Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Reasoning Behind My Recent Desert Retreat

There are a lot of reasons I decided to take a break from the ever-present technological and chaotic society we find ourselves in and retreat to the deserts of southern Utah this past Friday. The most obvious and fresh wound being the results of the election... I don't even want to get into it just yet. But I was also looking to just get away from it all for a bit and take a break from the pressures of living in this day and age.
My dog was my only companion and often the only living thing I would interact with throughout the course of the day. It's just simple when the only big decisions I need to make are what San Rafael Swell canyon I'm going to be hiking that day, and what time I want to get back to camp for dinner. This is one of the reasons I enjoy my job in the summer so much, when we're out in the middle of no where and I only have to worry about what's directly ahead. I'm not concerned with what's happening back home or around the country, just the space I am occupying. At it's deepest level, his trip was necessary in simplifying my daily life to a more relaxed state.

Even after hiking in several miles, Furiosa is obviously ready for more

For 6 whole days, it didn't matter if I checked my phone, for basically any reason. It was a trip into a simpler time, that I fantasize of often. I didn't need to be informed in the greater complexes of our country and local area, or need to be so involved in society as a whole. I just have to worry about eating, sleeping and my personal safety while exploring that geological wonderland and all the things hiding in it's innumerable canyons. The same basic concerns are extended toward my dog, these being the only things needed to keep her interested and loving as we take on any adventure. My only information source was the guidebook that was helping me make heads or tails of this complicated recreation area, and it provided all the information I needed on any given day. Despite a few wrong turns, it was also very helpful in navigating an area than can easily get rough in just a regular-clearance, two-wheel drive car.
A rock face Furiosa and I descended, right down the middle of this picture

Another part of me that was refreshed by this little journey was the side of me that likes to be alone and prefers the solitude to reconfigure and process the complexity of my life. While out in the desert it contained a very special moment, I could not just think but see and know that I'm alone for at least a couple miles in every direction. The thought of this is both liberating and a terrifying to a lone hiker in the desert's winter. Being able to know how alone and secluded I was, and being the realist that I am I had concerns about this trip. Given the potentially dangerous nature of hiking not just alone, but in the terrain of narrow slot canyons or uneven river rocks I realized I could possibly be injured. As many of my friends and family (had before and have since my return) brought up, my safety was concerning to them upon hearing the news of this trip. Here's the thing about that, I have a fair amount of familiarity with traversing long distances over uneven or difficult terrain becuase that is a major part of my job. I also possess a fair amount of skills and knowledge in emergency medicine and carry applicable medical supplies that I'm convinced could save my life in a pinch. So yes this trip was risky, but in a way I felt like I could manage if things went bad. But given my lack of canyoneering skills or experience I still felt what I consider a reasonable amount of risk or danger, this is also similar to my job in a way I like.
After a long day of hiking, I force Furiosa to sit and watch the sunset while we snack

Accompanying me and helping pass the time of my desert retreat were the albums of Pink Floyd, mostly The Dark Side of the Moon. Part of my secret shame as a fan of classical rock and it's illustrious history is that I had never listened to that album before. But now that has been corrected as of the 5th of this month when I attended a Pink Floyd laser show at the Planetarium and I have been listening ever since. I can tell you this, there is something very soothing and relaxing about cruising down rural, desert highways to the full instrumental flow of that album. The album played a large role in the trip, especially when you consider that I constantly have music playing when I'm doing these relaxing outdoor activities. So when I'm cooking breakfast in the morning, splitting firewood in the evening, or traversing the San Rafael Swell I have some music playing, at least at a low volume. Pink Floyd did very well accompanying some of the most spectacular views Utah has to offer, both hiking and driving. 

Yes, one of the other reasons I wanted to get away was to run from the reality of the election results this year... Things were pretty emotional on election night at my house as the results came in and we slowly came to the realization that Trump would actually win. While the thought of what's about to unfold these next 4 years still scares me a little bit, and I think that things will undoubtedly change I think we will still be fine, as a country. I actually gained a lot of perspective and was put a bit at ease from the episode of Saturday Night Live that was hosted by Dave Chappelle. Because the whole tone of the show and the jokes they were making throughout the duration of the show were hopeful that we'll pull through together and it really lifted my spirits. In fact SNL set the tone from the very beginning with the cold open, Kate McKinnon as Hillary playing the piano while singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and ending the song with "I'm not giving up, and neither should you." So while Trump getting elected and that damn Governor of ours in Utah getting re-elected were difficult pills to swallow, a little wilderness therapy made me realize that things might not meet the cataclysmic end I was worried about when election results finalized. To build and grow, you need a starting place to rise above and this seems like a good place to start from. Together we can build, grow, and progress in the country and the chaotic state we find ourselves in, in Trump's America.

She really took a liking to her own hiking pouch backpack
But when I reflect to my time in the desert -now 5 days home- I remember most the breathtaking views, all the sunrises and (mostly) sunsets on the diverse range of rocks that divide the sections of playground. The fact that no matter what changes occur in this country, in my neighborhood or throughout my life, that vast array of rock walls and mighty rivers that carve them will continue to stand or run no matter what things we humans do to each other. That's a big comfort to me in a way that terrifies me about my own life, the notion that those formations where created hundreds of millions of years ago and to them my entire life is just a blink of the proverbial eye. But no matter my feelings on the terrain or trying to quantify just how long it's stood unflinching, I still gain comfort and perspective being in the presence of these diverse and stoic formations. My favorite thing to enjoy in this world (both work and in my free time) is this, the variety of ways in which our world was shaped and how heart warming it's natural beauty can be.

1 comment:

  1. Dalton, I'm glad you were able to take this trip and proud of you for doing so. We love riding our ATV's in the Swell and it is a remarkable place. We're lucky to have it so close. Don't fret too much over the election or politics in general, instead focus on your own life and family. Again, proud of you. Uncle Mont