Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Where are you looking?

The view from Angels Landing in March--spring just barely springing.
zion

In March I had a week off of school, so the kids went to grandma and grandpa's house, Robby and I loaded up the car with gear to bike, climb, hike, and get down into some freezing cold canyons, and we drove south towards the warm red rock. Our first morning there, we went into Zion to hike Angels Landing. I did this a few years ago with my friend Ali on my birthday. It was a sunny January morning with an icy desert wind--we were the first two on top, and only met a handful of people on our way down. It was perfect. Quiet and peaceful. Breathtaking, and I'll risk sounding cheesy--spiritual even. Starting my year standing so high above the desert floor as the wind whipped around me is something I'll always remember. I had hoped to re-create this experience for Robby--he'd never been up there--so we anxiously ditched our winter layers and headed for the trailhead.

And so did 17,000 other people.....at least it felt that way. We were quick up the steep switchbacks--passing iPad toting tourists and college kids in flip flops. The final climb up Angel's Landing is a steep and narrow trail that winds up to the top--often along exposed drop-offs. We got in line behind the other 23,000 people, anxious to get on top--but the process was slow. So. Slow. A solid string of hikers pointed the way to the top, filling my stomach with knots as I thought back to my near-solo experience just a few years before. "It's alright" I kept telling Robby (mostly to reassure myself) "once we get to the top you'll see how worth it this is. " So we continued on in line--up, up, slowwwwwly up.

We finally made it to the top, and my breath was taken away--but not by the awe and wonder of it all. It was more the feeling of a sucker punch to the stomach from what I was seeing. Mobs, masses, crowds of people, selfie sticks in hand, the far end covered in needless cairns, and garbage everywhere (this is a post for another time.) It was MTV's Spring Break 2016 in one of my favorite places, and I was the middle-aged lady in the midst of it rolling my eyes. We looked for a spot--any spot--where we could separate ourselves from the chaos.

We found a little tree, tucked away from the masses and sat down to have a snack and take in the view. Deeeeeeeeeep breath. The warm desert air filled my lungs as the sun kissed my winter skin. THIS is what I came here for. We talked quietly as we looked out--everything below seemed so tiny. We seemed so tiny. I love the perspective being up high can bring. For a short amount of time, I was able to forget about the crowds.....for a short amount of time.

Two girls came and plopped down beside us, music blasting out of their phone speaker. They sat there, both glued to their screens--scrolling scrolling scrolling, not once looking out at the view in front of them. This snapped me out of my hypnotic state and I begin to look around. Every single person up top was looking down--at their screen. The only time anyone looked up was to raise their chin to the perfect angle for their selfie. Robby and I got hysterical watching three guys take their shirts off and for five minutes take pictures of themselves from every angle--head turn, head turn, flex, pec dance--then they headed back down the trail--not once looking out over the cliff's edge they'd just climbed. Why'd they make the effort to hike up? They could have taken those photos in their dorm room. No one was looking up. I wanted to say "LOOK UP! SEE WHAT YOU ARE MISSING?!" Feet hanging off the cliff picture? Check. Heads hanging off the cliff picture? Check. Sitting quietly and enjoying the view, the feeling, the warm March sun......nope. Not a thing. Heads down, focused on screens.

Now I am no stranger to social media--I continually update my Instagram because guess what? I think it's fun! I love sharing photos and also seeing the world through others' eyes. But something is wrong when, as a society, we are so obsessed with social media that we start doing things JUST to show our "audience" we did them. And it's not just when we are out being tourists. It's when we are at family gatherings, date nights, hanging out with friends. I strongly believe there is a difference between just DOING something, and truly EXPERIENCING something--wouldn't you agree?

It's hard to experience something with a phone in your hand. Take your picture, yes. Please! I love capturing the places we've been--and I can't imagine what I'd do without my camera and my photographs. But then PUT IT AWAY. There is no need to scroll right now--that can wait. Instead take note on how you feel--sweaty but still have goosebumps? Are your legs pulsing from that climb? Do you feel like maybe you should have put some sunscreen on? Whoops, me too. But can you smell the desert air? Do you see how we are sitting so high that the birds fly below us? What is stressing you out--how can you fix it? How can you be better? Stronger? Are you present with the people around you? Are you present with yourself? Are you wandering with your thoughts.....or stuck on your screen?

And most importantly, are you enjoying the view?

13 comments:

mckenzie Sant said...

This is a great reminder. It's so easy to be checking our phones. We maybe just go to look at the time and then we see updates that we HAVE to check and then while we're there we might as well check the feed. It's viscious. But I hope that I'm never that person in the middle of something I've never seen before, devoting so much time to things other than the moment. Thanks for sharing!

Alison said...

As always, love your words and insight. With practice, these thoughts can so easily become habit. Life changing. On another note...we were at Zion in June, and I was blown away by the number of people. Too many, and as you said, most with eyes glued to phones. We hiked Angel's Landing with the boys, but when it came to do the final stretch, there were simply too many people. It felt so unsafe. On the journey back people couldn't even hold the chains. We called it, soaked in the views from where we were, and went on to find some quieter trails.

Hannah Balko said...

I totally agree with you, it's sad when I see how much of our viewpoint is through the lens of our phone. I don't ever want to sound smug, but I want to point out to people, "How about you just enjoy the moment and take it in?"

I also feel the same way about children's concerts and plays, haha. I know that I would never watch it again if I taped it, so might as well sit back and enjoy!

Dee said...

You have brought up iPads in a previous post as well. I don't own a regular camera or even a smart phone. I have been out and about and taken a photo or two with my iPad before. It makes me sad to think there are people scoffing and judging this as it is my only way to take a picture. I guess if I had an iPhone it would be acceptable (assuming I could afford the monthly payment.)

sheena said...

@alison Yes--this is why I won't take my kids up there yet. If it were just us I know they could handle it and we would be safe, but I don't want to risk them being taken out by a selfie stick.....it's sad :(

@hannah haha yes! concerts! seriously who goes back and watches those? I hate having to try and find my kid through everyone's phones!

sheena said...

@Dee I think an iPad is a great way to take a photo--if it is safe to do so. This hike requires holding on to a chain--it's hard to hold something so big and be safe--it also puts others at risk if you were to slip. If I'm out on a hike like this I leave my big camera at home so I can have both hands free at all times :)

anna said...

We hiked Angel's Landing for the first time in March. We have gone to Zion a lot but had never been without our little kids so Angel's Landing was always out of the question. It was totally something to do to check off the list because it was mobbed with people who probably don't usually hike. Not my favorite. Have you done Observation Point hike there?? I liked it way more. You are actually up higher than Angel's landing, so the view is better. And it's longer and a bit harder so it's less crowded than Angel's landing. It's a beautiful hike.

Athena said...

I hear you. I have exercise-induced asthma and it's not easy for me to ascend or hike moderate to difficult trails, so I am just thrilled to experience the outdoors, and if lucky enough to reach a destination, appreciate that I made it that far. I'm guilty of taking photos as anyone else (hard not to when you're a photographer, lol) but trying to do better and keep it in check. In the last few months I've unfollowed many popular adventure-type/travel IG accounts -- no matter how pretty the location/photo, I can't get over the disingenuity :(

eden greer said...

Amen, sister!! It always strikes me as comical at first, and then I find it depressing. My husband and I were watching Copa America and it felt like every time they scanned the crowd, masses of people were on their phones, heads down scrolling or heads up selfie-ing, drove me crazy!

Lindsey Jaye Parry said...

Love that hike, the view really is amazing, but all the waiting for people on the chain part is the worst. One time we were there the guide told us about observation point. It's two miles longer but it doesn't have any chain parts and it comes out higher because you look down on angels landing. Try it next time and the earlier the better in zion. But I get your point, phones are the best/worst. And did you guys do the narrows?!!

Nancie said...

Thank you! Yes!

Rania {Rowan Tree} said...

This post is SO GOOD! I honestly can't believe how people can turn to their screens when they are out in nature like that, because nothing beats the views and scenes that mother earth gives us. I work as a photographer and blogger, so I take a lot of photos and I aim to inspire others to get closer to nature but I always always enjoy myself as well, take in all in and I try to stay more and more disconnected, I use my phone more rarely each passing day and it feels so good.

likeschocolate said...

So true! It is sad that we are becoming such a self obsessed society. My mother who is in her 60's is almost as bad as my niece who is 14!
Constantly scrolling!