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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Bullet Canyon - Grand Gulch Loop, UT

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203 7 3
Guide 7 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List UT > Southeast
Rated
5
5 of 5 by 4
 
3
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
Statistics
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Loop 26 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,406 feet
Elevation Gain 20 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 Days
Kokopelli Seeds 26.1
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Ruins, Historic, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
17  2018-03-15 Mdande
27  2016-06-04 VolcanoCLMBR
14  2015-09-28 Craigbhikin
71  2011-04-02 GrottoGirl
9  2009-10-07 toddak
65  2007-03-17 PaleoRob
Author PaleoRob
author avatar Guides 137
Routes 111
Photos 5,253
Trips 942 map ( 2,097 miles )
Age 38 Male Gender
Location Grand Junction, CO
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Sep, Oct → Early
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  6:03am - 6:25pm
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0 Alternative
 
Water
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Multi-day backpack into Anasazi wilderness
by PaleoRob

Likely In-Season!
The Grand Gulch Primitive Area, located along Grand Gulch and its tributaries on Cedar Mesa, is one of the most sought-after wilderness experiences in southern Utah. The combination of beautiful, isolated slickrock canyons and numerous isolated Anasazi ruins draw a number of visitors every year. Despite growing visitation to the region, there is still ample opportunity to get alone in the wilderness and see ruins in their "wild" state.


This trip can run in two directions - in at Kane Gulch Ranger Station, and out at Bullet Canyon, or vice versa. I did this trip from Bullet Canyon to Kane Gulch, so that is how this trip will be described. However, most backpackers do the trip in the opposite direction. The trail starts at the end of the Bullet Canyon road at a small, shaded, dirt parking lot. Make sure that you have your permit in hand from the ranger station. The trail takes off across the mesa heading west, paralleling the rim of Bullet Canyon. A short climb down a series of slickrock slides takes you to the bottom of Bullet Canyon.

From this point on, it will pay to keep a sharp eye on the canyon walls as you get deeper and deeper into the heart of the canyon. The smallest sign can hint towards the presence of an Anasazi ruin or a Basketmaker pictograph panel.

After about a mile, the canyon begins to deepen noticeably, and about a mile and a half from the trailhead comes the section known as The Chutes. The first chute is a slickrock narrows with a 2-3 foot pourover, which can be generally easily navigated without much trouble. If it is icy, however, some concentration must be applied - this condition is most likely in the winter into the mid-spring.

The second chute is not much farther downcanyon, and it is a monster boulder fall. The trail is indistinct approaching the chute, and the boulders offer few ways past. Keep a close eye on the trail and any cairns that may be visible, especially along the north side of the canyon approaching the chute. While passage through the heart of the boulder fall is possible, it is neither the easiest nor the most recommended method of passage. The third chute is a smaller boulder fall which is navigated with much greater ease than the second chute.

The canyon opens up a bit after the chutes, and a few small, grassy meadows make excellent lunch spots. The Bullet Canyon's walls show their true height now, without the constriction or the foot-watching passage of the chutes.

Perfect Kiva Ruin is in this section of Bullet Canyon - keep a sharp watch out for it and other ruins.

Not far past Perfect Kiva, about 5 miles from the trailhead, you come to the first truly reliable water source in Bullet Canyon at Jailhouse Spring, across and just upcanyon from Jailhouse Ruin. The spring usually flows most of the year with a small stream heading for some distance downstream. If you miss the spring flowing over the slickrock, you can still fill your water bottles in the pools of the creek for the next half mile or so.

Bullet Canyon nears its ends, with only about 2 miles to go until you reach the junction with Grand Gulch. There is a steep arroyo bank to negotiate about 3/4 of a mile from the junction, and provides a good view downcanyon towards the junction. There is another good spring at the junction, as well as good campsites. It can be easy to mistake the junction for just another side canyon. Make sure you are traveling with a good map and can recognize Grand Gulch branching north as well as heading due west, as though it was still part of Bullet Canyon.

On our three-day trip, this is where we camped, and it was a good half day to cover the 7.2 miles from the trailhead to the junction.

Starting from Bullet Canyon has its disadvantages. Once you reach the junction of Grand Gulch and Bullet Canyon, it is a slow uphill grade to the trailhead at Kane Gulch. The middle section, from Bullet Canyon up Grand Gulch to Todie Canyon is 8.4 miles, and with exploring a few side canyons and ruins, took the entire day, arriving at Todie Canyon just at sunset. This middle stretch was also the most chock-full of Anasazi ruins and rock art in the entire hike, to my eyes. While three days is the minimum to hike this stretch of canyon, a fourth day placed in the middle of the Bullet-Todie stretch would not be wasted by any means. It felt like there was not enough time for all we wanted to do.

