[su_heading]Hiking Canyonlands with Children[/su_heading]
Desert rocks soaking up the rain
Last week I loaded up Vini-Man with a tent, backpacks and a first aid kit the size of Paris Hilton’s hand bag and took off for the Canyonlands in Utah for Brevitt’s outdoor ed trip. Unfortunately, I needed to take my own car in case Brevitt and I had to bail due to his foot injury and my personal female issues. On the way down I phoned the convoy to tell them that I was taking a quick detour to the doctor to load up on meds. I needed backup to ensure that our adventure did not turn into a game of survival. It occurred to me that any “normal” person would have opted out if afflicted with similar ailments. I wondered if naively leaping into the unknown all my life, without seriously weighing out the consequences, could be considered a positive trait.
Normally, I despise driving and tend to have to slap myself across the face to stay awake. Fortunately, I had just installed XM Satellite radio and listened fascinated to NPR and Oprah Radio for six hours. I was Liza Doolittle waking up to the world around me.
Since becoming a parent, I have developed necessary skills to help me to retain some semblance of sanity in my life. I can listen to numerous conversations at once as well as cook, pay the bills, sweep and talk on the phone all in unison but I have yet to master the art of listening to NPR or reading The New Yorker without getting interrupted by my three monkeys in our zoo we call home.
Driving down to the Canyonlands, Brevitt opted to go with his buddies in Tori’s Ford Explorer and I had no problem encouraging it. Tori was much better suited to handle three rambunctious boys than I was in my sick and emotionally fragile state. I followed behind her marveling at her innovative use of zip ties to hold the panels of her car together.
Six hours later I arrived satiated and filled with interesting topics to share with my fellow backpackers. I felt fortunate that my group consisted of good friends, Chuck and Tori, and their boys, Logan and Cooper, two of Brevitt’s closest friends. I couldn’t be with more efficient parents. Chuck was an experienced boating guide and because he was deathly afraid of hiking through the hot, dry desert without a river nearby he made certain that he was sufficiently equipped with his water filter to pump water out of any swampy puddle we would find. As I eyed Tori’s minimalist approach to packing, I slyly exchanged my beauty supplies and ample changes of clothing for food and kitchen supplies.
I was well aware of my deficiencies as a backpacker and knew that my proficient car camping skills could not be applied to this trip. I had flashbacks of my previous backpacking experience where my good friend Stephanie and I poured Jagermeister into our camelback bladders to help us hike the last two grueling miles up to the campsite where my overzealous sister, Michele, was waiting for us.
I was very impressed with Brevitt as he set up the tent but quickly became slightly embarrassed as I watched him drag his head through the dirt, a strange compulsion he has had since babydom. I reassured our group not to worry about the screws that were missing in Brevitt’s head and I lamented that I should have cut his hair shorter to discourage the gnats from nesting in his mop.
As we packed up our freeze dried food and ate hot dogs for dinner I mentally prepared my body for a week of the alien substances that would be entering my gastrointestinal tract.
The teachers had made a rule that the boys would sleep with each other in one tent and the mothers would sleep together in another. Chuck would sleep alone. It was a great idea in theory but try how they might to be brave, the boys ended up in our tents every night. The second night Brevitt was the first to sneak out of the tent and sleep with me. He thought he heard somebody creepily whisper his name and shot out of the tent shaking from head to foot. Later, Cooper awoke yelling for Brevitt who appeared to have been dragged off by coyotes. He woke up just in time to see Logan leaving the tent. When Logan told him that he was just going for a pee he inquired as to why he had his sleeping bag and pillow tucked under his arms. Snagged!
Backpacking with our small group quickly revealed all of our quirks. I was entertained by Tori’s habit of saying “umhummm” to let us know that even though she was busy multitasking she was still processing every word that we were saying. As for me, I’m certain that my lack of pioneering skills did not go unnoticed by Chuck and Tori.
Nature mercifully saved us from heat stroke providing us with low lying clouds throughout the trip as well as a welcome rainstorm that dusted us off and washed away our electronic habits. It was fascinating and somewhat scary to watch how quickly the torrential rain formed waterfalls and streams where there had been drought five minutes earlier. There is such a fine line between enjoying nature and getting trapped in its dangers.
As I hiked along the trail into the rocks, I thought about how important and rare it was for us to become one with nature. In the mornings I would hike up onto the rocks and try to meditate, a work in progress, and do yoga as the sun rose. Once again I felt like Homer Simpson as I tried to chant Ommm and eliminate the running commentary in my head.
After a breakfast of nuts and bagels we hiked two to five miles a day stopping often for water breaks in the shade. We loaded the boys up with salt and Gatorade to replace the important minerals and electrolytes they were losing in the heat and continued on our journey. In the afternoons we would crawl over the rocks exploring the nooks and crannies and the boys would traumatize the lizards.
As I hiked through the wilderness I inhaled the sweet air and let the spirited presence of Indians and a long time passed ocean soak into my being. I imagined what it was like to survive on the land back then and was thankful that I could eliminate dinosaurs from my list of phobias.
In the early evening of our last night we climbed way up on the rocks where we were rewarded with three hundred and sixty degree views. Everywhere we looked the rock formations changed. One group of rocks looked like they were holding council over the rest of the land. The boys couldn’t help themselves and stripped down to their bare essentials. We resisted the urge to also strip down and watched as they ran like wild beings over the rocks.
Last night I kept waking up in total confusion at my great tent that had beams and a fan at the top. Slowly I would awaken and know that I was not in a tent but in my own, cozy bedroom with two little boys asleep in my bed next to me. I realized that I kept waking up because Brevitt was loudly shouting in my sleep, “Go to the mud – Cool” he would yell. I think that he was also dreaming about still being in the desert with flash floods and lightening booming around us, but that is another story that will be told soon.
It is bittersweet to return home to my computer and cell phone. My addiction to electronics may have been shed quickly when entering the desert but the wonderful aromas and warm breezes of the desert are not as easily shed and will stay with me for a long time.