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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.

Grand Gulch from Collins Spring TH, UT

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647 10 4
Guide 10 Triplogs  4 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List UT > Southeast
Rated
4.7
4.7 of 5 by 6
 
2
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
Statistics
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Round Trip 18 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,227 feet
Elevation Gain -1,000 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4 days
Kokopelli Seeds 23
Interest Ruins, Historic & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
262  2013-05-11 outdoor_lover
56  2011-05-22 MtnBart01
44  2011-05-22 PLC92084
121  2011-05-22 big_load
14  2010-03-15 oliverr99
15  2010-03-13 Randal_Schulhaus
25  2010-03-13 PaleoRob
30  2010-03-13 writelots
Page 1,  2
Author strawlady
author avatar Guides 2
Routes 0
Photos 38
Trips 0 map ( 0 miles )
Age 69 Female Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
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Preferred   May, Sep, Jun, Oct → Any
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:05am - 6:24pm
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0 Alternative
 
Water
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Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
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Backpack to Ruins and Rock Art
by strawlady

Likely In-Season!
Overview:This is a multi-day backpack with little elevation change, except going up and down sandy river banks. The reward is amazing rock art and ruins tucked in the canyon corners. This part of Grand Gulch gets a little thick with willow, but it is far from the madding crowds that can gather in the Kane and Bullet Canyon areas.


Basics: I did this as a 3.5 day/3 night backpack and it could easily take longer with more exploring for ruins and rock art, or taken at a more leisurely pace. Register at the Kane Ranger station or you can make reservations with the Monticello Field Office as noted below in the permit section. I recommend you purchase a topo map of Grand Gulch at the Ranger station ($12 cash only) or carry a good guide book, since none of the ruins are marked or signed. Drive around to Hwy 276 milepost 85 to the dirt road that leads to the Collins Spring trailhead. (It was 6 miles and okay for low clearance, as long as you took the slickrock sections really carefully. It may be worse if it has rained recently).

Hike: The trailhead is obvious and signed a nice gradual drop into Collins Canyon with a well-marked trail. The confluence with Grand Gulch is in 2 miles and there is a nice campground under a tree by the river. In mid-April there was plenty of water the entire trip. I poked around the area and found some nice rock art in a side canyon near the San Juan narrows (this is not a slot canyon, but a very short narrowing of the rocks). The next day, I rose early and hiked 14 miles to the Cow Tank area - a long day. In 3 miles, you pass the Banister Spring and in the next turn, Round House Ruin and Banister Ruin on the left. There are no signs, so keep your eyes open and try to follow the turns on the topo map. Stay to the left and take the high trail past some rock art in a camp area near Banister Spring. The willow begins to get thick as you continue on toward Big Pouroff in about 4 more miles. This is a nice pool to rest and soak your feet. The trail can get tricky to follow, with lots of stream crossings, but it makes a nice easy path through the shrubbery, if you stay on it. You don't need water shoes, unless there has been a great deal of rain, though you may end up with muddy boots. Right above the pouroff, there is a nice ruin hidden on the left - easy to access. There is another ruin off a side trail in about three more miles as you approach Polly's Canyon where the Government Trail comes in from the south. There is a nice campsite there and lots of slickrock, also.

I left the confluence at 7 am and reached Polly's about 1 pm, hiking at a steady B pace. In another 1.5 miles, you pass the amazing Big Man Panel of rock art. It is high on the right side of the canyon, just past a sharp turn. Again, there are no signs, so keep your eyes out and look for the side trail that heads up a steep slope. No touching - there are video cameras at most of the major ruins and art to make sure nobody disturbs them. There is another unnamed ruin along the trail past Big Man Panel, with a well-worn side trail to it. The willow is pretty thick by now, so this isn't the most fun hiking and camping spots are few and far between, but the treasures along the way make it worth it. Cow Tank Canyon is another 2 miles past Big Man Panel. I reached there about 4:30 pm and found a nice camping area.