This section is not terribly hard, but instead of following the wash bottom, the trail continually snakes up and down over arroyo banks. While these never range much higher than 5 feet, the continual up and down can really wear down your knees and morale. Frequent stops are not to be overstated on this section. There were several long stretches of water in the wash, though stagnant, that would provide water if needed. However the springs up and below Todie Canyon, and in Sheiks's Canyon especially, provided lots of very sweet water. Shade can be harder to find on the upper section of this stretch during midday, as the sun is shining directly down into the canyon along its long axis - the walls provide nothing. If you have the time, explore.

Todie Canyon provides good campsites and also provides a reminder of not to play with fire. A backpacking party set a large fire in the area while trying to burn their toilet paper some years ago. The blackened pinon and juniper still stand in the area, and also easily mark the entrance to Todie. Make sure and police your site as well - the grassy areas around Split Level Ruin look inviting, but are closed to camping due to overuse and abuse by other parties. Camping is not allowed within the area around Split Level, nor in the immediate area (bench/alcove/etc.) of any historic or prehistoric site.

The third stretch takes you from Todie Canyon up Grand Gulch to the junction with Kane Gulch, and is about 7 miles, and took us half a day to cover this distance. The hiking is easy, with arroyo crossings steeper but less numerous, becoming almost non-existent in Kane Gulch. Ruins are plentiful in this stretch of canyon too, with some of the high points being Turkey Pen, where an 800-year-old turkey pen is preserved, and Junction Ruin, at the junction of Grand and Kane Gulches. Stimper Arch, a natural arch on a thin fin of rock is a neat sight to behold just downcanyon from Turkey Pen. This stretch of canyon only has one serious side-canyon, Fortress Canyon, to contend with. Not long after leaving Todie, Grand Gulch will bear to the northeast, while Fortress Canyon opens directly ahead to the north. Consult your map and compass, and it will provide no serious problem.

Water is usually available at Junction Spring, just downcanyon from Junction Ruin. While water can sometimes be found Kane Gulch in a flowing creek or pothole, especially in the spring when snow is still melting, in the summer and fall these water sources are less likely to be present. It is only about 4 miles from the Junction to Kane Gulch Ranger Station, but there is a serious incline as you ascend back to the mesa top.

Not long after entering Kane Gulch you find yourself at The Pourover, a series of slickrock pourovers climbing 200 feet in the space of half a mile, and climbing a further 200 feet before the remaining 3 miles are done. The first pourover is the most intimidating. The trail starts on the south side of the canyon, crosses over a dry (most of the time) fall, then switchbacks sharply up talus on the north side until reaching a slickrock bench. This pattern is generally repeated until The Pourover has been completely bypassed. You will know you are getting close to the trailhead as the canyon walls lessen. The trail ducks and climbs up behind a fallen boulder that had peeled off of the cliff face. At this point the mighty canyon walls are no higher than 30 feet, and soon you are walking through a stand of willows in a broad arroyo. The canyon is gone. Cross a slickrock plain, and duck across another arroyo, and you've arrived at Kane Gulch Ranger Station, where you can pick up your car shuttle and head back to Bullet Canyon to recover your other car.

I have listed the hike at 26 miles. The strict map distance is 22.8. However, with sidecanyons, springs, and exploring, expect to go at least 26 miles before you are through.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your canyon trip to support this local community.

2007-12-22 PaleoRob
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Bullet Canyon - Grand Gulch Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I led a group of 8 backpackers into Grand Gulch. We did this trip in the reverse direction - which is what most of the trail descriptions recommend. The mileage I listed is probably not exactly accurate as there were times were we dropped our packs and continued up to the ruins without the GPS.

    We started April 2 at the Kane Gulch Ranger station where we met and watched the required 10 minute video. We also set up our car shuttle. Then we hiked down Kane Gulch to Grand Gulch. The trail was well defined and easy to follow. During the first part of the trail we ran into an old stand of aspens that are clones of trees that have been growing in Kane Gulch for 11,000 years.

    At the junction of Kane and Grand, we stopped for a break and checked out Junction Ruin. After that we visited Turkey Pen Ruin. Both of these ruins were impressive. The midden had tons of pottery shards and corn cobs in it. The structures were in very good shape considering their age. We then continued down Grand Gulch and saw Stimpler Arch and another set of ruins. The trail continued to be easy to follow.

    We stopped at the junction with Todie Canyon and set up camp. We were able to find water in Todie Canyon just about a quarter mile from the junction. While filtering water, we looked up and saw that there was set of ruins right across the canyon from us. It was up high enough to be inaccessible. After we had set up camp and filtered water, I decided I had not had enough and I continued up Todie canyon for a ways while most of the group took naps. I saw another set of ruins further up canyon. They were really far up the canyon wall which made me not even attempt to try to access them. I turned around at a spot in the canyon where there had been a rock slide and huge boulders had rerouted the trail up and over them. The trail for most of Todie canyon is not as easy to follow as that in Kane and Grand Gulches.

