When I woke up, Terry was laying on the deflated half of his air mattress. The other half, still partially inflated, jutted into the air and hit me in the face every time he moved, which was often.
I stumbled my way through the cold morning air to the camp bathroom and was greeted by a far-too-cheerful-for-the-sun-not-being-up-yet Australian man. “G’day, mate!” at high volume in the early morning is a bit grating. He seemed very excited to talk to me and in that moment I wished for a herd of kangaroos to come carry him away, or at least kick him to death.
We broke camp and raced back into the park to catch the morning sunlight. The morning colors weren’t nearly as nice as those from the previous evening, but the views were still great as we followed the road up to 9000ft.
The park map listed a trail called Sunset/Sundown with the tagline of “Best Hike in the World”, a pretty ballsy claim in my opinion. We followed the trail along the rim of Bryce Canyon and then descended into an area of rock formations called the Queen’s Garden, watched over by a formation that supposedly looks like Queen Victoria.
I’m not convinced that the Sunset/Sundown trail is the best hike in the world, but it’s pretty good. The climb back to the rim of the canyon is a beast though. Even with all the switchbacks, I had to stop every tenth of a mile to catch my breath and watch elderly European couples smirk at me as they mountain-goated it up the trail.
What’s that? You’re from the Swiss Alps and used your Nazi gold to purchase an active lifestyle and nanocytes to oxygenate your blood? Die in a fire, Heinrich.
A mile and 10,000 calories later, we were back in the car headed to Salt Lake City.
Onward to Salt Lake
Terry coordinated a meetup with a couple he made friends with back east – Todd & Hannah. They’d offered us a place to sleep and a chance to shower, a happy exchange for a three-hour drive. There was a chance of accompanying them to SLC Comic Con, but we didn’t get to SLC in time. I’m largely OK with this as everyone would have been annoyed with my criticism of lame fandoms and weeaboos.
Worn out from the hike and drive, I essentially collapsed into Todd & Hannah’s home. They graciously let us wash our clothes and we took much-needed showers, washing away two+ days of sweat and nature. Cleaned up, we recharged on their couch while waiting for them to return from Comic Con. It felt good to not be in a car.
That evening, Todd & Hannah took us to a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant. I gorged myself with bread and a Korean BBQ sandwich. Terry led the conversation. In group settings he speaks with a rapidity and word volume that I sometimes find disconcerting. I think it’s a cultural difference – the clear-cut urgency of the East Coast versus the slow, nuanced speech of the South. I’ve slowly learned how to jump in and keep up.
The conversation evened out and we talked about SLC, Todd & Hannah’s recent wedding, and other bits of trivia. The conversation moved back to the house and eventually petered off as it had been a long day for everyone. After sleeping on a thin backpacking pad for the prior two nights, the air mattress provided to me felt like a luxury.