So, what was the scariest moment of canyoneering for this acrophobe?The drive to our canyoneering spot,Yankee Doodle Dandy, in the Dixie National Forest.
Our guide casually palms the wheel while drinking coffee as he drives our van up a gravel road that’s nothing but a series of hairpin curves up a mountain.. The back of the van fishtails gently; he keeps talking about the crazy real estate boom and bust in nearby St. George. Carrie, my surfer-queen buddy who is also a member of the women’s soccer team that has won seven national championships in the over 40-division and is no ‘fraidy cat, looks over at me; she feels the same way. My husband, who is in the front seat and has an even better view of the rooad, leans back and chuckles. “Jack grew up on this road,” he says. Jack is at least 40, so that’s a good sign.
And, when we reach our trail head and watch him meticulously unwind his rope and hear his mild criticisms of the hurry-up techniques of a nearby guides with clients (“Lazy” he says when one guy decides to belay kids down rather than rappel. We rappel down one-by-one; they come down so close to us that they practically land on top of us. One little girl cries because a big hunk of her hair got caught in the rope; above us, her mother querorously inquires, “Is everything all right?” ) It is clear to me that Jack is the guy to have for your guide.
We do two, rappels, one with a little free flight involved; one much longer one. I am not a fan of rappeling at all; I like earth solidly beneath my feet but once I manage to swing out, it’s fine! Jack brings my 10-year-old down with him both times, coaching her with admirable patience.
Then it’s winding our way through narrow slot canyons, a lot of them filled with muddy water, all accessed by sliding down rocks or practicing scissoring, stemming and bridging through the narrow canyon walls. (See video below!)
We get to the bottom and then climb out, walking up a wall that’s probably a little more than a 70-degree pitch. Jack tells us to keep our heels on the ground and it works great! I walk right up that slanty wall as though there were glue on my boots.
Our ten-year-old heads up that 70-degree wall wall like a little mountain goat! Jack points out shallow holes that we can use at toe-holds. They’re so weathered he says locals believe that native Americans carved them out centuries ago. Pretty cool!
As we head out, Jack and I share our relief that we left the other group behind us. Jack says if we’d stayed much longer, he would’ve had to take the responsibility of helping them.
On the ride back, we figure at least Jack won’t be drinking coffee. Wrong!! He’s still driving with one hand, drinking coffee with the other and pulling off to stop and make sure we can appreciate the panorama spreading before us. Once we’re below stunning vistas, my husband, in the front seat, naps.
I definitely recommend Jack as a guide.
Back at the mountaineering shop, we hose off, trade in their now muddy shoes for our own, watch Jack help a truck driver who has pulled over in front of the mountaineering shop straighten out the metal footstep that has been bent and is cutting into the side of one of the truck’s 18 wheels. The truck driver and another guy have been battering the metal piece with sledgehammers in vain; Jack pulls out a ladder from somewhere to use as a lever and manage to straighten the mangled metal enough to get it out of the tire. Jack is clearly a solutions guy. We head off for lunch and the pool at our hotel, the Desert Pearl Inn. We spend the afternoon poolside.
After dinner, we realize that I have inadvertently made off with climbing helmets, so after dinner we run by the mountaineering shop to drop them off. Jack is seated outside, with his dog, a black lab with really short legs. His name is Cassius Clay.
We had arrived a day earlier, giving us two afternoons in Springdale, staying at our fave hotel in Springdale, the Desert Pearl Inn, which has a great pool, fab location on the Virgin River, rooms that overlook the lawn and river,, we have a little patio, and laundry facilities. I could live here forever!
Our ten-year-old generously sharese the inner tubes we got at the Mandalay Bay with everyone in the pool (one woman compliments me profusely on her thoughtfullness and generosity). She has a great time with two little French girls, who speak no English. Pool fun transcends language.
Sunday a.m.. we head out early, a two-car caravan on our way to Page and Lake Powell. As we head up another road with hairpin turns, I tell Carrie to drink her coffee and palm the wheel, a la Jack.