This year’s schedule:
- Wednesday: Hickman Bridge (Capitol Reef National Park), Escalante Petrified Wood State Park
- Thursday: The Box Canyon
- Friday: Peekaboo and Spooky Slot Canyons, Lower Calf Creek Falls
- Saturday: Queen’s Landing and Navajo Loop Trails (Bryce Canyon National Park) then home
There were extra seats in several of the cars so I suggested to Talyn that, for the first time ever, we ride with kids and parents in the car caravan, rather than drive a separate car. As Lance and I drove to OPA Wednesday morning, I said “I think I made a huge mistake. I should not have told Talyn to leave her car at home.”
When Talyn arrived at the school she said “On a last minute whim I decided to drive my car. Do you want to come with me?” Yes, yes, YES!!!!! It was the first of many tender mercies. Time and again, through the entire trip, the wisdom of Talyn’s decision was confirmed. Not only did we totally enjoy each other’s company, we enjoyed the break from the kids, we used the car to run errands (buy medical tape, shop for banana boat components, and explore alternate trail options), and we used it to perform administration duties. In fact, we dubbed her Subaru “The Office”, a moniker I am confident will stick. We vowed we will never consider leaving The Office at home again. Talyn’s decision to bring her car was truly inspired.
This was my first real hiking adventure since the new knees and they performed admirably. Downhill, uphill, no hill...it was all good. ALL GOOD! No pain. Not going up, not going down. I was able to make the steep descent down the Sunset trail at Bryce Canyon without assistance, something that would have been impossible this time last year. I also kept up with the fastest kids on the hikes, something I have not been able to do for years.
Our OPA kids in the group were so, SO good. [“Perfect” is how I described them to the camp host.] I told them the in-tent curfew was 10:00 p.m. They were hanging out, enjoying each other’s company, singing loudly, until 9:58. At 10:00 the camp was quiet. NICE!
Our plan for Thursday was to hike The Box but, given the wet winter and prolonged spring precipitation, we thought we’d better ask the Rangers if The Box, with its 40+ stream crossings, were safe. We were told it was not. In fact, they recently helicoptered 2 women out of that canyon. The Escalante River Trail was our next choice. Rangers said was high but passable, especially if one carried 15 foot of rope. [Rope could be strung across the river so as to give waders a support line to cling to.] Sensing adventure and feeling the danger lie within acceptable levels, we chose to follow the Escalante.
It was a good choice. We never used the ropes and we did have adventures. They said the river might be waist deep in places. There were places it was waist deep but one had to seek them to find them. The greatest danger in wading the river came from the pebbles that continuously lodged in my Chacos. In most places it was ankle to mid-calf deep, milk chocolate brown, and moderately cool.
On the Escalante River we initiated a new practice that, like bringing The Office, will probably become standard operating procedure Forest Service regulations limit group size to 12 people. We had almost three times that number (26 kids, 11 adults) so we split up. We let the kids self-sort into three groups: MBIFs (must be in front), Happy Mediums, and the Leisure Group. Self sorting into three groups was an inspired decision; it let the kids choose their experience and be masters of their fate. Those who wanted to forge ahead could do so without feeling held back. Those who wanted at amble, stop at still pools, smell pretty flowers, and sing their way downstream could do so without feeling rushed.
At the Ranger Station we learned that the road into Peekaboo and Spooky was closed for maintenance. Hikers desiring to traverse those two slot canyons would have to park on Hole in the Rock Road and hoof it to the trailhead, which would 4 miles along a hot, dusty, barren road to our hike. Wanting to mitigate the effect of a southern UT sun on my students I planned a 4;30 a.m. wake up call (song...screech…) hoping to avoid the heat of the day. [The camp was silent at 9:45 that night. “They were freaked out by the idea of 4:30,” Brent explained. “Most of them have never seen that time of day.”]
We were on the road a little after 5:30 a.m. and at the trailhead by 6:45 a.m. To our great surprise the road to the trailhead was not closed so the extra 4 miles trek along a barren, dusty road became a non-issue. And, at that time of the morning, there was only one other car in the parking lot. When we returned the parking lot was full of cars, as was the side of the road for a quarter mile. By coming early we escaped the heat of the day, avoided the crowds, and had time to explore a new site (Devil’s Garden, A++). Win, win, win!
Our hike to Calf Creek Falls was hot. The water was not. When we arrived at Calf Creek Falls there was a significant cold breeze blowing off the waterfall, the entire bowl-shaped area was shaded and the water was a few degrees shy of frigid. I decided, immediately and unequivocally, that I was NOT going to jump in the water. Not. Not. NOT. I had nothing to prove. I was 54. I was comfortable in my own skin and in my warm, dry clothes. I would NOT join the group in the water. No.
Brent Hughes approached. “Who is going to represent the adults in the water?” he asked.
“Not me,” I said firmly. NOT ME. No. No. No.
I don’t even know what Talyn said. I don’t even know. All I know is that she said something that pushed a button inside me that made me get into the water. (Is Talyn related to Dan Parkinson????) I may or may not have sworn as I took off my shoes and headed toward the beach. On my way I invited Cindi to join me, as she had invited me into the water several times previously. The cry went out “Hislop’s going in….” and soon there was a long line of students poised waiting to run and jump into the water with me. “One, two, THREE!” Brent yelled at which point we all took off and plugged into the pool. BRRRRR!
Darling Eddi. She was fully clothed but decided to join us. When she approached the line up, I suggested she removed her glasses. As she ran back to the rocks to deposit her glasses I held the group, wanting her to be a part of it. Apparently she felt pressure to hurry because, instead of setting her glasses down with her towel and backpack, she flung them. I learned what she had done later when I overheard her dad, Steve, say “Where did you put them?” in reference to her glasses. “I threw them this way,” she responded. “You threw them?” he queried. “One does not throw glasses,” he started to say and then caught himself. Excellent dad that he is, rather than lecture, he joined her in the hunt. A hunt that, happily, turned out successful.
One of the greatest aspects of these trips, if not the greatest, is Talyn. She continually amazes me. In this world where self indulgence reigns, she is very values driven. Not only is she very values driven, she constantly examines her life in an effort to improve herself and to make sure that she is true to the values she has chosen. She also so amazing with the kids, somehow finding just the right balance between being friendly and firm, challenging and caring. She hates Lagoon, brings me blueberries, loses keys (I do too!) and is so, SO FUN!!!
Talyn mentioned several times how lucky we are. We were lucky with the weather, lucky to find the Escalante River hike, lucky that the road to Peekaboo/Spooky was open, luck to decide to bring The Office, etc…. She extended her observation to include all of our trips… We are always lucky, lucky to that we have no major injuries, lucky to find alternative options when plans fall through, lucky to have great kids and parents, etc…. And, she observed further, when we encounter unfavorable events or circumstances (such as flash flood warnings in Havasupai), we are lucky in that it always works out. It always works out.
For once I am going to disagree with Talyn. Or, better, I want to clarify. It is not mere luck that makes things always work out for us. It is God. The number of “lucky” incidents we have had, the fact that things do always work out for us, defies the randomness of luck. I firmly believe our luck is really the tender mercies of a gracious God who blesses our effort. We are good people doing good things for and with good people. He recognizes that and He helps us out.
Thank you God! Looking forward to working with You next fall in the Redwoods.