On Day 3, I left my tent and day-hiked up to Step Canyon. There is an amazing ruin right at the entrance to this side canyon and it can be reached with a little care on the slickrock ledge. I explored up this canyon a little, but it was mostly a waste of time and a lot of bushwacking through thick willow. In another mile, I reached the rock formation known as Totem Pole, which was as far as time would allow that day. The willow is thick up to here, but I understand it thins out past Totem Pole and there are many more ruins and rock art beyond Totem, if you can do a trip where you exit Bullet Canyon. I plan to return and approach the area from Bullet Canyon on another trip. I glimpsed three people on the four days I was in Grand Gulch and spoke to one man who had come in the Government trail and was having trouble finding the Big Man Panel. Mostly, I only heard birds and it was delightful. I hiked back from Totem, picked up my backpack at Cow Tank and took it to Polly's Canyon on Day 3 where I camped comfortably on the slick rock. Day 4, I hiked out and saw more little ruins that I had missed on the way in, which is a reason to go in and out the same way.

Summary: It was tiring - muddy river, sandy trails and thick willow - but it was an intimate glimpse into Anasazi life. Some of the trails are deep trenches, that show they have been trod for hundreds or thousands of years. And this is only a beginning to what that area has to offer. I'm hooked!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Note
This is a moderately difficult hike.

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

2008-05-17 strawlady
    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
    Grand Gulch from Collins Spring TH
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Got your Pot of Coffee??? :sl:

    Setup and Master Plan
    6 Days/5 Nights in Grand Gulch, averaging roughly 6-8 miles per day, with additional side Trips and Scrambling to view Ruins... :DANCE:

    I got an invite from Paul a couple of months before he posted it as an Event...He's never Hiked with me before and I was thinking there was no way I could do this...He said it was a piece of Cake, mostly level with just some elevation on the last day to get out...I talked to Alex when he was in town, and he agreed. Both Paul and Alex were very encouraging and supportive. Alex and I have Hiked before, so I knew we were pretty compatible as far as Hiking goes, and I started to take the Bait... :o Paul posted it as an Event with limited slots, so I knew I didn't have much more time to commit...I knew that a chance of a Trip like this would be very rare...Everything seemed to be going well with me, so I bit...Trepidation didn't go away, however... :sweat: Then I went to the point of No Return and volunteered to drive...No backing out now... :o :sweat: And so I began amassing the gear and trying to Train for it, as some of you have seen from recent Triplogs... :D

    I managed to pare down the Pack Weight from 55 to 45 lbs after the first "Training" Trip...Didn't matter, by the time I was done packing enough food and gear for 6 days I was right back up to 55 lbs... :sweat: Soooo, Friday night at Valley of the Gods, I took advantage of the vast experience I was with, and myself and the rest of the Crew played a game..."Of the "Kitchen Sink" in Pam's Pack, what can she get rid of...???" :sweat: Got rid of a few things, probably only shedding about 2 pounds, which I promptly replaced with my old Camera, since I now had the room.... :sl:

    Had trouble sleeping that night, even though I was tired...The stomach was really churning now...My biggest fear??? Not being able to keep up and holding up the rest of the Crew... ;) My lack of Self Confidence was really rearing it's ugly head... :(

    DAY 1
    Moment of Truth...It's do or die time... :sweat: The Anxiety had built up really high, but it probably saved me the first day, as somehow it translated into Energy, and that, with Fresh Legs from no Hiking for a week, allowed me to keep up most of the day...The Shuttle arrived and took us to the Collins TH. The Driver was pretty knowledgeable about the area and even stopped to show us some Ruins along the way.... 8)

    And then it was on.... :D The Pace was pretty fast for me, but I think the rest of the Crew had pretty minimal "waits" for me that day... :sweat: The Country was gorgeous...It was as awesome as I had hoped...Didn't take too many pictures, simply because of the Pace, but the Views will stay burned in my memory for many years to come... :)

    And then, after a couple of quick miles, it was time to immerse in the Ancient History that the Gulch is so well known for...Saw a couple of Ruins up to this point that were not accessible and then dropped the Packs and our excellent Guides, Paul and Alex, took us on a side Trip for some Pictographs and Ruins...It was amazing...I had yet to experience the extent and quality of sites like these, before this Trip!!! : app : After an hour or so, we returned to the Packs and took a nice shaded Break...The Rangers at the Station had told us that they were expecting record heat for the next few days, and we could feel it...Seeking Shade whenever possible during the middle of the Day. It got pretty warm in the exposed areas... :sweat:

