Monday, January 14, 2019

Chasing Spring

News flash: it's not spring. And I don't really want it to be, not yet. There's plenty of skiing and snowshoeing left to be done. It's only January! Let's not wish time away. But sometimes, a person who has been in cold temperatures since November wants to feel a touch of warmth. So, naturally, you go to the canyon.

Oh, Hells Canyon. So alluring, so inhospitable. We drove into the sun, where the temperatures were forty degrees, a heat wave. T had struck out cross country from the Hells Canyon NRA sign, off the lower Imnaha Road, several times before, and she proposed a quick warm-up hike to the Imnaha River from there. Sure, I thought, how hard can it be?
This was the easy part of the route.
As I should have known, when you ask that question, it always is harder than you think. Ill-advisedly wearing my trail running shoes, I picked my way cautiously down a steep chute, following my more sure-footed (and hiking booted) friend. A lot of it required the technical butt-slide maneuver, and I talked myself through the scree sections. Rocks tumbled with abandon, taking me with them. Some inadvertent hand placement on cactus occurred, and much skidding, but we finally emerged on a small, frosty beach.

"I think we came down a different way before," T said. No doubt! "You know, there are easier ways to get to the river," I said, notably driving to it. But there's something grand in knowing you are standing in a place where few have. 

On the way out, we began by climbing the gatekeeper cliffs above the river, but soon fear drove us from those heights--the scrambles were too death-defying. Instead we contoured around and found a deer path that took us back up to the road. Much easier! However, our "quick warm-up hike" had taken a big chunk of our day, leaving us only enough time to explore a powerline road for a couple of miles. 

Still, it's good to be flexible in the outdoors. We stripped down to one layer, unfathomable in January. That's why I love the canyon. I always emerge a little beaten up, but the canyon slowly unfolds its secrets for those who try hard enough.

This was our route out. See the river down there?


  1. Every time you write about this canyon I think about going to see it someday. However, I hope to find a more trail-like trail for access. :)

    1. BUT THERE IS! not many, but some. You'd like them...Long slogs, routefinding, even the possibility of a thirty mile run...Right up your alley. I kid, I kid. But it is definitely interesting in there.

  2. But the cold wasn't far away. I can see it on the mountain tops.

    1. Oh I love can see the cold on the mountain tops. I'm stealing that for my novel. You are right, once the sun goes down it gets pretty chilly.


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