One thing I have quickly learned to appreciate about the Red Rocks Gang is that no hike is going to be “pedestrian.” You may find yourself skirting stagnant tanks in the side of the mountain or being hoisted over boulders, but one thing for sure, it will be an adventure! So bring your water shoes, as today, we are walking across a 20 ft wide river and bushwhacking through the bulrushes to reach the trail!
The Lower Spring Canyon Trail is a little over nine miles from the Chimney Rock Trailhead to the Fremont River. Prior to my arrival, the Red Rocks Gang hiked the upper part of Lower Spring Canyon (it gets confusing) approximately 3.5 miles in until it becomes, according to NPS.gov, “extremely narrow and has steep, loose sections with severe exposure.” But there is reportedly an equally beautiful canyon on the other side of the obstruction, beckoning. Bobbie has “intel” that says the opposite end of the Spring Canyon trail can be reached a few yards from the turnout across the Fremont River, so we will hike the other direction and see how far we can get to their original turn around point.
We attempt to follow Bobbie through the thicket, but she has us at a disadvantage, as the thicket is higher than her head. We can see the cliff in the distance and know the river passes in front of it. But the challenge is finding a break in the cliff to reach the Canyon. Finally, we hear shouts from the river, “We found it! OVER HERE!! THIS WAY!! Are you coming??”
We all change into water shoes for the river crossing…unless you are Box Canyon Mark, that is. He just walks across in his socks and tennis shoes. No problem, he will make the 13 mile hike with wet feet. The man may wax poetic and publish postcards, but he’s one tough (or crazy!) hiker! Once on the other side, water shoes are exchanged for hiking boots, then the shoes are hidden in the weeds along the bank to await our return like Moses in the bulrushes.
It takes a few stickers, reed cuts, twig jabs, and there is even blood drawn before we reach the wash that leads to the canyon, but once we find the trail, it immediately opens up to a glorious walk. The steep, stark, severe walls of the canyon are stunning, with natural designs in the rock that eclipse any petroglyphs.
There is a small stream with a trickle of water, just enough to make the canyon floor slightly muddy. Soon, we begin to notice fresh tracks that appear to be big horn sheep. Then shortly, fresh mountain lion prints. If we weren’t sticking close together before, there is certainly reason to do so now.
According to Peterman’s GPS, we have passed the six mile mark, so it seems we should be approaching the opposite side of the obstruction soon. It will be another six mile hike out of the canyon, and it is getting late so the group decides to turn around, though I would have pushed on through to the other side of the canyon. 😉
Once back at the riverbank, shoes lie in wait for the cool, refreshing river crossing. A perfect ending to an exceptional hike on an extraordinary day with like-minded friends.