One by one we crawled out of our assorted tents to the cool mountain air. The moon still out as the sun began to creep past the eastern peaks, illuminating the valley as hints of life came back to the canyon. The burnt out trees from a long distant blaze were an eerie reminder of how cruel this desolate landscape could truly be. For some there was only one answer. Coffee!
The sun raced skyward while we enjoyed some fireside oatmeal and muddy caffeinated water. Quickly the heat made itself known as the last of us still in tents came out complaining how stifling it was beneath those insulated layers. We made a few friends as we cleaned up our campsite doing our best to “leave no trace,” our 4-legged friends were sorely disappointed. The temperature shot up nearly 30 degrees as we took down our bear bag, broke camp and set out on what remained of our trek through the Red Canyon.
Estimating that we covered 6 miles previously we set a steady pace as we traversed through new rock formations. With our shortcut inaccessible, we had 8 miles where we were the only creatures on 2 legs in the whole park. Today’s trail looked as if the horses had passed through days or weeks before with only a few dried out scat piles. We enjoyed the serenity of nature as we worked our way through riverbeds long dried and past massive hoodoos. Certainly this one must be the Mexican Hat from our trail map?
What makes a hat Mexican? No matter, we kept up the pace and quickly came to a trickling, muddy riverbed. This must be the ATV trail we are supposed to follow out of here. But it goes off in 3 directions!
After a few photo ops (gotta get that new profile pic!) our fearless leader picked the western path. There were a handful of “I told you so’s” and we were off again. The sun now at our backs, a wonderful breeze rustling the pines and keeping us cool brought about the realization that we only had a few miles left. Some were inspired to pick up the pace while others held back soaking in the scenery. Our group splayed out along the trail as we passed reminders of the dire landscape, new friendships were forged with the bonds of hiking through the dessert.
A hawk broke the silence as we rounded the next bend only to find another desolate riverbed. Remnants of the tributary that fed the flow sat next to a long dead tree, reminding us yet again of the life giving, and taking power of water. We came across the group taking another pack break in the shade and knew it was time for a drink. Hold the scotch until we get back to the campfire, this time I need water.
We were making great time and soon a friendly wager came about. No one was sure how many miles were left but we knew it couldn’t be far. Some placed price is right style bets on when we would reach the trailhead and finally be able to relax with some air conditioning, the prize? Winners’ bags would be packed by the losers tomorrow morning.
We rounded the next bend and could begin to see forest along the horizon. What a view! The red rocks slowly slunk away as the forest overtook the landscape. We were near the end but wait. Was that a face in the rocks?
With Olmec watching over us we rounded the last corner and saw the trail wander out of the canyon and into the forest. Some turned for one last gaze upon the magnificent landscape while the rest were excited to get ready for our next adventure!