Such Great Heights

September 1, 2010 by AnnMarie


Mid August I took a 4 day camping trip to the Utah desert and canyon lands near Green River. The canyon area was called the San Rafael Swell in Goblin Valley State Park and it couldn’t have been more remote. No water, electricity, facilities of any kind. Just us, our gear and our SUV that got us there.

After arriving under pitch black cover of night and not truly seeing what I was surrounded by, I awoke to an incredibly stunning view. I was speechless – rare, I know – and cried to myself for an hour.

Day one, way the hell up there!

Day one was a two person hike to simply check out the canyons. Eleven hours later we made it back to camp. Eleven! Insane. Truly. In the first couple of hours I nearly fell to my death when the ground fell away from under my feet. I saw my life flash before my eyes. Luckily, one of my bizarrely strong boxing fingertips caught a crack in an otherwise smooth boulder and held fast. You’d think I’d be more careful after that, and I was by watching better where I stepped, but the adrenalin rush pushed me to want to do more and climb higher and trickier passes.

Every now and then, I’d reach a challenge I KNEW I couldn’t overcome. “Nope, no way I can climb that high without ropes” or “I couldn’t possibly leap across that wide of a gap and not fall hundreds of feet to the ground”. Sometimes I’d psych myself out. Sometimes I just needed a moment to allow my brain to build up courage. But psyched out or not, I didn’t have a choice. I had to do it. There’s no going backwards in canyoneering. You have to trudge onward. So I bucked up and overcame whatever physical or mental obstacles were in my way. Afterward, I’d look back and think “well fuck, if I can do that, I can do anything!”

Battered, bruised, sore, hungry, parched and on our last sip of water, we made it back safely to our campsite. Feeling so elated at the accomplishment, it was not at all out of the question to hike another hour round trip down the gorge to the creek (and then back up) for a nice soak in the cold water. My feet were cut up and cracked. My legs were spent. I knew there was no way I could do a repeat of that hike on day two. No way.

Day two arrives and two more friends have joined us to make it a party of four. Aha! This helps increase my survival odds should we be lost forever out there and have to resort to cannibalism. But seriously, I was renewed in the morning, after a handful of ibuprofin and jolt of fresh, naive energy from the two new hikers, with their fancy bruise-free legs and non-stiff muscles. Another hike? Sure, let’s do it. Where we going? Didn’t matter, I just went.

Good thing I didn’t know, because my brain would have not allowed me to take on a 5200 foot ascent to the top of a butte, then traverse down through a never-ending slot canyon, with it’s sometimes fun, sometimes treacherous potholes and ending hours and hours later crab-crawling up a slick, smooth incline at an impassable angle, hoping my wet feet would stop slipping around in my climbing sandals and that when I turned around I wouldn’t tip over with the weight of my backpack and fall ass over tea kettle down the rock face.

Atop our 5200 foot butte.

It is true, ignorance is bliss. There were so many times on the second day that I thought we were crazy to be out there. Not another single soul was anywhere near us. No civilization closer than a 2 hour drive. One person was getting hypothermia from jumping in and out of the cold water in the potholes, which were mostly shaded from the sun. And let us not forget two of us four had no previous climbing or canyon hiking experience. Like day one, every time I felt I couldn’t overcome an obstacle, I did, merely for lack of any alternative. Forward, always.

So my long, drawn out moral of this story, as it applies to us boxing bunnies, is to approach those insurmountable obstacles in your fitness routine and push through as if you had no other choice, because if you’re committed to getting or staying in shape, you truly don’t have a choice.

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