My wife, Laura, loves being outside. She runs five miles every single day -- it's insane. So naturally, for her birthday she wanted to take a trip to Utah to hike a bunch of random rocks. Her birthday is in June, which is also insane because it's outrageously hot everywhere. Laura is definitely a great source of encouragement, support, and motivation when it comes to getting active, especially knowing that my happy place is inactivity.
Laura had always told me how beautiful Angels Landing is and how badly she wanted me to see it with her. Fair enough. Sounds simple. I've seen pictures and heard the stories of how she, her father, and her brother-in-law made the climb. It wasn't until the week before our trip I actually YouTubed this hike. Angels Landing is in Zion National Park. A 5.4-mile hike round trip, you walk along a narrow stone path that reaches a top elevation of 5,790 feet. Oh, and at one point, there is a chain you hold onto for dear life because if you make one wrong step, it's 1,604 feet straight down. So, by this time I was a bit hesitant to say the least.
Fast forward to Sunday. We had been in Utah since Friday and we were trying to find the perfect (least busy) time to do this hike. We mentioned to a local while getting coffee that we were going to go that afternoon, “OMG please don't, it's too hot. You'll die!” Well, that was good enough for me, so we planned to wake up super early Monday morning (4 a.m.) and take this thing on.
We arrived at Zion National Park around 5:30 a.m.-ish and got in line. Yes, there is a line for the shuttle that takes you to a place where you can experience life as it was in the 1600s and climb stuff for no reason. We waited about an hour and a half to get on the shuttle. About 10 minutes later, we were dropped off at The Grotto, which to me sounded like it was a fancy way of saying “The End.” We jumped off the shuttle and started walking this trail.
They always start super easy, and then for no reason it feels like you're walking straight up. I don't use the incline on my treadmill because life can already be difficult.
Laura was very sweet, encouraging me to take breaks and reminding me we had all day and didn't have to rush. 'That's nice, sweetie,' I thought, 'but I don't want to be climbing ALL day.' Also, I walk too fast for my own good. Nevertheless, we took several breathers. Stopping along the path and watching other people breeze on through wasn't that great for my self-esteem. I like to think that even with cystic fibrosis and 70 percent lung function, I can push myself just as hard. However, being almost 33 with CF and 70 percent lung function sings to me a different song.
During one of our breathers/banana snack breaks, we happened upon a couple on their honeymoon, Peyton and Thao. Oddly enough, Peyton was taking a breather as well as he suffers from severe asthma. After learning they both were pharmacists, the conversation quickly turned medical and I told them had CF. As I opened my mouth to give a lengthy explanation as to what CF is, Thao told us that she had worked at a CF clinic in Oklahoma! Crazy, right? I felt more encouraged on the hike knowing someone understood and worked in CF and that her husband was being similarly challenged. Jokingly, I said it made me feel better that two pharmacists and one with asthma were on the way up to the top with us. We started to continue with this punishment -- or hike as some call it.
Peyton and Thao said, “Well, if you're ready, we will stick with y'all,” as we all walked together. Then, Laura and I both turned to them and said, “Y'all don't wait for us. We don't want to slow you down.” We really appreciated the thought, but knew it would be a slower journey with us and figured they were just being considerate. Without missing a beat, they assured us that it was okay.
Peyton has to take breaks and take it slow, so it made sense to them to hang with us. Normally, I'd feel really awkward about this, and maybe prideful because I'm a grown-ass man and don't need a caretaker (other than Laura). However, with their offer, that thought never occurred to me.
I got the sense that they weren't just offering to hike with us out of concern, but because they enjoyed our company. I mean, between periods of heavy, old-man breathing, I did provide them with plenty of jokes along the way. So, we huffed and puffed and stopped and guzzled water and enjoyed some Uncrustables (PB&J, found in your local grocer's frozen food section). We survived Walter and his Wiggles, a section of the trail with 21 steep switchbacks. We conquered Scout's Landing (the 2-mile point) and we scaled the 500-foot, vertical, deadly spine of this rock. The whole way up, we clutched the chain handrails with the hope that we were not going to meet the Lord that day. With Peyton and I huffing and puffing like 80-year-olds, the ladies were constantly checking on us.
We shared so many laughs, not to mention every drop of water we had left. I will never forget their kindness, selflessness, or friendship. Since Peyton and I both were carrying our inhalers, we aptly regarded our duo “Buterol Bros” and the four of us would forever be Team Albuterol!
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