Sunday, July 30, 2006

"I Didn't Know There Was Toilet Paper in the Bag!"

I arrived home yesterday, broken and disheveled, from a three-night camping trip. I had a lot of fun and some very interesting experiences. As I relate them, keep in mind that I have replaced my acquaintances' names with pseudonyms, to protect our privacy.

Packing for the trip, I had to waterproof everything because we would be wading through water at times. I waterproofed obsessively, putting everything in "Ziplock" bags, and then double- and triple-bagging everything. My stuff could have survived low-grade ammunition at close-range. Anyway, I was prepared.

Wednesday morning, I went into a panic making sure I had everything and picking up a few last-minute items. We drove to Brother Perry's house before six: right on time. Others arrived, and we set off.

After an interesting drive, we arrived in St. George, Utah. There we witnessed a strange phenomenon: an unusually high percentage of the women around my age were extremely attractive. We concluded, during lunch, that it is a result of all that nuclear dumping. Perhaps there's something to be said for it (I'm kidding. Please don't attack me.).

We arrived at our campsite after a stretch of hick-town. Along the way, we were stopped by a construction worker for about five minutes to make way for a large truck. The worker was obviously of Native American descent and Corey, always quick to cause controversy, asked, suddenly, "Are you Indian?" I'd like to take a moment to note that Corey is about seventeen years old. The man didn't seem too offended, but he did make it clear that he "didn't run around with a feather in [his] hair." [Sigh]

Anyway, we played a few games of football at our campsite, then went to bed. Now, I say "went to bed," and most of you may assume that we slept on the ground in tents. True, some were sleeping on the ground, but there were no tents. Myself and Jim, who are Eagle Scouts and therefore always prepared, requested the pleasure of sleeping in the cab of Brother Perry's pickup. It was at about two in the morning, I believe, that we realized that the seats in the pickup did not recline sufficiently to facilitate comfortable sleep. Needless to say, then, we were tired to an extraordinary degree the next morning. (It drizzled that night, so maybe being in the truck was a good thing.)

So it was that I, sleepy and not a bit happy, began the "12 mile" trek. After the trek, we found out that we had been told wrong. The trek was 16 miles! The Department of the Interior needs to be notified that one of it's park rangers is a sadistic lunatic.

The first three miles, we were generally on dry ground, with a few river crossings. This was good, because the cold water kept our body temperature low. Then we entered the actual canyon. The walls were sheer, and the river generally took up about half the width. Because of the way water erodes rock, the trail traveled on the opposite side of the river's path. In other words, if the river turned, we had to cross it. And boy did it turn! We spent probably half of the next six miles trudging through water, praying that we wouldn't slip and fall into it. We all would eventually. In fact, I did so rather comedically. There was a log in our path, partially submerged. I put one foot over it and, as it was pretty big, rocked forward waiting for my foot to land on the rocks under the water. It never did, so I rocked, confidently, face-first into the water. It was refreshing, though.

I should mention that I was wearing skate shoes. I have done several hikes successfully in such shoes, and have never had a problem. These hikes have always been on relatively flat and steady terrain. Zion Narrows is made up of river rocks, generally jagged, and all of them oddly shaped. After about four miles, I felt that I might as well have been barefoot. I was intimately aware of every detail of the rocks I was stepping on, and all of them were painful. Luckily I (my father) had the foresight to pack hiking boots, which I wore the next day.

That night we camped in someone else's campsite, which was all right, because they never showed (perhaps they died). We would receive a reprimand from the park ranger the next day (we dubbed him "Ranger Roy," or something like that). The food all tasted like Top Ramen, including the brownies, and we all slept on the floor.

The next day was much easier, what with my boots, although the ankles were a bit stiffer so I lost my balance a few more times. There were points during the day when we were full-on swimming with our hiking packs on. At one point, we slid down a rock slide (as in: a slide made of rock), which was the most singularly adventurous thing we did on the trip. It was fun.

We stopped at a spring. The spring itself was covered in poison ivy, but most of it was out of reach. We did have some fun with Corey, though. I wonder if the story is appropriate for print. Yes! It is!

Here it is. At the beginning of the trip, we were issued a "Silver Bag." The Silver Bag was, essentially, a disposable toilet. It was part of the Pack It Out program enforced by the rangers. Anyway, the bag had some sort of substance in it that would transform your poo into a biodegradable, odorless gel, which you would throw away when you got out. It came with toilet paper and comical instructions.

Corey apparently didn't realize that there was toilet paper. We saw him at the spring, scrubbing his behind with moss. He said "I didn't know there was toilet paper in the bag!" which we all found riotously hilarious. However, we were also able to convince him, for a short time, that he was scrubbing his bum with the roots of poison ivy. Ah! What a tasteful reaction. I'll let you envision that one.

Matthew had prearranged to meet with his parents at Carl's Jr. in St. George. Myself and John accompanied him and Brother Perry ahead of the rest, who remained behind with the bishop, who had twisted his ankle and was walking pretty slowly. We eventually finished our hike. It had taken a total of about sixteen hours of hiking time. It was very exhausting, and I felt a great sense of accomplishment.

We finished the hike about an hour-and-a-half before the rest and took Matt to Carl's. There we were secretly treated to some very nice hamburgers by Matt's parents. On our way back, however, a short-lived, but very powerful, monsoon swept through the area. It was amazing, accompanied by lightning and powerful winds, but it only lasted about an hour. When we arrived back at the campsite it had subsided. But where was the rest of the troop? The site looked deserted except for Brother Ross's van. You guessed it! Boy Scout Venture Team 53, half of which were Eagle Scouts, complete with their leaders, some of whom had been in Scouting for years and years, were huddling in the van. The bishop finally declared it: They had no intention of camping that night. We went to a Travelodge in Hurricane (pronounced HUR-i-cin; don't ask why).

I thought we were camping! I was prepared to sleep outside in the pouring rain if I had to! Imagine my surprise when we left the campsite for a motel with beds and a continental breakfast. Not that I'm complaining.

As a postscript, I will mention that I endured bitter hardships in the motel. One of the people sleeping in my room, I won't say who (whom?), had a snoring problem. Nay: "disorder." In fact, I think that his particular form of snoring could be given a name that would have a sense of fear attached to it, like "smallpox." Nose strips were no good for him. He needed a full team of doctors from Harvard Medical in full medical regalia with multi-billion-dollar equipment monitoring him while he slept. They would need earmuffs, lest they suffer permanent hearing damage. They would stand, listening in awe behind a glass shield and layers of sound-proofing, as this man emitted sounds so loud they could bring down military aircraft. One of the doctors would cry "Get the President on the phone!" It was that bad. In fact, he had the habit of changing snoring "styles." At other times, he would seem to wake up, thrashing around and moaning, but, it was too good to be true. He kept on sleeping.


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