Once upon a time, I lived in the land of Florida where camping is something crazy hermits do in swamps and hiking is well... Impossible. Also in the land of Florida, there is no river rafting. Well, not that I know of. And if there is, it's probably real boring. Florida is flat, hot and humid. And you can get eaten by an alligator. Or herd of alligators. A gaggle, perhaps.
Florida is also magical and wonderful, but for you Nature Valley poster children out there, you may be disappointed to discover the closest thing to an incline you're likely to find is a highway overpass. Climbing these, btw, is not recommended.
Then I moved to Utah. I was 17 and excited about college. I was also freaking amazed every time I walked out of my dorm and encountered the incredible sight that was "mountains". I was entertained enough just looking at them and basking in their glory. It had never occurred to me to climb one. And, being a Florida girl in Utah, I felt a bit out of place when I was ambushed by my fellow college students wearing what they called Chacos as they asked me if I wanted to climb a mountain or sleep outside. Or climb a mountain then sleep outside. I mostly just said no. A couple of times I said yes. I hiked the blasted Y. Camping just sounded like a social experiment to see how many different ways you can die just from being outside.
So traversing the outdoors was a challenge for me both physically and conceptually.
Fast forward to this last summer. I was now seasoned in all things outdoors-y. I had been hiking at least twice and camped once over the span of 5 years. This meant I was a regular granola. I'm even waiting to hear back from Nature Valley about whether or not I can be on their next poster.
Nature Valley: You've been hiking HOW many times??
Nature Valley: Amazing!
Asia: And I own a Nalgene water bottle, sucka.
Nature Valley: It's too much!
Anyway, they're checkin' to see if I'm overqualified.
One fateful day last April, I got an email from my friend Sean about doing a camping/river rafting trip in central-ish Utah sometime this summer. I though it sounded fun and certainly within my abilities. We bought our tickets and planned our trip. Then we got super busy and summer filled up with random jobs/trips/other things that made it seem like our camping trip would never happen. But a couple of weeks ago, the stars aligned and the trip was planned. The group was Sean, me and his two older sisters. They were all born and raised in Utah and had camped at least 35,000 more times than me. Though my one short bout with sleeping outdoors was enough to count as at least 6 camping trips, they still had me by 34,994 camping experiences. My Nature Valley confidence was waning quickly.
Before we met up, Sean had asked me a few questions that further challenged this confidence.
Sean: Are you ok just sleeping outside on a tarp or do you need a tent?
Hm? Did people do that? It seemed like a tent was sufficiently primordial. Sleeping on a tarp increased the likelihood of death and animal molestation by at least 73%. It was a tough call. But I was determined not to be the little nancy that needed a tent, so I said something like:
Asia: Whatev! I'm down!
Luckily it was all over texts and he couldn't see the trepidation in my eyes.
Sean: We're bringing some bikes in case we want to go for a ride. Are you interested?
This one was a bit trickier because I knew that mountain biking was something I most likely couldn't do. The last bike I had been on was barbie-themed. And even that was on a flat neighborhood road. And even THAT ended badly.
Asia: I don't know anything about mountain biking.
Sean: You just put your feet on the pedals...
He was making fun of me. It was a challenge. One I wanted to meet and metaphorically punch his face with. But I also didn't want to end up a bloody heap at the base of a mountain, so I replied with a sheepish:
Asia: Well, if you don't think it'll be too hard, I'll try it, but it's really no big deal for you to go without me.
He said if I felt like it, we could take turns on his bike. I let it drop. He didn't bring it up again. Touché.
We met up and began the 3 hour drive down to Moab. We left after dark due to work schedule maneuvering and almost immediately ran into a huge lightning storm. It was a lot of lightning. Like... sleeping outside seems like an issue if there's an 80% chance of death by electrocution.
But on we went!
