The season for adventure is ripe in Zion right now. The weather is ideal, crowds have thinned out, and permits are readily available. A huge rainstorm just came through the area, which has cooled things down, and filled the canyons with fresh water. This is the season for frolicking, splashing, and exploring.This month I have had the opportunity to descend Cave Creek, Imlay (via the sneak route), the Subway/Das Boot link up, Echo Canyon, and the daily canyon guiding outside the park. These routes represent the full spectrum of technical canyoneering in Zion. Each descent is unique, beautiful, and remote. I find release in this terrain because it lends itself to creative problem solving and having fun. Descending the Subway with a wetsuit, for example, allows ample opportunities for slipping and sliding, swimming, playing in waterfalls, and enjoying an enchanting natural playground. This is the ultimate form of recreation. Canyons are a medium for play, and while there is a certain risk associated with canyoneering, the exercise of exploring, of flirting with danger, and the unknown satisfies a primal desire.
My conversation with guided clients often touches upon the need for recreation. It seems that the average American is overstressed and has lost touch with a sense of wonder, folly, and spontaneity. A life without recreation is simply unhealthy and unfulfilling. Canyoneering is a great way of satisfying the need for play and uncovering experiences in Zion that require people to be fully present and let go of control (or the illusion of control).
Letting go is always hard, and some need a more intense throttling to shake them out of a routine. Sometimes, people need to get scared, and to exhaust themselves physically and mentally. Rock climbing is the perfect medium for this, because it forces people to let go in more ways than one. It is always challenging and reminds us of the very real stress related to survival. Situations where we must move beyond fear reveal a great deal about ourselves. The effect of feeling that your life is threatened is quite sobering. In a situation like this, the stress of everyday life falls away, and we gain great perspective. I had a great sobering moment a couple weeks ago when I took a fall while climbing high up on the Desert Shield. Dangling on the end of a rope 700 feet above the canyon floor, I decided to keep going. I thought about what I was going to do with my fear, and how it could be a positive stress. Making the most of each movement, I worked to be a better climber, acting more decisively and maneuvering past the forces I cannot control. The lesson in that moment carries over into everyday life. The philosophy of playing and recreating is that in play we isolate many truths and re-define and re-create our perception of the world.
Zion is an amazing place and the ideal avenue by which we find and re-create ourselves. It has inspired people for centuries, and will probably always offer new opportunity for adventure. If you are looking for a life changing event or simply to get your jollies, you need not look far, but for a truly unique and ideal setting Zion is in good form for shaking you up.