Friday, April 29, 2005

Tiger Leaping Gorge

"Originally I had planned to trek in Tiger Leaping Gorge, a spectacular two-mile-deep canyon with an old miners' trail clinging to one of its nearly vertical slopes. The trail was temporarily closed last August when a trekker was swept away in a landslide. So I drove to a different entrance and walked to the rapids on a paved road that the government had recently built. I was far from alone. Crowds of urban Chinese, many dressed in business suits, walked alongside me. They were among the tens of thousands of visitors, mainly Chinese, coming to see the gorge. Like me, they were keenly aware that the view may disappear in the relatively near future."

A N.Y. Times piece on Tiger Leaping Gorge (or "Tiger Teaping Gorger", as I remember the entrance sign announcing) today. I spent three incredible days hiking through the gorge, with a guy from Utah and an intrepid Finnish girl. The article mentions that the "high" trail was closed, due to fatalities in landslides. Actually, when I did the hike, the talk was of a pair of Israeli hikers who had fallen not long before. This is not a story about my bravery, however - I managed to be simultaneously exhilarated and terrified for most of three days. Mostly, it was a head game: the trail at most points was perfectly adequate for safe hiking, but to to lift your eyes and take in the scale of the place, and realize how tiny this wrinkle in the wall of rock was in the midst of it all, was to induce vertigo. Worse, there were three or four spots along the way when the trail did, in fact, get seriously narrow, and a trip on some shoelaces would have been very bad. We all agreed that we wouldn't trade the experience for anything, and we all agreed that we wouldn't be rushing back to do the hike again any time soon. Oh, the view may be disappearing soon on account of a dam being built.