Written by Madeline Kohlberg. Media by Katie Wallace.
“So, what did you do for spring break?”
“Oh, you know, just hiked 30-odd miles in the wilds of Utah. Nothing special.”
I’d never been all the way out to Utah before. Well, I’d never actually been out West farther than Kansas City before, to be perfectly honest. But there we were, crammed into the back of a people mover with all our gear, on our way out to Zion National Park.
Our entire class was too large to be able to hike as one unit, so we split into two separate groups once we reached Utah. Dustin Fenton led one group, and Jakob Adam and Craig Williams led the other, dividing all of us up between them. We started at opposite ends of the trail, with the intention that the group who reached the people mover first would come and pick up the other group once we were all done. Routes planned out, we were able to start out our journey, ready for anything!
Or, that was the general idea.
Undoubtedly, one of the toughest parts of this entire trip was just how cold it was, particularly at night. Zion has a rule against lighting campfires, so we were obligated to do our cooking on camp stoves. Somewhat less idealistic than gathering around a campfire, but we all managed to make do. Dinner generally consisted of a freeze-dried meal (Just add water!), so our nightly routine generally consisted of boiling water, hanging the stuff in the bear bag, and hurriedly cleaning out our dishes before ducking inside our bivies.
The bivies were something I was kind of unsure about before the trip, having only ever slept in tents before, but I ended up liking them surprisingly well. We made them out of Tyvec, so that they were like a giant, plastic sleeping bag that surrounded you completely. You put your sleeping bag and pad inside, and then once you crawled in, you could Velcro the bivy shut and it was a little tent. Trick was making sure that you left the top open enough for ventilation… bivies really don’t breathe, and there’s nothing like waking up and finding that you’re soaked in your own breath, or that there are ice crystals everywhere. Some ice is unavoidable, but the idea was to minimize it as much as possible!
It certainly made for speedy housekeeping time, though. When all you have to do is fold up the bivy, and stow the sleeping bag, you don’t have to bother with tents and poles, and all that sort of thing. Quick and easy! Who wants to bother setting up a tent after a long day of hiking?
The combination of lack of light and sheer exhaustion meant for pretty early bedtimes most nights. Not much point in staying up after the sun went down. And the result was that we tended to get up before the sun came up in the morning, boil our water, and then be on our way just as the sun started to come up. We were able to see quite a few gorgeous sunrises that way, one of my favorites being the Kolob Arch. It was pretty difficult to make it down that path, what with all the stream crossings and the rocks, and we didn’t quite make it there in time to see the sunrise, but it was still stunning nonetheless. You just don’t see that kind of thing in Greenville.
A lot of our hiking was of that level. Up and down switchbacks, crossing streams (and finding out the hard way that your hiking boots most emphatically are not waterproof), walking through sand. It’s very physically demanding, particularly when you take the high altitude into effect. But when you get to see the incredible scenery that’s constantly all around you, it just takes your breath away. The rock formations, the clear skies, the mountains… Zion was one of the most beautiful places that I have ever hiked, and I can’t believe how much of it I was able to see.
I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t hard; it was very, very difficult. But the fact that we were all able to work together as a team to support one another made a true world of difference. There was so much kindness shown from everyone in the group, and everyone was always willing to help out where they could. That’s how friendship is formed, and we all became very close-knit. And I always look forward to our group gatherings now that we’re back in Greenville.
Fantastic scenery, great friends, accomplishing difficult goals… Frankly, that’s the kind of trip that I love. Perfect way to spend a spring break!