ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
[personal profile] ilanarama
the walls get bigger

Spring is here, and with it the jones to go hiking in the desert. This is the perfect time for the Utah canyon country; the bugs and heat haven't arrived yet, but it's no longer winter-cold...or so we thought. Our original plan was to spend a long weekend, but the forecast was looking grim (8°F overnight low?!?! Snow?!?!) so we delayed a couple of days and headed out with our friends Doug and Anne on Sunday morning April 10th.

We were able to pick up our original itinerary permit and get it rewritten for our new dates. Our plan was to hike in via Kane Gulch, which is the trail closest to the ranger station, and camp near its confluence with the main stem of Grand Gulch. The next day we'd continue to the confluence with Todie Gulch, where we'd camp and hike out the following day. The daily distances we'd planned were quite short to accommodate side visits to the many pre-Puebloan cliff dwellings, some marked on maps and unmarked ones we hoped to spot, which are the main attraction of Grand Gulch. Back during what passed for the medieval era in Europe, Grand Gulch was relatively densely populated with the pre-Puebloan peoples who are often referred to as the Anasazi. Now there's nothing there but ruins, rock art, potsherds and corncobs - and the occasional hiker.

Kane Gulch started out as a flat cross-country trail, but eventually narrowed into a cute little slot canyon which served as a sort of gateway to the main canyon. When it opened after only a hundred yards or so, we were in real Utah canyon country (as seen in the teaser photo at the top). We had lunch by the side of the stream, where Doug compressed himself interestingly into a water hole in a big boulder, and then camped at the Grand Gulch junction, where we explored the appropriately-named Junction Ruin. It was quite cold still, and a bit windy, unfortunately, but as long as the sun was out it was fairly pleasant. Britt and I had opted to carry only a large fly/tarp instead of a tent, but fortunately had our warm sleeping bags and so spent a decent night.

entering the slot

doug 'n' the rock

junction ruin

Our camp was alas not well positioned to catch early morning sun, and it was so chilly we were reluctant to stir until the sun warmed our camp. Which would have meant a noon start, so instead we took our food and cooking gear a few hundred yards away to where the sun was beginning to warm some rocks in the canyon bottom. We still got a relatively late start, but as we only had a short distance to go to our next planned campsite that was fine.

Along the way we explored the (marked) Turkey Pen ruin and stopped to marvel at Stimper Arch. To me, arches are always more amazing when they are deep in the thick rock. We also passed some interesting rock formations, an unmarked and quite ruined ruin (it looked as though the alcove where it had been had collapsed on top of most of the structures) and a place where fire had burned through the canyon some years back, started (according to the BLM ranger) by campers burning toilet paper. (Fires are no longer permitted here.) We found the junction with Todie Gulch and dropped our gear. Anne sat with a book while Doug, Britt and I headed farther downcanyon in Grand Gulch to see if the spring marked on our map a quarter mile away was any better than the one near camp (it wasn't) and to just explore. At one point we saw a likely-looking alcove, and as we pushed our way through the brush we found a trail - a good sign! And indeed there was an unmarked ruin there, hidden to the casual eye by vegetation.

turkey pen ruin

stimper arch


We returned to our camp, filtered water, and had a pleasant dinner. Part of the enjoyment of our trip came from being with good friends; part of it was that we had packed down a goodly quantity of booze, and let me tell you, there is nothing like nibbling tamari almonds and drinking Irish Mist while sitting in a beautiful red-rock canyon at the end of a day of hiking. And then to crawl into a warm sleeping bag and look at the limited field of stars above...

In the morning, somewhat earlier than we had the previous day, we had breakfast and packed up to head back up and out. Todie Gulch is known as a "route" rather than a trail, with some interesting scrambling required to negotiate fallen boulders and dryfalls. During some of this maneuvering we looked up, and oh, look, ruins! Three-quarters the way up a sheer cliff, but maybe there is a way around.... Britt, Doug and I fought our way up one bit at a time, little bits of scrambling on the red rock which fortunately had lots of traction under our hiking boots. When we finally broke through to the level where the ruins were, we realized that the last little bit up to them was impossible without ropes - and maybe even with, as they were all lined up right with the edge of their alcove with no room for walking around them. There was even one bit of wall that looked suspiciously like it had been placed specifically to prevent people from walking by. We took some pictures and then went in the other direction, looking for an easier way down, and hey, another small ruin, this one much easier to get to, with an actual trail heading out the other side, so we took that route down.

Ilana scrambles over rocks

slab scrambling

ruin in Todie Gulch

ruin in Todie Gulch

We rejoined Anne and had lunch, and then continued up the canyon. We followed the cairns between tricky bits, and then it was time for the trickiest bit of all - getting up to the rim. And naturally, this is where we lost sight of the cairns! But we managed to make it out to the marked trail which took us to the trailhead. Britt had planned on hiking cross-country back to the car, but my left foot, which had been bothering me since the previous Wednesday, was really hurting (more about this in another post) and I voted for having someone hitchhike out to get the car instead. Alas, on a Tuesday afternoon there is very little traffic on the remote road that parallels Grand Gulch. Fortunately, Doug is also a runner, and had in fact been hiking in running shoes, so he ran the 5 or so miles to the ranger station, got the car, and rescued us, yay!

Ilana and Britt

Or just go look at the pretties on Flickr: 34 pictures, mostly captioned.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-21 04:16 am (UTC)
sara: S (Default)
From: [personal profile] sara
Man, I'm jealous. We had our first springtime day here this week and went back to winter today, and I am just itching to get outside.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-21 11:53 am (UTC)
melusina: (Default)
From: [personal profile] melusina
Looks like a fantastic trip!

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-21 03:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Amazing pics as always. I swear I'd get lost out there.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-21 04:57 pm (UTC)
weaverbird: (Clouds)
From: [personal profile] weaverbird
Wow. Such a gorgeous place. Thanks for posting about it!

From Greenlee

Date: 2011-04-21 05:51 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Breathtaking photos! Looks like an amazing trip! (BTW, I couldn't get that open ID thing to work).

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-26 01:47 pm (UTC)
starfishchick: (Default)
From: [personal profile] starfishchick

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-28 08:06 am (UTC)
luzula: a Luzula pilosa, or hairy wood-rush (Default)
From: [personal profile] luzula
Wow, that's a fascinating landscape! Makes me wonder how it was formed--did flowing water make those canyons? And if so, why is it so dry right now?

(no subject)

Date: 2011-04-28 03:40 pm (UTC)
luzula: a Luzula pilosa, or hairy wood-rush (Default)
From: [personal profile] luzula
Oh, cool! That's fascinating.


ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)

August 2017

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My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

You can reach me by email at heyheyilana @


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