Behind the Canvas : “Through the Wind”

Behind the Canvas : “Through the Wind”

** Certain locations have been left intentionally vague, though can all be found with some research. Please remember to practice responsible recreation ethics, leave no trace, stay on developed trails, only camp in established campgrounds, and respect the landscape generally. **

In the in-between of winter/spring, Hayd and I were longing for some red rock… an escape from the grey of Salt Lake City in this seasonal purgatory. Knowing that the harshness of winter in the desert would linger in the nearest corners, we opted to escape a bit further- The Grand Canyon. What he hadn’t (intentionally) opted for when selecting these dates was a massive storm pushing through Northern Utah and the broader southwest. Come Saturday, our departure was met with howling winds to the extent that my Honda Element became a wind sail, fishtailing along I-15. 

We spent our first night camped out near Hurricane, UT, on a spot of BLM land that was once quiet and serene, but has now blatantly felt the increase of tourism and recreation in the area. We drove past a multitude of sprinter vans and jeeps to reach a quiet spot where the nearby car lights shrunk beneath the hill we sat atop.

We didn’t arrive here until dark, this trip was prior to daylight savings when the days were still cut short, and the storm overhead brought the sunlight to an even earlier ending. Even though this area was familiar like the back of my hand at this point, both the particular section of BLM land and the broader SW region, I’ve always enjoyed the mystery of arriving to camp after dark. The lack of knowing in the evening makes the morning even more spectacular. 

While the landscape, sunrise, and soaked foliage was a wonderful sight to rise to, our drive out displayed the impending development, overtaking this area with suburban style homes and extended pavement. Things change rapidly in this section of Utah, this, we’ve come to understand by now. That does not mean that we can accept it. 

With a few hours ahead of us until we reached the border of UT/AZ, we had the kind of conversation that makes you forget that the radio hasn’t been on all day. Vocal studies of changing landscapes, the grief that comes with development, the impacts of increased traffic. The quieted wind from yesterday left our minds and mouths louder. 

As the landscape changed from customary red to green back to red again, we watched UT fade into AZ and found ourselves at the entry to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. With no plans other than hopes to spend one night in the interior, we arrived at the backcountry information desk eager to secure a spot at Bright Angel CG. This was not in the cards, probably a good thing as we were both out of shape and myself still recovering from an injury condemned to “taking it easy”. (I, as most climbers do, have a hard time listening to doctors orders… but I’ll give myself a pat on the back for being a good gal with this one.)

The ranger recommended instead a short but impressive trail that would carry us down a steep historical (partially) cobbled trail once used by miners, through areas with radioactive dirt and once functioning mines, and spit us into a quiet wash straddled by towering cliffs and dried yuccas. We happily obliged. 

Our second evening was spent off of a forest service road near the park boundary, where the wind picked up and we were grateful for another evening stuffed into the back of element. The floor may be hard but throw a buddy heater in there (with the windows cracked) and boy is it cozy. 

Come Monday morning, we made our descent into the interior. The sky had finally opened to show that classic endless turquoise you only find in the southwest. We quickly shed the countless layers we had bundled up in as the temperatures rose rapidly with each step. Despite the kinder temperatures, a strong wind lingered. This trail shifted from ice and snow up top to sweltering heat and scampering lizards only 1000’ (elevation) below. These rapid changes were welcomed. After a few short hours we reached a large red mesa scattered with a compilation of vibrant rocks, yuccas reaching to the sky, and closed off mines marked by signs warning visitors not to enter. Our arrival at the mesa meant it was time for a break at one of the world’s most beautiful bathrooms, a vault toilet tucked between junipers. This was the second most beautiful s*** I’ve ever taken. 

Only 1 mile left til we reached the wash but the scree made this the longest portion. The description of unmaintained trail made sense once we reached this point. Our out-of-practice legs were tired from constant descent, so when we finally found our permitted spot for the evening we immediately threw our bags down and got the snacks out. We read through a few chapters of “Women Who Run with the Wolves”, enjoyed some fine dining (Daiya Mac n Cheese), and watched the rocks change from orange to grey to purple as the sun dipped below the horizon. That evening we admired the stars and silence, knowing we only had this one night until we were due back in Salt Lake.  



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