Paulthor (the dad): Sons, it's time we planned next year's family vacation. What should we do?
Gregotgardill (eldest son): How about rowing a boat up a waterfall?
All: Nah, too easy.
Cliarkf (younger son): What about playing tag with the sharks again? That was fun.
Jevan (brother in-law) (and yes, it is a Nordic name I'll have you know): How about we pick an activity that won't get someone killed? Remember what happened to poor Hjorvarth last year...
[Paulthor, Gregotgardill and Cliarkf share a look of disgust]
Merdonfthnus (youngest son): It's not a vacation unless someone could die or at a minimum be horribly maimed you pansy.
Reedolf (other brother in-law): Jevan, you can stay here with the children while your wife Emilfrothi comes with us!!!
[All laugh, pointing fingers at Jevan and making rude hand gestures that bring into question his masculinity, parentage, facial hair and choice of clothing]
Louifstæn (mom) to Emilfrothi: I told you he was a wiener.
Paulthor: How about this - we'll all get into a boat, row across the ocean, land on a beach somewhere, run ashore brandishing weapons and screaming, rape / pillage / plunder, then come back home!
All except Jevan: Yaay!
This is pretty much how we plan family vacations in Em's family (including the mocking of my clothing). Case in point - the family trip to Zion National Park this summer. Here is what we packed: wetsuits, suntan lotion, 3 first aid kits, a climbing harness, locking carabiners, nylon ropes, wet bags, water, and tons of trail mix / granola bars. Pretty much the kinds of things that you would pack if you were planning on running from the law for an extended period of time in the desert.
In the past, Emily has gone on this annual "Let's attempt to cheat death one more time" vacation by herself, but this year I decided that I had had enough of the rude gestures from her brothers and came with them. This is a rough breakdown of how it all went down.
Wake up at 5:00 AM, because no good adventure starts after sunrise. (Note: I think that, with the exception of early-morning golf, the Holy Ghost really does go to bed at 12:00AM and doesn't wake up until around 7:30 or 8:00.)
Get in the car and drive for a couple of hours.
Contemplate the number of ways you may meet your end in the upcoming hours.
Arrive at the trailhead at 7:30AM. Begin hiking.
Hike down some steep canyon terrain until you arrive at the mouth of a slot canyon.
Realize that you have survived so far and be simultaneously grateful and sad that it will take even more effort to get your corpse out in the event of an accident.
Proceed to what the guide book describe as your first 'obstacle'.
Remind yourself that an 'obstacle' is to a Tayler as 'The Grand Canyon' is to a unicyclist.
Proceed to rappel down a 20-foot cliff into a puddle of what can only be described as "37 years' worth of cow urine in mud".
Slog your way through while trying not to breathe.
Vow to make it the last 20 feet without breathing, or die in the attempt.
Watch your mother in-law do the same thing and feel like a total wimp.
See your mother in-law's shoes come off in the pee / mud mixture.
Try not to giggle.
Tell your wife you can't go in and help your mother in-law get out because you're filming the event for posterity.
Help your mother in-law out.
Remind your mother in-law that this is her vacation.
Catch all of the pack as they are thrown down from the top of the 'obstacle'.
Discover that, when thrown from 20 feet above you, catching a 60-pound backpack feels very similar to getting steamrolled by a blitzing linebacker.
Reassemble the group, after an hour or so of traversing the stinkhole.
Resume hiking (and breathing).
Traverse a few other 'obstacles', including one in which you have to physically drop your wife, sister in-law, niece, and mother in-law off of a cliff into a pool of water (I'm not exaggerating).
Tell your mother in-law she looks like a drowned cat.
Pretend to not notice the dirty looks you get from everyone.
Find out why it's not a good idea to hike for many hours with a mesh-lined swimsuit.
Discover first-hand the meaning of the word 'chafing'.
Learn to hike bow-legged.
Continue hiking. Start to look at all of the amazing stuff that 99% of the people that go to Zions don't see. Think to yourself that maybe the Vikings were onto something.
Realize that there's something to be said for near-death vacationing.
Emerge from the canyon at 8:30 PM battered, bruised, chafed, but whole.
Spend 27 minutes showering and using an entire bar of soap attempting to remove the 'obstacle' smell.
Remember that Day 1 was the 'easy' day.
Collapse into bed for a few hours of sleep.
Wake up at 6:00AM.
Pack wet suit, ropes, harness, carabiners, and food into a dry pack.
Ensure your Last Will & Testament is in order.
Drive to the trailhead.
After 2 minutes, arrive at the first 'obstacle'. Or, to be more accurate, the place where you have to put on a wetsuit and swim through freezing cold and fetid water in order to get to the first obstacle.
Rappel down a sheer 80-foot cliff.
Hike through an amazing slot canyon, going down some incredible rappels (including one into 'The Cathedral', which has to be one of the coolest things you've ever done).
Be upset that your camera's battery is nearly dead.
After numerous rappels, arrive at the last one - a 120-ft free rappel straight down into the
Sidle up to the edge of certain death without looking down.
Let your nephew go first.
Watch as he manages to hang on to the cliff using only his butt cheeks.
Marvel at the amazing gripping power of terrified glutes.
Army-ranger rappel down to the bottom.
Resist the urge to kiss the ground and weep.
See your father in-law, wife, and 15 year-old niece do all of the above and ponder whether
a) you're just a wimp,
b) they're really tough,
c) they really are Vikings, or
d) all of the above
(note: the answer is d)
Hike out of the canyon, spending time playing in swimming holes rejoicing that you still have all of your limbs attached and no known organ punctures.
Enjoy a meal swapping war stories with the rest of the Vikings.
So there you have it. I survived, and found that it was one of the funnest vacations I've been on. I was proud of every scrape, bruise, contusion, and odor I got on that trip. Sign me up for the next raid!
They are all smiling. That's because none of them smell like cow pee yet.
Yeah. We walked through that. Paul actually had to get his nose about 1 inch above the water to dig out Louise's shoes.
I may have neglected to mention that we found Gollum on the trip.
Louise, my mother in-law, rappelling down into the cow pee, with Gollum watching his Precioussssss...
And we just lost a shoe.
Looking up from one of the slot canyons. Freedom seems far away right now.
The aforementioned 'Drowned Cat' pose.
Check out the scale of the canyons.
Em trying to decide which way to go.
I thought this looked really neat, with the vertical crack in the wall.
Ensign Tayler, reporting for duty. Fortunately, he was wearing a blue uniform. Had it been red he would definitely have been eaten by a monster along the way...
... like poor Hjovarlth and Magnus, who didn't make it.
Ready to swim through who knows what.
Em rappelling down into the Cathedral.
Finally getting the hang of it. And for the record, yes farmer tans help when you're canyoneering.
Coming down the last rappel.