As the days get longer and the snow starts to melt, my first reaction is to head South. Nothing cures the winter blues like shedding winter coats and hiking through red rock canyons. This past weekend a group of friends and I packed our bags, and drove out to the middle of nowhere to hike into the desert.
It’s still early in the season, and extra layers are needed, making our packs a little heavier than preferred. To be extra precautious, we all packed sleeping bag liners which add extra insulation from cold spring nights. We bought tuna packets, instant rice, and tortillas to make fish tacos-a backpacking delicacy.
We arrived at sunset, turned on our headlamps, and took off on the trail. The hike into the canyon was about 5 miles, and the towering rock walls were brightly lit from the full moon. We set up camp and feasted under a starry sky. The next morning, we explored the riverbeds that were carved through boulders and lined with ancient twisted Tamarisk trees. We timed our arrival well; the streams were clear and gentle, just before the snow melted up in the mountains. The previous year, these glittering streams looked like gushing monsoons of chocolate milk, and quickly clogged our water filters. But this year was different, we didn’t need to worry about water.
We spent our time there hiking along the river, and found jade colored swimming pools, with rope systems that helped lower you into the water. Still a little chilly for swimming, we ducked under boulders into overhanging rocks that had been carved out over time by dramatic desert floods. We watched the waterfall pour into the pool below.
We told stories about other trips, made each other food, and enjoyed the embrace of sunshine on our faces. For a moment we were able to pause time and appreciate close friends and nature. As we hiked out on the last day, we reached the canyon rim just in time to see a stormy sunset, casting periwinkle clouds over the red Earth. We all stopped to watch the environment change in a matter of minutes. The sky bloomed with pinks, oranges, yellows, and rich lavenders, then subtlety faded into a dark indigo, revealing stars above. Maybe it’s the dramatic pallet that draws us all South in the spring; a reminder that the world can hold color once more.