    That night we could tell the weather was going to turn on us as the winds were really blowing. We found a dry slick rock drainage that was sheltered by juniper and other trees to use for cooking and eating. We sat up chatting for a while before we went to bed.

    In the morning, we packed up and continued on down Grand Gulch. Today, was our big day for seeing multiple ruins. We saw at least 11 different sets of ruins. The first set was just minutes from camp and had some great pottery shards. We also saw Split Level and several unnamed ruins.

    We reached one of the pour offs indicated on the map and it still had a nice sized pool under it. It looked like an awesome place to jump in - however, the rangers had said "no bathing" which is understandable - who wants to drink sunblock :) The water in the canyon becomes very concentrated in tinajas (where the water is held like it's in a jar) like the pour off pool so any chemicals we add to the water do not come out until the next big rain.

    In the canyon, we saw evidence of flash floods. It's amazing what the force of water can do. We saw debris over 5 feet high in some of the trees. In some spots erosion had made the creek bed 6 feet higher than the surrounding ground, which made creek crossings interesting. At least the water level was very low at this time of the year. There were also several places where the brush had overgrown the trail. Lucky for us, someone had done some trail maintenance so it wasn't too hard to push through the brush.

    Along our trek we saw a lot of interesting rock formations. One that stands out in my mind is the Thumb. It really does look like a thumb. There is a pour off right at the Thumb which would make for some awesome photos if the weather was good. For us however, we were experiencing some light rain for a few hours that day.

    I was feeling a bit let down on the amount of rock art compared to the amount of structures that I had seen. I felt like I needed some more! Therefore, we did a short adventure off the main trail up Sheik's Canyon. Sheik's Canyon had a great collection of rock art, including the Green Mask. That is not to be missed!

    We made camp at the junction of Grand Gulch and Bullet Canyon. We found an excellent spot where giant cottonwoods were growing. Above our camp was some slickrock and yet another ruin which looked like two granaries but was pretty high up. It was fun to wander around on the slickrock and try to imagine what it was like for the makers of the ruins. Where did they grow their corn and other crops? Where did they sleep?

    The water around the junction of Bullet Canyon had a "wonderful" smell and in places it looked quite oily. We looked for a spot that had been "filtered" by leaves and had some flow. We were able to filter our water but our ceramic filter had to be cleaned a couple times. Two of the people in our group was using a gravity filter and they told us that they still could detect the smell.

    A couple of us wanted to see if we could find more ruins down Grand Gulch so we took off before dinner. We didn't have our headlamps so we had a set time in which we had to turn around. While we didn't have a chance to find another set of ruins we did have a good time exploring the canyon. We also noticed that further downstream the water looked a bit clearer.

    When we returned to camp the wind was really picking up. It must have been blowing the chances of rain away! It was windy well into the night. We didn't spend a lot of time out after dinner.

    In the morning, we awoke to calmness and cold! It was just below freezing. We packed up camp and headed our way up Bullet Canyon. I ended up towards the end of the group and managed to spot a ruin after everyone else had past the route to the ruin. I yelled up ahead and everyone turned back - can't miss even one ruin :) We saw one more ruin before we got to Jailhouse Ruin. We knew we were there once we spotted the large rock art above the majority of the structures - three large circles. We found the window in which cause the ruin to be called Jailhouse.

    In the next alcove we found Perfect Kiva. It was, well, er, a PERFECT way to end our "Ruined Adventure"! We were able to go down into the Kiva using the wooden ladder that was there. I wouldn't be surprised if the Kiva is closed soon as we were warned to only have one person on the roof at a time because the roof was not as stable as it used to be. Going down into the Kiva was an experience like no other. The air down in the Kiva was thick. When we took pictures we could see the debris/dust that hung in the air. On the back wall of the Kiva I noticed a material that looked like a varnish. It was amber in color. I didn't figure out what it was until I was back up on top and was able to read the documentation that was left in the ammo can. It was petrified rat pee!!!! At least I didn't lick it like I was dared to do!!! :yuck: There was also a habitation building that we could enter. It had been fixed up some which made it nice because I could tell about how tall the inhabitants had been.

    After Perfect Kiva, we started our ascent to Cedar Mesa. There were a couple spots in which it made us wonder if we were going the right way (there were cairns but it just seemed a bit strange). In a few places, we decided the cairns were probably only to be followed in periods of high water so we ignored them and went a more logical way. There were two spots in which some of our hikers removed their packs in order to navigate the scrambling in a safer manner. One of those spots still had a nice ice water fall to make matters a bit more difficult. Nonetheless we made it back to the top where our car was awaiting. We completed the shuttle and then started the long drive back to Tucson.

