Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Beast of Zion

I am writing these words sitting on the floor of our hotel room because I am afraid that the beast will invade the bed that I usually sit on to type here in Zion. Perhaps I should explain.

Chris and I hiked the Subway today. It's not the most known hike around. It's not in our guidebook and I wouldn't have known about it had Chris not suggested that we do it. In order to go on the hike, a permit is required and there are limited numbers of those. Then, hikers need to drive forty minutes out of Springdale around to the other side of the park and park at the Left Fork Trailhead. All of this we did and one other thing. We stopped at the Zion Adventure Company and rented neoprene socks and boots so that our feet would be warm while we hiked in the stream to the Subway, a destination I'll explain in a moment.

From the parking lot at the trailhead we walked through a juniper forest to the top edge of the canyon. There we had to climb down 400 feet. Remember, that's elevation, not distance. Twenty minutes later we were at the stream and the trail. We headed upriver on a trail that snaked back and forth across the stream, over huge boulders, and through all sorts of other obstacles.

Chris carried his camera gear, a good thirty, forty pounds and a tripod. I carried a small pack with our water, food and a few other necessities. It took us four hours to get all the way to the Subway entrance but it was worth it. I'll try to describe the Subway and you can look online at pictures, but as with so many things, neither words nor pictures can come close to the experience.

Leading up to the subway is an orange falls made of shale that we walked through. It's like someone spun the falls out of glass and designed dance floors at each level. It is perfect. And then the rock walls on either side come together and arch overhead to create an almost closed tunnel. The breeze is cool, the water cooler, and there are tremendous potholes in the water, some only two feet in diameter, and one that was fifteen feet across and at least that deep. Inside of that pothole, submerged in the clear water, was a boulder that was as tall as I am.

Chris took shots of all this and much more. Watching him create art is fascinating to me though I understand very little of the process. I'm learning about it as we go. Not about shutter speed or lenses but about how he looks at the world for shots and then, rather than simply capturing what is there with a click, how he shapes the thing into something, how he creates with his camera. Knowing Chris for as long as I have, I knew that he wasn't just taking snapshots. Watching him work, I see that he is creating things, bringing not just the world as it is, but a piece of art. It's really quite amazing and if you haven't already, go to and buy at least four of his pieces right now, damn it.

We left the Subway at 3:10 and hiked downstream. This time we stayed almost entirely in the stream as we walked and were, once again, the children we were in 1975 playing in a creek. It was giddy and silly and fun to be naive and playful again. But by 5:00 we were tired. We had been hiking for nearly seven hours and were faced with climbing the 400-foot elevation over a tough trail filled with switchbacks and steep, steep climbing. Climb we did. Then the juniper forest felt endless as well. And all of this we were doing in very wet neoprene socks and boots. By the time we hit the car we were way too thirsty and out of water, sore, and desperate to get the damn wet shoes off. And this is when we unleashed the beast.

Turns out that wet neoprene holds odor and the odor was nothing short of beastly. The trunk of our rental car may never recover. I may never recover. The beast is a killer and will find me in my dreams. I'm sure of it. But the Subway will remain in my mind as will the thrill of hiking it with Chris. We've known each other for all but two months of my life (he was born that much after me) and there is no one with whom I would more like to create a beastly odor than him. (That sounds all wrong. Pretend I never wrote it and you never read it.) But enough of this. I must shower and, God willing, banish the beast.

Tomorrow, I will write on.