When we arrived in Moab about 3 hours later, we found a dirt road, pulled over and prepared for the evening. Luckily Sean had thrown a $30 K-Mart tent into the car -- "just in case". We set it up, changed into jammies and jumped in just before an enormous rain/lightning/thunder storm. As I lay there in the dark, both feeling and hearing the tent get completely thrashed in the storm, both spooning and being spooned by girls I didn't know I was close enough to for such close proximity, I was caught by the incredulity of the situation. It made me smile. It also made me feel like I was really roughin' it.
The next morning, we headed out for our rafting adventure. It wasn't long before we found ourselves standing on the side of a beautiful river in Moab, Utah. We strapped on life jackets and were asked by a man with a very nice bod if we wanted to go down the river in a raft or an inflatable kayak.
Another toughie. Kayaks? I hardly had time to think; my party of native Utahns were dividing us into pairs and claiming our kayaks. I mostly cowared behind Aubry, the sister I was paired with as a kayaking companion. I started to feel very sorry for Aubry. Accepting me as a kayaking partner surely meant death or getting stranded somewhere dry and lonely. But then I decided to man-up. I could kayak! People kayaked all the time. Asia is a kayak-er!
Plus there would probably be a little tutorial, right? Or a little safety rope? Surely they weren't going to trust that I could control this thing, right?
As we were preparing to get in the river, hot bod Joe came around and asked us if we felt confident in our ability to paddle our kayaks to the side of the river after we had been on the river for a few minutes. I couldn't bring myself to say yes. However, Aubry answered for both of us.
And we were off.
It was beautiful and serene. The river was lined on both sides by tall, red mountains with scattered groups of sparse trees. The weather was perfect, too. Clear sky, but not too hot. A rarity for Utah in July. The beauty of the scenery could, perhaps be blamed for the blunder that occurred after being on the river a mere matter of minutes.
I realized all too late that hot bod Joe's challenge was just that... a challenge. I was in the back, which meant I was in charge of steering. This meant we spinning in a lof of circles and trying (but nearly failing) not to tip over. It also meant that, when the time came to steer toward our group on the banks of the river, we were in no position to join them. Facing backwards, we floated right past them, staring blankly. A pitiful, more helpless version of deer in headlights. As we floated by, our party waved their arms and yelled things. I lamely splashed my paddle in the water a few times. Sean and his sister just smiled. I could tell that hot bod Joe lost all his confidence in us.
We were able to eventually get to a tree and grab a poky branch. We waited there until we saw our group pass us. With our eyes unable to meet those of our counterparts, we clumsily paddled out to join them. My kayak tutorial came then. A shout from hot bod Joe -- "The person in the back is for steering."
Screw you, hot bod Joe. I'm from Florida.
From there it became a comedy of errors. We got caught in what seemed like an underwater forest, scooting our bums in order to escape our twiggy captors. Then we got caught on a random sand bar. For this one, we actually had to get out, push the kayak forward and get back in.
I thought a lack of tutorial would surely produce many inept kayak-ers. Someone to commiserate with. But no. It seemed as though the only people not well versed in the ways of the river-tamers were myself and my stalwart companion. Aubry was extremely patient with me throughout, thank goodness.
After a little while, we selflessly surrendered our kayaks to a couple that wanted to get out of the large raft. We said things like: "Just when we were starting to get it!" and sort-of believed them. Swapping spots with the now kayakers, we ended up at the very front of a raft filled with some random strangers and lots of children.
The highlight of this episode was feeling my body fling out of the raft into the rapids and thrash between the raft itself and the large waves that ravaged it. Aubry, in a noble attempt to keep me in the raft, fell out herself. Upon being pulled back in, a small child looked at me and said, "You fell out. I didn't."
True, sassy child. Very true. And that may be the perfect coda to my life as Davy Crockett's wannabe progeny. But, I must say, despite the somewhat sordid and hopelessly inept nature of my camping/rafting experience... I had a BLAST.
So suck it, Nature Valley.