Spring Break

I never really “did” spring break. I mean, I never took the requisite beach trip with college friends to get drunk and pretend for a time that life has no rules and choices have no consequences. (Assuming, of course, that is what spring breakers do. I suppose I can’t presume to know because I’ve been an old person since age 19.)

The closest I’ve been to a beach during spring break was in 1994, when I followed my parents around Ft. Lauderdale wearing wide-legged skater jeans and a Nirvana t-shirt, annoyed by the mainstream MTV-ness of the rowdy college kids who clogged the beaches, streets, and hotels. My parents equally annoyed, we fled together to the Great Smoky Mountains and continued on to Gatlinburg, TN, to take in the strange mix of Appalachian shanties and the neon lights of the downtown strip. This oasis in the remote mountain wilderness became our refuge from a wild spring break scene.

The one spring break I did take as a college student was a cross-country road trip to Arches National Park in Utah. No bathing suits. No liquor. Just a tent, hiking boots, and more cans of Manwich than any recent vegetarian should ever eat.

March nights in the desert were below freezing, but the days were crisp and sunny. We spent them hiking from one natural arch to the next, through canyons and across rock fins. Our only brush with civilization was a trip to the grocery store and drinks at a pub where Moab locals passed their evenings. It was perfect.

Arches didn’t leave me with any stories about wild, youthful indiscretion (aside from eating too much Manwich). But my memories of it, 13 years later, are detailed and clear. The spring breakers can reflect on their experience and say, “That was some trip,” just like I can. We just probably do it with a different look in our eyes.