Walter's Wiggle. 21 Steep Switchbacks: Zion National Park: Utah

Walter's Wiggle. 21 Steep Switchbacks: Zion National Park: Utah

117° today, that’s pretty damn hot I thought to myself as I was standing in line. Friends, families, little kids, foreigners, first timers like myself, and avid hikers from all over the country stood in line patiently waiting for the park shuttle to whisk us away to our respected trail head's. At the front of the line you could barely make out a sign that warned us that today’s temperatures would break an all-time high for Zion National Park for the month of June.  On a normal day, the park rangers suggested that we intake upwards of one liter of water, manageable I thought, but today, they basically demanded that we consumed upwards of three liters to be on the safe side for our hike.

Number 45 on my bucket list, a hike through Zion National Park, Utah; (It just so happened that I watched an incredible sunset at Bryce Canyon on that same day, another bucket-list item marked off.)


For anyone that has ever woke up with a hangover to the magnitude that I did on most Tuesday mornings, then the last thing on your mind is a seven-mile trek up the side of mountain on a 117° day. I truly can’t recall all the mornings that I woke up, hit snooze, assuming that I didn’t sleep through my alarm clock blaring loud obnoxious sounds only to find myself feeling like actual death.  One could make the argument that I probably spoke more to my higher power when I was drinking than I do today, now sober, I just actually talk to him today something that rarely happened when I was drinking.  It would often start out with; “God, if you’re listening this morning, please, like pretty please, if you could just let me make it through today, like really make it through today without vomiting, like not just in my mouth, but you know, like actually vomiting when I take my first bite to eat I would really appreciate it.  Oh, and God, if you could take make pounding headache disappear I promise I will never ever have that much to drink again in my life. God, today is a really important day, my bosses are coming in, and I need to be at the top of my game, please help me, I know you have the power to help, and I promise I will never do what I did last night again, thank you God.” These conversations with my higher power where never ending. The promises and bargains I tried to create with my higher power were truly ridiculous. I honestly believed that my higher power loved to watch me suffer. 


1.4 Miles left, eight, nine, jeez, how many switchbacks are left on the side of this mountain I thought to myself? As I stopped for another water break I began to question myself if this was really a good idea. 1.4 miles left, I could always snap a picture at the next stopping point and just turn around. Now, I’ll openly admit, I am not in the best shape of my life, but on this day, I am not sure Lance Armstrong would have fared very well trekking up the side of this mountain even during his prime.  With each step towards the top I couldn’t help but think to myself if I would have even attempted a hike like this three years ago.  With each switchback climbed, each step forward, it became apparently clear just how hot it truly was outside.  I did my best to continue to intake my water, but dang, I was sweating profusely.  It was on my last break that I looked out and realized just how high I had climbed.  Metaphor for my sobriety?  I guess you could make a metaphor out of anything in life, but on this climb, I knew deep down inside that I couldn’t have made this hike prior to my last drink, not because physically I couldn’t have made the climb, but mentally I wouldn’t have allowed myself to mark off this bucket-list climb on that day. 


            This climb, on that day, was just as much about your desire to reach the finish line as it was the actual number of steps it took to reach the top.  Tomorrow I would have told myself, tomorrow it will be cooler, I will hike it then, knowing good and well tomorrow’s temperatures were calling for 115°, basically recreating the same environment and same conditions as the one I was currently dying in. My addiction to alcohol never allowed me to embrace the opportunities that laid directly in front of me. I was either too hung over to attempt to accomplish anything great, or allowed myself to make the excuse that the following day would better serve me and my attempts at enjoying my life, giving me the green light to have another drink that evening. This inevitably led to a vicious cycle of living my life like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s day.  


Prior to my last drink, I approached each day and moment, activity, family event, conversation, job opportunity, or place I visited as if I could do it again tomorrow.  Sure, was this hike a little crazy in that heat, probably!  “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”    


Thankfully for me I was 25 years young when I had my last drink.  Eight long years of depression, missed opportunities, mornings that felt like death, friends lost, pictures and stories that still float around that makes up a few chapters of my life.  In the end, I wouldn’t wish my story on my worst enemy, but I wouldn’t trade it for the life of me.  I guess when I truly look at just how many steps I have now taken in my sobriety it is all the days that I lost that drives me to live out the days that I have left. Number 45 on my bucket list was to hike to Angels Landing at Zion National Park.  As a bonus, I made it up the side of that mountain with enough time to spare to make my way over to Bryce Canyon.  As I sat there reflecting on just how many steps I have taken in my own sobriety I couldn't help but get overwhelmed at the incredible sunset that was unfolding in front of me. Prior to my last drink I would have already been belly up to bar, chalked the day and hike up as a great experience, but now, free from my addiction I am embracingly my own life and enjoying all of the beautiful things that come into my life, one day at a time.

A small disclaimer, I wouldn’t recommend that hike in that kind of heat, but I sure don’t regret it!

If you have ever been touched by an addiction issue, or know a friend or family member that is currently battling with their own struggles, just understand that it is possible to reclaim your life, to re-write your own story. I am not anyone special, just a 28-year-old Kentucky boy that has a burning desire to once again live my life, like truly live it. Each morning that I woke up prior to my last drink was just as much of blessing as my mornings are today. I never wanted to die, but I had fully given up on living my life. My drinking and all the repercussions that followed were a byproduct of me trying to escape into a darkness that I didn’t need or want to worry about my next few choices in life.  Each time I heard my alarm clock go off I truly was thankful, even if those days were filled with regret. Now, sober, most mornings I don’t need to set an alarm.  I go to bed thankful, I sleep well, and I wake up grateful for the opportunities that await me for that day, even if it is 117° outside. 

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Bryce Canyon, Utah