clock May 11, 2010
author Chris Sopa

“Normal” people go to the beach on vacation!

Today I decided to spend my day in the Island in the Sky part of Canyonlands National Park hiking.  I started my morning with a sunrise hike at the Mesa Arch.  It was chilly and cloudy (thank God it never rained!) but beautiful none-the-less.  The clouds took away the view of some of the sunrise a bit but just to sit there on top of the mountain looking down at the canyon, drinking my OJ was spectacular!

So you can appreciate where I took the next picture from…:)

In Mesa Arch at sunrise

I drove to the Visitor Center next to ask the Ranger some questions about my back country hike.  I was torn between 2 trails and finally decided on Syncline Loop Trail.  You know, we all have those times in life where we look back and go, “WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING!!!”

Now those of you who know me know I am a hiker.  I mean, I’ve hiked the Inca Trail in the Andes for God’s sake!!  This trail (pardon my French) KICKED MY ASS!  I seriously almost died 3 times!  Lol!  I left a suggestion with the Ranger who recommended I hike this Loop because I was an “experienced hiker”  to rename the trail, Syncline CLIMB!  Wow is all I have to say!!

At the bottom of one of my trails after coming DOWN!

Another “trail”

To start off, most of the terrain I was hiking on was sandy and loose rock and for those of you who hike you know that is the kiss of death.  I twisted both ankles at least 3 times each!  There were many, many sections that went straight down and straight up…all along the side of a CANYON!  There were several times I seriously tried to manifest a rope and climbing carabiner out of thin air and prayed that I just ascend and get the whole thing over with!!  There were a couple of times I was on the side of the canyon and literally had no footing at all!  On top of that, the way you make sure you are on the trail is to watch for the “rock carins.”  These are small piles of rock used to mark the trail.  The problem is, THE WHOLE DAMN TRAIL IS ROCK!  You are literally looking for a pile of rocks, among other piles of rocks, but looking for the one that looks like it was PURPOSEFULLY made into a pile.  After this hike, I have vowed to kick over the next pile of rocks I see!!!  Lol!

A rock carin

A rock carin they apparently did NOT want us to miss!

Several different phrases passed my lips as I hiked this trail alone:

“Holy shit!”
“You’ve got to be f*#@ing kidding me!”
“I’m definitely gonna die!”
“Normal people go to the beach for their vacation!”

I was about ½ way through the hike and had just literally scaled down a WALL of rock and when I got to the bottom I hear, “Hi there” and just about shit my pants!  The poor young guy that said hi almost got a round kick to his jaw I was so scared!  When you are out in nature alone like that and you “all of a sudden” hear another voice it scares you to death!  Anyway, we had a nice conversation and left each other to our own deaths on the trail.

After hiking another few feet, I realized how exhausted I was and seriously thought I was hallucinating when I saw a rock that looked like a bed.  I didn’t care at that point so I laid down, put my back pack under my knees, my water bladder under my head for a pillow and fell asleep in the sun on my “bed.”

My “bed” – now all I need is my “man blanket!” (You had to have read my South Africa blog to get that one!)

Upon waking up to the biggest fly in the world buzzing around my head, I continued my hike.  I then passed a few more people who proceeded to tell me I had another 3.7 miles to go.  It was then they saw a grown woman cry!

I finished the hike in about 6 ½ hours total (including my nap) and when I got to the end I kissed my car when I saw it.  I never thought that hike would end!

Overall, the hike was beautiful!  The weather was perfect ,being a little windy and in the 60’s and I did make some interesting parallels to my hike and my life as I was hallucinating along my trail:

  • When you are tired and worn out, it is harder to find the clues (“rock carins”) you left yourself along the way before you came here to mark your true path.
  • Your path also seems less clear and cloudy, even if you are on the right path, when you are tired and cannot focus.
  • No matter how far you have to go, never give up!  Do what you need to do to go on – go slower, take your time, take deep breaths, take breaks, ask for help.
  • A hiking trail is like life:  sometimes the road is rocky, steep, scary and you have unstable footing.  Other times it is smooth, flat, green and easy.  However the path shows itself, remember, it is your path and everything happens for a reason.
  • Sometimes you cannot see your path until you actually step on it.  Sometimes you don’t see your path until you walk around a corner.  Sometimes you take the wrong path, look back, realize you are on the wrong path, and go back and get on the right path.
  • Sometimes you don’t see your “clues” for a long time on your path.  It is in these times you have to have faith you are going in the right direction.

In closing, during my hike I felt like I had Mother Earth all to myself to explore and discover.  It was quiet, peaceful and impossible to capture the beauty of what I saw with a camera.  I got back to my hotel room, crawled in the door and took a small nap.  I then jumped in the hot tub, drank three beers and went to bed.

Looking forward to another hike tomorrow….Sopa out!