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I wouldn’t call it the third wheel, but part of the wheel.
As we continued the treacherous four hour hike to the top of Imlay Canyon, rated in the top three most difficult and dangerous canyons in all of Utah’s Zion National Park, the thought of being trapped for hours in dark hypothermic pools of stagnant water loomed through everyone’s mind. Our guide for this venture said he never dared to rappel into this canyon without bolts, a hammer, and a hand drill, and no one’s been through it in a month. The last group that went in got critically injured, spending two days in the canyon, and needed to be rescued. And the rescue report wasn’t too promising on what we would find.
I’ve traveled extensively with Joe and Ann on the road for the last four summers, and as adventurous as I am, there was no way I was going to turn down the opportunity to go with them on their “second” honeymoon to Zion National Park. I know Joe was excited for me to come, but he wasn’t too excited that Ann was just as thrilled that I would be there. Since I’ve had my share of adventures with both Joe as well as Ann, the dynamic of going on a trip like this with them being married didn’t take too much adjusting (minus the times I would get kicked out of the hotel room, if you know
what I mean).
We had made the journey to Zion to experience the best it had to offer, and a rarely explored canyon was a must for us to truly experience God’s awe and beauty in that place. And in knowing that, we willingly choose to rappel into the depths of Imlay.
I think it is also important to clarify that we would never climb a mountain or rappel into a canyon that the Holy Spirit directed against. Scripture is full of examples of people hearing and being led by God. Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.” Romans 8:14 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” If anyone of us felt that God was directing against such a trip, we would seriously reconsider our plans. A recent example of this is our decision not to climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. The three of us were discussing heading to California to spend five days climbing this 3,500 ft behemoth. However, as much as I personally wanted to take a shot at this mountain, I did not feel a peace in my spirit about climbing it, and Joe and Ann agreed it might not be the best idea. Now I don’t necessarily know if anything would have went wrong, but I perceived that God wanted me to instead head back to Missouri and prepare before I headed into my third year in campus ministry on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles.
When we made the decision to descend Imlay, we made sure we had the right equipment. Additionally, we were all competent in rappelling and had a highly experienced canyoneering expert with us who had already explored this canyon numerous times and was leading the expedition. The rescue report was exaggerated on the condition of the canyon and the water levels were high for the most part, making the escapes easier than expected from the sometimes treacherous “pot holes”. The trip was still highly technical, though, and wasn’t what you would call “easy”. There were definitely parts of the canyon that would be life threatening for novices. We had the experience and equipment necessary to escape unscathed, though an inexperienced group could easily get trapped for days.
The last two rappels were some of the more enjoyable ones, first rappelling 100 ft into a deep beautifully enclosed pool followed by short swim to the last rappel. The last one emerged 150+ feet over the Narrows, a vast canyon with towering walls that tourists frequently hike through due to its easy accessibility. The reaction of tourists watching us emerge from the hidden canyon overhead was priceless as we rappelled down from seemingly nowhere in full wet suites. Though the canyon was not as difficult as expected, I think a more important gauge in difficulty is the toll it took on our bodies, which were so exhausted that we couldn’t do anything the next day before we headed out.
This article was written by one of Ann’s and my best friends, Bryan Citrin. He is a full time missionary to the University of California Los Angeles – with Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship. If you’d like to read great blogs of faith and ministry in action, please visit Bryan’s website at: www.supportbryan.org.