Monday, May 05, 2008

Vacation part 5, in which we do get to go Canyoneering

As I said a while back, the Zion Rock and Mountain Guides folks were really cool about repaying our money, but we didn't want repayment; we wanted to go canyoneering! They were really cool about that, too. They said, "How's tomorrow work for you?"

It worked fine; after all, "Nanny" was spending time with the boys (as an aside, we invited her to do stuff on her own and she went with us when we went out to eat and when we went to downtown St. George, but she preferred sticking around the resort, taking the boys to the park and to the pools, which were just across the street from our condo). So on Friday morning, we went back out to Zion.
We got hooked up with our guide - now, mind you, we weren't paying the big bucks just to get stuck with a tour group of strangers. This was a trip with just Tara, me, and Seth, our twenty-something guide. Once we had all our equipment (including harnesses, wetsuits, socks, canyoneering shoes, carabiners, etc), we headed out in a jeep toward Silver Reef, Utah. We turned off the main road and went down a steep gravel road (the kind that would have terrified Big Mama, even if it had been paved). After a while of bumping along this road, we found Yankee Doodle Canyon, a rather off-the-beaten-path slot canyon that apparently was pretty much unexplored until quite recently.
As neither of us had ever done this before, our guide started us out with rappelling lessons (once we had our gear on). Tara, of course, was itching to get into the canyon. The idea of putting herself at the mercy of the ropes and harness and dropping into the canyon was absolutely appealing to her (of course, she was also the one who wanted to brave the deadliest trail in the National Parks the previous day). So she got set and rappelled down the first rappel. No problemo, chief.

Then it was my turn. Though it was still cool out, I sweated enough to steam up my sunglasses. If you're a rappelling expert, you might notice that I look a little, um, stiff. But once I got the hang of it (the hang of it? haha, I crack myself up), it was actually fun.

In fact, when it came time to do the second rappell, which was something like 4 times as long as the first one, I really enjoyed it! I was disappointed to find out that these were the only two rappels we would experience in this canyoneering adventure. Once we move, I am definitely finding out where one can go rappelling in the Hocking Hills or in West Virginia. It's a blast!

This isn't to say that the adventure was done once we'd rappelled twice. There were plenty of serious down-climbs. It would go something like this: Seth (our guide) would tell us that this would be a pretty technical downclimb; that we could do it with or without ropes, so what would we like to do. Our hesitant answer would always end up being "with" rather than "without" but as soon as we would get into the climb, we'd realize that we didn't need the ropes at all.

Besides rappel #2, my favorite part of the canyon was a climb down into a pool of murky, cold water. I hardly noticed the bugs in it (Tara certainly noticed them). I didn't really even notice how bad the water smelled until I was out of it. I was prepared to be submerged, but it ended up only being chest-deep (btw, we didn't get any pictures in the wetsuits; our camera was safe in an (unneeded) dry bag). The only way to get out of the teacup-shaped hole was to imiatate a whale beaching itself. Now that's fun.

Once we'd navigated this hole, we dried out and ate some of our food. Can you believe that our little family went through four loaves of bread in one week? Then we left our stuff and went for a down-canyon walk. We were hoping to find a place to try out some rock climbing, but that didn't happen. So we went back and got our stuff for the climb out.

We roped in for safety and climbed out. I don't think Tara probably used the ropes at all; I did here and there. She's a bit more sure-footed than I am (or at least more confident while climbing). Anyway, we managed to climb out, and then it was time to head back down the gravel road toward "civilization."

We both agreed that this was a great trip and that we'd love to do canyoneering again.

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