An accidental canyoneer. Not good "english" but who cares. My trip to the Galiuros was more than I had bargained for with some rock hopping, bouldering, bushwacking of course, climbing, wading and swimming. Glad those who I had invited declined. Half would have wrung my neck and the other half would have decided--"I'm never going anywhere with her again!!"
I drove my Red Jeep to the end of the good ranch road on Rattlesnake Mesa. It is at least two more miles to the Power Hill TH proper, a slow low range 4X4 trip on a road that was built in the early 1900's by the Power's as a wagon route to Klondyke. Most people drive quads on it now.
It was late afternoon and I decided to try to drop into Rattlesnake Canyon from the Mesa top, and walk the canyon until I got to where the trail dropped in, then go on to the Garden. As I got my pack together I realized I had forgotton my dromedary bag; I grabbed a couple of bottles to serve as water containers. Also forgot my thin light rope which I use to haul or drag my pack. Oh, bother, probably won't need it. And forgot my long sleeved white shirt to serve as a sun/mosquito block. Well, at least I had the essentials. I peered off a rock point along a set of cliffs and saw a break in the cliff band that descended steeply. Pools gleamed in the narrow and green canyon below.
A canyoneering maxim that is not always true is "if it is green it will go".
I geared up, decided to drop in, locate a campsite as soon as able. It looked like it would be a challenge to do so. The descent was slow, I should have gone to the right of a rock prow but went left and got into a lot of thorny brush. A large rattlesnake with about 8 buttons on his/her tail let me know my plan to traverse and go down the less brushy side was not going to happen. I just went on down thru the brush, bleeding quite well by the time I got to the creek bottom.
The creek was gurgling right along, and I went up canyon, rock hopping, gave up and waded a bit, because of the prodigious amount of poison ivy everywhere. The canyon bottom here was fairly narrow, and very thick with oak, sycamores, vines, some willow. Quite beautiful. The canyon bottom was in the shadows. I finally found a very small spot poison ivy free by a large pool in a larger area of the canyon, some of the cliff walls were coming down to the water. I was behind a large boulder and sheltered by pretty large sycamore and oak trees. I set up my bivy but slept on top of it with my sleeping bag as a blanket because it was so warm. Strong winds swept down the canyon that night, but no rain, the trees bent over dramatically, but I barely got a breeze, I was so well sheltered.
Morning was gray and drab. I packed up and started out, thinking I had only a short distance to get to the Powers trail crossing into Rattlesnake. Within 10 minutes I realized it was going to be a different sort of plan. The pools were much bigger, and deeper, big boulders, and the ever present poison ivy, but also the canyon was getting narrower, with more vertical walls. Two pools were up to my waist, I had the camera bag hoisted over my head. Around the corner I said "*&&*&&". Vertical walls, and a deep pool, real deep. I skirted the edge, then dropped my pack. I looked at the walls, climbing up here would be very tough, with some overhangs, and the intermediate ledge was at least 40 feet up and sloped and brushy. Ugh. I climbed up to check a nearby alcove, that was small but would be good for one person in a storm.
Decison time, I had some garbage bags, one large ziplock like bag for food storage, and some dry bags for cameras and one small container that was water tight.
I repacked my pack, waterproofed everything as best I could. I am using a Kelty lumbar pack as a camera bag these days, and I attached it to the top of my Osprey Aether 45 pack, a good pack choice for most rough conditions. I was traveling pretty light too, so that helped. The water was a nice temp, and I wasn't the least bit chilled when I came out the other side, a short 4-5 yards I think. The canyon was staying narrow, another short swimmer, then the next problem. A small but deep pool which required a climb out right beside a 4 foot waterfall, then an upper pool graced by about a 10 foot fall. I left my pack and swam to beside the waterfall, the small ledge was slimed with moss and a booger to climb out, because I could not touch bottom here; nor were there any good hand holds on the smooth rock. Past the ledge was a small deep calm pool and a rock face I could climb if I could squirm around the deep pool. I did so, and realized no way I could do this with my pack, especially without a way to tether it to me.
I was not confident in my waterproofing that I wanted to submerge everything more throughly.
I swam back and looked at my options. The climb around was a little better here but still not good. About 20 feet with good hand and foot holds, then some vegetation climbing to get to a traverse. This was a little sketchy in wet shoes and loose rock. But I made it, and cautiously traversed on a steep slope, managing to get some pictures finally, and make my way down to the canyon bottom.
The water flowed in a hallway, nice to amble along, my pack heavy and wet. More deep wading, then a couple of swim pools I was able to boulder around, the canyon opening up and I recognized where the crossing to go up and over into Sycamore canyon came in. A little more and I was to the crossing of the trail off Powers Hill. I welcomed the easy stretch of trail, the old road, as it bordered the rough boulder strewn bottom, much larger as the canyon widened, I love this area and have wished to camp here some time, so I set up camp just off the trail, enjoying the water and greenery. I left camp to hike onto the Garden and back as a day hike. It's funny how you think some trails are sort of difficult or a lot of work seem easy after you have completed something more difficult.
The thick lush greenery at times came to my waist and the trail was hard to see where your feet were. It was sunny and nice, so much for the forecast, and I came to the Garden under sunny skies and green grasses waving in a gentle breeze in the meadow. The cabin needed a little straightening up, I packed out some garbage, and I wandered down toward the spring, satisfied to see the good flow of water; the waters running down most of Rattlesnake had not seemed to be the flow I have seen in the past, and in fact it was dry a good three quarters of a mile to the Garden. I saw several deer, none would pose for me. I signed in the Wilderness log, steady but light traffic in there. One guy proposed to his girlfriend here in May, and wrote about that. A good place for that, I thought.
The hike back almost uneventful except startled a black bear at the junction of Rattlesnake and Pipestem, I got some poor pics as this bear did not want to stick around, and ran off "huffing".
The sun was dropping as I got to camp. I read, relaxed, set out some things to dry, the key items had made it through fine.
The next day I decided to hike out Powers Hill. It started to rain hard just as I crested the hill, the Santa Theresa's sunlit with massive clouds swirling around the tops, and the knoll at Power's Hill cloaked in fog and clouds dropping to embrace me. It was warm and I just walked, using my umbrella to keep the rain off my face, but not caring about anything else. The wonderful grasslands accented by the sun flowers. All was right with the world. I got to my Jeep, and already planning my next trip, from the west side. I remember looking at the area and thinking, "wow, looks like it could be an adventure"--- and as I learned this time, never, ever, take traveling in the Galiuros for granted.