Sue and I were standing by the curb with our packs on the sidewalk in their airport bags. It's not that I was freaking out, it's just that I had heard about the Mormons and how they married young and had kids right off, and I've just got this thing about moralistic, Christian folk. There were a lot of young blonde women with a few babies and toddlers in tow...
Then Stace and Toby pulled up to the curb, Tobe opened the passenger door and a beer came crashing out and shattered and foamed all over the sidewalk. You could suddenly feel the crowd giving us some room. Hmmm, I know I was thinking, this is going to work...
Stacey is a wild woman, passionate and totally into rock climbing. Toby spent some time in the military in the 1st Army going into Baghdad the second time around in Iraq, came home, looked around in total disillusionment, and headed for Patagonia where he guides. Another mother's child. He didn't run or pull chocks. Stace and Toby met on some cliff somewhere, I think. He and I bonded in the first hour, if not in those first initial foaming seconds.
Our first day out we headed for Canyonlands
. The site makes it look a lot tamer than it is. The White Rim Road is rough and slow-going. It's probably easier on a mountain bike, or on horseback, or on foot.
I loved Canyonlands more than Bryce or Zion or Escalante for that very reason. While still wild and dangerous, in Bryce and Zion you could still feel the National Park Service. You could feel that the landscape had been tamed a bit. In Canyonlands, you could easily die and you wouldn't be found for a long time, if ever. I like that. I like the edge. It's on the fringes of hell. When we were there temps topped somewhere in the nineties. In the summer they bake in the 100s.
Within our first hour or so in the canyon itself--we were about nine miles in--we had stopped and walked out to the edge of the canyon. We busted the crust.
Then I turned around and...wtf?...I saw this young man sort of stumbling towards us begging for water. He was kind of babbling, and I said to Stace, who's a nurse, he's got a thick tongue, he's in the first stages of dehydration. Some dumb kid from Arkansas and his girlfriend from California rode their bikes into the canyon with only about three litres of water between them. His tongue was swollen and salt rimmed all around his mouth. He saw our car parked on the road and came looking for us. It was unlocked, and he didn't rip off our water and food. That's the kind of people you meet out there. Outdoor people are cool and ethical. Most are, anyway. We gave them each a litre of Gatoraide and some power bars. I looked at the cuts on their legs they'd gotten from the sprockets on their bikes. They still had nine miles to go, and the sun was going down. You feel bad, but even the liquid and food we gave them came out of our mouths. They lived, and hopefully learned.
We bounced along the White Rim Road into the night. Toby and I were getting a little crazy with so much time in the car. I think Sue was, too; she's just better at containing herself than I am. Stacey? She's was driven to get to our site. She's hilarious behind the wheel of the truck. She's really just a little thing, but really tough with a lot of passion. We were drinking wine and bouncing along and just making an adventure out of it.
We pitched the tents in the dark.
I woke when it was still dark and stuck my nose out the tent flap, sniffing like a dog. You can't imagine the quiet out there. When there is a sound, even the caw of a distant raven, it's loud. I threw on the pants I'd be living in the for next seven days and some sandals, snakes and scorpions be damned. I knew snakes would be quiet, since it was pretty cool. Cool air means cool blood for a reptile. Wasn't sure about the scorpions, though.
In the dark I could sense a butte behind us. It was called the Airport Tower, I later learned.
I climbed the lower part. It was still dark, so I sat down to wait for the light to come. The talus is slippery, like millions of poker chips spilled on a slope. No point in getting turned around and twisting an ankle in one fell swoop.
Labels: Action Bob Markle, actionbobmarkle, Canyonlands, John Greiner-Ferris