Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rocks and Christians

Back to the big, bad old Bryce Canyon, and the willingness to actually hike down all the way, and then hike back out, hopefully without the need for a helicopter airlift. Down, down, down the Queen's Garden trail, so named for the figure of Queen Victoria formed by a zillion years of slow erosion way up on one of the various parapets of sandstone, down in the depths of the canyon.

Happy Trails
You walk around and occasionally though these massive formations that look both very solid and impossibly balanced, huge chunks of rocks and whole trees with their roots waving pitifully upwards, testifying to the results of the constant, yearly freeze/crack style of erosion these walls go through. One of the trails had fallen off the wall, and the forestry guys were there rebuilding a chunk of trail. Most of the trails have been cut out of existing erosion paths, or are simply an angle carved out of the side of a really big rock, but then they have to buttress them up with concrete and rebar, and I just want to tell them how lucky I think they are, for having such great job security. This place is always falling apart, otherwise no one would come here. So, always fixing, always conditioning, clearing debris, tree bits, building up trail sections that are just as vulnerable to the vagaries of good old-fashioned erosion as all the non-man-made rocks in the park.

The hike down the Queen's Garden trail is a bit precipitous and could use a few more switchbacks, though I'm not sure where they'd put them. You drop down the 320 foot elevation change in the first half mile or so, and I'd say the first hundred feet of that is over in less than a tenth of a mile. In other words - steeeeeep.

Funny, funny shoes
We were stopped repeatedly by folks coming up the other way to ask RG about her shoes. She was wearing her pink FiveFingers hikers, and no one could imagine them being comfortable. I was wearing a pair of hiking shoes I'd bought in case I didn't like my own red FiveFingers, and I was so sorry I hadn't worn my Funnyshoes. I ended up with blisters and RG really only suffered from a sort of general fatigue (from, you know, hiking).

Big damn rocks
So we got to the bottom of the trail, into a kind of cul de sac where the formation that looks like Queen Victoria with her bustle appears high above you (and once someone points it out, it's hard to see anything else). The queen is on the left in this picture.

So we're down here, enjoying the amazing formations, when a fellow walks up with his three sons, and says, "doesn't look like Queen Victoria to me. I think it's a wise man bringing gifts to Jesus."

Not amused
Well, isn't that nice.

The hike out was, at first, no big deal, lots of gentle ups and downs. As we got closer to the base of the main incline, RG and I were both stopping at every switchback to catch our breath, swig a little water. As we went up the final ascent, it wasn't until afterwards that we both admitted to feeling not a little lightheaded, and possibly suffering from tunnel vision at one point. My heart felt like a jackhammer and my lungs were wheezing (to quote Salieri) "like an old rusty squeezebox."

I can't wait to go back and do it again.

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