We began our hike through Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in a dry, open riverbed. It was cold for spring, and snowflakes whirled around our heads. After half a mile the riverbed ended in a deep fissure in rock. This serrated crack sliced into the ground and twisted out of view, revealing bits of narrow hallway and concealing adventure behind its curves.

“I think we go down that!” I said excitedly, removing my backpack in anticipation. Veronica looked at me wide-eyed and slumped her pack next to mine. She wriggled into the smooth-sided opening, pressing hands and feet against both rounded walls, descending thirty feet to the bottom. I lowered our packs on a rope, then climbed in feet-first, sliding into the cupping, caressing hand of the Earth.

We wound through the tight canyon in wonder, climbing over boulders and passing each other our backpacks when the passage became too tight. Eventually the canyon widened, the walls grew taller, we became small and insignificant in the canyon bottom.


Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah