Saturday, December 8, 2007

Adventure travel for the rational soul

Once my husband asked me, out of the wild blue, "You've never fallen have you?" I could honestly reply, "Not that I remember." He howled with laughter at this admission, and somehow I felt offended.

The implied message was that I was not adventurous. Not true! I crave adventure. Especially when it involves travel. I love to stray from the beaten path. A hike in the backcountry, a night under the vibrant desert sky, an unparalled vista from a craggy mountaintop. But, I will admit, I’d rather experience nature’s bounty without danger, or pain, or extreme discomfort. My conscious mind wants to push the limits, to know the unknowable, to live the life of a trailblazer. But at some limbic level I am deeply concerned with survival, and with the avoidance of abrasions, lacerations and fractures. And, yes, I fear falling.

Over the years I’ve accepted this inner paradox. I may not possess the athletic ability and irrational courage of a true adrenaline junkie, but I can certainly pretend that I do. I can go where the fearless go. I can dress as the fearless dress. I can be an adventure poseur!

My debut was in the jock nirvana that is Utah. First stop, Moab. My friends and I checked into the gecko-bedecked Gonzo Inn. While the clerk chirped happily about the wonders of the area, I managed to throw a weary "I can't wait to pop a cold one after that!" look at the sweaty spandex-clad cadre of males peppering the lobby. I basked in the sunshine of their rueful empathic grins.

After a quick glass of wine, the girls and I headed out to find dinner. We sat on the patio of a well-populated Italian restaurant outfitted, of course, in proper adventure girl attire. We wore headbands to indicate that some serious sweating may have recently taken place.

The next morning we made our way to Slickrock at high noon which, we later read in our guidebook, was ill-advised. I viewed this tactical error as impressive evidence that we, unlike the many who had already left the parking lot, were impervious to nature’s arrows.

I was prepared to tackle the twenty-mile practice loop. I had not anticipated, however, that one tire or another would be off the ground much of the time. Within a hundred yards of our starting point, I could feel tears threatening to spatter my new Oakleys. My already-perspiring chums noticed my angst, my crumbling countenance, and suggested that we bail. I may have heard something akin to relief in their voices, but I was still grateful for the rescue. After videotaping one another cycling over the hill on the final stretch, we headed unscathed on to Bryce.

I have played the adventure poseur many times since Moab. Havasu Falls, the Inca Trail, Waimea Canyon, Iguazu, Yosemite. Mules have come in handy more times than I care to admit. Helicopters only rarely. But after each heady experience, I am a little less an actress and a bit more an authentic adventurer.

Perhaps I am not the most intrepid soul. Still, I have seen the sights. I have taken the pictures. My memories are golden and precious. And I can proudly admit that no, I've never fallen.

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