    The "Levelness" of the Hike that Paul and Alex "described" wasn't quite on the Level... :sl: Quite a bit of "Up and Down" Crossings as you wound your way through and around the Creek. And then there was Sand....I commented that one of my Training Hikes should have been in California on the Beach, as well as climbing more than a few Sand Dunes, just to give the Legs the workout they needed for some of these Sandy areas... : rambo : Certainly can't complain about the workout I got on this Trip though... :wlift: Hit another Ruin and then made it to our first Camp...Got some Water filtered, did a little troubleshooting with my Sawyer Squeeze Filter to try and make it more efficient to use and succeeded...Relaxed the rest of the Day, with the assistance of Ibuprofen, which, aside from the Crew and the Energy Drinks I brought, became my best Friend on this Trip... :sl: The Crew influenced me into "Cowboy Camping" that night for the first time, and it was good!!! Very few bugs to worry about and it sure kept things more simple... :)

    DAY 2
    Body is a bit tired from the Day before and so I lagged a bit behind the rest of the Group most of the Day...But they were really good sports about it and for that, I was extremely grateful... :pray: You guys Rock!!! :worthy: The Geology in this place is amAZing! The Wind, Water and Sand Erosion has really made this a very special place!!! Visited some more Ruins and just marveled at how all of this Architecture and History could have stayed so intact for sooo many years, despite what Mother Nature and Man has done to the place... :) Got to one Ruin that I don't think Alex had even done and after sizing it up, I decided it was "doable" and took off... :D It turned out to be "doable" and after I yelled down to Alex about the large Pictograph I encountered upon topping out, he and Lani came up as well...Thought I had "scored" a pair of nice Minolta Binoculars on the way up, but ran into the Owner who was also in the area and returned them... :) Explored that whole shelf. Most of the Ruins were toast at this one, except for a couple at the east end.

    Reached the area where Paul wanted to Camp that night only to find it already occupied so we pressed on...Water was available, but pretty silty in this area. Paul and I scouted ahead for a bit and we got separated for awhile as I went a bit farther in search of good Water. I returned to where we were apparently were going to camp that night and after a few minutes, the rest of the Crew showed up, having doubled back to a different Watering hole. Turns out I missed a Fox sighting right there next to Camp. :sk: Lots of Birds around though, mostly staying hidden in the Cottonwood Trees, although I stalked a few rooting around in the leaves...I would hear a Hawk occasionally, but they seemed to stay near the top of the Mesa for the most part and were hard to pinpoint....Lots of Deer sign, but didn't see one the whole Trip...

    With the light bantering going on during dinner, I found out that a Pool had been started. The rest of the Crew was taking bets on what items I would start throwing out of my pack and leaving by the wayside to lighten my load... :sl: By the end of the Trip, I know they were secretly hoping that it was my Jetboil, as they all seemed to like it. Alex even took up the rear the last day on the climb out, hoping to score it.... :sl: As it turns out, they all lost... :D :y:

    Cowboy Camped again that night...The nights were actually pretty warm and my 25 degree bag was overkill for most of the night, but there was just a touch of chill in the air in the mornings, so I know I couldn't have gotten by with just my summer liner either. We actually had Dew on everything the next morning, although most mornings were drier...

    DAY 3
    I am feeling the fatigue, no doubt about it, and was getting discouraged with my performance...The Crew was priceless though, staying positive and supportive. What an awesome, understanding, patient group they were, I can't say enough... : app : Really wanted to take more pictures, but felt too pressured to try and keep up...(The Pressure was all self-induced, by the way) Really dragged today and the heat wasn't helping, but I know everyone was feeling the heat as well. The ups and downs through the Creekbeds continued with some Bushwacking thrown in for good measure... :sweat: Paul and I wore shorts the whole Trip and by the end, it looked like we'd been through a War...I always seemed to open up some new wound and bleed before each day was over... :sweat: Someone mentioned that they thought they saw some Poison Ivy, and the paranoia of everything with 3 leaves took over in a few spots... :sl: (So far, I've proven to be immune, so I just plow through it all, :sweat: )

    Saw some really cool areas and Ruins again today. Stopped for a break at the Entrance to Dripping Springs Canyon and Paul went up a ways to try to find good Water, but couldn't find the Spring and suspected it was dry. We continued on to Step Canyon. Paul ended up finding us a really sweet Camping spot with clear, fresh, running Water...You Rocked Paul!!! :y:

