In a mere three hours, we went from this:
The photos speak for themselves. No need to use prosaic adjectives to describe the incredible sights we’ve seen so far, because what more could words possibly add? Instead, I will share stories of our escapades so that you can live vicariously through our attempts to act like legitimate outdoor adventurers. Additional segments to follow in the coming days.
We pretended to canyoneer in the Zion Narrows.
We finally turned back three hours after we first entered the water. By then, the crowds had arrived and were making their way upstream. When we were within eyesight of the entrance to the river, I fell in a manner befitting the fake hiker that I am. Because what fun is “canyoneering” in the Narrows without demonstrating one’s complete lack of coordination? I consoled myself by carefully observing the other sorry pilgrims in the water. Let’s just say that people much more clueless than us were attempting the trek wearing flip-flops, converse sneakers and sundresses.
The following morning we embarked on the Emerald Pools/Kayente Trail hike.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, we are not hikers. But after our experience on this trail, I can proudly attest to the fact that we are more adventurous than our suburban roots let on. After a tranquil and scenic walk to the first stop on the hike, we missed the sign indicating the way to the uppermost pools of water (my convenient excuse: we started out early, we encountered very few people on the way up and had no one to ask).
Instead, we forged ahead on a less-trodden path that met the description in our handy Lonely Planet guide: “a steep, rocky half-mile one-way spur [requiring] a little scrambling.” Despite debating the meaning of a sign that Chloe insisted (correctly, as it turns out) meant we were not supposed to venture there, we did venture there. And the trail got rockier and steeper. Grammy begged off soon after we started the climb, smartly realizing that she’d be better off playing Candy Crush than risk breaking a hip. But I was convinced we were headed in the right direction because hell, Lonely Planet’s description was perfectly apt.
After climbing for a good ½ hour, we hit a dead end. Granted, it was a dead end with amazing vistas. We took a few pictures and with great disappointment, I agreed to begin our descent. Cautiously. Sophie’s method, adapted from what she learned to do in case of a fire, was “stop, drop & slide.” And it worked like a charm. We took a break at a lovely grotto we missed on the way up “the trail that wasn’t a trail,” thinking this was the upper pool we so desperately sought. The site was so idyllic I briefly thought fairies would magically appear and weave wreaths of flowers into Sophie’s hair.
While we ate some snacks, we wondered why the other voices we heard so clearly never made it to our hidden paradise. We returned to the staging ground for the last part of the hike, now populated with other hikers who promptly confirmed that we had taken a wrong turn. Determined to see what we had missed, we followed the marked path to the upper pool, which was so crowded with other humans that it wasn’t nearly as enticing as our secret paradise.
Future email to the editors of the Lonely Planet guides: The actual trail to the upper pool is most certainly not “steep” nor is it particularly “rocky.” In fact, the path is clearly delineated in smooth sand. For your next edition, please choose your words more carefully lest inexperienced hiker posers like us take you too literally and break an unknown number of park rules.
INTERLUDE ON WILDLIFE
Our trip so far has led to some serendipitous encounters with wildlife. Here’s our inventory so far:
GRAND CANYON NORTH RIM
I used to think that if I ever had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon I’d admire it for about five minutes before starting to fidget. I was wrong. The landscape is so spectacular that I can almost understand why a park ranger would voluntarily choose to isolate herself for months at a time in a place that is two hours away from the nearest town with a supermarket.
Our life in northeast suburbia is one of crowds, congestion and stress. Of obsessively checking our social media feeds and our emails. Of playing online games. If nothing else, this trip has reminded me that I can readily (and happily) survive without the connectivity to which I’ve grown so accustomed. I have read two books (hard copies, of course) since first arriving in Vegas and have made a decent dent in a third. It’s been wonderful.
I’ve also learned, however, that Chloe (and to a lesser extent, Sophie) cannot survive without ice cream. When Chloe found out that the lodge’s soft serve machine was out of order, she was dismayed. Actually, dismayed is an understatement. She was insulted. After settling into our cabin, we commenced a leisurely hike through forest and rim views to the campground where ice cream was readily available in the general store. As we’ve come to learn on this vacation, however, if someone tells you a hike is 15 minutes, you must double or triple the actual time it takes your family to reach the destination. When my husband’s stopwatch indicated that it took us more than one hour to walk 1.2 miles, I was appalled. Yes, we stopped to take a lot of pictures. I also stopped to help Sophie with her junior ranger activity book. The path did have its fair share of switchbacks. And it was uphill. But almost 1.5 hours?
We finally arrived at the general store. The girls got their ice cream. Packaged crap. Chloe’s opinion of our walk: “It was awful. Well, that’s not entirely true. It was awful because it took forever to get ice cream. But the views were nice.” For Sophie, the hike wasn’t really a success until about five minutes before it ended. That’s when she threw a rock into some fresh mule poop to see what would happen. She was so happy with her shenanigans that when the rock hit its target (and trust me, it would have been difficult for her to miss it), she did a jig. The Grand Canyon may be one big hole in the ground as far as Sophie’s concerned, but the mule poop has added a whole new dimension to her vacation.