A 4-Hour Hike Where a Boy Becomes a Man

David Turk
Guest Contributor

Several years ago, 15 or so, my son Dylan and I had one of those spot-weld moments, even transformational in nature.  He was roughly 14 at the time and we were embarking on a father-son trip out to the beautiful Southwestern US. 

After about a week together, going from one national park to another, it was clear that we were getting on one another’s nerves.  Sleeping together in double beds in cheap hotel rooms will do that!

Anyway, we reached Zion National Park in Utah, and he was at his breaking point. I wasn’t enjoying HIS company, either, but specifically he was having one really horrible day, a total meltdown. With about just a half-day remaining on our visit to the park, I offered him one last hike, the challenging Angel’s Landing, arguably one of the most dangerous and popular hikes in the United States.

Even though he really was a great kid, and had the physical athleticism to participate fully, he was all  about “I don’t wanna do that.” Totally arms-folded, you-can’t-make-me kind of attitude. 

The afternoon forecast told of possible thunderstorms, and the rangers were discouraging us from taking the hike. After a bit of hemming and hawing, and seeing that this would be our one final shot at accomplishing this feat, we both did a “FUCK-IT’ and figured we would take our chances.

In near silence, we started walking together.

After the first 20 minutes, the views were spectacular and there was interest.

He had come alive.

For those of you familiar with Angel’s Landing, it gets really hairy about ¾ of the way to the top. The only way from falling off the mountain is to hold onto this small chain built into the rocks … NOT a walk in the park. At times hanging off the path at a 30-degree angle, the smell of real danger was in the air. And, it was physically demanding. It was difficult. 

I had to hold him at points. He held me up at points. It was all fairly death defying. His mother would have freaked out if she were aware of what we were doing.

Thankfully, we reached the top in one piece. With the tough part behind us, and enjoying the incredible views, we experienced pure exhilaration.

Having returned to the base, arms around one another, we enjoyed a good soak in the cold river, laying there with water flowing over us. He might also have had his first beer that day. 

Dylan was a different person by the end of that hike. This little boy had become a young man. I think he grew up that day. And it only took four hours.

Thus ended a day trip we’ll never forget. And one that my son – once a kid playing it safe – morphed into an adventurer for life.

Dylan is now in Australia, completing a 2-year journey that has reaffirmed his willingness to take chances, to live life fully, to trust himself. 

Might there be a connection to that afternoon spent years ago in Zion to the man he has become?  I think so.

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