    It is really hard to describe everything we saw and all the feelings we felt. This was an amazing trip - definitely one that I would recommend to everyone who doesn't mind long days and likes to do a small amount of rock scrambling. Backpackers are truly fortunate as we can see far more of Grand Gulch than the regular day-hiker.
    Bullet Canyon - Grand Gulch Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    The fabulous canyon scenery alone is worth the trip, but when you combine it with the staggering number of ancient cultural sites and artifacts, this hike becomes a truly exceptional experience. Currently many of the springs are dry, with slow trickles found only up Sheiks and Todie Canyons. A return trip to explore further down the Grand Gulch is definitely on the agenda for the future.
    Bullet Canyon - Grand Gulch Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    We did a'short' section of Grand Gulch up on Cedar Mesa that included hiking down Bullet Canyon, briefly in Grand Gulch, then hiking out Shieks Canyon and then back to Bullet TH via forest roads. Ran across at least a half dozen Anasazi ruins. The straight hike thru these canyons is about 13 miles + 4 road miles, but we got in a few sidetrips to mainly Jailhouse, Wall ruins, and Green Mask. More sandstone canyon goodness. :D
    Bullet Canyon - Grand Gulch Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Loop down through Bullet Canyon, up Grand Gulch, and out Kane Gulch. Far far too much to see in just three days. Hardly had any time at all for any off-trail exploration. Saw so many ruins that our schedule just didn't allow us time to visit. You'd need weeks just to really cover the stretch between Bullet and Kane. I'd say a trip of at least four days, minimum. Pushing 7.5 miles a day or so was too much for such a wonder-strewn canyon system. We did however stop by Perfect Kiva, Jailhouse, Bullet Junction, Green Mask, a couple unnamed sites, Todie Springs (but couldn't get up to the ruins), Split Level, Turkey Pen, and Junction Ruin. Awesome trip, but (as I said before) needed more time.

