I had a few concerns about my first overnight rafting trip. As a left-brained analytical, will I be able to “do it right?” Can I get my gear and myself down the river to arrive at the same time without embarrassing myself by turning over and sending the dry bags bobbing downriver without me? Or worse, the kayak? Did I remember to bring not only my Snowpeak mini-stove, but do I have the right blend of fuel canister to go with it? But not the least of my concerns is “How will I go three whole days without the internet???” My cold turkey sweats start to subside by the second day…
I don’t wake up until the first rays of sun are reflecting back off the rock walls. I jump out of my sleeping bag, hoping to not be the last one up….too late. John and Kathy have already moved their chairs down to the “beach” to watch the canyon walls change color in the early morning light. I grab my camera and my new camp chair and join them. John has the great idea to move the camp “kitchen” down to the shoreline so we can eat breakfast while watching the river roll by. BJ joins us, and before long, the smell of bacon is wafting through the air. Can there be a more idyllic way to start the day?
We decide we will just sit there staring upriver until the first day trippers show up. This kayak trip is a common day trip, and Arizona Hot Springs is one of the most popular stops along the eleven mile river trail. Finally it is getting close to noon, and so far our only visitors have been ducks, traveling two by two. We watch a courting dance, some territorial chases, and plenty of antics to vie for a hand out. It is obvious they have had a great deal of success with their strategy, as one even pecks at the bottom of my shoe as if to say “Don’t be so stingy with those cashews, lady!”
John and BJ have planned this as a two night trip, not just to enjoy time on the river, but to allow time to hike, as BJ knows where there are some petroglyphs. This involves hiking back up through the hot springs, and then another 1.5 miles through a canyon. We pack accordingly, as we plan to stop on our way back through the hot springs for a soak.
After the half mile trek through the warm water, we stop for a shoe change, then continue on up the gradual climb through the canyon. The rock formations and coloration are just beautiful! I am quite surprised, as I anticipated a walk through desert scrub brush to reach the petroglyphs, but instead, they are eclipsed by the beauty of the canyon! John is not impressed with the petroglyphs, and says we should refer to them instead as “rock art.” 😉
As we turn to head back down the canyon, we see rolling thunderheads in the distance. Fortunately, it is a quick hike back downhill, as the clouds are moving almost as quickly. Once we reach the hot springs, there is thunder overhead, and it is starting to rain. The rest of the group decides to forgo the soak, which is torture for me! I can’t imagine anything more heavenly than soaking in these springs after a hike with the rain cooling my head! There are others in the pools as well, and they show no signs of leaving. I tell John, “I think this is just a quick moving thunderstorm. I will be okay to get back down the ladder on my own, so I am going to stay and soak for a while.” He responds, “Okay. Your choice. But remember….it IS a slot canyon…” I think back to the mile and a half of canyon we just hiked through, lined by stone worn smooth by the power of rushing water. I remember the warnings I have read about slot canyons….it’s not only what is happening here, but what is happening upstream as well. I figure discretion being the better part of valor and all, I will forgo it, and let go of the fact that I just hiked three miles wearing a swimsuit beneath my hiking clothes for no reason. 😉
We make it back to camp just as the rain starts to pepper down. The raindrops on the rain fly of my tent lull me into a wonderful afternoon nap, and all too soon I hear people stirring outside, giving me no excuse to sleep away the afternoon. The sun is out, and daylight is wasting. A late lunch morphs into dinner prep. The Schroeders enjoy Beef and Mushroom Stew over Rice, Kathy has Thai Curry Soup, while I have another dreadful meal from National Geographic’s “Live Prepared” line of reconstituted meals obviously geared toward the preppers. Their packaging reads, “Living prepared is about everyday peace of mind. LIVE PREPARED provides the essential food and gear needed to help you plan, prepare, and keep your family safe in the event of the unexpected.” If this is what is on the menu for the end of time, I am gonna be really skinny!
The moon is in its waxing phase, just two days shy of being full, and there is not a cloud in the sky. We decide to take our chairs down to the river’s edge again and watch the moon shadows glimmer on the black water and canyon walls. The night is cool, but we add layers of warmth and stay out “moon bathing” until 9:00pm. I fall asleep with the moon shining through the unzipped slits in the windows of my tent and wonder how two nights could have ever seemed like too much internet withdrawal?