Grand Gulch March 2010
Follow-up group trek to Grand Gulch March 2009 (see http://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=7688 ) when we completed the Bullet Canyon TH to Government TH segment. Our 2010 objective, Government TH to Collins Canyon TH segment (see viewtopic.php?t=4665 ).
Friday 3/12 - 8am rendezvous @ Chez Schulhauser. Flagstaff lunch with Hannah. Group camp at Castle Butte in Valley of the Gods with back-up plan to stay at the San Juan Inn http://www.sanjuaninn.net/ in Mexican Hat UT if we have a late night arrival (don't like setting up camp in the dark). Bring wood for the camp fire!
Saturday 3/13 - Collect permits at Kane Gulch Ranger Station at 8am. Leave shuttle vehicle at Collins Canyon TH and head over to Government TH to start hike. Big Man Panel side trek. Camp in Grand Gulch near Deer Canyon Spring.
Sunday 3/14 - Banister Ruins, rock art near The Narrows. Camp @ sandy bench near Collins Spring.
Monday 3/15 - Exit via Collins Canyon. Head home around noon-ish...
Randal - 3x breakfast, 3x dinner, lunch will be hiking snacks (no planned group meals)
A "recon" visit to Cedar Mesa by Rob the week before (see http://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=10341
) and a weekend forecast calling for Lo's of 28 degreesF and 70% chance of snow/rain, the prospect of executing "The Plan" seemed to be as low as the temperatures...
March break complicated many of my usual co-trekker's plans, so I planned to drive up solo and meet up with the group at either the Friday campsite or Saturday Kane Gulch Ranger Station designated time of 8am.
Well 897 road miles, ~10 hiking miles, ~150 photos and 3 days later, here's the scoop...
Day 1 - Friday March 12th, 2010
With a late night Thursday getting some Friday work deadlines completed before heading off to Utah, packing didn't start until Friday morning. Managed to get on the road about 9am and made a stop at Tempe Camera to pick up a 77mm Hoya HMC circular polarizer http://www.hoyafilter.com/products/hoya/pro1d-04.html
for my 10-22mm wide angle lens. Arrive in Flagstaff noon-ish and pick up Hannah for lunch at Diablo Burger http://www.diabloburger.com/Diablo_Burger/home.html
. Back on the road, I soon arrive at Castle Butte in Valley of the Gods about 5pm. I spot Bill's (aka bmaaske) white Tacoma pick-up over by the flats near West Fork of Lime Creek. I introduce myself since this is our first meeting and ask if he checked out the camp site at the foot of Castle Butte. He jumps into my F-150 for a quick drive to check out the site http://hikearizona.com/photo.php?ZIP=64597
and instantly decide that this will be the HAZ base camp download/file.php?id=1316&mode=view
. As Bill and I establish camp, Alex (aka big_load) arrives in his rental car having flown in all the way from New Jersey! As the sun sets behind Cedar Mesa and temperatures rapidly decline, we gather around the fire ring adding more and more logs to the camp fire. Bill brings out the tequila for added warmth and we notice a couple of headlights punctuating through the darkness. Rob (aka PageRob) arrives with a good supply of firewood and breaks out the grill. Steak and hotdogs are sizzling over the campfire, more and more stars emerge, beers are passed around - life is good! A private reading by the author of "The Marauders" keeps the chill away (see http://hikearizona.com/books.php?REV=1&ID=945
or http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?f ... roductions
) as we begin a discussion of fiction paralleling fact. Check out http://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=10461
Day 2 - Saturday March 13th, 2010
Bill and I stir before the sun is up. I witness some frost on my tent and on the ground - guess that forecast Lo of 28degF was achieved! No sign of Wendy (aka writesalot) or Anne (aka oliver99) and we're guessing they may have "hotelled it" back in Mexican Hat and will be up at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station by 8am. I able to make a bit of a photo hike around the area as the sun rises in the Valley of the Gods. We break camp and head over towards the Moki Dugway and up onto Cedar Mesa towards the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. Lots of snow on the Mesa and you can see that the usual TH roads are impassable. At the Ranger Station, the group of 6 gathers to hear the news that Rob will be unable to stay the weekend due to his wife's illness. The Rangers are also purveyors of doom and gloom indicating Grand Gulch has snow, high waters and is generally impassable. Various plans are debated and we decide that we'll do a day trek in and out of Collins Canyon and re-establish HAZ base camp in Valley of the Gods. We're told by the Ranger that Bannister Ruins will be unattainable today (that's my major disappointment - armed with the day trip description from Dave Wilson's "Hiking Ruins Seldom Seen", I was anticipating this as being the weekend hi-lite...). Undeterred, we divide the group into Rob's Sport-Track and my F-150 and make our way to the Collins Canyon TH. As you arrive at the TH, you immediately notice the lack of snow (we're supposedly 1500 feet lower than the Kane Gulch Ranger Station), clear skies (where's the 70 percent chance of snow/rain?), and sudden gash of a canyon into the flat mesa. An easy decent into the canyon, exploration of the old cowboy camp, discovery of an ancient? cist, wading through The Narrows, visual exploration of some unattainable ruins and yes - plenty of rock art. Who cares when you have all this that you've had to adjust your original plans? Some group photos and a beverage at the TH in the late afternoon sun before heading back to the Ranger Station to gather the rest of the vehicles. As we bounce our way back onto paved roads, the weather turns nasty - rain, wet snow, and wind, and more wind! The thoughts of setting up camp in this can't be made, so we head for the San Juan Inn for a hot meal and some strategizing. Over a Polygamy Porter and Navajo Taco we decide to get a couple of rooms at the Inn (not a hard decision when another group arrives looking for rooms after having lost their tents to the winds - yes they lost their tents, they blew away...) and will make a "call" Sunday morning as to our hiking plans. We also say good-bye and thanks to Rob as he heads back to Page AZ to tend to his sick wife.
Day 3 - Sunday March 14th, 2010
With the clocks changing over night for daylights saving time and being in a different time zone, nobody really knows what the time is. The remaining 5 assemble in the San Juan Inn Restaurant for a breakfast discussion. With clear skies (for the time being), I offer to guide the group to the Wolfman Panel and Posey Ruins in Butler Wash. Check out http://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=10476&start=0
. After that, we explore Comb Ridge towards the San Juan River. As we approach lunch time, the skies begin to look ominous again. A pizza in Mexican Hat and we decide to call it an end. As the group disperses, rain followed by some snow showers ensues...
Although the trek didn't go as planned, just getting a "taste" of this special area is more than enough compensation. Thanks again to Rob for all the organization, great to see Anne and Wendy again out on the trails, and it was a pleasure meeting Bill and Alex for the first time. I'm sure a Grand Gulch Redux will be in the near future!