Finding a place to backpack in early March is tricky – the further south you can go, the better. Due to travel constraints for some of these students, we opted to create our own backpacking path. We put in just outside of Mesquite, Nevada and meandered with the Virgin River as it rolled through the thirsty Southwestern desert towards the stark shores of Lake Mead, just outside Las Vegas.
For the first few hours, we hiked along in uncertainty, nervous about this unknown route and anxious to leave behind signs of human habitation. About three hours in, we suddenly realized we were truly in the middle of the desert. We ditched our packs and gathered out on a sunny sandbar to sink our feet in the mud and laugh.
For the entire trip we followed our water source through virtually unchanging terrain. Highlights included:
- The mysterious early mornings in the desert
- Being swallowed up in the sunlight of an early desert spring
- Long daytime naps so we could hike in the cool of the morning and evening
- A massive bonfire
- A blindfolded simulation
At the end of this trip – a trip where the signs of human habitation were always close on our heels, where no trail or map could show us the way, where the landscape truly didn’t change at all – it was abundantly clear to me that the essential ingredients for a life-changing adventure in nature are simple: good kids, a bit of sunshine, and freedom to roam and explore.