Trekking the Narrows - Day 2 at Zion National Park
Our first day at Zion National Park was pretty close to perfect, but luckily there is nothing in the book of life that says you can’t have two perfect days in a row. While we spent yesterday climbing to the top of a summit, we spent today trekking through the very bottom of a gorge. The Narrows of Zion is a long gorge formed by the Virginia River. The gorge is named so because the river is narrow – only 20-30 feet wide at some parts, but the rock walls oneither side soar hundreds of feet upwards. This distinguishing geological feature, along with the fact that you have to wade through water during 60% of the hike, makes hiking the Narrows one of Zion’s signature experiences.
This time of year, the river is expected to be high from melting snow and the rainy winter. But, because it has been a dry season, the river is lower than usual. The portion of the Narrows that people are allowed to walk through had water that rose mostly to my knees, with a few sections rising to my waist. Althoughthe water’slevelwas lower, it was still freezing cold. This is not a hyperbole; the Virginia river temperature in Fahrenheit was in the low 30s. We had to rent dry suits to stay insulated during the hike. Although I have been emphasizing coldness in the last few sentences, I know that ten years from now I will forget about the river temperature andwill mostly remember the incredible experience of wading through six miles of teal waterways between towering walls of rocks carved and painted by nature. This day was one for the books.
After six hours of getting our breath taken away and looking dorky in the Narrows, my friends and I took a coffee break in the bordering town. Still high and happy from our recent adventure, the down time was wonderful. I think big activities should be followed by relaxation as much as possible so that one has time to absorb all the magic. We then picked up dinner supplies at the grocery store. Because our cabin had a grill pit outside, we decided we would cook ourselves steak and peppers over fire. If you are thinking that steaks sound too fancy for an outdoorsy trip, don’t worry - we ate them on plastic plates with plastic cutlery. The simplicity of the meal was just right to finish the day, though, and to top it off there was agorgeous sunset while wetold stories aboutour other adventures by the fire and over dinner.
Starting college can be a big transition. You’re moving to a new place, starting a new school and classes, and faced with making new friends in an unfamiliar environment. And, of course, there’s that whole “becoming an adult” thing. But, you’re also leaving a lot behind. Every new beginning means that an old chapter must come to an end. Leaving behind our friends at home may seem difficult, especially if they’re going to be a long distance away from you during the school year. Something I made sure to do was to spend a lot of time with them during the summer after high school. Of course, going to college doesn’t mean you’ll never see your friends again, or that you will no longer be friends with them. Good friendships will last if you put effort into them. It may seem hard initially. Coming into Caltech, it’s a sharp adjustment and many are caught up in the excitement of Orientation, Rotation, and starting classes. It may be hard to remember to check your phone frequently and to make time for phone calls and such. Rest assured that if you have other friends going to college, they’re probably going to go through similar things you will. In this transition period, it can feel like you’re going to immediately lose touch with people that mean a lot to you.
Let’s face it: the US loves being just a little different from everyone else. The obvious example? Units of measurement. As an international student from Canada, even I have no clue what’s going on half the time when my friends talk to me and use these weird nonsensical units. And I’ve literally lived on the border between Canada and the States for all my life. After a year here, I’ve finally got a sense of how the two systems of measurement compare and how you can more easily get your bearings with these weird units.
After a year spent in “soft-lockdown” at home in Atlanta, and as Caltech students prepared to finally return to campus, I was aboard an eight hour flight towards Edinburgh, Scotland. Since my junior year plans were interrupted by the virus who shall not be named, I’m spending my first term of senior year studying abroad through the Caltech - Edinburgh University International Exchange program. I’ve only been here just over a week yet have been exposed to so many new people, perspectives, foods, and classes.
When the announcement was first made that fall term was going to be online, I started talking to friends and looking for places to live. We were debating locations around the country: California, Florida, New York, etc.. there were plenty of options. Then it suddenly hit me, what is stopping us from going to Hawaii, covid numbers were better and a two week quarentine would ensure that numbers stayed down… I proposed this to my friend and we agreed it would be an amazing experience, but we didn’t want to get out hopes up. A month or so later we still haven’t decided where to live, Hawaii seemed too far and too difficult to plan. But we couldn’t get the idea out of our heads. We spent some time looking into plane tickets, places to stay, etc… and it actually didn’t seem so impossible after all. A couple weeks later and we were arriving here on the big island!