    DAY 4
    I am now in uncharted Territory. I have not hauled a heavy Backpack for more than 3 days before... :o I'm now in the Bonus Round... :sweat: My physical being has never been a morning person, so it takes me awhile to get the Body warmed up and in a groove, so I'm behind again... :sweat: I've now in the acceptance phase however, and just try to find my Pace and not kill myself in the process...I think I ended up being more efficient this way and it seemed to work out for all concerned, so I threw some of the proverbial weight off my shoulders and relaxed some.... :) At least for the first couple of hours.... :sl: I won't go into the details, it's not important, but somehow, all 5 of us missed a turn... :o :sl:

    We got to a really, really, familiar landmark and I stopped and started to question...Those of you that have Hiked with me know what that means...I know that I have driven some of you crazy with that... :sl: For once, it was justified and after Alex and Paul did some consulting, we got on the right course...It made for a bit more mileage than we planned on, but on a couple of positive notes, the area we turned around in was a really cool spot and after recovering from the Trip, I can say that it was one of my Favorite areas, Geologically speaking...And although it was a little discouraging and daunting at the time, I ended up Backpacking a personal best of 12+ Miles.... :sl: :y: By the time we hit Camp in Bullet Canyon that afternoon, we were all done, although somehow Paul and Lani found the energy to follow a couple of Hikers up Canyon to a Spring they found...

    We saw some great Ruins today as well as more awesome Country. I made use of the Tripod I insisted on taking on the Trip, and took it up to one of the Ruin sites for some Group Pictures... :)

    We all got some Water filtered and pretty much collapsed...There were some Ruins above us that Alex showed me from below later, but I just didn't have the energy to do more than admire them from a distance.... ;) We took a Vote later that turned out to be unanimous...We were going to go up Bullet and see the Primo Ruins up there, but the day had kinda thrown us for a loop and it was decided to skip them and not put in another 12 mile day the next day...I was fine with that, as those Ruins can be accessed with a Dayhike or Overnight Backpack at a future date...I don't think even the hardiest of our Crew wanted to do 2-12 Mile Days in a row... :sweat:

    I slept in my Bivy the night before and set it up again for tonight, simply to avoid the Dew problems in the morning and the Ants, that were becoming more prominent in our Campsites...

    DAY 5
    I'm beginning to think I might actually make it through this Trip without collapsing and dying on the spot... :sl: Fatigue has been replaced by numbness.... :sl: It turned out to be a short day since we elected not to do the 4 miles up and down Bullet. I think everybody was still a little tired from the day before, although Paul is still a frickin' Mountain Goat... :sweat:

    Did a short side Trip to the Green Mask...Very, very Cool!!! The Pictographs were amazing...
    This ended up being my biggest day of Photos of the Trip...

    Got to Camp at Split Level Ruins and got settled in...Had been in Camp a couple of hours and suddenly there's a Party...A Backpack Group of High School kids with a couple of adults walked up the Trail...There were at least 10, probably more...The adult leader seemed very disappointed that we already had the Campsite, but they wanted to still go up and see the Ruins, so they all dropped their brand new Backpacks on the ground and went up...Well, most of them did...Some of them went further down the Trail with the adults to find another Campsite...It got pretty noisy for awhile unfortunately...And to make matters a little more annoying, some of the Teens hung around on the Ledge for quite awhile and found it amusing to launch rocks off the edge... ](*,) Needless to say, we were all biting our tongues, not really keen on starting anything, since it appeared that they would be Camping very nearby...

    After watching Alex wander around the Cliffs above, and waiting for the Light to get better, Paul and I headed up to the Ruins...Really Nice!!!! Lots of Pics of that one...And the Geology that surrounded us on this particular night was awesome as well. I tried to get a Pano of the Overhead view, but it was too hard to do, so you'll have to settle for one overhead shot...

    The kids were still chucking rocks so once we got back down, we got out of the line of fire. It continued for a little while longer and then the adults showed back up and gathered everyone and all of their gear back up and took off down the Trail...No chance of Solitude tonight, as they camped just down the Creek and the kids were climbing all over the Rocks with their headlamps, shouting and laughing...We took amusement in planning revenge after they were all asleep, but of course, didn't follow through. But the planning was fun!!! :D Thoroughly enjoyed looking up at the views above and following two Hawks that kept circling and vocalizing in the Cliffs way above us....

