Hole-in-the-rock road – Honeymoon Part III

My hands ached from gripping the steering wheel so hard. Though we were driving 20 mph, I couldn’t spare a second to wring them out. Nor could I turn my head to see how my wife was faring. I feared she might be speaking to me though her voice was muffled by the general hum that emanated from our small rental car. With a pause in the bumping, I quickly turned and caught her wild eyes. Stunningly blue but larger than I have ever seen them before; I could tell she was enjoying this experience. 

We had been traveling for half an hour or so on what seemed like a dry river bed called Hole-in-the-rock-road near Escalante, Utah. Covered in sand, dirt, and irregular sized boulders (at regular intervals) we were slowly inching ourselves along this empty road towards our goal for the day called Peek-a-boo slot canyon and Spooky gulch.

“Half way there!” I exclaimed without turning my gaze from the road.

“Oh god” is what I heard in response. She must have noticed the distance remaining on the GPS; 35 minutes to travel the remaining 15 miles. 

Though our journey today was slow, we were still making great time compared to the Mormon expedition who set this path and explored this area in 1879. When the expedition set out from nearby Escalante, they expected a six week project. It took them six months instead.

The Mormon expedition of 1879 set out in November to explore and develop a “short-cut” through the rock of the canyon giving this road it’s namesake. It would take them several months to widen the crack in the canyon to develop a precariously steep route to their San Juan Settlement along the Colorado River. 

Escalante Map

Source: NPS.gov

 The dirt and dust caked our windshield as we slowed to a stop. Cautiously we stepped out of the car, our legs shaking, it was time to hike. 

Though we weren’t lowering wagons down the precipitous slope of Hole-in-the-rock, the next 8 miles would be challenging but we were well prepared. At this point in our relationship, my wife and I had been hiking and exploring together for 4 years. A conscious team we have learned each other’s strengths, weaknesses, loves, and boiling points (generally an empty stomach). 

As we scrambled and rappelled at times through canyons of orange, I couldn’t help but smile at the journey ahead and its allusion to our hiking identities. 

I am often asked from family members, “Why do you guys hike? Why do you do such dangerous stuff? Aren’t you tired? Why don’t you go lie on the beach?”

We usually grin to each other in response to these questions.

Yes, hiking and exploring takes effort but exercising and pushing our abilities is when we feel most alive. Surrounded by nature and to see things only reserved for those who push past comfort reminds us to never take the easy route in life, for an easy life could never reveal the beauty behind struggle.

Though we are by no means required to exercise effort to survive, a fact that we are very grateful for, seeking out and doing hard things together is some of the few times we share a level of resilience with our ancestors. Modern life can be structured in a way to keep the road smooth and never want for anything. I fear this surface level type of living.

As we climbed out of the canyon, the desert heat was sinking in now, I walked with lighter steps. Though my mind was thinking of the next meal, I was clear. I was not thinking of tasks, work, or money. 

Experience has taught me that my wife was feeling the same and thus I was shocked when I turned to her as we threw our gear into the trunk. Her eyes had widened again, her shoulders slumped. 

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“We have to drive that road again” She sighed.

Sometimes after reaching the peak, the view, the goal; philosophical musings do not outweigh the discomfort of the return journey. 

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