21 January 2016

Go Ahead. Hike in a Tutu.

The alarm went off before the sun woke up. GrandBob roused the troops with coffee in hand, ready to start the day. We dined on the best corn bran and milk available from the local grocery, eating with plastic spoons while sitting in the back of a 1998 camper truck. By 7:30am, with tutus lovingly donned around our waists, we were on our way. I guess you could say we were ready.

Bob married my grandmother when I was 10, after dating for 10 years. While we aren't technically related, he's the type of family you feel lucky to marry into,and grateful when you get to spend time together. He's full of incredible stories and loves to travel. My grandmother met him in the Sierra Club, where her adventurous spirit took her outside to meet other lovers of wild places. They got married in a beautiful outdoor ceremony and recently celebrated 30 years together. I feel lucky to have them both in my life.

Angels Landing: not for the faint of heart.

GrandBob still likes to travel quite a bit, and last year he decided he wanted to hike Angels Landing in Zion - for the fifteenth time. He also wanted to do it in a tutu. A purple one. Which is how I ended up eating corn bran in a camper at 7am next to my my 78 year old grandfather with purple tulle around his waist.

He'd been in the park a few days by the time we arrived (Bob's son John, who also lives in the Seattle area, came along as well), so Bob had everything mapped out for us. A short walk to the Zion entrance and a swipe of his senior National Park pass, and we were quickly on the inter-park shuttle. Twenty minutes through lovely canyon brought us to our departure point: Angels Landing trailhead.

GrandBob, John, Grandpa Max, and Me. Sounds like a fun adventure!

As a tutu aficionado, I'm used to people staring and asking questions about my choice in attire. I can recognize a judgmental look from a mile away. More often though, the tutu is an instant icebreaker and people will smile and engage with me in conversation. I have a handful of responses to the inevitable "Why are you wearing a tutu?" question. My favorites include:

  • It's for safety. I need my partners to know where I am at all times. Do you think I can be unsupervised?
  • My bottom was feeling fancy today.
  • It's my birthday!
Occasionally people will note how they "forgot" their tutu, in which case I chastise them appropriately for the obvious oversight. I also give a lot of advice on where to buy a tutu (Amazon) and note you can get pretty much any color in the rainbow, including a rainbow tutu! 

Everything looks better in a tutu.

GrandBob is much less used to this tutu attention, and so he balked a bit the first time I told someone we were hiking in a tutu to celebrate his birthday. Sure, it was September and his birthday is in May, and sure he was only turning 79 in May and I told everyone we were hiking for his 80th birthday, but math is hard when you get old and once you pass 25 sometimes you forget how old you are anyway, so I decided just to go with it.

The weather was perfect - sunny, warm but not too hot, and not a cloud in the sky. We stopped frequently to enjoy the views. We took our time on Walter's Wiggles, pausing for just a beat at the end of each wiggles - a series of 21 switchbacks in the middle of this 5.2 mile RT, 1500' ft hike. 

Just scoping out the scenery.

One of Walter's many Wiggles.

We reached the plateau where the "trail" turns into more of a ridgeline, sometimes only a few feet wide. From here, you can see the rest of the hike splayed out in front of you looking absolutely impossible. The path is steep and equipped with chains to help you along. Strangely it's a lot scarier going up than going down.

But my mind was elsewhere. By this time we'd passed a number of folks on their way down, and I'd lied about GrandBob's birthday no fewer than 20 times. My Uncle John felt all of my deceit was in poor taste and he wasn't keen to play along anymore. That made me sad.

But THEN he told someone it wasn't Bob's birthday after I just told the lady it was, and the look of sheer disappointment on her face made him change his tune. "Lying is fun!" I got John to say with me. He could see the light. No harm was caused through my little white lie, and suddenly dozens of people were "in" on the "magic" with us. We were spreading joy!

Skinny trail we're on. Sheer drops on both sides. You can see our destination just to the left of the tip of the tree.

Caw CAW!

Before we knew it we were standing on the top, taking in the view, and enjoying a lovely conversation with 100 new hiking friends. GrandBob was glowing, I was stoked, and John was thrilled. Happiness all around! The real fun, though, came on the way down...

GrandBob Showing off his new tutu!  


The three of us on a separate hike. We forgot to take a group trip on Angels Landing.

View from the top!

As you young-bucks might imagine, hiking with a near-octogenarian involves a relaxed pace. As such, we were slower going than many of the folks we met on the summit. Our stroll down was leisurely and pleasant, and surprisingly peppered with 'Happy Birthday' pleasantries from nearly everyone we passed on their way up.

Turns out, one of our summit friends told everyone they passed about the 80 year old hiking in a tutu to celebrate his birthday! So everyone told GrandBob 'happy birthday'! The smile on his face was incredible, and reminded me why I wear this silly costume all the time in the first place: we gave other people something to talk about - a story to tell - and in term they gave my grandfather a day he won't soon forget!

When we got back to the truck he said it was the most fun he's had in a really, really long time. Me too GrandBob. Me too.

GrandBob - Already dreaming about his next purple tutu destination.

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