    DAY 6
    Another Moment of Truth...9+ Miles with some Elevation Gain on this day, climbing out...Prepared as best I could mentally for this, but it was still daunting to think about... :sweat:

    Visited The Fortress and then Hiked on. We stopped briefly at Turkey Pen, but everyone elected to bypass with Energy Conservation in mind...Stopped again at Split Junction Ruins and Alex, Paul and Linda headed up...Again, these Ruins could be accessed with a Day Hike, so I wasn't too concerned about missing them this time. I was no longer feeling fatigued or numb, pain was starting to settle into my Right Knee and Middle Back, as the Bod decided that numb wasn't working and started vigorously protesting everything I'd been putting it through the last 5 days.... :sweat: I'd been watching and taking care of Hot Spots on my feet, but today, even with Duct Tape, I could feel one going into a full blown blister....As nice as these new Merrells of mine fit, I won't be getting this model again...I've had very few problems with blisters in the past...I think I need something a little stiffer....

    So, with the climb out still ahead, I double up on the Ibuprofen and slam an Energy Drink
    (also Lifesavers this Trip)and try to rest... ;)

    Paul and Linda return and we almost gang up on a poor solo Hiker coming down the Trail with a fresh apple in her hand... :sl: She was really nice, but once she saw us evil eyeing her apple, she disappeared down the Trail pretty quick... :lol: Alex returned and we set off once again...And then the climb began...It was steep in places, but actually no worse than I had done on my Highline Trip, albeit a bit longer... :sweat: Alex brought up the rear hoping to see that Jetboil drop somewhere along the Trail... :sl: Beautiful area up through Kane Gulch... :)

    Lost track of Paul and Lani after awhile and then Linda...Had a Route Finding issue during the latter part of the uphill and got a little frustrated. I was getting pretty beat and took a Break while Alex went on ahead. Took a few minutes, had an Oxygen stick, got my mind back in the Game and took off again...Within 300 Yards, the Trail flattened out and became level, smooth sailing and I found my pace quickening somehow...Met up with the Group in a nice, shady area with a wonderful Rock...I was then informed that we were less than a mile from the Vehicles and that the uphill was over...Needless to say, I literally collapsed on the Rock in utter relief that somehow, I was gonna make it!!! :y: It was then that I informed them that I won the Pool...I didn't even "dump any fuel (aka Water)" as Paul put it, before my Crash Landing on the Rock.... :sl:

    Took a small break here and then the "Horse going back to the Barn" mentality set in and I pulled from a Reserve somewhere and was hugging the Escape in less than 25 minutes... :y:

    And somehow, to our delight, my blocks of Ice in the Cooler, although melted had still kept everything cold and that Water was incredible...And the Dew was the best I have ever tasted!!! :y:

    After cleaning up a little in the Parking Lot and resting for a bit, we headed out...Stopped for what was to be just a brief minute in Kayenta, but turned into a Vehicle Repair Clinic as Paul's Vehicle blew a Coolant Hose...We got pretty acquainted with the Napa Store in Kayenta... :D Luckily, Paul had tools and was able to somehow replace the hose, even though it was in a very difficult spot...I have to comment that the people at Napa were awesome!!!! They closed at 5, but the Owner came around the back where Paul was working and told him that if he needed anything at all, to just come to his residence behind the store and he would make sure he got it...Phenomenal People at this Napa.... : app : : app : : app : We got Paul rolling again and stopped in Flagstaff at the Beaver Street Brewery and pigged out!!! Yum!!! Linda footed the whole bill, Thanks Linda!!!!! Said goodbye to Paul and Lani here and headed for Phoenix. One rest stop at Cordes Junction with a couple of Laps around the Car and a smoke, and we hit town. Dropped Linda and Alex off and made it home about 1:00 A.M. Friday morning...Exhausted, but happy...

