My feet are swollen. My legs are heavy. I have been home for almost a week and I still have cankles — as in canyon ankles.
My feet are scratched, bruised and my heels are all torn up.
But, it was so worth it.
After a few days in the canyon something incredible happens — other than waking up to the smell of banana nut pancakes — your feet swell and ankles enlarge.
Actually, everything either swells or becomes stiff from the knees down. We must have looked like zombies in a Michael Jackson video, stumbling our stiff bodies out of our sleeping bags in the light of dawn.
All the while yelping like coyotes with each painful step.
Oh! Ouch! Yikes!
So our cousin, Kyle, took it upon himself to save the day and lead stretches on the beach in the morning before we departed camp.
Maybe it was to help us get ready for our day, or maybe it was to prove to his parents that he has indeed been attending class as a sports medicine major in college at Austin, Texas.
Or, maybe, just maybe, (and, I’m going with this theory) I think he wanted all of us over thirty-somethings to stop complaining about not being able to walk.
We loaded up camp, jumped in our boats and landed at the next scenic spot down river: Deer Creek Slot Canyon.
And, guess who was already there?
Yep! Our nudists friends. They were mostly dressed and boarding their boat so the hike was all ours.
We set off for The Patio, a beautiful opening of flat rocks with trees growing up between swirling water in a spa like setting.
Our first step was hiking up a steep, rocky staircase. A hike our guide compared to 3o minutes on a stair-master.
To a beautiful lookout point where we could see way up the Colorado River and survey where our trip had taken us over the past few days.
Then, we gently stepped along a centuries old trail, high atop a 50-foot waterfall.
As we walked the narrow path right next to the slot canyon, just above the waterfall, our guide, Keith, pointed out the ancient handprints in the rock and the place where a hiker found remnants of an ancient society — bowls and woven sandals.
The gorge was used by native cultures as a ceremony for boys to jump into manhood — all they had to do was jump the divide (or, I imagine, fall to their death).
The narrow path widened and we ended up at The Patio, a flat rocky expanse perfectly named. It felt like an oasis, like discovering some ancient spa, hidden inside the narrow, rocky gorge.
We napped, read books, hiked, and ate a few granola bars on the flat-rocked patio.
It was so delicately landscaped and well-thought out, it felt like at any moment a waiter might appear to take our order.
We played in the water:
Justin excitedly showed me a cave behind the waterfall and encouraged me to go behind the water to see it.
It looked so cold, so dark, so not appealing. But, then he took my hand and showed me how to duck under the strong current of water and dip behind the falls.
Then, I panicked.
The cave seemed to swallow me up and all I could see was a wall of water. I was stuck and I felt out of breath.
I yelled up at Justin, over the sound of the pounding water, ”I want OUT!”
He looked me in the eyes and yelled back, “You are okay. You’re okay. I’m coming in.”
Then he slowly scooted in beside me and there we sat, together, behind a wall of water barely able to hear each other speak but surrounded by the splashing and echoing of a million-year-old cave. Just the two of us.
As we emerged from the wall of water I opened my eyes and saw butterflies.
Little, white, delicate butterflies fluttering all around the ferns, moss and greenery. It felt like a washing of my soul, my fearless moment of the day — and butterflies were there to celebrate.
And, then we did what everyone does after a hike: EAT!
We paddled over to an enormous rock structure where our guides set up kitchen for our mid-day dining.
Others climbed the ginormous rock.
I slept under it.
And, then, I stubbed my toe.
As if my feet weren’t already swollen enough, I mindlessly walked right over a rock, (a pebble!) that opened up a patch of skin on the tip of my second toe.
Not a snake bite, a fall from a 50-foot waterfall, or a valiant attempt to save someone falling out of the boat.
Nope, I was half asleep after we napped in the shade of that enormous rock structure and I woke up to go use the bathroom. Where I stubbed my toe.
That night was a bit of a rocky road.
We pulled up to camp on the rocks. Literally.
Sure, there was sand lining the crevices, but this was ROCK CAMPING.
We laid out paco pads on the rocky ledges and watched for scorpions.
It was so hot we sat with our feet in the water until darkness descended in the canyon.
There’s nothing like 50-degree canyon water for cankles.
In a way, it was like a spa day, Grand Canyon style.
We started with stretching on the sand, napped on a patio with waterfalls and butterflies and we slept on hot rocks.
The only thing missing?
I wish I could say I slept well, but I didn’t.
With visions of scorpions crawling all over my head I watched the night sky turn into the Milky Way and then back into the first light of dawn.
And, then, as the sun rose up over the canyon, we were off to the most beautiful waterfall I never did see…