Sunday, January 22, 2012

Good stories come when things don't work out quite right

When the girls emerged on the other end of the tunnel, the sun was behind the clouds -- the same place it had been hiding for most of the day. When they'd left the motel 30 minutes earlier, the sky looked promising. It was still promising now -- just promising something rather more threatening.

Undeterred, they parked, pulled their coats and gloves on and started for the familiar trail, carefully picking their way across the narrow, slushy road until grasping the handrail and going up. It wasn't raining, as it had been when they'd tried to hike that morning, and without water dripping down their backs and pooling along the trail, they were optimistic. Sure, the sky was gray and forbidding, but the day was windy enough to be moving things around. It was a short hike.

The trail got a little muddy and the wind picked up as they climbed higher, but finally being out hiking instead of stuck in the motel room watching the downpour energized the pair. The path was easy to get through and the rock wall and cliff face on respective sides of the trail were dry and welcoming. When they heard the first clap of thunder, it was far enough away to forget about. At the second, they stopped for a minute, but they were so close, they reasoned, and there was no way they would be good lightning rods when surrounded by all the trees and rocks.

The fifth clap of thunder followed the lightning far too close for comfort. One more hurried discussion resulted in a decision to hurry down once they'd made it to the top. They beat the storm to the top by about 10 seconds and watched as Mother Nature barreled toward them.

I'll go ahead and jump to the ending now; we made it down alive, and watching that storm coming in so fast was practically a spiritual experience. It hit quickly; we went from "That is awesome!" to "We have to go now" in about the time it took for hail to start pounding my face. We hurried down the wet rock as fast as we dared, hugging the rock and keeping a healthy distance from the drop into the canyon.

All went well, albeit wet, until we were halfway back to the car. What had been a dry rock face had, in a matter of minutes, become a small but spunky waterfall. There was one way to go -- straight through the water on a slightly declined rock about 5 feet long and 12 inches across. Slipping would most certainly send us down the mountain farther than we wanted to go. Taking our time meant a frigid shower in the middle of what had fast become a snowstorm.

We ran.
The good thing about a weekend in Zion is that, even when it's raining/slowing/sleeting/hailing/blowing, it is still Zion. We started four hikes (the west rim, the Kayenta trail to the Emerald Pools, Hidden Canyon and the overlook) and completed two (Kayenta and the overlook). On Saturday, we spent more time in the hot tub than we did hiking. (Aside: If you have not spent time in an outdoor hot tub when it's freezing outside, do it. There are no words to describe how good it is.)

Plus, it is still beautiful. If you've never been, picture a tiny river wending its way through thousand-feet tall red rock walls. The striations of the rock hold a millenia of secrets and stories. Standing by the river looking up makes you feel insignificant; standing on the top of Angel's Landing looking down makes you feel humble. Being in there makes you realize you are one part of this great earth that started long before you and will end long after you but for this moment in time, the earth's majesty is for you.

On Saturday, the clouds hung low, only revealing the tops of the cliffs a few times. Snow dusted the peaks. The darkened water moved through its frozen banks.

This is what Zion looks like when the skies are not weeping:

On Sunday we went to Kolob Canyon, which is about when my camera batteries died so you cannot see the most amazing deep red imposing canyon walls pushing closer together and you feel like the canyon will go on forever and you're going to disappear into it and there discover all the wonders of the universe.

So, not the greatest hiking weekend, but a great weekend nonetheless. We found this little cafe right next to our hotel that made the most amazing pizza. We watched movies and the Food Network and the storm while sipping hot chocolate. We laughed in the car as water dripped off my air and Sam wrung her soaked-through gloves out. We huddled next to the heater vents and spent an hour in the gift shop before wrapping our bags up in our coats and racing awkwardly to the car, which seemed like it was parked miles away, then realizing we'd been so wrapped up in the gift shop that we forgot to go to the visitor's center so we can ran back through the rain.

All in all, it was a Zion weekend.

He thought so too.

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