in black and white deer just look like more rocks and dead plants) and when I left I didn’t mention the deer to anybody else I ran into. A silent cheer of victory. Senseless pride jacking off to the notion that I saw something other people wouldn’t. That miniscule rise of joy grown from independence and discovery that, ironically, I wouldn’t have discovered without someone else.

I want things but I don’t know what they are. Travel. Writing. Riding. Nail-biting adrenaline or hiding under tents and finding undiscovered lands with my girlfriend in the stands cheering me on or holding my hand. I just get stuck in the rhythms and the words are easy ways to navigate through them. I feel the empty space and I just want to fill it up with sentences and paragraphs. But I lose focus. I need that – focus. A place to pinpoint all this energy.

All I want to do is ride into new places with my laptop and a camera and make art. The fuck kind of abstract idea is that? I don’t know. I guess I’ll go write about it.

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Remembering the canyons

Clear winter afternoons remind me of my mother. We used to go for hikes in the canyons and she’d be bundled up under a red hat and a scarf and a jean jacket. The image is burned in my brain. You’ll never find a woman like my mother, the way she smiled. Her blue eyes judgeless and wrinkled at the edges because she’s been smiling her whole life. The kind of woman whose skin tells stories. Sun spots and scars. She conceived my brother under summer skies after hiking the Camino De Santiago for an entire day. She gave birth to me in her own apartment. Raised us both as a single mother and pioneered a theatre troupe while freelancing as a communication therapist. We used to travel to Bordeaux by the overnight train and took a ferry to Soulac-sur-Mer to visit my grandparents. The saltwater prickled in my nose while I stood against the metal railing overlooking the ocean. My grandparents had spare bikes for us in their garage and the clearest memory I’ll ever have is the smell of sand and ocean in that muggy storage chamber. Later they’d remodel it into a sunroom, but it doesn’t matter because the garage will always exist in my head. We always biked, my mother and brother and I. Always, everywhere. The three of us experienced a lot together. I love them both enough to make my throat feel like it’s closing in on itself.

We moved to America and we branched out. Language will change people. My brother moved out of state and my mother moved out of the country and I’m still here, sorting through fragmented experiences because the canyons crowd me with them. Towards the end I was with either one or the other, but we were always in the canyons. In a way, every red rock clasped to the soles of my shoes tied the three of us together. It’s going to be hard to leave this place.

photo credit: KOLCHphotography

Moving and accomplishing

My brother and I used to wake up at 5AM or something. Early as hell – before the sun’d risen. He’d come into my room and wake me up and tell me it’s time. I’d get dressed and he’d pack our backpacks. A water bottle each, granola bars or trail mix, and a gatorade. Yellow. Always yellow. He’d be smiling, even though the night before he’d been up since 2 doing homework. He’s never needed much sleep. Too busy moving and accomplishing. When I was ready we’d carry our bicycles down the steps of our apartment and set out. The clicking of gears adjusting and the chain ringing over the sprockets. The cool early morning air crisp against my cheeks. A few birds chirping. I’ll never forget that. We’d bike through the city, uphill, drifting between traffic and hopping up and down sidewalks. Couple of punk ass kids in jeans going harder than the cyclists in their spandex and aerodynamic helmets. We’d get to Red Rock by sunup, sit down and munch on our granola bars. Then we’d climb. Up and up and up. Sometimes we didn’t make it to the top, it didn’t matter. The journey – never the ending. But when we’d reach the top it felt good. Saw eagles and our tiny bicycles in the distance. Talking about our dad and our future. Laughter. Sometimes somber understanding. Sometimes just silence. The way back was bliss because it was all downhill and we’d stop by a mcdonalds or a pizza place and carb the fuck up. We’d get home and my legs would feel like jelly. Most of the time I could take a nap, but not my brother. He’d be leaving for work or to meet with his girl or doing more homework. Too busy moving and accomplishing.