We like to hike in the winter. Everything is less crowded and the air is crisp and clean. We locate our yak tracks, thermals, under armor, and thick wool socks and travel by car to another beautiful national park (There are over 380). This time it’s Zion in Utah. Only a six-hour drive from home, we arrived early enough to check in to our empty hotel that is busy working on renovations in the off-season. After a quick look around the town it became clear that most of the shops and restaurants were closed for the season. “No worries”, our innkeeper assured us and handed us a paper listing three local restaurants open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Back at the room we opened our bible for the trip, our trusty small planet guide to Zion, and carefully planned our hikes for the two days we would be in the area.
The Virgin River has done quite a job creating the canyon. The colors are vibrant and the majestic views are reminiscent of Sedona but not quite as breathtaking at the Grand Canyon. Still, we know we are in for a treat and decide, since we have an extra hour of daylight, to tackle what our book describes as “a difficult three to four hour hike.”
Any time you travel a new path there is a certain excitement. We dressed in layers and began our trek to Angel’s Landing across the street from Zion Lodge. The Riverwalk took us to a footbridge that gently guided us up the first 500 feet of elevation. Once we entered Refrigerator Canyon and ascended on Walter’s Wiggles (a series of 17 switchbacks), the ice and snow slowed our pace. We were grateful that we had thought to take our poles as a slip of a few feet could have resulted in total disaster. Arriving at Scout’s Lookout (or better known by locals as “Chicken out point”) we paused to take in the view and recharge with a piece of fruit and a few sips of Gatorade.
There was only a half-mile left to what promised to be both the most challenging climb and spectacular vista within the park. For experienced hikers (like us) a half-mile steep climb would be a breeze. We were excited to see what it felt like to “walk on the sky.” With drops of 800 feet on one side and 1200 on the other, if my partner in life wasn’t scared, well I guess I wasn’t either…well not yet anyway.
We looked at each other then looked at the climb before us. There was snow and ice but there was also a chain to hold on to bolted into the rock. “Well, we have come this far,” he said. With that he took the lead and started climbing. We were both too busy planting our feet in the icy snow and grabbing the next piece of chain to look down. My foot slid as I tugged on the metal links. I was focused on going up and following his footsteps but was discouraged that I couldn’t yet see the top.
“There’s a space of about 5 feet with no chain”, he yelled without looking back. We would have to plant a foot firmly in the slippery snow and reach for the next post unassisted. That was when I looked down. I saw many things. The grandchildren I would never meet, the book I never finished and the headlines in the local paper to name a few. We were so close but the thought of getting back down was more frightening than continuing on. With each step it became increasingly obvious that after 25 years of solid problem solving we had together, made a very bad decision. He turned his head to look at me. He paused for a moment and said, “Do you think you would get married again?”
“Are you nuts”, I responded. “What kind of thing is that to ask at this particular moment?” Then, as I stood frozen with fear, I asked him the same question. Without any further dialogue we decided that the Angel (of death) would have two less visitors on this day. Inch by inch, in concentrated silence, we held on to whatever we could and using our rear ends for leverage, we slowly made our way back. Solid ground never felt so good.
Later that night I told him “No.”
“No what?” he responded.
“You know, you asked if I would get married again.”
“Oh yea, It seemed like an appropriate question at the time.” He added.
“Well”, I poked him. “What about you?”
He just smiled and then started plotting out next year’s winter adventure in Yellowstone.