So much of the fun I have in my life is thanks to my dear friend Beth, who is innately fun. It is her gift. I enjoy fun, but Beth exudes fun. I enjoy adventure…mostly…but Beth seeks it. Sometimes she invites me along. This year, for her birthday, she planned to hike the Narrows, the famed sandstone canyons carved by the Virgin River in Zion National Park.
I have heard people talk about the Narrows for years, and the danger of flash floods in the canyons made an especial impression on me. I wasn’t afraid to do the hike, because we were watching the weather carefully, but I definitely felt some nervous excitement about embarking on this kind of trip. (Also, could I keep up with these ladies who triathlon for fun?)
Somehow, in all the talk I’d heard about the Narrows, I missed the fact that we’d be hiking up a river. Like, there’s no trail. It’s just the river. And you walk into it, and then you walk up it. Cool.
An ongoing marvel was the gear we rented to make the trip sans hypothermia: fancy neoprene socks, in which your feet get wet but not cold (what?); big ugly hiking shoes with extra grippy soles; a shoulder-height wooden walking stick to steady yourself on the rocky riverbed; a pair of dry pants that keep you dry and therefore warm in the 45 degree river. It was an incredible sensation to be knee deep in water, to feel the pressure of the current against my legs, without any sensation of wet or cold against my skin. This gear was a constant source of wonder throughout the day.
At every turn we were struck by a variation of the rugged canyon–red sandstone, steep dark cliffs, angular boulders and rocks worn smooth by the water. There were a few yellow leaves left on the trees, a beautiful contrast to the colors of the rock around us. I’ve always had a thing for rocks. I collected them as a child, filled my pockets with them, and even begged to take handfuls of smooth grey stones home from the car dealership parking lot once. I was denied.
If I could have, I’d have taken about a bazillion of the watermelon sized river stones home with me. Many were black, others sandy orange, deep red, striped, speckled, spotted. Rocks are naturally, and almost accidentally–when you think about all the forces that shape them–beautiful. Oh, so beautiful.
In yoga this fall, my teacher Elizabeth has been encouraging the practice of mindfulness. Toward the end of our day, I focused on being more aware, breathing in and breathing out, paying closer attention to being in the canyon, in the river, on my legs that were carrying me step by step. I was surprised how quickly being mindful led to being grateful.
Happy birthday, Beth. Thanks for being born, and thanks for being fun.
I can’t help myself. I have a few more things to say: Thanks, thanks to my dear friend Teri Jo for being willing to come the very moment I asked her. Thanks to my sweet husband for sending me on my way with his support, and for having such a good time with our boys while I was gone–corndogs, movie theater, tent in the living room, cookies–the whole shebang. And thanks to the wonderful Fishers for keeping us safe and warm Friday night.