We usually don't have this much mud, snow, and cold to contend with on the week before Easter. For me, global warming can't get here soon enough. But then, Easter is just a little early this year. We celebrate Easter on the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the Vernal, or spring equinox. It can be any Sunday between March 21 and April 18. This year the equinox happens on March 20, the first full moon on March 21, and Easter Sunday falls on March 23. It doesn't happen that early very often.
Easter is one of our most important religious holidays, and I strongly urge everyone to attend the church of your choice. Heaven knows we need to be in the good graces of the Almighty. Bending a knee and offering thanks once in a while might go a long ways toward keeping us all fat, happy, and safe. But here in rural Utah, something else happens on Easter weekend, too. We all go to the desert for a picnic. It's an old Utah tradition.
Easter weekend is usually a great time to head for the desert. The sand is warming up after a long and cold winter, the rocks and ledges have been washed clean by winter storms, new grass is sprouting and leaves are beginning to blossom on the desert foliage. The air is crisp and clean, and the happy sounds of bikes, jeeps, ATVs, laughing kids, and barking dogs echo in the canyons. School is out for spring vacation and everything is perfect for a romp in the sand.
The tradition of an Easter picnic goes back a long ways in Castle Valley. My first grade teacher, Wanda Petersen, had some pictures of her family at an Easter picnic near Ferron in the 1920s. And I remember going to Dugout Canyon in the early 1950s with my Sunday school class for an Easter picnic. We rode there and back in someone's old woody station wagon. Even then, a car with varnished wooden doors was considered pretty cool. Out in Dugout Canyon, we had softball games, Easter egg hunts, homemade root beer, and hot dogs with mustard at those annual church events. It was a lot of fun. But then we all went home in the evening so we could be at church the next morning.
One of the best Easter outings I ever had was when I was a senior in high school. One of my friends and I each had 1957 Fords, and we took some pretty girls and two other couples to Arches National Monument on the Saturday before Easter. Arches wasn't a park then, only a monument. The girls packed picnic lunches and we raced the Fords all the way to Moab and back along Highway 6. There wasn't much traffic there in the mid-1960s, or highway patrol troopers either, thank goodness. And we almost had Arches to ourselves. There were very few people there on that holiday weekend. Things have sure changed. I married the girl I took to Arches that weekend, too. I think she was impressed with my driving (wink).
And so, I look forward to going out in the sand dunes again this year with the grandkids, weather permitting. It's my duty to pass along these quaint, rural traditions. Maybe with a little luck we can get sunburned and fill our shoes with sand. Perhaps we can find a lizard to chase or a coyote track to follow off into the canyon somewhere. And I'm not a big fan of hot dogs, but I can usually choke one down in the interests of keeping up with family traditions.
I do hope we can all have a fun and safe Easter weekend this year in spite of the weather. We are blessed to live in an area where we can access millions of acres of public lands. Let's use those public lands and not let them revert back to wilderness and be wasted. Our pioneer ancestors worked hard to tame the Utah wilderness and make it available for our enjoyment. Let's not let them down.
And be careful about which pretty girl you ask to fix that picnic lunch. Sometimes the consequences can be long lasting. Even after all these years, I'll still eat sand in her potato salad, any day.