    This was going to be long. Longer than any previous Utah expedition. Instead of an in-and-out Kane trip like four years ago, this was going to be a 22+ mile trip, going in Bullet Canyon, descending to the junction with Grand Gulch, and then up The Gulch to Kane and the ranger station. And it was more than just lonesome me, it was Ely, our friend Beth (Fudgesicle), her two friends from Minnesota/Wisconsin, Beth (Pathfinder), and Steph (Speedy), along with myself and Buster the Canyon Dog.
    The genesis for this trip occurred on a daytrip down Kane the previous spring with Beth and Ely. Now a year to the day, nearly, we began our trek down Bullet. I kept saying nearly every fifty paces, in order to indoctrinate and inoculate them to any forthcoming hazards, that I had never been down Bullet, and it wouldn't be until the next day that we'd be in territory I'd recognize.
    I did this for my own peace of mind. I'd had enough distrust on the trail previously, especially from Ely. I like to explore places new to me. Ely wants to know times and difficulties. I can look at a map and guesstimate, but that never seems good enough. Ely has always been the more pessimistic of the two of us. I cautioned all that I knew was that there were "chutes" ahead in Bullet, based on maps and trip logs I had poured over. I didn't know exactly how be or hard they'd be whenever we got to them.
    After our first drop into the bottom of Bullet, we soon pulled up short to check out some Basketmaker pictographs on a nearby overhang. It would be our last unscheduled stop of the day, and an introduction to how rich Bullet was in both rock art and ruins.
    We progressed further downcanyon, passing a rim-alcove complex similar to those found at Hovenweep. Pressing on. The canyon grew deeper, and still no chutes. Half-seen rock art called to us from seemingly every alcove and overhand. We halted, stared, and continued on. No time. Such a damn shame.
    The Chutes. I knew immediately when we came to them. The slickrock canyon bottom abruptly folded in on itself, creating a narrow, steep chute. There was ice on it. I've got a great picture of Pathfinder surveying the scene.
    There was much doubt at this point, especially among some members of our party. Pathfinder and I were undeterred. We'd passed a family with small children who were on their way back out, and they'd made it up over this without incident.
    Pathfinder went first, creeping along a ledge on the right, past the ice, then stepping down onto a boulder and then the canyon floor. I followed suit. Buster, however, was relatively unwilling. In fact, I had to pull him over. The girls, realizing it wasn't as bad as it looked from the top, made their way down with some help from below. Gathered, collected, and generally ready, we headed again downcanyon.
    The second chute was worse, much worse. It wasn't a nice slickrock pourover. No. Instead it was a boulder-jammed waterfall. Some of the rocks were so huge I'm sure they'd be called hills in New England. There was no trail. Usually I could care less about a damn trail being marked or not. But with thirty-five pounds on my back, a dog pulling me one way, and tricky climbs around me, I would have appreciated a trail. Ely was pissed. I think Fudgesicle was too. Spent half a damn hour trying to figure our way down out of the boulder jam, each going their own way, and if they found anything they'd call out. All we found were pourovers. I finally decided to try a hunch and crawled up the talus to the next bench on the cliff face. Sure enough, a marked trail headed downcanyon. A cry went up, and soon we'd all regrouped on the trail. Ely was pissed. I was happy to have found the way. Pathfinder was nowhere to be seen. Momentary panic, until Fudgesicle said that she'd found a way to the canyon floor. Figures.
    Pushing, pushing. Burning legs. Jesus, I thought hauling those calf carcasses to the rim for ten months, that backpacking trip the previous weekend would have whipped me into shape. tarzan swinging' chutes. I check the map. Confer with Pathfinder, the only other person who has a map in our group. I have a love of maps. Cartophillia. Concur. Our first scheduled stop, Perfect Kiva, should be close at hand.
    Next bend. Side canyon to the north, and there it is, looming in its shaded alcove. I spot it first. Recall Speedy. Pathfinder et al. behind me. We leave our heavy packs in the shade of a Juniper. Talk with some folks making lunch below the ruins. Convince them Buster is friendly. Then up the slickrock apron. Friction ascent, Speedy et al. in front. Ely and myself bring up the rear. Running out of Poweraide, getting a headache. No good.
    Over the lip. Its just like I imagined. Not that I hadn't seen pictures. Maybe they edited out all the bootprints. Oh well. First things first - into the kiva.
    Dark. Musty. Goddamn lot of rat shit piled against the west side, below the roof. Stupid-ass camera doesn't want to function correctly. Why this trip of all trips? Fudgesicle comes down too. We spend a few minutes looking around. We are quiet. Later she tells me she felt something there. Maybe I did too.
    I leave Fudgesicle to the kiva, and go to the structure aback of it. Restored in the 1970's, its still a nice example of Anasazi masonry and gives a good idea what this place might have looked like in the late 1200's. It'd be nicer if people didn't screw around with the potsherds, piling them on the deflector, the rear niche. Sigh.
    Outside again. Still have that damn dehydration headache. Totally out of Poweraide. Water back at the packs. Next water just past Jailhouse, our next stop. Slow down, enjoy the ruin, the crazy pictographs on the back wall. Maybe it isn't just how I imagined it. Pictured it bigger, maybe. More intact. Oh well. It is the Canyon Country, what should I expect?
    Down by a different route, Pathfinder down first. Of course. Load up. Drink up. Downcanyon.
    Bullet widens, then constricts. Around a fin, and there on a point is Jailhouse. Enigmatic circular pictographs over the buildings. Not what I imagined either, exactly. Better. Headache still with me, like someone's bouncing rocks off my skull with every step. I need to recuperate. Ely and I (and Buster) sit across the way, admiring the ruin, drinking water, eating trail mix and jerky while the others check out the ruin. I'm jealous, but I'd rather not feel like shit for the rest of the day. By the time they get back, I feel 95%. I've done more in worse. To the spring.
    If we can find it. The creek is flowing again, but no sign of the spring itself. We've all used a lot of water today. tarzan swinging' chutes. No choice but to fill up at the stagnant pools. Done. Iodine in the mix. Onward.
    Canyon widens again, and a grassy glen appears. Daylight getting short, but we take a rest break anyway. Well deserved. Fudgesicle lays down. Doesn't want to get back up. Don't blame her at all. Time for movement again. "Trail on!"
    Ruins pass by, observed. Longed after. No time. Sun dipping below the rim. A few hours of daylight left. Cooling off now for sure. Ely and others unsure. Ruins passing. Conference with Pathfinder and our maps. Damn close, we agree.
    Precipice. Arroyo cutting gone wild. Sediment drops out from below us. Excellent view of the canyon ahead. I state that we're almost at the junction. General dissent. Down the sandy slope. More ruins, higher up. Getting darker. Panic creeping into some voices. "We're camping at the next good spot," states Ely, "I don't care. I'm too tired to go much further." Surrender, but damn it does feel good to get that damn thing off my back. Set up tents on opposite sides of a cottonwood. Voices downcanyon. Dogs barking. Running loose?! Assholes. Read the rules. Campfires in the distance. They obviously didn't read them. Boil water. Dinner in a bag - chicken and mashed potatoes. Best damn dinner in the world. Stars overhead. What planet is that to the west? Into the tent with Buster and Ely for the night, cottonwoods swaying overhead in the gentle breeze.