    Final Thoughts
    Epic...What else can I say??? I fought the negative inner demons and with the help of some wonderful friends, new and old, I won!!! :wlift: As a bonus, I was with great company, and saw some spectacular Country and incredible History... : app : : app : : app :

    Knowing what I know now, would I do it again??? With patient, supportive, understanding friends like that???? In a heartbeat.... :y: Paul, thanks a ton for all of the planning, emails, the invitation, the laughs and support... : app : :worthy: Alex, looking forward to our next adventure, :sweat: Thanks for all of the incredible info and knowledge you shared...You were awesome!!! : app : Linda and Lani were great as well!!! : app :

    I only have one regret and it's not really a regret...I should have kept a Journal...My short term memory sucks!!! :sweat: The Ruins and which name goes with which Ruin and which Ruins we saw on what day, became a blur pretty fast, so I will be unable to "Label" which Photos are of what Ruin...Once Alex sees the Pics, he'll be able to help me out and I'll get their names in the Captions then....

    Not sure about the Stats, I used these from Paul's Triplog. There was a lot of up and down, so it's very possible that everything is close...Paul went places I didn't go, and I went places he didn't go, so it probably all averages out...

    The Water Reports I will leave to Paul and Alex...Something else I lost track of.... :sweat:

    Photos
    :sl: Ya....I've knocked off almost 300 Photos from this Trip and still have 250ish...Not sure how much farther down I can cut and still share this remarkable area with you all...Be ready, if I get sick of downsizing, I may just drop a pretty big Bomb on you guys. For all I know, it may even be a HAZ Record.... :sl: They may go up tonight, if not, tomorrow night for sure...

    Epic... :y:

