Sorry for my inactivity on the blog. After we returned from our Idaho trip last year I hit the ground running, doing work. I’ve been working all winter and our piggy bank isn’t looking quite so lean anymore. I hope to play the bulk of the summer so hopefully I’ll blog more.
I’ve been needing a solo trip, a trip, that would blow out the cobwebs, a trip that would push me- physically, mentally and emotionally, a trip where my wants and needs were the only ones I was concerned with. This one was successful on all counts.
The photos are from my phone. Sorry for the poor quality.
Something is up with our wordpress program. I have the text below the photos when I edit but it changes. Sorry.
It was approaching 6:00 on my third day in the canyon. I had covered 17 miles since I stated walking before 7:00 AM. The last couple of hours had consisted of pushing through tangles of Tamarisk and Willows and searching for ways around rock slides and boulder jumbles. Any sign of a trail had disappeared hours ago. Then I came up to it. The slide. The volunteer ranger at Kane Gulch told me about, said he didn’t know of anyone that had gotten past it. The wind was gusting to what seemed like around 30 mph which added to the tension. After considering my options I thought I should go up to it and just see how it felt. I strapped my poles to my pack and inched my way up to it. I was surprised that it wasn’t as loose as it appeared. The slide probably happened last year so the dirt/rock conglomerate was firmer than it looked. So, very gradually and slowly, I tried it a bit farther. I promised myself I would not move a hand or foot until I was confident the other three had a solid hold. In probably three minutes I was past it. Then I realized how the adrenaline had been flowing… I had a shot of whiskey. This is playing for keeps. The term ‘no safety net’ crossed my mind.
Some years back Patti , myself and two friends had been in the Gulch. We went in Todie Canyon and exited at Collins Canyon. I told myself then that I wanted to hike the length of Grand Gulch one day, it’s 51 miles from the the Kane Ranger Station to the San Juan River.
I worked out a route where I’d leave my truck at the top of Slickhorn Canyon, I’d ride my bike from there to Kane (around 14 miles), leave the bike there, and do a loop.
Officially the loop would be about 80 miles, not sure how they can measure miles in there. The BLM does virtually no trail maintenance, the upper canyons see enough use that there are cairns and well worn paths but down lower you may find footprints here and there but you shouldn’t assume they know where they’re going any better than you.
There is also lots and lots of sand, which makes for slow walking. And, all this changes every year as the flash floods rip every thing apart in the monsoon season. All this to say 20 miles is a very long day here.
After I’d gotten over the slide I had about a mile to the River. It took close to an hour.
The next hurdle was beginning. There was only rumors that there actually was a route between the Gulch and Slickhorn. Was it still there? Could I find it? Was it navigable? Looking at the slope that evening made me feel a bit doubtful.
I did find my way through. In the beginning there were three huge rock slides, finding the route was hit or miss for the first couple of hours. Eventually the shelf grew wider and the trail was there more than not. I had a few minor slides but nothing major.
I hope to learn the history of this trail, I’ll update the blog if I do. I suspect it was built originally to get cattle into the area. It would take a lot of work to get it and keep it in condition that a cow could travel. It’s 3.5 river miles between the two canyons. It took 5 hours.
Surprisingly the trail didn’t drop me into Slickhon at river level but about a mile upstream above one of several pour offs. I still had some slides and bushwacking in the lower portion but once I made to Slickhorn #6 (a side canyon) things improved dramatically, I started seeing footprints and even some cairns.
There were still a few slides and a bit of bushwacking in the lower portion but once I made to Slickhorn #6 (a side canyon) things improved dramatically, I started seeing footprints and even some cairns. The last hours out were bittersweet. I was really sad my little adventure was coming to an end, but looking forward to being back with my sweetie.
I left Cedar Mesa feeling like I know it a little better, probably close to a dozen trips there… so far. It’s a special place. I left, too, feeling physically drained but my batteries are fully charged- it’s been a while.
Thanks to Patti for editing the photos, such as they are. I’ll try to do a gear post for the gear junkies soon.