At Capitol Reef I started off by listening to a Ranger’s lecture on the varying layers of rock, when they formed, and what color layers are which type of rock. I chose one of the hardest trails going uphill for seven grueling miles, and then back. Starting off with two large blisters on my heels, I tried to limit my boots from rubbing on my heels by tying them extra tight. This proved to protect my heels, at the cost of mild discomfort. Halfway up the trail I stopped to enjoy an apple, some granola and admire the breathtaking view. I met a pleasant couple who was about to turn around and start their descent and we struck up a friendly conversation while we rested. I pull out my camera to capture the beautiful scenery. The man said to me, “You have to have a good picture with you in it, let me see your camera.” So I hand him my camera and he proceeded to snap a few photos of me. After my photo shoot and once I was rested, I continue my hike to the summit.
Three quarters of the way up the edge of the reef wall juts outwards, a ways from the trail. I wander over and find a nice place to rest my weary feet. I snack on some more granola and snap some photos. At this point I am feeling exhausted, dehydrated, and abused; I sit staring over the cliff. Worn, I don’t feel like going on any further. The downside to in and out trails is your destination is really your halfway point. I prefer loop trails, it can be just as hard but it has twice as much scenery. I set out again determined to reach the highest point. Almost there I was taunted by the feeling that it is just around this point. Just to be disappointed time and again, hoping it was the next one.
I meet The Happy Man on his way down from the ‘Almost Top’. He was of a heavier build and I believe Native American, though I did not ask. I am ready to turn around at this point, near beaten. And he comes along as happy as can be. We talked for a few minutes, he encouraged me to keep going. Said it was only about another mile, and that the view was worth it. Less than twenty minutes, “I can do that.” I push forward and reached the end of the trail. All that was left was a near vertical thirty foot scramble to the two small peaks. The Happy Man recommended I don’t climb them today, for it was an awfully windy day. He skipped the climb, but he also lived nearby and can do it any other day. I on the other hand don’t live nearby, and am not sure when I will return, if ever. I said to myself “I made it this far, I might as well go the extra thirty feet up. I scramble upwards and reach the top of the two peaks. I sat at on the tallest peak for quite some time, and sure enough it was 20-30MPH winds barreling straight up off the reef wall, blowing my hair straight up. Had I only remembered a white dress, it would have been a great Marilyn Monroe pose. I moved down to the saddle of the two peaks to gain shelter, here I rested and cooked some lunch to provide me the energy to make the seven mile hike back. At this point it was time to change my socks, but I didn’t, I just started my descent.
Almost halfway down I pass The Happy Man again and stop. We talked, but only for a short spell. I thank him for the encouragement and told him I was about to turn around when we first met. We talked about the summit and how beautiful it was, and I told him I did make the thirty foot climb. After a couple of minutes I told him, “I have to keep moving, otherwise I’ll be sleeping here tonight.” I had gotten a second wind and had to move while still I had it in me. My lungs and muscles were burning, my body was dehydrated and overheated, and my feet hurt like never before. I was booking it down the reef. I finally reach the trailhead, then my car. Relieved, I take my boots and socks off. A flap of skin the size of a silver dollar falls out of my sock, not knowing what it was I picked it up. I realize it was skin, not only did my heels get worse but the fronts of my ankles had been worn raw by the overly tightened boots. They were worst blisters I have ever had, I washed them in a cold stream and put a thick layer of antibiotic ointment on them. This would be the last time I wore shoes for weeks. I packed up and set out to where the buffalo roam.
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