by Yana Koubourlis
I hung up the phone. How the hell am I going to get out of this? I thought. I had just agreed to go on a four-day, three-night camping trip with my sister.
For many reading this blog, a camping trip might sound like fun. Maybe even just a regular weekend.
I am decidedly not outdoorsy. As a 45 year-old stay-at-home mother of two young boys, my physical activity is limited to walking my kids between the car and school, hauling grocery bags, and my Barre 3 class - which I barely ever attend. In my pre-kid life, I was a commercial litigator at a big law firm. Most of these years were spent indoors, in artificial lighting, in a suit, at a desk. I can't possibly go camping! I thought. And, if I'm being honest - I was scared.
What are you afraid of? My husband said. What could possibly happen? I had no answer. I guess, I said, I'm afraid because I've never done it before.
And there you have it. The Catch-22 that keeps us from trying something new, from finding new loves (or hates), from stretching ourselves and growing in experience. I'm not falling victim to this, I said to myself. I'm going to push my limit this time. And really, I didn't even have to do that much. I had Bold Betties to hold my hand.
My sister, Niki, is the CEO of Bold Betties Outfitters. Bold Betties' mission is to take women lacking outdoors experience - women like me - and get them into the Great Outdoors, without need of a man to get them there. Niki had invited me to join her all-women Bold Betties group in Moab for hiking, sightseeing, canyoneering, and ATVing. Why the hell WOULDN'T I want to go?
On a Wednesday, I flew to Denver to meet Niki. Bold Betties had provided all my gear and outdoor clothing. It was waiting for me at Niki's place. All I had to do was pack it up. On Thursday, I, Niki, and the rest of the group drove the 6.5 hours to Moab, stopping in the tiny town of Palisades for wine tasting and a brewery lunch along the way. We arrived in Moab around 4, set up camp at a campsite in town, and walked into Moab for some beers. Hot rugged guys, dirty and exuberant from a day in the canyons, sat in several separate groups around us, enjoying their beers and stories of their day. I couldn't wait to start our own adventure.
Bright and early Friday morning, we were awakened to the beep ... beep ... beep... of a retreating garbage truck, followed by the crash of a dumpster being emptied. Then, I kid you not, a marching band. At 7 am. What the hell?
We weren't exactly in the middle of the wilderness. The campground - Canyonlands RV Resort & Campground - abutted a motel parking lot just off the main road. I don't recommend it, but that's another story. Check it out on Yelp . Anyway, it didn't matter. It was a glorious, sunny day. We had breakfast at camp and headed to Arches National Park for a day of sightseeing and hiking. First we stopped at the Visitor Center to plan our day. They have a computer program that recommends various hikes based on your available time. Helpful! We were lucky enough to have all day at our disposal, so we decided to do pretty much everything. We headed out to drive the loop around the park, stopping at pretty much every viewpoint to hike around and take in the scenery. At around 5, we reached the crown jewel of our quest: a sunset hike to Delicate Arch.
Hiking to Delicate Arch was a bit like walking to Mecca. Hoardes of people were everywhere, all heading in the same direction. As unpleasant as that sounds, it wasn't. There was a sense of comeraderie and excitement in the air. When we reached Delicate Arch, the crowd waited for sunset together, cracking jokes across the bowl and doing The Wave. Check out the photos. It was amazing. After sunset, we returned to camp for dinner, beers, and some much-needed sleep. The next morning would begin early.
Saturday was our day of canyoneering. Niki had arranged for Moab Cliffs & Canyons to take us on an extended hike through Hypatia Canyon, including scrambling up narrow slots and rappelling backward down three cliffs. One thing in the small print escaped pretty much everyone's attention: the possibility of hikes through up to 5 feet of water. I had actually read about this possibility, but dismissed it as unlikely disclaimer language that probably only applied during the rainy season. So when we arrived at the Guide shop at 8:30 a.m., I jokingly asked one of our (super cute) guides about it. Turns out, the joke was on me. There was indeed a 100% chance we would be hiking through water. "Not 5 feet though," the guide assured me. Oh, I thought, what a relief. "No, actually it's probably only about waist high. On me." Well, since he was about a foot taller than I, that meant it would be above my waist. Uhhhh ... Many of the other Bold Betties were equally distressed. No one had really planned for this. But there was no time to go back. We'd already paid for the guided trip, and we were running late.
It was scheduled to be a 6-hour day. Since our group was double the normal size, it turned into a 9-hour day. And what a day. I was truly scared for my safety at many points along the way. We climbed steep slots up, up up, and walked - slid - on steep slopes down. We were not roped for safety, except when rappelling. Walking through rank water was the least of my worries, and in fact, once it was time for it, I was happy to do it rather than attempt to straddle the slot canyon to avoid it.
The views were spectacular. It was like we had stepped into the Land of the Lost. You could never have this experience from the security of a car or a tour van. At the end of the day, I felt like I had truly accomplished something - I had pushed my limits, and in the end, I had fun doing it. We were smelly, disheveled and covered with mud when we arrived at the Moab Brewery for our much-deserved beers and burgers. But we all felt like real badasses.
Sunday, in comparison, was a walk in the park, although if it hadn't been preceded by Saturday's canyon trip, I might have been scared out of my mind. We had rented ATVs and were going on an early-morning guided tour of Hell's Revenge ATV park.
It's hard to describe what Hell's Revenge Park is like. It's best to YouTube Lion's Back Crash so you can see what we were dealing with. Narrow ridges or "fins" of orange colored "slick rock" arching up to the sky and then back down in long, lean lines, steep slopes and sharp cliffs - this is where we were going to drive our vehicles. Luckily we were in good hands. Moab Cowboy, a husband-wife guide team, took great care of us, providing plenty of water and photo ops, and stopping along the way to offer tidbits of geology and tales of local lore. Our vehicles were in tip-top shape, and amazingly, seemed as if they could handle any kind of terrain imaginable. And again, of course, the sweeping vistas were mind-blowing.
Three hours later, we were safely tucked into a local Mexican restaurant, reveling in stories of the morning and swapping Facebook pages so we could share our weekend photos later. Shortly after lunch, we were on the road back to Denver. It had been an amazing time.