Books Made of Scraps, but A Quilt and Not a Scrapbook
Week In the Life, Day 1

My Hiking Mantra or, A Story about Hike #14

In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life—no disgrace, no calamity which nature cannot repair. ~Emerson

I belong to a local hiking group on Facebook, and I love it because other people’s posts give me clues as to what’s happening in the mountains around me. Someone posted about how beautiful Rock Canyon is right now, the small river (usually completely dry) running loud with snowmelt, so I decided, totally on the spur of the moment, to hike it yesterday afternoon. Kendell’s schedule was clear so he went with me.

Rock Canyon is a trail I’ve hiked at least twenty times in my life. It’s really the perfect beginning hike, over bridges, up mountains, with two amazing viewpoints, but without being incredibly steep. It is, in fact, the trail that introduced me to hiking in the first place. It’s strange to think, because I have always loved the mountains, but the first time I really hiked was in 1999, when I was 27 and pregnant with Nathan. My brother-in-law suggested we all get together on Labor Day and go for a hike, and I was like “I’m not sure I can hike as a pregnant person!” so I asked my doctor, and he said “yes, hiking is fine” and so I hiked. My mother-in-law Beth didn’t end up hiking very far, so she kept the kids with her while Kendell, Jeff, and I finished the trail. (Why didn’t I take any pictures?) It would still be years later before I started hiking with any regularity—I had a baby and then three little kids; Kendell’s hip condition made hiking hard for him, and then unemployment hit our family hard;  then I was teaching, and then I had Kaleb.

(Incidentally, the Rock Canyon trail was the first trail I took Kaleb on, in his baby backpack when he was about four months old.) IMG_5864

(You can tell I was a novice hiker because I hiked in jeans.)

Mostly, though, I just hadn’t caught the vision that a person can hike. Not for a special occasion, not with a big group. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You just put on your wool socks and your boots, put some water in your pack, pick a trail, and go.

I thought about the differences between myself on my first hike and myself on that trail again, on my…I don’t even know. 100th hike?

I remembered how, when I was a little girl, I would sit in our backyard on the comfy reclining chair and look up at the mountains around me, and imagine myself up there. I didn’t know how you got there, although every once in a while we’d drive up the canyon. I didn’t know about trails and altitude gain and topo maps. I just imagined being high on the cliffs, looking out, and I imagined meadows full of flowers with wild creatures wandering through.

Figuring out how to be a hiker is one of my life’s best things, because hiking has made my life better in immeasurable ways.

I got to hike through the canyon when it was loud with roaring water; I got to cross all five bridges when water was flowing underneath them. I didn’t expect to see many flowers. I didn’t expect to see any, honestly. But as we got higher up, past the bridges and the waterfall and the Squaw Peak turnoff, there were a few here and there, and then at my favorite overlook spot, yards and yards of yellow glacier lilies, blooming under the still-naked scrub oak. Rock canyon provo peak overlook with flowers

Kendell is used to me getting excited about flowers. He doesn’t understand it, but he at least isn’t surprised by it. I love flowers in any situation, but somehow wildflowers in the mountains are my favorite. No one plants them, no one weeds or fertilizes them, no one deadheads them or waters them or prunes them. Technically, no one even talks to them (although, you know I did) but, yet: there they are. Blooming under the trees.

They are magical.

So even though my husband was rolling his eyes a little bit, I spent some time with the flowers. It is something to experience—this little yellow flower, one of the very first to bloom in the west, which Merriweather Lewis also loved. You have to be lucky to hike a trail at just the right time, especially in Utah where our winters range so dramatically in their water content. All of the snow we got this year has made the mountains vibrant this spring. So I just stood in the flowers, careful not to step on any. I examined them as closely as my knees would let me. I thought about that child I used to be, who wanted to stand in high places among flowers, and I sent her a message through time: you will. Yellow glacier lilies

I decided that my hiking mantra is

“go steep for ecstatic wildflower experiences.”

We continued hiking up the trail—up and down, as the rest of it rolls south east in hills and across beckoning little valleys. The glacier lilies continued here and there, and the snow was still there, not deep, very slushy. We made it to our destination, which is a campground (you can also get to this campground via the boring route, which involves driving, but why drive when you can hike?), sat down to take our packs off, and ate a snack. (Our usual beverage, which is a Zip Fizz, but not our usual nutrition. Actually, it wasn’t nutritious at all, but instead of eating nuts or beef jerky, we shared a sugar cookie from a local bakery. Delicious.)

The second I stopped moving, I started shivering. This is almost always my response at the turn-around point of any hike, even on a hot summer day. (I also shiver after finishing a run, until I get my damp clothes off and get into a hot shower. Even in July.) So I dug into my pack, hoping I was prepared, and yes, I was: I had a long sleeve to put on. Even better, a long sleeve with thumb holes. Top of rock canyon with snow

Kendell was also shivering. He warmed up OK as soon as we started moving again, but I kept my long sleeve on for the rest of the hike. While I went, I decided that’s not my only hiking mantra. Equally important:

“Hike expansively, and always carry a long sleeve.”

I loved the idea of my hiking mantras. I decided I will watch for more of them, as the summer comes and we hike through it. Maybe I will discover they are as plentiful as rocks in Rock Canyon; maybe they will be as fleeting as the glacier lilies. But I will watch for them, and pick them up to bring them home with me when I find them.


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