|Canyoneering Dude & Dad Paul Rappelling Down Yankee Doodle Canyon in Utah|
Sleepy... I look down heading to breakfast and see rips of blood across my shins and extending onto my calves from the pointed ends of the violent Agave plants that line the trails here – as if a creature with Edward Scissor-hands has slashed at me in my sleep. Nope, just a desperate desert plant struggling to make it in this climate. Stay away from me!!! it screams at my tender, naked, lower legs as I barely brush it by on the path.
This isn’t the country for the soft and tender. On the inside, maybe.
My gloopy oatmeal with a spoonful of brown-sugar and some milk goes down just right this morning. It’ll stick to my ribs today like a good concrete shellacking. And my Decaf Vanilla Soy Coffee (with a twist?) reminds me that I may be kicking-butt and taking names on this trip, but I am also a good old pussy-footed coffee addict like the rest of us FHLOKers. (Full House Lots O’ Kids)
Oh but I digress, dear diary. For today is the day. The reason I booked this trip. One of the few locations in the world that I can scramble, rappel, boulder, and climb walls as if I was spawned from Spiderman’s loins. Saddle up: we’re going Canyoneering today!!!
Woo! We’re driving like bats out of heck in a four wheel piece o’ 1992 Nissan Pathfinder (I think.) Into Dixie National Forest we fly and it’s a tight, neat group. Which means gibberish. But in my-speak it means we all get along, we’re all excited, we’re all competent, and, most importantly, we’re all 100% COMMITTED.
No whimps, wooses, or weenies allowed…..Ya hear?
|Spider Lady Veronica Preparing for the Big Drop|
We hike the massive 10 feet from our truck to the first Technical Canyoneering descent into Yankee Doodle Canyon and my breathing gets shallow. Chest tight. Holy fleepin’ muck. What did I get myself into here. (Yup, feeling a bit like a weenie.) But I’m keeping calm for the gang. Luckily, excitement overwhelms fear and the reminder to “Breathe!” and “Smile” calms and comes from our lean, lithe, possibly part-monkey guide from the way he leaps off of sheer walls of rock and bounces through unscathed.
Helmet on. Harness wrangled around our crotches. Carabiner and Rappel Device clanking away until the rope attaches. We are lowered, one by one, into the first PIT OF DOOM….Learning and relearning the necessary weight of our hips. Learning and relearning the trust of the belay and the power of the rope. We’re committed.
The PIT OF DOOM actually ends up being a reasonable 15 (?) foot drop warm-up rappel. Immediately following comes the massive, cavernous, golden-glow 80 foot rappel. A sky-scraper for a first time-er. But no time to think. Once again, we’re in the fate of the leetle tiny rope-gods and a metal clip supporting our entire weight…..
Down… down I descend from 80 feet up… “and now JUMP, JUMP as hard as you can… to your Left!” comes the order when I’m still 60 feet high. To your Left??? My left hand, which I usually make the “L” with so I dyslexically remember which way is which, is grasping the harness in front of me. My other hand, which is behind me, is holding the rope that is stopping me from plunging the rest of the 60 feet down. Crap. JUMP!
Somehow my knees spring and my feet lunge to the side, landing, hopefully, down further and left. Sort of. My body, still spastic from the nerves, like an uncoordinated Kindergartener on the monkey bars, swings around for a minute in the air and, BANG, I scrape my upper, exposed thigh against the scratchy, sandstone wall. A badge of honor! Not pretty, but I’m doing it and it’s definitely adrenaline, not sweat, that is coming out my pores right now.
As I lower myself to the bottom and the rest of the gang rappels down, we’re high fiving. Fist pumping. Awesome. Our crew is psyched, high on accomplishment and the NOT-sock-sorting, laundry-basketing activity of my usual drill. It’s time for more. We’re deep in the canyon now, but the only way out is still down.
|The Guys Working Through a Tight Spot|
Now comes the Bouldering. We’re scooching, squeezing, manipulating our bodies into positions I haven’t seen since the last Circe de Soleil that came through SF or on the dance floor in the unfortunate 1980s… it’s all about, literally, walking on walls. Finding the correct angle and weight of all 4 limbs and occasionally my bottom or, lets face it, ANY body part that will help us maneuver through the space without dying a gruesome death from plunging into the rocks below while not bound to a safety rope. Yes, I’m exaggerating….. a little. But, actually, no I’m not.
At one point, to get over a boulder and thorough a tight crevasse, our arms are out straight on one canyon wall and our legs out straight on the opposite wall, completely parallel to the ground. As if we have on a red cape like Superman and and big old “S” on our chest, with a green-screen behind and we’re flying, straight through the sky to rescue Lois Lane.
|Sticking to the Walls!|
Scooching, scooching. Every core muscle is SCREAMING at me, screeching: “You got this! GO GIRL!!!” Our feet and bare hands stick to the sandstone like a gecko’s, and amazingly hold us prone in this and all the other contorted positions we use to move up and down and through tight, precarious spaces.
It is EXHILERATING. Our group is giddy. Did you see that??? Can you believe it??? We’re high fiving and verbally fist pumping the scope of strength and power and difficulty and contortion our bodies are able to tackle. Amazing.
We’ve winded our way down through twisty and seemingly bottomless chutes - @ 800 feet down - and we’ve now hit bottom. In a good way.
It’s time to get Out.
|The Steep Ascent - No Ropes, Baby|
The scramble UP begins. My feet stick to the near vertical wall ahead and, again, I am reminded of Spiderman and his wall scaling abilities up glass mega-buildings. Apparently the sandstone has a Velcro like fascination with the rubber on the soles of our shoes, but I still prefer to think I have some sort of superhuman superpower.
All focus is on steady, powerful but nimble finger holds, foot holds. Look down if you dare.
We don’t scramble up with ropes. Slipping or falling is for sissies and we’re not going to do it. It’s not an option. I could have scrambled up all day. I am in my element, possibly part-spider, part-monkey? Send me to the zooooo.
Ahhh! We’re back. Triumph is ours!!!
We’ve finished the full loop and are back at the truck, fairly quickly for a group of newbies. Can we do it again??? …… I talk a big game, but methinks every single muscle on every single part of my body is toast I just don’t know it yet.
We break for our crunchy lunches and the wild ride home through the backcountry.
A hot tub AND a bath later, my thighs are still saying “hello!” But in that good way. And I know tomorrow morn I shall wake with an upper body saying “hello!” as well. Ahhhh, the satisfaction. Ahhh, the joy!
A quick FaceTime with the kids and though they’re happy for my adventure today, the big news for the girls is: What animals did you see??? My older son gets it, but he’s too tired to fully appreciate my rock star-ness and I will Wow! him when I get home with my Mommy Awesomeness as I’m continually trying to break the Mom Rocks at Laundry award I still seem to keep winning annually.
Mom Rocks at Canyoneering, big guy. And I CAN’T WAIT to get him out there with me next time. Bucket list. For the whole family.
Namaste & Three Sandstone Canyons to You -OM
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