Saturday found me walking down a narrow canyon path in central Utah. Maple Canyon overlooks Ephraim, Ut. I was returning from a hike up to the “the arch.”
The section I was walking through now was relatively wide, about 40 feet from wall to wall. Utah canyons are typically characterized by steep vertical walls and a narrow path at the bottom. Nearby were true slot canyons where the canyon floor might be only a few feet from wall to wall.
I glanced behind me at the empty path winding through the trees.
I was completely alone. And yet, I absolutely was not. It’s a bad practice to hike alone at any time, but in Utah, we have cases every year of hikers getting lost, or injured and our climate is so extreme and parts of our countryside so sparse, that you can die if not found. The movie 127 Hours was about just such a hiker in Utah who became trapped in a slot canyon and cut off his arm to escape.
We don’t hike alone. And yet, here I was walking down a canyon path with no one around.
I wasn’t alone, but it wasn’t some stalker in the canyon that was following me.
This hike was done with a group of seven boy scouts. We also had four leaders. When hiking Utah’s canyons there is typically one way in and one way out. Those steep walls mean that you literally cannot get lost. If you start at one end of the cayon and keep walking you will eventually end up exactly where you need to be.
The configuration of the canyon means that as long as we have a leader at the front and a leader at the back, it’s impossible to lose any of our boys. Even if I cannot see them, I know they are there and will eventually end up at the mouth of the canyon. I normally play “sweeper” making sure all boys are in front of me.
On Saturday, my position changed. At the arch, one of the leaders slipped and cut his hand. He and a second leader stopped to patch up his bleeding hand as the rest of the troop, lead by the scoutmaster headed back to the trailhead. As a slow hiker, I didn’t even try to keep up with the boys. And that’s how I found myself all alone hiking in Utah’s mountains, and yet, completely surrounded by people. I knew that the boys and the scoutmaster would be at the mouth of the canyon when I arrived and I knew that if I stopped on the trail, the other two leaders would eventually catch up to me.
I wonder how many times in our lives we feel alone and fail to realize that we have people paving the way before us and we have people following up behind us. We only feel alone because each of us has to make our way through life as an individual. No one knows exactly what we are experiencing. But, if we remember to surround ourselves with friends and family, they will be there even when we can’t see them.
It’s a comforting thought walking through the forest alone.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved