She woke up with an urge to pee and was immediately greeted with puddles of water in her hiking boots. As she poured them out onto the soaked sand the tent was pitched on, she surveyed the rest of the tent. Due to a faulty rainfly and passing rainstorm, our backpacks had been soaked through and our pillows rendered wet from lying in rainwater in the corners of the tent.
Alea was on her spring break during her sophomore year where most CSU students end up: Utah. “We need to soak this up, now. Where are the towels?” Our measly two towels began soaking up the disappointment while we made plans.
“The kitchen gear is in the guy’s tent, so hopefully it’s dry since their rainfly actually works. We can make breakfast in the car and reevaluate our plans there.” We were camping with our two other roommates, Jake and Noah, plus Jake’s dog, Skipper.
As we emerged from our waterpark of a sleeping space, we were greeted with clouds and damp sand, the first time on the trip our feet had not sunk into the earth with each step. Secretly excited to see the desert in this new setting, we shook the other tent awake.
“We need the stove and food!” Slowly, the tent unzipped. Hands emerged just beyond the opening and sleepy eyes peered out at us. We gathered the kitchen supplies and headed down to the car to set up breakfast.
Alea rearranged the trunk and quickly set up the stove began boiling water. The key to oatmeal is the toppings, something we prided ourselves on having great taste in. After sprinkling our coconut flakes and brown sugar on top of the mush, stirring in cranberries and bananas and topping it with a spoonful of crunchy peanut butter, moods started to look up.
We watched the rain drizzle as our companions sauntered to the car with Skipper, the now soaked, smelly springer spaniel.
Four of us huddled in the Rav4, trying to warm up our sandy and numb feet while we ate our breakfast and sipped tea out of travel mugs.
Finally, Alea broke the silence. “So, it’s rainy in Zion today and they’re warning about flash floods. I say it’s not worth the drive for us to do a measly hike and pay the entrance fee.” The car nodded in agreement and the idea of heading into town was suggested. On the drive into the site, we had spotted a movie theater and a few shopping points of interest.
After realizing all outdoor options were a bust, we drove the hour to the nearest town, hoping the gear back at camp would dry off as the rain slowed down.
Once we were in town, a quick Google search revealed our worst fear about being in Mormon territory: everything was closed. It was Sunday.
Eventually, a rebel open coffee shop revealed itself to us and we settled into a zombie-like state of social media checking. Eventually bored of seeing Florida and Mexico all over our timelines, we turned to the real problem.
“Everyone, start looking for something to do today.”
Should we hit Escalante National Park? Too rainy. Viewpoints? Too foggy, plus movement was key on this trip.
The four of us came to a conclusion at nearly the same time: “Let’s go to the sand dunes!” We piled into the car, stomachs full of pastries and hearts ready for a rainy day adventure.
The dunes are famous for their coral pink attributes in dry weather. But it wasn’t dry.
It was rainy and our secret joy was none of us knew what we were getting ourselves into. Soaked with rain, the dunes were a fiery orange and a hell of a lot easier to walk on than normal. Dodging sand-sledders and ATV adventurers, our crew of four plus trusty dog hiked our way up the dunes, balanced on peaks and napped under the trees. The morning was a success.
Around 1 p.m., the sun eventually came out. Distracted by the rays, we realized this was our cue to begin the rescue mission of our gear. Arriving back at camp, we flung every item in those tents onto nearby trees to dry. The site resembled a ransacked hipster hideout.
A few handfuls of trail mix later and we were antsy again. “Now that it’s dry, let’s go explore the rocks!”
We had been lucky upon arriving at the walk-in site and it was even better and cheaper than the murmurs on the internet had told Alea and I. During the research process, there was very little information on the site, but very many gorgeous photos. Since it was a walk-in site, we had to take our chances and hope there were open sites by the time we arrived.
We were surrounded by sand washes and slot canyons, climbing and hiking were only a few feet away from where we slept. And camping on the grounds during off-season meant our stay was free.
Chacos were dawned, the long leash was attached to Jake’s backpack and we were off. Clambering over the rocks to find the best route to the top became a game we each participated in with childhood delight. Freedom was on the mind and body.
We found a slot canyon near the top of the canyon of rocks and saw water trails on the walls from that morning, the only reminder in this high desert of the passing storm that morning.
Eventually, we meandered back to our campsite to check on gear. It was still damp, but the mats were dry. Yoga mats and sleeping pads alike littered the grounds as we laid out to read, nap and even brush through some knots which had been collecting in Noah’s unruly hair over the past few days of camping.
Finally, hunger drove us to make dinner: a medley of vegetables, black beans and rice, the usual. We loved it every single time we made it.
Our bowls of deliciousness came with us as we made our way up the rocks again, this time to watch the sunset as we ate and reflected on the day. Each adventure was so unlike the last and we smiled to ourselves.
The sounds of Enya echoed through the canyon as the sun set and promised more adventure with its return. Stars began showing up, one by one, trying to outshine each other in their efforts to impress the universe and send us scurrying towards a much deserved night’s sleep.
This story is a part of a transmedia project I am working on for my Online Storytelling and Audience Engagement class at Colorado State. If you would like to learn more about the project, leave your questions in the comments or reach me here.