Every step that I take my foot gets engulfed into inches of quicksand. You’d think that river hiking would be a breeze, and that might be if you could see where the bottom was but that’s not the case with the Dirty Devil River with its water similar to chocolate milk out here in Robbers Roost country on the Colorado Plateau.

I had never in my life gone backpacking before this WRFI course and I was not prepared for the weight that would be placed upon my back or how that would affect me. However, everyday we’re here on the Dirty Devil, I’m so surprised at the strength I have gained. I’ve shown persistence in backpacking because at first, I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it through our journey. Everyday though I’ve pushed my body to the limits and now my body is stronger than it has ever been. Who I was at the beginning of this WRFI course will inevitably be transformed by my experiences and the knowledge that I’ve gained about such a sensitive place like the Colorado Plateau, a region on the edge. This course continually has challenged my adaptivity on a daily basis. On some days we needed to hike or paddle extra miles to obtain water or if a campsite was taken. Overall though it has made me even more resilient and stronger. I believe that some of that power comes from being surrounded by these canyon walls. Their persistence in this landscape in inspiring. Deep time through geological history has also proven to me that many of our current problems aren’t as detrimental as they may seem. Our planet has been around for over four billion years and it will continue to be with or without me and that provides me with a lot of peace.

Some of the material and academics we’ve been reading out here can be dark and depressing, like “The Planet of Weeds” by David Quammen which describes the sixth extinction and how humans are a resemblance of weeds on this planet. That there are too many people on this planet and we are using resources and destroying ecosystems faster than can be replaced. Making our planet seem like it’s shrinking. As “weeds” we are willing to survive at all costs even at the expense of other species. Regardless of that, I have not lost hope. Knowing that no matter what happens, these canyons will always be displaying resiliency.

During our journey down to the Dirty Devil I’ve come to realize that as we’ve been walking forward, we’ve also simultaneously traveling backwards in time as we’ve been moving through these different rock layers and formations formed millions of years ago. The further we go, the further we go back in history.

The first step in our trek in the past and down to the Dirty Devil was the Carmel layer, which was dark red in color and formed flakey mounds. The next layer was my favorite, the Navajo Sandstone. Walking over it felt like you could get swept away by the swirls and over the light orange and salmon domes which were formed millions of years ago. After that was the Kayenta formation which was deep pink and red and contained many holes called tafoni. Also within this layer we saw a river lens. Millions of years ago in that exact spot a river flowed and that river lens captured how wide it was as well as how deep. Further into the past was the Wingate layer which was light reddish orange and formed plummeting, smooth cliffs accentuated with long streaking lines of desert varnish. The last oldest layer we saw was White Rim that formed the most amazing slot canyon that formed over many years of floods. The shifting light in the slots took my heart away. The walls fit together like puzzle pieces, all arching and caving in unison.

Through all that I’ve learned and witnesses I know I will come out even stronger both mentally and physically than I was when I started. Although I know my time out here will not be finished when the course comes to an end. As I continue on in my education, I will become even more stronger and even more resilient in the future.