    Day two. Up before light hits our camp. Sky's already robin's-egg blue, the emerging sun pinkening the two lone clouds over the western cliff-horizon. Some damn mad Great Horned Owl set up camp in the Cottonwood last night. Ely and I heard its booming cry for a while. Apparently the girls were too tired to hear it, fast asleep. Begin boiling water, that scummy pool-water from yesterday. Oatmeal and dried fruit for breakfast - the roar of the stove a welcome companion. Everyone takes turns using the "bathroom" around the bend. Daylight reveals ruins previously unseen, almost directly above us, in the darkness of the last evening. Everyone's in good spirits, including Fudgesicle, despite her blistered heels. Mole Skin and duct tape should do the trick. Chilly. Buster's got his little coat on, and eats ravenously. The assholes downcanyon are coming to life too. We agree we need to put some trail between them and us. Its all uphill from here. Break camp, shoulder packs - on the trail.
    Pass through the camp of assholes from last night - much politer than expected. Run out of trail after crossing the stream. The "assholes" inform us we're actually at the Junction w/ Grand Gulch. We did make it after all! Thanks to them, we head upcanyon.
    Medium-sized ruin, west canyon wall, not very far from the Junction. Stop and look. Take pictures. Discuss going up. Looks a little tricky, but I'm in favor. Pathfinder's ambivalent. The rest are against. Too soon for a break. There'll be others. True. One last photo, and we're under way again.
    We finally break into the sun, thanks to the cliffs and the motion of the earth. Shuck our cooler-temp gear. Rest on a small, sculptured, slickrock bench. Mouth of Sheik's Canyon up ahead - 1st scheduled stop of the day. Spring and rock art. "At least today won't be a death-march," someone says.
    Sheik's. Hike a little ways up, veer left, and pictographs begin to appear under a shaded overhang. Drop the packs and tie up Buster with some water. Quick snack break. Up to the panel.
    !!! My skin tingles - this is amazing. So much stuff. Headless figures, nearly life-sized, with spotted bodies and bare breasts. Birds. Shields? People. Strange things I can't identify. White. Purple. Red. Brown. Yellow. Orange. Wild headdresses. "This is wild," I say over and over. Agreement.
    Clamber onto some boulders, get a better look at a strange zig-zag figure painted on the ceiling. Ely especially loves it. Suggests making it her next tattoo. Group of guys appear cross-canyon from us, shout their greeting. We return it. "Looking for the Green Mask? Its down there at the end." Jerks! What, you think we can't find it on our own? Take away our joy of discovery! Thanks buddy.
    We get info on the spring - thankfully they depart downcanyon, leaving the gallery to ourselves. We continue to explore in wonder. More strange headdresses. Birds (turkeys?). Strange strange things. Green Mask is at the exact opposite end from where we entered. Highly climactic. Smaller than I thought. Strange position. Hard to photograph. Way cool none-the-less.
    Back to the packs. Dump the nasty water. Upcanyon to the spring. Very nice clear running water. Fill everything up. Add iodine. Back downcanyon. Reshoulder the packs. Back to Grand Gulch, and upcanyon again.
    Ruins all around! Every corner seems to have some ruins. Some large, some just a granary tucked under a lip. I spy two large Basketmaker ‘graphs from the trail. Worth investigating? Put it to a vote. Consensus is yes.
    Cross some low lying sage and a slickrock dome. Up a small drainage. Neat stuff! Patterned handprints, my 1st. Speckled humans. The most detailed turkey I've yet seen. Tucked between two boulders is a perfect jacal room. Probably storage, really, on the back of a main room. Delicate walls still masoned to the cliff-ceiling. Door still intact, scarcely larger than this open journal. Ely's waiting for us below the site with Buster. We want to see just around the bend. One more minute! She doesn't seem thrilled.
    Worth it, though. Several more complete rooms, granaries against the cliff. Small section of Moki steps. Lots and lots of pottery (especially for being in this part of the Gulch). Time to head down.
    Pick up packs stashed by a boulder protecting a dripping spring. Down the drainage. Meet up with Ely - she's mad. We've been up there an hour. Shit! Time flys.
    Try to get back to the main trail. Sea of sagebrush higher than my head. Cottonwoods and junipers. All grabbing. Snatching. Smacking. Blocking. Can't find the tarzan swinging' trail. Ely's really pissed. We put on a scene. I'm embarrassed. Goddamnit, where's the trail? Swearing a blue streak. We all get separated. "Got a good lead?" "No." Damnit. Find the main arroyo. I'm tempted to jump down. Ely doesn't like that idea either. tarzan swing. Pathfinder calling out. Found the trail - no surprise. Bushwack some more. All cut up. Finally we get to her. We went in happy and full of energy. Now we're tired and pissed. Ely's not even talking to me except to chide me for going in the first place. For taking so long.
    The canyon goes on forever. Our next planned stop is Split Level. Ruins every which way. Some of them in two levels. I've never been to Split Level, but I've seen descriptions and pictures. Supposed to be big with a grassy bench around it. Try to make it there by lunch. Slow going. Up, down, up, down. Trail cuts off meanders. Up, down. Sometimes you're on a bench for a quarter mile, sometimes for 100 feet. Never can tell if it'll be worth it from the arroyo bottom. Up, down. Legs don't like this much. Thank god I've got my hiking pole. Ely's got Buster attached to her waist, pulling her up inclines. He's the only one not complaining. The canyon stretches on forever. Map is little help. We're where it switches from front to back. No real side canyons. Lots of guesswork. Keep hiking. Speedy's lost to us, somewhere way out ahead. Pathfinder's barely in view. Fudgesicle brings up the rear close behind with her injured foot.
    Finally stop for lunch. No Split Level yet. Hot out. Find the only shade in sight. Hunger gets the best of us. Bagels with peanut butter. Trail mix. Powerade. Good to be off our feet for a bit. Damn that Green Mask water is good. Gotta make time. Load up. Back into the heat.
    More ruins appear, slide by, disappear around bends. Trudging along. Ely wonders if this isn't a death march after all. No choice but to keep going, I tell her. Bend after bend. Up, down. Wish we were spending a week down here. No time to see it all. Catch up with Speedy. A grove of green grass and tall Cottonwoods ahead. Is this it? Walking up, I see ruins. This is it! Finally. Not too far from our evening camp. Everyone's tired. Drop packs by some junipers. Water. Stretch. Two strange guys are up in the ruins, shirtless, talking to each other in a chained-off area.
    I don't like Split Level very much. Compared to other sites. Its almost all chained off. Lots of modern damage. Damn display rocks. Plus I'm tired. Don't spend much time there. Moving on.
    Up, down. Light is begining to be questioned, especially by Ely. "Are we going to get there on time?" "Are you sure you know where we are?" I wish I had a mute button. Rude thought. Sun is still up. Most of the canyon is shaded. Sharp bend and a big fin. I think we're getting close. I hope so. Low on water.
    Campfires! What the hell? But just beyond, the mouth of Todie Canyon, our campsite. Plenty of light. Japanese backpackers with a campfire. Speedy gives them a talk. Another group just down the trail has a roaring bonfire. Give them our schpeel. What is it with people down here? Are they all idiots? They don't take to kindly to our suggestion to douse it. They don't have enough water to douse it with! They point down the ridge where a trail leads. Spring's down there. Their camp's in the middle of the trail. Assholes. Walk through the middle of their camp - no choice. They're not too happy. Their own damn fault. Spring isn't too great looking. Fill up in a clear-ish running pool. Back out. Through the camp. Cross the canyon and into Todie. Nice sandy bench with some logs. Time to drop our packs for good today.
    Begin setting up camp. Pathfinder wanders on upcanyon to find the spring marked on the map. Fudgesicle's blisters are worse. Size of my thumbs. Dinner 1st. Change into some non-trail clothes. Fire up the stoves. Tie Buster to a tree with our found rope - lots of room to explore. Mountain House Chili Mac for us. Discussion on Fudgesicle's blisters. Consensus - drain them. Ely is the surgical assistant with tissue and bandages. I sterilize my pocket knife scissors in the camp stove. Lots of fluid. Heavy calluses, hard to get to the blister itself. Lots of fluid! Fudgesicle's not thinking this is so much fun. Can't blame her. All promise she'll feel better soon. Done. Bandaged up.
    I've been hauling around a deck of Uno cards, at Ely's insistence, and tonight's our last night out. We damn well better play! Didn't haul them for nothing!
    Play by headlamp light. I lose every round. Damnit. Stare at the stars. Bright planet overhead. We're all very tired. If some owl comes to our tree tonight, doubt I'll hear it.

