I’m tired and I’m dusty and I’ve got a neck-ache from wearing the backpack, but I’m in a much better mood than I was last time I posted. And it’s all thanks to a great hiking experience.
We love hiking. I used to take my daughter on once-weekly Sierra Club Family Hikes when we lived in California, and I loved showing her Nature and getting fresh air and chatting with the other moms with whom we hiked. But since we moved to Utah, we’ve not had great luck with hikes. In fact, for a while we were almost convinced the state was out to get us. Before scrapping the idea of hiking altogether until we moved somewhere less rugged, I decided to make my best effort to find what everyone else loves about hiking in Utah. I made my proclamation: We would hike every Sunday this fall until it snows. My husband shrugged his shoulders in assent and I went in search of hikes.
Armed with the book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Salt Lake City by Greg Witt, I set about listing all of the hikes described as “Family Friendly.” I prioritized them by altitude (we’d do the highest ones first in order to extend our hiking season as long as possible), distance from Salt Lake City, and whether they allowed mountain bikes on the trail or not (we avoid mountain bikes when hiking with little hikers). We give the highest priority to hikes that end at water features, particularly waterfalls.
Each week we choose a hike, and I e-mail the information about the hike to a group of friends who have expressed interest in walking with us. We did three nearby hikes, all around 2 miles round-trip, or less. Encouraged by our daughter’s enthusiasm for hiking, we decided to go for a longer (about 4 miles, round-trip), more distant hike that promised to have a spectacular payoff: Stewart Falls in Provo Canyon.
We were not disappointed. Just the drive up the canyon was worth the hour in the car. The fall colors were beautiful; golden-yellow aspens and orange-red maples stood out bright against the deep green of the conifers. The 2-mile hike to the falls was a little steep at times, but no steeper than the other hikes we’d been on. Our daughter walked the whole way, gathering rocks to throw in the creek when we got there and listing all of the things she would draw when we got home. Our son rode on Daddy’s chest in a wrap carrier (a blue-and-white Indio Didymos, for those who keep track of these things) and played with the leaves and rocks that my husband handed him.
The trail was well marked and led us right down to the bottom of the falls. The falls themselves were gorgeous, with several tiers of rock over which the water cascaded and eventually splashed down into a shallow creek at the base of the rock wall. We stopped and ate a snack and lamented that we’d forgotten our camera. One of the other hikers there offered to take our family’s picture in front of the falls and e-mail it to us, so we sat together on a rock on the edge of the stream and had our picture taken. The kids threw their rocks into the creek, the baby wading right in, shoes and all, and sitting down in the water. After a cursory cleanup, we headed back the way we’d come.
The trail began uphill, then went downhill to the falls, so when we returned, we first had a significant section of uphill, which elicited a fair amount of whining from our daughter. My husband saved our sanity by giving her a piggyback ride until the trail leveled off. He was quite the tough-guy with a 14-month-old on his chest and a 5-year-old on his back. Once the trail leveled off, my husband let our daughter down to walk again. We motivated her with talk about the picnic lunch we would eat back at the trailhead and a game in which she and I pretended I was a mother mountain lion teaching her cub how to stalk and pounce on prey. We ran up ahead on the trail, hid behind some foliage, and then jumped out when my husband and the baby came near. The baby laughed his little tush off at this.
On our way back, the trail was quite busy. We speculated about whether it was so busy because of people in town for General Conference, or if it was because of the fall colors, or if it was just always this crowded along the Alpine Loop. Whatever it was, Stewart Falls appeared to be a very popular destination this afternoon.
After lunch, we drove the remaining portion of the Alpine Loop to see more scenery. It’s trite to say, but the mountains and rock walls and fall colors really were breathtaking. And…we saw a moose! We didn’t even get to see a moose when we visited Glacier National Park before the kids were born! I was so excited. I kept scanning our surroundings the rest of the way to the highway, but I never saw another moose.
Back at home, I started dinner and did some more decluttering in the kitchen while my husband played outside with the kids. I found some Easter candy stashed on a high shelf. Apparently that was an effective method for getting our daughter—and us—to forget about the remaining peanut butter eggs and half-eaten Tootsie Pops. I’m relieved that no other creatures found them before I did.
I knew I enjoyed taking our weekly hikes, but today’s experience really brought it to another level. I started out feeling very discouraged and disheartened about the whole decluttering project, and I came home tired but more realistic about the task in front of me. I got some fresh air, a beautiful and mildly challenging walk, and I felt a connection with the landscape of Utah. For the first time since we moved here, the geography didn’t feel inaccessible to me. We’re already planning to return to Provo Canyon to hike—and maybe even camp—next summer.
Hopefully I can hold onto this peaceful feeling until next week’s hike.