    Wildflowers
    Tons of Globe Mallow, and Cacti Blooming with other Wildflowers showing their stuff sporadically as well...Even the Salt Cedar was Blooming....
    Grand Gulch from Collins Spring TH
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Good company, good weather, countless ruins, excellent cactus blooms, enough water. It's impossible to upload enough pics to describe this place. I left out quite a bit, including many of the pictographs on Day 1 and more common pictographs thereafter. I left out a lot of ruins, too, and many shards and corn cobs.
    Grand Gulch from Collins Spring TH
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    What a trip! It started on the 21st picking up Alex aka big_load from the airport and off we went. My mother in law told my wife I was in essence picking up a hitch hiker from the airport. Fortunately, he is much less scary than his mean looking avatar. :sl: Picked up sandwiches from the Safeway and got gas in Flag. and headed towards Mexican Hat and the Valley of the Gods where we would rendevous with other HAZ strangers for the first night camp before heading to the Kane Gulch Ranger station.
    Note to self properly mark bottles of similar liquids. Brought my last real meal (homemade pizza on the jetboil) for dinner. Thank goodness I brought enough for two pizzas 'cause I accidently used Dr. Bronners Peppermint Castille instead of Olive Oil on the first one. :o Did try it, but decided the risk before 5 days in the Grand Gulch primitive area would be too great. :D
    We checked on the water situation which we were told was great from Collins to Kane and watched the video and waited for our shuttle... and waited... Finally, the man showed up and commented on his lateness and we loaded up and were on our way. We managed to pick up another stranger to share the ride with us and we were off. The driver then started commenting on how the brakes were just done and the back wheel axle area was making a bad noise and trying to call his company with the patchy cell service that he may need someone to come and pick us up. We stopped so the wheel could be checked and the driver proceeded to relieve himself on the side of the road before driving us to our destination. The scenery was great, temps were warm with a late start, but manageable. I believe we stopped the first night at a camp by Bannnister ruins. Water was not nearly as plentiful as we were led to believe. My filter was the first to die. The element in my filter has a plastic lid connected to the ceramic filter which seals the unit unfortunately a liter into pumping it broke. Everyone else brought a filter as well and one by one they all died with the exception of Alex's. On this first day of pumping Jay's started slowing down as well as Dan's.
    Only injuries that day I believe was Paul following me up a wrong route (Sorry) and sliding back down the steep sandstone unfortunately not completely on his feet. Hopefully he will provide the exact quote in his triplog as well as pictures. I was told he accurately saw into his future and provided a prediction of the outcome just before succumbing to gravity and adding a rash to numerous appendages. Day two I got stung by a bee on the forehead as I was exploring while the others were checking out a granary confirming once again that hornets are my only nemesis.
    Checked out the Bannister Ruin and climbed up on a ledge and crawled on hands and knees to get a different perspective for pictures. After that each day went kind of the same. We marched along until we spotted either an expected or unexpected dwelling or pictograph. Dropped packs hiked up to explore or take a nap and then set off to find water and make it to another camp site.
    This was my first trip using exclusively a hammock. I brought a bivy instead of a sleeping bag to save weight in case I couldn't find a place to hang. Should have brought the sleeping bag instead as the bivy was too warm to start out and I would work up a sweat before it cooled off at 2-3 am. I had to make adjustments and definitely learned a few things for next time. The trees were much larger than expected and I had to use the climbing rope I brought to hang my food at a couple of sites to get around the trees. Next time longer straps. I stayed completely dry on the night we got pummelled with rain. I had one night where I opted to stay under the bivy and woke up shivering, but in general found it to be more comfortable than sleeping on the ground.
    The water situation became an issue for part of the trip and on day 4 with Alex's filter being he only functional one he spent a good couple of hours filtering to keep us hydrated. Thanks Alex.
    We camped below Bannister ruins, Big Man Panel, The junction of Bullet canyon, and I believe Split Level Ruin before finishing our trip on day 5.
    I found on day five that the reason I was emptying a large amount of sand from my left shoe on each stop was that I blew a seam on the big toe of my VFF, but this was easily remedied with some duct tape. After hiking the last couple miles to Kane Gulch Ranger station (which smelled more like my Grandma's Farm) than the sage infused lower canyon we made our way to our cars. Checked in chatted and said our goodbye's. Headed to Flag. with Alex where we planned to get gas and food. Got that gas light on the way and thought no problem plenty of gas to get to Flagstaff. I didn't see the first gas station and about a hundred yards from the next going up a steep hill the truck sputtered and stopped. :scared: Meanwhile Alex informs me there is a gas station we passed and inquired as to whether we can turn and coast back to the gas station. Fortunately, the truck started and ran long enough to get there and fill up. :D We headed to what I thought was Beaver Street Brewery and when we got into the parking lot realized it wasn't Beaver Street. Ate at the Lumberyard Brewery which was pretty good and headed back to Phoenix. One of the better trips in recent memory. Good meeting Alex, Paul, Dan, and Jay. Had a great time. Look forward to getting back there in the future and exploring other areas. :y:
    Mileage on the gps came out to 49. Did a majority of exploring without pack and added a conservative number of miles. Was not able to sync the track with the fast sync despite cleaning up the track because of an error message and the usgs said it would take an unGodly amount of time for 5000+ points. Will adjust mileage and AEG when the others post. Have a decent gps track if I can get some help resolving the error message. :)
    http://youtu.be/UZzjL248zrk
    Grand Gulch from Collins Spring TH
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    I though about doing a long triplog about this adventure, but I kept stopping and restarting. I wanted to cover what we had done and how this crazy trip had changed and changed and changed again. I was dissatisfied every time. Suffice to say things did not go as originally planned. Or as secondarily planned - in and out Collins. Randy suggests a car camp on top of the mesa near Collins - that gets canned. We discuss car-camping at Castle Butte in Valley of the Gods again. Also gets canceled. By the time we're out of the canyon it is decided to head to Mexican Hat and get pizza and they're all going to stay at the San Juan Inn. Pizza got canned - not open for dinner. Finally it is Navajo Tacos at the San Juan Inn as the snow begins falling. Little did I know that an hour and a half after leaving the SJI I'd find myself in my truck on its side. What a strange trip. Certainly one for stories in the future.
    Grand Gulch from Collins Spring TH
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    This trip was just enough to get me totally committed to coming back with enough time and horsepower to see more regardless of the weather. (OK, maybe wall-to-wall water, thigh-deep quicksand, or knee-deep snow might slow me down a little). One highlight was finding my first intact stone implement. Another was getting down from the ledge in one piece. It was fun to meet everyone and I eagerly look forward to another attempt.

    Special thanks to PageRob and Randal Schulhauser for making an extra effort to bring this about despite numerous obstacles. :thanx:
    Grand Gulch from Collins Spring TH
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    Grand Gulch March 2010

    THE PLAN

    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)



    THE EXECUTION

    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...


