Last weekend Tara and I got out on our first backpacking trip of the season. We headed south down to Capitol Reef National Park for a one-nighter. We chose to do Lower Spring Canyon, a 9 mile long dry canyon. The plan going in was to hike like halfway, camp then get up the next morning and hike back the way we came to the car. Thus, we set out, laden with extra water as there wouldn’t be any in the canyon.
Being in a dry canyon such as that one is interesting. The sheer cliffs on either side are breathtaking. However, at the same time, one feels claustrophobic, longing to see what lies beyond those walls, fantasizing in the hot desert sun about flying up out of the canyon. Maybe that comes from too much time spent on Google Earth. Aside from the wonder of what lies outside the canyon, the knowledge that the only water within miles is on one’s back can be particularly nerve-racking and exciting at the same time.
A few miles into the canyon, we both had the sudden desire to “conquer” the canyon—hike it all the way through, emerging victorious at the cool refreshing waters of the Fremont River and the welcoming scar of civilization, Highway 24, at the other side. Therefore, we decided that rather than retrace our steps back to the car the next day, we’d hike the rest of the canyon, fill up on water at the river, and then hitch hike, walk, or crawl the 7 miles back to the car on the highway.
We did about 7.5 miles that day. Admittedly, we did not realize how the hot desert sun would suck the water out of us, and when we stopped for the day around 4:30 and set up camp, we were both suffering mild heat exhaustion. Not to fear! We sucked down extra water, and rested in the tent in the shade of the cliffs, and were soon feeling much better.
Night time in the canyon was incredible. Bats came out from their dwellings in the cliffs, and we could hear them “chirping” as they navigated the perfectly dark night. I think we had both forgotten what true solitude is like, and it is exhilarating.
The next day we made breakfast (had to skip coffee to preserve water), broke camp, and hiked the last 1.5 miles out of the canyon. I can’t describe how excited we were to get to that river. Half mile from it, new plants appeared, and the canyon became more verdant. We knew we were close, and walked faster. Then, almost out of no where, there it was. I threw down my pack and jumped in. It was so cold it took my breath away, but it was absolutely amazing. Never have I been more excited to see water.
We forded the river, and walked up to the second joyous sight: the highway. We sat down by the road, ate cliff bars, and then shouldered our packs and started down the road attempting to hitch hike for the first time ever. Alas, the road was pretty untraveled, and we weren’t having much luck. After about 2 miles, I was suddenly struck with an awesome realization: we didn’t have to carry the packs! We could just hide them off the road and come back for them in the car.
Back on the road, lunch in our bellies, with only our day packs, our spirits were lifted. Now the road was winding through historic fruit orchards planted by early pioneers. Another mile down, and we were just accepting the fact that we’d probably be walking all the way back to the car when a couple from New Jersey picked us up. They were hikers as well, and understood the concept of a “one way” trail, and thus felt for us. Also, the woman said we looked pretty safe. I have to say the same of them. I wasn’t the slightest bit nervous.
Within 5 minutes, we were back at the car (yet this saved us a good hour). We jumped in, drove back to retrieve the packs, and then did one more hike to Hickman Arch (it was a short one). We concluded the day bay stopping at the historic Gifford Farm and purchasing a homemade strawberry pie which we ate on the spot. It was heaven.