Can you know a canyon by their rim? Or must you be drawn in, sucked downstream by their river, immersed within the walls, another being among everyone else? The top view is breathtaking, but it is as if you have seen a beautiful stranger walk past. Their face is imprinted on your mind but you are missing their substance.
A couple weeks ago we said farewell to Horseshoe Canyon. Perched atop their magnificent rim, the canyon breath pressed a farewell onto my salty, damp face. I departed, excited for the next section, but heartbroken to leave the arms of Horseshoe.
Next up! The infamous Dirty Devil. Our heads were filled with tales packed with raw, rugged experience, nothing like our previous two weeks. People have come out of this canyon filthy and broken and we heard of the difficulties that lie within the walls. We were a bit intimidated and overwhelmed with the transition back into civilization and being separated from Katie and Dave (our first section instructors). They spoiled us and we planned a mutiny if the next instructors didn’t pack dessert for after dinner.
At the trailhead to Angel Cove we scraped together some courage in the form of alternate personas, a shield of resilience. As the sloping dunes of Navajo sandstone sucked us into the depths of the canyon we entered not as Marliese, Mora, Gabby, Anika, and Maddi but as Lizzy Wrang (Elizabeth Wrangler), Rockin’ Ray, Dirty Deb, Raisehell Rosey, and Filthy P (Peanut)!
I let out a big whoop, ready for the canyon to try and break me.
Every day I awoke in awe of the colors and canyon shapes. All shades of reds, oranges, browns and yellows. The Navajo, Kayenta, and Wingate taught me to let the winds and water shape my essence, and they filled me with energy. Navajo led the way into the canyon. Kayenta holds and cares for the thick, luscious layers of biological soil crusts; the easily eroded grains form small cliff outcroppings and hills that are full of various shrubs, flowers, perennial grasses and occasionally (my favorite) a breathtaking burst of paintbrush. Wingate showed me how to stand still and straight, closely observing all of the surrounding landscape.
One day, after a nude dip in a murky desert hole I saw a hummingbird flit into one of the Wingates’ many percolated holes. Fasciated by this crafty, safe place for a nest I began noticing how many other creatures used the Wingate walls for their home. Following their suit, I found a wonderful friction mansion composed of many sandstone rooms including, a dining room with a circular bench and table, multiple terraces and master bedrooms, a couple couches, some shrubs to tuck me in, and a lofted bookshelf with a staircase. Wingate spoiled me with their vibrant colors and cush home.
Chinle, the next layer, I identify most with. In their layers we found “Growlasourous” prints, loads of petrified wood, layers of lilacs, intriguing mauves, sultry blacks, rich browns, surprising mints and greens and more. There is so much variation and excitement and depth. Like the Chinle, I collect: my pack has a dinner’s weight of rocks in its depths and my mind is filled with hundreds of times that weight. Like the Chinle, I am a conglomeration of experience and ideas that are influenced by time and my social and physical climate. Like the Chinle, I dress in multitudes of colors and mix and match patterns, with perhaps a purple emphasis. Unlike the Chinle, I have not been mistreated and exploited for my natural resources. While I am grateful for that, I hold a great sadness for the way this landscape and all its components have been treated.
Moenkopi, deposited by shallow seas, is a stack of rich red layers that are now flowery, intricate side canyons. I didn’t get as intimate with this layer as the others but its consistency is something I both admire and must work on.
As the canyon narrowed again and held miniature waves, I realized the ancient White Rim sandstone was beneath it. The White Rim is less susceptible to erosion and altered the Dirty Devils’ flow pattern. Their colors were light whites and had streaks in all hues of yellows and pinks. In our last few days I reveled in their poise and beauty, exploring Happy Canyon, and being thrilled with the crystalline veins that flow through the stone.
All of these layers have been eroded by the Dirty Devil and as each layer and lesson added to my personal deposition, the river carved away at parts of me and kept me centered and raw.
The Dirty Devil was much more subtle in breaking me than I had expected. Their ways calmly eroded away at my shield – that was more similar to a top coat of paint- and exposed the layers of my soul.
I feel light, content.
Weathered by the river and rocks, we emerged twelve days later. In a similar fashion as Fleishner, my face is now dusty, my feet are now worn, and my heart is now full.