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But My Ticket Says Las Vegas

I am not a hiker. I prefer indoor vacation experiences such as spas and boutiques and museums and cruise ships. I was going to add “churches” to that list, but then I remembered that I was once tricked into climbing all 463 steps to the top of the Duomo in Florence (we entered through a side door thinking we would avoid the crowds at the front. Big mistake). It was similar to what I expect hiking to be, only narrower, darker, and more claustrophobic.

 My sister and her friends have talked me into a hiking expedition to Utah. If I was in charge of the Canyons of Utah itinerary, we would see them by car, leaving plenty of time for the gift shops. But, it has all been planned by women more athletic than me, and I am just tagging along. The literature they have shared contains alarming descriptions such as “this trail is perfect for the well-conditioned hiker who is not afraid of heights.”

 I am neither well-conditioned nor tolerant of heights. When I express my trepidation to my traveling companions, they pretend not to hear me and point out on maps where we’ll need water shoes. Water shoes? If there is so little sympathy now, what shall I expect when the only thing between me and my slip to certain death is the ledge of a large and narrow rock, the stability of which is questionable?

 We will focus on hikes in Zion National Park, and there are two things I am looking forward to. First, we are flying in and out of Vegas. We are spending one night there, and I’ll be damned if anyone in my traveling party thinks we are heading for the canyons without first filling up at the Rio Hotel’s breakfast buffet. What happens in Vegas….well, you know. They can fill up on protein and whole wheat carbs while I inhale pancakes and my weight in frosted Danish, thinking of the calories I plan to burn while I am out there communing with nature.

 The second highlight of the trip is the luxury of our accommodations. There are not a lot of 4-star hotels to be found in this area of Utah. Call me a snob, but I refuse on principle to stay in a hotel that has a 6 or an 8 in its name. Happily, the others agree with me on this, and they have rented a house. This house is gorgeous, with breathtaking views, untouched landscapes, and a lot of space. When you are vacationing with three other women and you’ve found lodging where everyone gets her own bathroom, you have found paradise. There is a hot tub and a fire pit and furniture and linens nicer than what I have in my own home.

 I am not a hiker, but I am a pilgrim. This trip comes at a transitional time for me, where I am thinking hard about my career and relationship decisions, and trying to map out the rest of my life. I am less than two years from the big 4-0, I am raising a child, and I am desperately working towards the life that I want. Self-reflection has become a big part of my strategic thinking.

 The Pope said something cool on Twitter recently (how can you not love that sentence?). Pope Benedict XVI said “silence” helps us listen to God, and that places combining silence with the beauty of creation allows us to meditate and contemplate. That tweet briefly stopped me from my complaining and worrying, and told me that perhaps this trip is a special opportunity.

 So I won’t be doing much contemplating or meditating in Vegas, except at the nickel slots and maybe the waffle station. But perhaps in Utah, I’ll figure it all out, or at least the pieces that I’m meant to. Perhaps I can think of it not as hiking, but as walking. Walking with friends and with God.

 We are leaving in a week and a half and, good news; I’ll be blogging about every near-death experience I stumble upon. Stay tuned.