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