Saturday, May 29, 2021

That which does not kill you almost kills you

You know that thing I wrote the other day about getting outside your comfort zone? Unlike me, you shouldn’t take that to mean you should also get outside your physical abilities zone. Like I did. Twice, not having learned the first time.

Yesterday I set out for Fish Mouth Cave on the eastern side of Comb Ridge. Everything was hunky-dory until I reached a big slab of steep slick rock just before the cave. I imagine it was about a 40-degree incline and about, mmmm, five stories high. With nothing to hold onto. And in full afternoon sun. By the time I realized it would be easier (but farther) to zig-zag back and forth, creating my own switchbacks, I had wiped myself out. Lactic acid was soaking my leg muscles. I had to sit before they buckled and I went tumbling.

Once I had stopped climbing my aerobic system was able to get through to my consciousness and complain it wasn’t all too happy either.

I sat and wondered how long it would take to recover enough to get down off the rock and back to the Rolling Steel Tent.

Obviously, I lived to tell about it.

The view from half way down

Then this morning, forgetting yesterday’s lesson, I stood at the rim of the Sipapu Natural Bridge Trail, in Natural Bridges National Monument. The sign said it’s 500 feet to the bottom of the canyon in less than a mile and, more significantly, 500 feet back up. Looking at a couple of ant people way down there, I thought to myself, “Well, other people do it. So can I. Because, hey, there are some stairs and ladders and stuff.”

So down I went. Easy-peasy. Feeling great. Look at that natural bridge, will ya. Astounding. I continued on to Horse Collar Ruins.

At the ruins I found the footpath up the side of the canyon. No huffing and puffing. I explored the ruins, meditated a bit, then headed back. Everything was fine.

Then I got back to the short ladder at the base of Sipapu. Oof! Then there was a mild uphill climb, with handrails, to the next bench. Double oof! Crap, if I’m having trouble at the beginning of the climb, then what?

That top ridge is only part way up

I sat and rested, looking at the next ladder and the handrail-assisted climb up some slick rock. I watched some other old farts make the climb. Well, if they can do it…

Holy crap. I stood holding the upper end of that railing, legs screaming, heart pounding. This was going to take a while. Climb, rest, climb a little more, rest a lot more… 

“I can make it to that next sitting-sized boulder,” I told myself. “Then the next one.” I try to look like I’m just pausing to enjoy the view, not like I’m about to die.

I’m fine. Really. You go on, kids.

A twenty-something couple scampered up. “Do you need anything,” they asked. “To be about 40 years younger,” I replied. I got up and headed for my next short-distance goal. (Like they say, how do you eat a whale? One bite at a time.)

Never had I ever been so glad to see the Rolling Steel Tent waiting for me. And never (well, since yesterday) had I been so glad to flop down on the World’s Most Comfortable Bed.

So, here I am, reevaluating my plans. Cedar Mesa is filled with ruins I’d love to see in person, but getting to them requires hikes like today’s. Or worse. How insane am I? About this hiking stuff.


  1. It's been about ten years ago that we camped there and made that hike, although we didn't go to the ruins. It didn't seem so bad then, but again that was ten years ago. It is beautiful. Thanks for the pics that sparked my memories.

  2. I am glad you survived well. Please take this event seriously.
    From my comment on May 22.

    From my experiences as an older OFM hiking the west. Be careful your new found bravery does not override your actual physical abilities. It can be deadly. My enlightenment happened in the Guadalupes.

  3. ...wisdom and discernment...I pray for it daily....

  4. Don't forget we are not as young as we were yesterday....That only works if our short term memory is functioning...
    What did I just write?...(;+).....

  5. Was it fun as that is all that matters at our age (69). We lived safely taking care of others; time for some adventure. Bum leg for me but I do as much as I can while I can. Great writing by the way.