Mon, Jan

Check down below but don’t look down


I jumped off a cliff not too long ago.

Everyone else was doing it.

I went up to Clear Creek in Winslow to get out of the heat and enjoy the water. After seeing pictures of the area, the thing most clear to me was that I would have to partake in an Arizona hobby I’ll admit I’d put off trying. High rock faces bordered the narrow water on either side, jutting straight up from below.

We paddled through the more congested entrance, looking for the best spots to take the plunge. We passed by a timeline of drawings on the cliff faces. There was a huge Batman logo, and less than a mile away a series of petroglyphs. The placement of both was impressive if only for the amount of balance it must have taken in order to pull those off.

I stood on a relatively modest ledge, at best 15 feet high, and my legs felt unsure on the precipice. It hadn’t looked that high when I saw other people jump it from the safety of my canoe. My feet tingled as if they wanted to flee my legs. I did it, though, and can see the allure. We also got some swimming and fishing in, too.

Then, the next Monday, I heard over our police scanner the call for rescue at Grasshopper Point, where a woman had not cleared the rocks below and was injured. I was glad that our group had not tried anything with as much risk.

It was a different experience, though. Someone I was with was surprised that I had never cliff dived into the water, having grown up in Michigan — a place known for its abundance and greatness of lakes. I explained that we had these things called beaches, and that you just walked into the water.

Before this, my highest jumping point was off the rails of a pontoon boat. On top of that, even the modest current of Clear Creek was a bit more than I was used to, and as I swam it, I became aware of the lack of beaches upon which to rest on, even though I was only 10 feet from land. I’ll admit, after doing my best to go the distance at a place past where our canoe would travel, I had to beach myself on a rock I could only partially get up, leaving a few scrapes. But it was worth it to find a few tiny spots with familiar sand worn down from the cliff edge.

Though I, like many residents, come from an area with far more water than this high desert, its movement and dangers are different and we should take the time to prepare before taking the plunge. From slippery, shallow creek beds to raging currents, there’s a lot I’ve had to grow accustomed to, but it also amounts to new ways of enjoying some of our most beautiful areas.

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