    Final Thoughts
    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! :)
    Grand Gulch from Collins Spring TH
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    I had planned to see the sunrise from the road, but instead I saw the sun coming up from the Maverik. So I got away late. No surprise there - no one has ever called me punctual. So I head towards the rising sun, visor down to shield my eyes. I am keeping my eyes open for snow, trying to gauge the conditions up on Cedar Mesa before I get there, scouting for next weekend's trip. Things get snowy past Kaibeto and continue that way until Shonto. Roads look muddy, if not downright blocked, but this isn't Cedar Mesa, so I hold out hope.
    Down through Kayenta, up through Monument Valley, and then across the San Juan the snow is confined to patches in the shade. Things are looking up until I turn on to 261. The pale flank of Cedar Mesa is exposed and I see sheets of snow draped from the rim down to the talus in places. It does not bode well for what is on top, but I proceed anyway. Up the snow-free Moki Dugway and then back onto the pavement. I make a quick left to case the road to Muley Point. It starts off dry but rutted, but quickly turned muddy and rutted, and finally snowed over. I made it through to a dry spot, turned around, and made my way cautiously back to 261.
    Several miles further up the road, I come across the road out to Government. It looks even nastier than the Muley Point road. I drive down maybe a half mile until turning around at a cattle guard, where I can get traction for sure. It is more muddy and rutted than the Muley Point road. Again I find my way heading back to 261. When I get to the junction, there's a pickup with a camper on the back. I get out and we talk. He's from Pagosa Springs and was looking to get into Slickhorn. Not happening today, that's for sure. We jaw for a while, and I mention my situation - scouting for a big group coming from far away the next weekend for a Government-Collins trip. He thinks that won't go either. I say I'm going to talk to the rangers at KGRS and he thinks they'll probably laugh at the idea of doing that trip. I think he's probably right. We part ways, and I follow him down 261 until KGRS, where I pull over and he continues on his way.
    He was right. I walked into the ranger station and said "Surprise!" It turns out I am the second visitor this season. After a bit of chatting, it also turns out that the volunteers are HAZites! We discuss the weather. One fellow, who's been working there since 1993, says that it is the worst snow that he's seen in his time, 10 times worse than the previously worst snowstorm. "Yeah," he says, "We've never had to plow the parking area here before." I guess there's a first time for everything!
    It also turns out that they've just opened on the 1st and no one yet has been down into the canyons. One lady had tried to cross country ski down Kane Gulch and failed. I mention wanting to check out Collins and get some good news. The road to the trailhead is clear and dry. Apparently it is even dusty! They haven't been down into the canyon though, so they're not sure about the water situation at the bottom. I get the permit changed to a Collins entry and exit and hit the road again.
    Driving down 95 and then 262 the snow thins noticeably. By the time I hit the Collins turn-off things are looking more March-ish. The road into Collins is in good shape, though the slickrock sections are questionable for a passenger car. I know I wouldn't take my passenger car down this road. I reach the trailhead after 6 miles and chow down on lunch. After eating I load up my pack and hit the trail.
    The canyon is beautiful, and the trail down is simple. It is two miles in and they fly by. When I get to the junction I take a deep breath. I am probably the first person to enter Grand Gulch in 2010. I am certainly the only living person in all of Grand Gulch. What a feeling! A feeling of solitude and great promise. Wonderful! Wonderful.
    My time was up. I hiked out of the canyon. I had a plan for the next weekend and knew it could be done. I guess my wash-out day didn't end up too bad in the end.

    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 hike
    From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Flagstaff, then I-89 north through Cameron. Turn right on 160 to Kayenta, then go north on 163 through Monument Valley and past the town of Mexican Hat. Turn left onto 261 toward Natural Bridges National Monument. There will be signs that large trucks should not take this road and that's because you are heading toward steep gravel switchbacks (Moki Dugway). They are better than some of the roads around Arizona, though they have some washboard and you really don't want to drive off the edge - lots of passenger cars take them. Once you have climbed the switchbacks, you are on Cedar Mesa. Continue about half an hour (30 miles) until you see the Kane Ranger Station on your right. After you register continue on 261 to 95, go left for 9 miles, then go left onto Hwy 276. The dirt road to Collins Spring trailhead is at milepost 85, on the left, with a big sign.
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