Late last night, I returned home from my geology trip in Utah. My muscles are sore from hiking and canoeing, my shoulders are burned, my clothes stink, my camping gear is covered in dust and my bottom lip is sporting two voluptuous sun blisters. It was everything I needed.
Canoing down the Green River, through the giant red rock cathedrals of Labyrinth Canyon, I was consistently in awe of the power and beauty of this rugged place. My eyes quickly became accustomed to waking up to deep reds, bright greens and pale blues with no evidence of mankind; today, they are bitter for having to deal with emails and computers.
There were 24 of us, including three guides and one very special geologist, Dr. Bob Raynolds. He's a tall, lanky fellow who is like a cross between Neil Young and the Man with the Yellow Hat from Curious George. On Friday, when I went to pick up my car pool pals, I didn't realize that the 'Bob' character I was picking up was the THE Bob. I had his brain all to myself up and back and let the questions rip. He was extremely patient and would occasionally sneak in bullshit stories with the same dry monotone, strictly for his own amusement. It took me about 1.5 days to catch on:
Me: "Hey, Doc! What are the grooves on this rock all about?"
Dr. Bob: "It's actually an ancient Indian washboard that was used to ... er, wash all their Indian leggings."
I immediately returned to an old habit of grabbing gorgeous rocks from the landscape and getting attached to them. My many pockets overflowerd and it became a bit of a joke. At one point, Dr. Bob was quizzing the group on how rocks travel from place to place (wind, water, glaciers, etc.) and one gal brightly offered another mode of global rock transportation: "I know! Heather!"
I continue to marvel at how the great majority of people I meet in this world are pretty damn funny, incredibly smart and always interesting. Our lead guide, Ward, is a grizzled man who is both a scholar and a gentleman. When he is not leading groups through the wilderness, he travels the country teaching young people etiquette. The other guide is also an actor and stagehand. Then, there was the father-son duo - the father being a respected scientist and published author and the son, a New York artist who is occasionally jailed for his public protest performances. They stayed up late every night debating God and/or science and they LOVED it.
I met at least four beautiful souls on this trip that I plan to stay in touch with and many more that I may never see again but feel richer for having met them. There's something about camping with total strangers to makes me open up. The only thing that works in a group travel environment is total acceptance of one another couple with tons of laughter. It's a little exercise in a utopia - minus the "Groover", of course.
Highlight of the trip: I have long been practicing the Fleetwood Mac song, "Landslide" on the guitar. It's not perfect but I can pull of 80% of it. I had planned to perform it for the gals at CCW since it is about getting older, changing, self-realization and a bunch of other female-y things. However, the song never got played.
On Tuesday night, I was fiddling with one of the guide's guitars. We had all eaten S'mores and stories were told. Eventually, everyone went to bed, one by one, until it was just me, Dr. Bob, Mike - the assistant guide and a very sweet kid named Chris, my strapping young paddle partner. For whatever reason, I started singing it - I figured it fit the theme of geology - rocks moving and all.
They were stone quiet around that fire as I sang like I was alone. Here I'd rehearsed this song for women and its debut was performed for three good-hearted men I hadn't known until three days before. When I finished, they were silent for a beat or two and then GUSHED. I may have even caught a tear in the eye of Chris, who asked me to sing it again the next day as we paddled downstream. Even the quiet, shy Dr. Bob was impressed. Mike just nodded, dragged on his cigarette, and said in his great gravel voice, "Uh, yeah. You need to keep singing that. Definitely."
I think the key here was catching myself off guard - being ready by not being ready. Or something like that. Anyway, I learned a lot this trip; rocks and life are always on the move.
(Pictures may take awhile since I opted to go the disposable route - less risk of moisture and regret. I had to snag this one from Sheri Griffith Expeditions in Moab.)