    Day three. Dawn's light hitting the top of the cliffs sheltering us. Dull brown-tan flashing to tawny blond and rust. Water. Ely and I hike up Todie to a deep, clear pool, filling our bottles. Last of our iodine! More Anasazi ruins loom across the canyon in their predawn shadowy alcove.
    Back at camp. Oatmeal and fruit again, the roar of the stove. New bottle of gas - old one finally empty. Roll up, pack up, dress up. Fix Fudgesicle's feet one last time. At least now we're on familiar ground as we hike out of Todie.
    Half-lit hoodoos sprout along the canyon walls and rims. More ups and downs, not like yesterday. More scattered ruins.
    Meet some hikers coming down from Kane. Must have gotten an early jump on things. Sun hasn't even reached the canyon floor here at the mouth of Fortress. God but its beautiful down here in the raw heart of the earth. Decaying Cottonwood leaves underfoot make gentle soft noises as we hike on.
    Spirits are high - its our last day. Singing songs that reverberate on the canyon walls. "This canyon is a gift from the earth/ and what's from the earth is of the greatest worth/ so if you burn it you are a jerk/ and for the fireman you make much work." To the tune of Ben Harper's "Burn One Down." Dedicated to our pyro-inclined neighbors from last night. Ely leads to chorus.
    Ruins again. No time to investigate, but I recall them from my 2004 trip. Tumbledown structures not far from Stimper Arch and Turkey Pen. Been wanting to get back to Turkey Pen especially for some time now.
    Round the bend, Stimper Arch. Like a needle's eye on the far canyon wall. A lone juniper guards its aperture. Break time in the stream bed below the arch, against a boulder. Buster finds shade in its solar lee. The rest of us...deal. Trailmix. Water. No more Powerade. Power bars. Ely asks how far it is to Turkey Pen. Tenth of a mile. Onward.
    Bending left, then right with the stream bed. Upper Turkey Pen appears in a crook of the next bend. Vertical wall borders the stream bed, throwing the canyon bottom into shade. I turn and see Speedy, Pathfinder, and Fudgesicle coming out of the sun, into the shade behind us. Silhouetted against the bright canyon wall. Reminds me of a sidecanyon scene from a place I've never been. Before the dam. I snap a picture.
    Drop packs in the shade again. Up the sandy slope to Turkey Pen. The chained-off midden and collapsed kiva to the left. Not much has changed. Buildings are still there. Large corncobs and small potsherds litter the dust. Lots of foot prints. Even the lighting seems the same from last time.
    Somehow, thought, its not as impressive as on first blush. Not many structures you can access. Not as much rock art as other sites. I think my continued exploration of Anasaziland has exposed me to a plethora of sights and experiences. Sites better preserved, larger, with more rock art, less visited. Not that Turkey Pen isn't neat - it is, and I've found some stuff I missed on my last trip. Its just that compared to places like Moonhouse, like the little site from yesterday, like many other unnamed places Out There...Have I been spoiled? Maybe. Do I enjoy going to sites that aren't "Top Tier?" Oh hell yes.
    Upcanyon. Getting close to the home stretch. Past an empty alcove. Spirits still high. Even Fudgesicle with her damaged feet is upbeat. One more bend, and we're at The Junction, our destination from last spring's dayhike. Ely and I (along with Buster) rest in the Cottonwood grove where I camped in '04. The push out, the Big Push, is up ahead and I want to be well hydrated for it. Plus we were up at Junction Ruin last year and I was saddened by all that had changed since '04. Fudgesicle leads Pathfinder and Speedy up.
    Its still early and we're gassed up, ready to go. Back on the trail. Making good time. Pour-off. Shit. Ely and Fudgesicle say it looks steeper than last year. Especially on our third day. Lunch break in the shade. Speedy's away first, us Following Four get to our feet a minute later. Upward. Slow going. Leveling out. Even though Ely and Fudgesicle know the end is close, they don't mind saying it feels like its taking forever. I agree.
    Utah Canyon Glacier. Last gasps of the canyon, and under a few overhangs in the creek bed there's frozen-solid ice. We relax, enjoying the natural air conditioning. Smiles.
    Suddenly Buster freaks out, falling on his side and kicking his legs. Oh shit! He's having some sort of seizure, or he's slipped on the ice and broke his leg. I'm going to have to carry him this last mile or so.
    Then he rolls onto his back, kicking his legs, and making happy dog sounds. Snow's flying in all direction. Damn! He's cooling himself off! Smart dog. Moving on...
    Behind the crack-in-the-wall. Canyon walls barely fifteen feet tall at this point. Trailhead is "just around the corner." Damn endless tamarisk and willow flats. Meandering back and forth. Radio antenna from the Ranger Station on the horizon. One more big down and up. "Ugh, why now," someone complains. Slickrock benches. Speedy's waiting for us at the gate. "Wouldn't want to end this without you all." All smiles. One more up and down. Damnit. Then the road! The Jetta! Ranger station is still open. I'll be damned, we did make good time! Let's get the hell out of here and head for dunch at the Sonic in Kayenta. Hot damn. Hell of a trip.

