When the Beta Is All Wrong

This past weekend, I took a little jaunt down to southern Utah to hike and rappel a slot canyon… ok, first, here’s a warning–this is super long… but you like to read, so, hey! Match made in heaven. 😉

So, I thought this would take 3-5 hours, because that’s what the beta said! Ha. Ha ha ha. 

By the way, I should mention that reading this might take you 3-5 hours. 

From 10am-6pm, we descended into this really gorgeous slot canyon. Incredible. Stunning. An absolute work of art—reminded me of a Henry Moore sculpture, but better, because Nature did it, and she’s a woman, and she’s got fine hands for sculpting. 

The best parts were the final rappels (there were 8). At that point we’d been cold all day. There’s a lot of standing around waiting for your turn and it was between 30-50 degrees F down there. And right at the end, there was this frigid wind flowing through the slot. I don’t mind being cold, but it can wear you down after a while… 

My kids are badasses. I can’t even believe they did this. Their tiny legs just never stopping, especially at the end. 

….the end. We got out of the canyon around 6. Then we had a hike back to our cars. It was fine at first. 

Then night fell around 7:30pm. 

Child rappelling in a slot canyon

And there was no trail to get out of the canyon.

NO TRAIL. To explain, there were three exit options. One involved shuttling a car through rough road to a pick up place (which we didn’t do). The other was the long hike out—which would take 4-5 hours (and based on my experience now, these helpful fools writing the beta can’t be trusted, and so that was probably more of a 6-7 hour hike). 

The last exit route was trailblazing through a wash (a WASH… you know, washes aren’t trails… they get washed away every time it rains. And it had rained/snowed recently) to a ridge, and then just eyeballing it from there. 

Eyeballing it is no problem, in daylight. 

But after an hour of hiking, I mean… I felt like we’d landed in a bad episode of Gilligan’s Island. What was suppose to be a 3 hour tour ended up A LIFETIME. 

For real. If you recall, the beta on the slot canyon said 3-5 hours. haha. We were on this 3 hour tour from 10am to 9:45 pm. 

I’d made reservations at this super cool restaurant with great beer back in Kanab for 5pm (because everyone was in Kanab over the weekend, following me… I can’t escape the crowds!). So, we breezed right through that… I’d been so hopeful and trusting in the beta lies that I made a reservation just like a hopeful fool does. So adorable of me… ha ha.

Woman at the top of a slot canyon rappell

So anyway… 

The real issue is one I can control. And that is… good lord, when will I learn to do my own damn research before an adventure? It’s the problem of dividing and conquering. When you’re single, you just do all your shit for yourself. You don’t just blindly trust a partner to figure stuff out for you. 

When you’re with someone, you think, “They got this. This is their sphere. I have to bake some pot brownies right now. So I’ll do that, while they plan this awesome backpacking trip through Mexico.” 

I don’t bake pot brownies, but I wanted that imaginary scenario to be cooler than baking cookies for my kids, which I do and then eat them all. So anyway, I said pot brownies, but I wouldn’t ruin a good brownie with pot. I’d just keep them separate, like you should. 

Anyway, yeah, so after all this time in, like I don’t know, 15 or 16 years, I think I may have finally learned that I need to know the risks going into adventures. My adventure planner and my brother-in-law, the other adventure planner, both have tendencies to gloss over the brutal details that may end up killing us. 

If we’d had to stay all night out there in the elements on an exposed butte in the middle of the desert, we would have been fine. But that was THIS time. 

Who knows what details might kill me next time? Will my adventure planner accidentally just forget to mention the recent shark sightings on this gorgeous stretch of beach that no one ever goes to, but we can have it all to ourselves? Will he skip the poisonous snakes and behemoth anaconda details because the monkeys and tropical birds are worth it? 

These are things I should know. 

People relax in a slot canyon
The author communes with the wind...

This is what I can control, you know. When I haven’t, and I’ve found myself in a pickle (haha), it’s my fault. 

Not that there’s really FAULT here. Because the night hike was flipping stunning. The half moon was brilliant and gave us so much light we hardly needed anything else (except in the thickets, of which there were billions). 

There were wildly bright planets chasing each other through the sky and even despite the moon’s glow, I got to see my first view of the Pleiades for the season. Orion’s not far behind when I see the Seven Sisters popping above the horizon like that. That sets my soul on fire. 

I just mean… I need to remember to find out for myself, instead of trusting others to know what I should know. 

Because what happens is that I feel a bit idiotic as the cold truth settles in and I realize things like, “Oh wow, what the hell have I gotten myself into? There’s no way out of this except to endure the hike…” 

That’s fine when it’s only a two hour commitment. But on that final rappel, freezing and aching everywhere, I remember thinking, “Oh shit. I still have a damn hike UP HILL THE WHOLE WAY to get back to my hotel room. And it’s almost dark.” 

I wouldn’t do it again in quite that way, knowing what I know now. 

But we made it. And so that’s freaking amazing and it’s settling in and I like the way it shaped me. And I think it shaped my kids in a way that will help them become even better than I could have imagined. 

So, all in all. Pretty freaking awesome. 

If you read this entire thing, wow. Thank you! You’re a damn trooper. Probably would have slayed it on this grueling journey with me. Next time, you’re invited!

Man with rope standing at bottom of slope

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