On the trail: An adversity-free trip to the desert | AspenTimes.com

On the trail: An adversity-free trip to the desert

CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK, Utah – A talented and famous adventure travel writer once wrote that nobody wants to hear about a trip that goes well. Readers want disaster – or at least adversity.

By that reckoning, my four-day weekend in the desert with my daughter was a dud. The only adversity we faced was a ripping wind on Monday, with gusts up to 50 mph, but if you don’t expect wind in the desert in the spring, you’re either inexperienced or a fool.

Anyway, it was a perfect trip. It was potentially our last spring break together because Hannah is heading to college this fall, and who knows what spring break will bring in 2013? We’ve made desert trips a spring-break tradition since she was in kindergarten. We’ve visited some of the great national parks – Chaco Canyon, Zion and Capitol Reef. Somehow, I had never taken her to the place I know best, the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park.

We had limited time this year, so it was the perfect destination. The Needles has one of the best campgrounds of the national parks I have visited. The spaces are far apart. They have tent pads but aren’t overbuilt – usually a real problem for a park service hell-bent on catering to motor homes. Alas, the campground was full when we pulled in at noon Saturday. No problem. I’ve camped outside the park dozens of times and found one of my favorite spots unoccupied.

Our first full day was highlighted by a hike that pieces together three trails with terrain that might as well be from three different planets. There were sweeping slickrock domes, flat sandy expanses and a lush creek bottom with running water fed by springs and snowmelt.

Our second full day featured a hike through the heart of the Needles, rock spires that look as much like dessert as desert. We imagined them as rootbeer floats or chocolate-marshmallow ice cream. The best part of the second day was the full-body workout. The hike wasn’t just a trudge. We were constantly pulling ourselves up rock ledges or bracing legs for intense, short downhill spurts.

Sure, adversity makes for great conversation. But I’ll take the peace and quiet of a “uneventful” desert outing any day.


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