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Flying The Flag (And It Was Hot)

July 5, 2018

It’s hot. Of course, it’s hot. Utah in July is a desert. And hot. But, I’m sweltering more than normal. It’s 3:00pm and I’ve been sitting here since 12:30. I’m sitting on a bed of shale that is reflecting the heat of sun back at me. There’s shade just about 10 feet away. A nice Scrub Oak tree. But, that 10 feet is below me and the I worked hard for that 10 feet. Still my thermometer shows the temperature at 102. Yeah, it’s hot. I, along with two young men, am sitting on the North face of Grove Creek Canyon. Below and around us, we can see other volunteers taking advantage of what shade they can find. Above us, other volunteers are working to attach a flag to a kevlar line that stretchs 600 feet South across the canyon. The air is clear (and hot.) We can easily see the team that has assembled on the South side of the canyon. Sometime in the next hour they will start to pull that flag, all 75 ft by 155 ft of it across the span. Unlike yesterday’s abortive attempt, this time the flag will be largly unfurled as it’s deployed. Our task is to keep the flag from snagging on rocks and trees as it’s pulled across the canyon. At least that’s the plan. They’ve never deployed the flag that way and none of us are sure what will happen. We know that the flag can turn into a sail in the intermittent canyon wind. It could knock even the largest of us off our precarious perches. I do lots of hiking in Utah. It’s a desert, and while I don’t normally sit in the direct sun on a southfacing shale slope, I always take extra water. Typically I take a 2 liter bottle in a sling. My neighbor’s son is with me. He’s also well prepared. Unfortunately the other boy is not.

Do you want some of my water?

No, I’ll be fine.

Let me rephrase that. Here, drink some of this water.

Eventually, I didn’t have to convince him. His arms were also starting to resemble tomatoes. It wasn’t really his fault. We weren’t going to be up here that long. As the afternoon wore on we shared stories and jokes. We shared snacks and of course, we drank water. Water is life in the desert. Eventually, we noticed that the Westward march of the sun had created a shady shelf about 20 feet above us. We quickly scrambled up and were grateful to get out of the heat. We were quickly joined by several other volunteers. And we went back to waiting. We had a great view of the team trying to get the flag staged. Those poor souls were stuck out in the heat and sun. Finally, we saw them snap the first carabiner onto the line. Earlier a drone had ferried spider-wire back and forth across the canyon. Each side had a line to pull and then secure the flag. A cheer went up from the sweaty volunteers. We scrambled out of our shady perch and took up our positions. The flag, when flying seems so graceful and smooth. Getting her into position was anything but. The flag weighs 450 lbs. The line it was on dipped slightly into the canyon. As we slowly fed the flag out and worked to both keep our footing and keep the flag off the rock walls, we could see the team on the South side manually pulling the cord, hand over hand. Another cheer went up from the parking lot hundreds of feet below as the flag was slowly cinched out from behind a rock ourcropping and became visible. The wind still threatened to frustrate us as it tantalized the prospect of the flag curling itself around the support wire, only to pull the flag back at the last moment. Finally, it was time to pull the cord. The lines bundling the flag started to pull off one by one. Like a diva making her grand entrance, the flag slowly revealed herself. Another cheer from below. The volunteers on the side of the mountain were too tired, or busy to do much more than smile at finally seeing all our hard work finally coming to fruition. We scrambled up the last 20 feet or so to where the line was anchored. The guys with the pull lines continued to position to the flag for optimal viewing. The person giving direction was at Macy’s, about 5 miles away. (It’s a really big flag.) Finally, we posed for the requisite pictures and wearily headed down off the mountain. I finally drank the last of my water. It was brackish and about the temperature of bathwater. But, it was wet and after all, it was still hot. Really hot.

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.

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