Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A story of the very sore backpacker

I’m home after an incredible weekend with my best friends. I’m sore. I can't walk. My socks have some spots of blood, I am bug bitten, and my camera is dead, really dead.

How did it all start you ask? Saturday morning E and I got up early to meet Ben, Logan and David at the door. We loaded our backpacks into the car and took off towards Escalate Utah. Our goal was to hike the Escalate Canyon and make it up to the swimming holes in Death Hollow. The sky threatened rain, and after our Moab trip about a month ago, we weren’t really set on hiking in the rain. (Ben was so worried he got the new nickname “Withering Pansy”).

Ben, David, Logan and E all ready to rock the trail.

Well after a long drive and a not so quick lunch (all the guys I was with needed to spend a long time in the bathroom before heading out to the backcountry), we got to our location. We found a parking place, did a few stretches, and loaded the heavy packs onto our back.

I was optimistic (as I usually am). The air was nice, and the sky was partially cloudy, perfect for walking in the dessert. All too soon we found out that this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. There were river crossings on this trail, and lots of them. We all changed into our sandals and hiked and hiked.

It was absolutely breathtaking. The mountains were deep deep red, and the entire dessert was in bloom. I took more photos of cactus flowers then of myself. Soon we saw an arch, and then another arch and some Anazasi ruins. The river was crystal clear, and cool. The stream bead was sand in most places, as was the trail. It was a hard hike, but it was fantastic.

After a few hours of hiking, we decided to make camp. We all agreed on a sandy beach shaded by large cottonwoods. We set up camp, filtered water, told way to many dirty jokes, and cooked awesome fish tacos. We all agreed that nothing had ever tasted so good.

The next morning, after a surprisingly good night of sleep in the backcountry, we made a quick breakfast and decided to head to Death Hollow with our daypacks, and use our camp as a base camp. We packed our swimsuits and sunscreen, and lunch and headed out. The day was glorious. The red rocks smiled down on me, and the desert flowers smiled up at me. I hiked and hiked.

Soon we came upon Death Hollow. I had never seen anything so perfect. The river was clear, and the cliffs on each side were high. The water was shin deep, and the sandstone riverbed wove beautiful intricate patters of mini canyons and streams. The rocks held tiny ecosystems of ferns and flowers, almost like a mini jungle. Higher up on the cliffs cactus hung on to their dry cracks in the rocks.

I lead the way, I felt energized and happy. The canyon grew narrow and wide again and again. The river was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. It went from ankle deep to well above my knees. Every so often there were large holes in the sandstone where water would fill, and make a swimming hole! Pretty soon I changed into my suit behind a rock and jumped into the river, in a deep spot. Clear crispness covered my body.

Logan, David, Ethan and I swim in the pools in Death Hollow.

Farther up the canyon we found even bigger swimming holes. We all decided to swim, and slide, and explore. We laughed and basked in the Utah sun in the most beautiful canyon in the world. Ben asked me if I’d like to explore a little higher up the canyon, and as I was following him, with my camera in tow, I stepped into one of these deep-water pockets. Down I went into 6 feet of water, with my camera.

Well shit.

My camera was dead, my wonderful camera. I pulled out the memory card after getting on dry ground again, and hope against all odds that the photos aren’t lost. (Update, the photos survived! Yea!)

Well even the death of my camera didn’t dampen my spirits. After we explored and swam, and washed our ‘undercarriages’ we decided that we better head back to camp.

We hiked and hiked through the river once again. We chatted and looked for fish, frogs and snakes. The hike back was about four miles, and it was late afternoon. Pretty soon our feet started to feel sore. And then more sore. Hiking nine miles in sandals, in the water, is hard on anybody’s feet. Finally we stopped to nurse our wounds, and I counted nine open sores on my feet. We didn’t have any other choice than to keep hiking. We were all in pain.

I was in pain, and my camera was gone, but I was having the single most wonderful day of hiking I had ever had. The sun started to set and Escalate Canyon turned gold, then orange. If I didn’t think about my feet I could enjoy myself. So that’s just what I did. I watched the flowers as the sun turned them gold. I watched the canyon walls as the sun turned them gold. And I didn’t think about my feet.

Once back at camp we all sat down and joked that we had forgotten how good it felt to sit. We cooked a quick dinner (another fantastic backcountry meal of pasta with olive oil, pine nuts, fresh basil, and fresh parmesan) and went right to bed.

Yesterday we woke up. We all were sore, and I was walking around camp like Quasimodo, but we couldn’t stop talking about how awesome Death Hollow was. We ate breakfast, packed up camp, and hiked out of the beautiful canyon.

Now we are all talking about how soon we can go back. Death Hollow captured our hearts, and a good portion of the skin on our feet.

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