Sunday, April 23, 2006

My Recent Powerlunch With Death

So here I am this afternoon, doing my Thelma & Louise thing in a canyon near Moab, Utah. I'm on my way to see the Corona Arch, one of the many wonders of the area. That's the Colorado River in the background.

I look kind of relaxed, don't I? This is because I don't know what is about to happen next.

The hike to the arch, according to the guide books, is 'moderately easy' and 'ideal for kids', and takes about an hour and a half.

Doddle, right?

Ninety minutes after this photo, with no arches in sight, I started to wonder what kind of kids would find this hike 'ideal' - as I shimmied up cliffsides and scrambled through broiling crevices. As for 'moderately easy'? - jesus, I must be unfit!

Two hours after the photo I noticed that my water was running out. It was 90F in the shade. The sun was unrelenting. My head started to swim. I decided, in my dizzy state, that I must have gone down the wrong canyon. This was proved when I came to a sheer rock wall.

I doubled back - or at least I tried to. I got lost again. I nearly fell off a cliff. My head was swimming, my water was used up - I noticed I was staggering. At this point I saw - no joke - vultures circling overhead. Or maybe they were buzzards.

Whatever. I was a bit scared by now, and starting to think I might have to sleep here. But I had no water. Big Jim Cougar would be after my ass. Nasty.

I tried one more side canyon, thinking it should lead back to the Colorado. At this point, I was stumbling along, dehydrated, half delirious almost, and I was about to step off a rock when I saw this, just inches under my descending boot. I was about to tread on a rattlesnake.

Fuck this for a game of soldiers. I took a photo, backed off, then scrambled down and out and through the junipers as fast I could. I leapt off rocks and sprinted down gulches. Suddenly I knew, somehow, exactly where I was going. Ten minutes later I emerged onto the riverside road where the mountain bikers were sitting in the shade, sipping Wasatch lager.

Like nothing had happened.

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