Monday, March 20, 2017

Mormons and Big Horn Sheep: How do they do it?

The drive from Kanab to Capitol Reef was a lot longer than I had anticipated.  By the time I pulled into the park, I was exhausted and ready to find some BLM land to sleep on.  I'd been to CRNP a few times and knew there were a few places I could camp for free, but in the middle of the night with a brain starting to enter evening dormancy, I couldn't for the life of me find the spot in which I wanted to camp.  Eventually I gave up and parked in a turnout behind a tall, leafy tree.  I really needed to get some sleep so I could hike Navajo Knobs in the morning, and at that hour in that state, that turnout was as good as it was going to get.

Capitol Reef is not a busy National Park.  It's situated in the middle of nowhere when compared to the big Utah National Parks.  Over three hours east of Zion and two hours west Arches, there's no real reason for the casual tourist to drop by.  Maybe just swing through on the way from one to the other?  It's just a bunch of canyons and rocks and stuff you can see anywhere else in Utah.  I don't recommend you visit, but if you do, be sure to stay in the family campground.  The BLM land around there is pretty rough and shouldn't be ventured off into.  Heck, I couldn't even find it and I'd been there before.

Hike-wise, there aren't that many options in CRNP, but of them Navajo Knobs is respectable.  It's about 9.5 miles out and back with over 1,600' of elevation gain (all on the way out, over roughly 4.7 miles), and most of the hike is on wide canyon ledges, all of which are typically in direct sunlight.  It can make for a long, uphill day in the sun, something I wouldn't recommend for everyone.

That said, when I reached the knobs, after having hiked a handful of sunbaked miles without seeing another living soul, I came upon a family of seven that was comprised mostly of children.  What???  I hadn't seen any grown-ass adults on this BS uphill hike in the BS heat and sun, and here were a bunch of kids and their parents.  Why were there five kids up here with their parents?  Why would parents do this to their children?  Why weren't they all wearing CamelBaks? Why were the kids not crying or dead?  The knobs of the NK are semi-treacherous with loose rock and a few easy places to slip and fall (not to your death, but to your bruises), and these kids were hopping all around having fun.  Since when do little kids have fun on dangerous rocks?  Oh.  Right.  This was a fun hike with a fun halfway point.  These were actually good parents taking their kids out for a real hike instead of the one mile loop near the campgrounds.  Good for them.

Once I wrapped my mind wrapped around taking five small children on this fairly strenuous hike, my brain was once again blown out of my earholes.  As the mom carefully came down from the rocky knob, feeling her way with her feet and holding steady with her hands, I realized she had an infant strapped to her back.  What world is this??  I was tired of carrying my CamelBak and she had a baby???  Crazy ass Mormons.  (They were a large family visiting from a small town just outside of Salt Lake City, so I'm making a fairly safe assumption.)

We exchanged some pleasantries and then I took a load off on the rocky ledge while they headed back to the trailhead.  I was amazed that those kids made it, ranging in age from what looked to be 6 to 14.  I was also amazed that people would want to have that many children, let alone bring them on this hike.

After a half hour or so, I headed back down.  On the way, I saw another family that perplexed me.  It was a family of Big Horn Sheep walking along the rocks.  This was not the first time I had seen sheep here, and every time I do, I have the same questions.  Where had they come from?  Where were they going?  They were walking away from a sheer drop and heading towards a vertical climb.  How were they managing all of this on those little hooves and without climbing hands and prehensile thumbs.  What was their secret?  Tell me!

Where is your portal???

I caught up with the family of eight with a mile or two remaining to the trailhead.  By then, those kids were dragging some serious ass.  That was when all the pieces finally clicked into place.  While the hike was brutal for the kids, those parents would be fine, even lugging one or two of them on their hip.  They were adults, and this was an adult hike.  This meant that by the time the family reached camp, those kids would be ready to pass out, thus giving those parents a night to themselves.  Well played, parents.  I only hope you don't use that alone time to make more children.  I think six is plenty.

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