You can show me a trail to follow, but if there’s a river nearby I guarantee you can find me in the thick of it. Boulder hopping is one of the best parts of a river hike; the water is cool on this 90 degree day, I need to test out my new hiking sandals, and I can tell the boulders will be perfect for hopping. Now, this is no ordinary river hike today. Today we are waterfall hunters on the search for oasis in the Arizona desert. An easy 2 hour drive from Phoenix gave us strangers, many of us meeting for the first time, extra time to get to know each other a little better before we started our hike into the Salt River Canyon. I’m unsure how I’ll fare keeping up with these adventurous souls on a hike I’ve never done before, but nevertheless I’m excited to explore my ass off.
Once we pay our fee for day use in the canyon on the White Apache Indian Reservation, we begin the winding, cliff-side drive, down in to the canyon to the trailhead, roughly 4 miles in from the highway. Once our entire group of 8 was gathered and ready to go we set off into the canyon. I’m already taken aback at the beauty of the canyon walls surrounding me, and we haven’t even hardly began our journey.
The water is cool and I’m happy with my choice of hiking sandals opposed to water shoes; I enjoy having free toes! I immediately take to boulder hopping through the river; the boulders are perfect size and if I fall the water isn’t too deep or the current too fast. Scotty and Dane, two of my fellow adventurers and photographers of the group are also trekking through the river, capturing running water and group shots along the way. I honestly have no idea how much time is passing and I often lose sight of my group though I know they aren’t far ahead. Adventure buddy, Scotty, continues through the river with me, still capturing the beauty of the canyon around us. We stumble upon a ledge that seems climbable up one of the canyon walls and I just know I have to climb it to see what’s hiding on top. I remove my sandals and Scotty and I scramble our way up the canyon wall to find our prize of a single sock on top of the ledge. Not what we were hoping for, but our elevated views of the river below was still worth the climb.
After scrambling back to the river below we don’t have far to the real prize we came to the canyon in search of. Another 10 minutes of scaling boulders and wading through the river and I can hear the roar of water around the corner. As soon as I see it I can feel its mist fill my lungs as I’m completely blown away. I should be completely knackered but instead I’m exhilarated as I stand in amazement of the waterfall in front of me. Our group is waiting for us, I can feel the goofy grin on my face continue to grow as does my love for the people I got to experience it with. We set up camp on the bank of the river with the most perfect view. We shared snacks and stories, laughs and love. It was the beginning of a beautiful new friendship both with new people and Mother Nature.
Once the sun was beginning its descent in the sky we decided it was time to start the journey back out of the canyon. Reluctant to go, we all said goodbye to our oasis and started back the way we came. Still romping through the river, my feet are beginning to show signs of blisters, but I keep wading anyway. We still have quite the hike out before we make it back to the vehicles. Still eager for adventure, everyone agrees to run across the road to see another waterfall, Apache Falls, in the dark. This waterfall is much more wide, stretching across the river as far as we can see with our flashlights. The mist leaves you sopping wet and the roar is deafening, but everyone is laughing and smiling and dancing in the face of her midnight beauty. Chase points out constellations in the pitch black sky, decorated with stories of ancient times, as we head back to the trucks. It’s late now and we have to get back to reality tomorrow. I hug my newfound friends goodbye and we all begin our journeys home. I can tell my feet are rubbed raw in delicate places and I’m completely knackered from the day. I don’t mind, it was all worth it in the end.