Children on a Fallen Tree - Red Canyon Colorado National Monument by Matt Janson Photography

Finding Waterfalls in Unlikely Places

“No great discovery was ever made without a bold guess.”
Isaac Newton

“The world unwraps itself to you, again and again as soon as you are ready to see it anew.”
Gregory Maguire, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Thus far, February has been a metaphorical ‘bitch’. Pardon the expression. But as you can see, we haven’t had a whole lot of opportunity to get out and about.

Why? Because we work. A lot.

Sometimes I think keeping up with this blog, and especially our plan for Discovering the Monument, is just beyond what I should ever commit to, time-wise. But here’s the thing: this is work that doesn’t feel like work. I actually have a lot of ‘work’ that doesn’t feel like ‘work’…so how bad can life really be?

Anyhoo- today’s adventure… We love having the kids for weekend adventures!

They were soooooo not interested in getting out and hiking. Especially thanks to the snow melt, a bit of cold and cloud cover, and rain.

Nevertheless, their mother [myself] is undeterred by weather and simply selected a ‘trail’ option that would negate weather concerns: hiking up a wash to find a waterfall. By hiking on the rock we avoid mud and potential footprints, and can usually find some fun watersport options [ie. Trying to hit ice floats with rocks from 50 ft. up; skipping rocks; peeing into the puddles…stuff like that.]

We started with Red Canyon, dropping down from the road and hiking up the wash. If you stay in the lower wash you’ll find a rather challenging water fall to climb up should you choose to continue. Instead, we hiked on the rock rim of the lower wash, and connected to the upper reaches. Matt and I had hiked this way once before. At night. So we knew a little of what to expect.

The area did not disappoint. The rock bed was sculpted in several places. A large log presented its self as an opportunity for the kiddos to challenge their balance. And just about the mile mark, we came to a double-alcove, where two waterfalls were just trickling to life. We let the kids climb around and enjoyed a snack before heading back. [At which point we played ‘who can break the ice by throwin’ a big rock down into the lower wash where there are ice floats…good times had by all….except for me who kept trying to get them to come away from the edge.

Alas, my children are fearless.] When we got back to the car the kids made it quite clear they had enough adventuring for the day.  Alas for THEM, I had not.

So we continued up Ute Canyon, scanning for some things I am curious about [more on that later], and speculating the possibility of a north-rim transvers or descent into Upper Ute Canyon.

At one point we pulled just off the road, and Matt, went down toward the canyon rim to explore. He returned shortly to retrieve his camera, indicating that he had found a more spectacular waterfall than we had seen all day.

I, of course, immediately left the car [after inviting the kids along] to join in his exploit.  My fearless children chose not to follow. Once I spotted the falls as described, I returned to the car and insisted the children follow. Trinity was already out and on her way.

Eventually we were all exploring in the upper wash of Upper Ute Canyon. Trinity kept saying, “I’m in my element. I’m in my element. I love this.” And she did. I followed her as she continued up-stream, and after a time started to feel concerned at the separation of our group. I told her she could go on alone, just stay to the wash, and we would pick her up where the wash crossed the road…I was confident there was a tunnel there.

Unfortunately, I was less confident in the distance to it. And I became even less so as time passed…

I ran back to find the boys and Matt who had headed up the wash toward us. I told them we were going to get the car then pick Trinity up.

As we drive up Rim Rock Drive, following the wash, we began to realize it was much, much further to the tunnel than I had anticipated, and the drainage took a long loop away from the road. We could see that at one point the walls on either side of it rose so that to continue following it you would HAVE to get very cold and wet.

What had I done!?! My mommy senses started sounding all kinds of alarm bells.

Yes, I was confident my daughter would survive. Less confident she would have the foresight to not freeze her butt off or get lost. Every stressful and worrisome scenario played out in my mind. I pulled over and let Matt get out to look up and down the wash and shout for her. He did. Twice.

And there was no sign of her.

I my worry deepened. I had no idea how fast she was hiking or what challenges she was facing, or if she had veered away from the road enough to truly feel lost. And afraid. And when kids are afraid, I’m afraid they get stupid. I hopped out of the car determined to run the entire length of the wash until I could find my sweet daughter.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to. I started shouting for her. And when I want to be loud, please believe me that I can be VERY loud. She finally responded, and I ran toward her voice. I shouted for her to get up to the road…RIGHT NOW!

She did, and though she was very cold, muddy, and her hands hurt from ‘some dumb tree’ who ‘attacked’ her, she was otherwise sound. And smiling.

She’d had a great adventure!

I, on the other hand, had quite enough for the day. A woman can only take so much adrenaline.