    Permit $$
    The phone number for the permit desk is 435 587 1510. Day hiking permits are $2.00 per person per day. A seven day use permit is available for $5.00 per person. An annual day hiking permit is available for $20.00.

    When paying for your permit at the Kane Gulch contact station, please pay by check or credit card (not cash).

    Groups of 8 to 12 must reserve a permit in advance through the Monticello Field Office. DO NOT show up at the trailhead, the contact station or the Monticello Field Office with a group of 8 or more and expect to get a permit.

    Cost - There is an $8.00 per person (per trip, not per night) fee for overnight use of all of the Cedar Mesa canyons from March 1 - June15 and from Sept 1 - Oct 31.


    Directions
    Map Drive
    or
    Road
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To canyon trip
    From Kayenta, take US163 north through Monument Valley. After passing Mexican Hat, turn left at the sign for Natural Bridges onto Route 261. 261 climbs Cedar Mesa in a sharp series of gravel switchbacks, climbing 1200+ feet in 3 miles. Use caution. Continue north on 261 past the Bullet Canyon road. Drive a further 7 miles until reaching Kane Gulch Ranger Station. You need to reserve permits ahead of time, up to three months early, for spring and fall. Permits need to be picked up and paid for on the day of your trip. After collecting your permit, fill up your water bottles, leave one car at Kane Gulch, and drive the 7 miles back to the Bullet Canyon road (this time on your right, just past the Snow Flat road). Follow the road to the parking lot and trailhead.
    $17 3L Hydration Bladder
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