Sunday, June 6, 2010

Red Canyon of the Hart

Sunday June 6 2010

I used to hike a lot. Long hikes. Hard hikes. Peaks. Cross country. Forests and mountains. Now it's only on occasion. Last few hikes I did, I stumbled about gracelessly, the ground feeling foreign. My feet were out of practice, my body uncoordinated. I must get my hiking legs back underneath me.

Today I head cross country in the Owyhee desert to the Deep Red Canyon of the Hart. The skies are dark, blue-gray and heavy; the rain is moving down from the Owyhees. It begins to fall on the desert, on me, first a soft mist. Then I hear the sound of drumbeats all around me. Then I feel the drumbeats. The earth turns dark, glistening; the flowers emanate intense hues - the Indian paintbrush, purple sage, wild onion, buckwheat, penstemmon, globemallow, lupine. The earth gets wet. My skin gets wet. The flowers reach skyward and drip raindrops. I turn my head skyward and rain drips from my face.

Today my feet are feeling the earth, molding to the uneven ground, moving over it without tripping, without slipping on the wet rocks. I smell the wet desert, the sweet sage and flowers of the shadscale. I absorb the rain like the desert.

Today it's just me an a lone pronghorn on a ridge in the distance. We study each other. I have binoculars. He has the speed with which to disappear. It takes me half an hour to reach where he was.

Before I see the cliffs of the Deep Red Canyon, I hear the roaring waterfalls on Hart Creek far below. The cliffs are red and gray in the rain. Tall. I can't see the bottom of the canyon. Slippery. I don't get too close to the edge today. They rise abruptly from the wide valley floor to become a deep chasm.

Two empty eagle nests perch on the face of the cliffs. Pigeons fly about in confusion at this rare human intrusion. Canyon wrens sing their melodic downward spiraling tune.

I follow the rim of the canyon. It is magnificent, this hidden canyon in the Owyhee desert, the rhyolite rock carved and sliced over eons by water running down from the Owyhee mountains. A lone juniper stands guard over the canyon walls. I stand beside it, dumbfounded by its perpetual view.

My feet find and follow a game trail down into the canyon. I startle a prairie falcon. It flies away, perturbed, screeching at me. A lush ecosystem crowds this narrow canyon. Fat cottonwood trees squeeze alongside the creek. They are thick with luxuriant leaves. Willows choke the ground. Bouquets of rice grass reach my waist.

I climb back up to the canyon rim and follow it until the high cliffs meld into the soft hills that cover the Owyhee desert, and hide these marvelous canyons.

The flamboyant wildflowers line my return path with a royal carpet. Three baby ravens screech and squawk until I climb a hill to see them. They sit silently and study me then discuss among themselves my place in their desert.

I have my hiking legs back under me today. I think the Ravens approve.


  1. Just beautiful - thanks for sharing your hike with us.

  2. You are a photographer and a fine writer. I loved going vicariously on the hike. Thanks

  3. I love your pictures!

    We are only doing one Idaho ride this year and it's going to be Old Selam!

    I think the Hallowed Weenies sounds fun , if I can swing it!

  4. My two bad knees deny me hiking so your passion will have to satisfy me from afar. I love the descriptions.

    And the running horses in the post below!! Stunning. What more can I say?

  5. How absolutely perfect that the ravens are there to send you off into the desert after your canyon hike.
    Thank you for this post. You carried me away....something that is not easily done with words. I felt like I was right there with you. In my youth I hiked in very similar ways. Just me and my dog, we'd set off for hours exploring with agenda.

    Such fond memories. But years later, after 3 children, injuries and a much more challenged body, and a more cynical mind I haven't dared to go off on serious hikes like that. I worry too much. I worry that I could get hurt, or lost....or might never want to come back. lol!

    Trail riding is the main reason I have my own horse. My horse gets me back out into nature, feeling free and unhindered by the physical weaknesses of my knees and my hips. My horse carries me and helps me feel like I can go anywhere and travel for days.

    But sometimes it's also wonderful to just get out on your own, too. You inspire me to get out there and do some serious hiking again.


    ps My tights arrived last week.....and I love love love them!

    Thanks so much for recommending that I order some tights from Evelyn! Now I'm all set for the ACTHA rides this weekend. Waahooo!