Canyon hideaway

The chilly water provided the rest of our bodies with moments of relief as we sank our heat-driven toes from Tucson into the creek. The sparkle of forest green bounced off the water and demanded our full attention.

The towering walls of the canyon protected, as well as secluded us from the outside world. Only five hours from Tucson, West Clear Creek Canyon offered us a dreamworld environment that alleviated the everyday anxiety of school, work and society.

West Clear Creek Canyon was just one of the many trips I went on this summer. Rising before the sun to ensure an early start, my friends and I all met to finalize the plans for our trip. Through the week's preparation of buying food, planning routes and securing equipment, our reconnaissance of West Clear Creek Canyon was finally about to begin.

We arrived at the top of the canyon at mid-afternoon, ready to descend into another world. Filled with excitement, we hoisted our packs up onto our backs and made sure everything we were packing in was prepared to be packed out.

We descended into the canyon, and the smell of water in the air made us forget about the desert environment we had left behind.

As we reached the bottom, the silence engulfed our minds as well as our bodies. The whistle of the trees and the chatter of the creek were in perfect harmony. The tranquil surroundings left our mouths ajar and our eyes wandering.

The sand stuck to our drenched boots as we approached our campsite on the beach. The glare from the setting sun glistened off the canyon walls as we put together our beachfront condos. After settling in and having dinner, we went to sleep underneath the night sky.

We arose the next morning just as the sun began peeking over the canyon. Knowing that there might be some places in the creek where the canyon walls surrounded the water, we inflated our rafts and tied them onto our packs, prepared for any pool in which we had to float our packs and swim across.

Although we were ready to swim and push our rafts across the canyon pools, it wasn't until the third day that we finally reached the enchanting water holes. Without an easy way to get around the pools, we placed our packs on our rafts, slipped them into the water and began to swim. With one hand guiding the raft and the other making ripples in the water, we swam across. The numbness in our limbs from the bitterly cold water was forgotten by the time we reached the other side.

The previous two days of wandering along trails and wading through shallow water were soon forgotten once we reached the pools. This was the place that the guide books and magazines said was the highlight of West Clear Creek Canyon. Our bodies were in heaven until we remembered that there were more pools ahead.

We dragged ourselves out of the pool, only to be confronted with another. This seemed to be the pattern of the day. Every time we left a pool it was only a matter of minutes before we found a new and even more beautiful one down the creek. Before we knew it, it was early afternoon.

After swimming in a number of pools with the sun smiling above, we decided to exit and return to Tucson. As we said our goodbyes to the underworld dreamland called West Clear Creek Canyon, we took with us priceless memories.

Directions to West Clear Creek Canyon: Take Oracle Road to 77 North. Take 77 North to 79 North. Take 79 North to Florence Junction. Take 60 West to Ellsworth Road. Take Ellsworth Road north to 87. Take 87 to Forest Service Road 149.

Chas Offutt is an undeclared sophomore at the UA and is an employee of Outdoor Adventures, which is a division of campus recreation located in the Student Recreation Center.

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