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Jake Van Wiggeren

Wiggeren (fourth from left)

My Zion Reflection

[dropcap size=big]M[/dropcap]y trip to Zion was nothing short of incredible. I went in with some backpacking experience and a hunger for more. I was worried about the challenges that i would face in Zion, but I was totally unaware of what they were. Now having done it, I have emerged a changed person, In a very positive way. I learned how nature truly reveals your true self, and i got to look in the primal mirror in a very stark way. I have nothing but positive things to say about the trip and my reflections in it.

The first big change that occurred in me was my previous philosophy regarding how one saw oneself in nature. I thought that the way to access the “ primal mirror” or the kind of self reflection that  can only be accessed in  the back country, through solo hiking in silence.

I attempted to take vows of silence on the trail, but it didn’t always work out. Those times definitely were useful, and the solo hikes that I had also led to me having some very interesting conversations with myself. However, I felt like I was missing something. Perhaps I Hadn’t truly let the spirit of Zion into me yet, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it until Thursday, our day of hiking to Lava Point from the base of West Rim. This revelation came about 10 miles into the day, where we had come a long way but still had hours left to go. I felt devoid of energy, ego, and morale. I decided to lie on the ground, out of nowhere I began to laugh. I laughed at the tree above me, I laughed at the idea of the tree, I laughed at myself for laughing. I realized that I was looking at absurdity of my own existence at the moment.

Some people have transcendental , religious experiences in Zion, yet mine was existentialist and very personal. I saw very clearly that the emotional guards that I had placed in front of me had fallen, and how ridiculous they truly were. I saw vividly how ridiculous It all really was. In this, though, I felt incredibly invigorated. I Decided to give the next stretch all the meaning it truly had. It was more than just a path to camp, it was the journey, the views, the physical stress, that really mattered. I felt renewed, and I felt like a child with boundless energy and limitless wonder.

It was a kind of purity of happiness that I don’t think I could have felt in any place other than Zion. the primal mirror was not to be found in stern reflection tied up by emotional walls, it was in the moments where those walls did not exist. The primal mirror is to be looked at in the lowest points, and that’s where we can find the truest emotions.

Other incredible highlights for me were the entirety of Hop Valley and Echo Canyon. Marcus told me that Hop Valley was a highlight for him, and he was totally right. The views were not as dramatic as the main valley, but the beauty of Hop Valley lies in its serenity and subtle features. It feels so calm and nice that it is impossible to avoid. The setting sun mixed with shade and cool water rock races on either side made for a scenario that is burned into my mind.

I yearn for that serenity now as I write this.

Jake Van Wiggeren is the 2017 PRHS Valedictorian.



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