If you asked me a year ago how I would want to spend my days off, “rappelling down canyon walls” probably wouldn’t have been my first response. Being 45 years old and xxx pounds, rappelling into dark, wet canyons wasn’t the first thing in my mind. Yes, I was adventurous. And yes, I loved to find activities that blended body, mind, and spirit. And yes, I was always looking to explore new things. But going into places that require me to trust ropes and anchors with my life, where there is no option to turn around and go back, where I must work my way through canyon walls without being able to put my feet on the ground… no, that was not the way I hoped to spend my free time.
Now at 20-something and 120 pounds, when I could make my body do just about anything, this type of adventure would have been just what I was looking for. But at 45…? Let me give you this warning: once you have tried canyoneering, you will keep looking for the next slot-shaped fix. In March of this year, when I was informed that I would be doing a 60-foot rappel down a canyon wall, I found myself shaking thoroughly inside. Since that first canyon descent, I have descended four canyons, including recently leading a friend through the technical part of “The Subway”, one of Zion’s premiere canyoneering adventures.
Most people see Zion only from the common trails along the Scenic Drive in the park. However, I think we find some of the greatest beauty inside Zion – inside the canyons which lead us deeply and narrowly into thick, carved sandstone, revealing spectacular realms. Having started to explore Zion’s many canyons, I see so much more to this Park’s beauty than I could have possibly imagined, perspectives I have only seen before in pictures. Not only do I get to explore Zion’s wondrous inner depths, but the cool waters and indirect light of the canyons are a perfect way to beat the summer heat.
For those of you who consider yourselves too old to create these experiences, please think again. Canyon exploration not only reinvigorates your youth, but also re-awakens your senses, helps you discover skills you didn’t know you had, and shows you a beauty far beyond any standard trail. Zion holds many basic technical canyons easily descended after taking a canyoneering course or after only a couple of trips with a guide. Tom’s Canyoneering Guide and the Zion National Park website have many great explanations to help you.
As with many things in life, the real beauty lies within. Until we look beyond the surface, we can’t begin to experience the many wonders before us.