Been having a hard time getting back into my harder Sunday hikes. Today was no exception. Up early but not out the door… finally, out the door, but not up to the trailhead. Instead, assorted errands, and finally, over to the Chamber of Commerce hotspot to go online. Logged a few hours catching up on some research and emails. Finally, headed out of town to at least log some miles looping around on some old Jeep tracks on the plateau and ridges east of Dry Canyon. They’ve been on the list for a long time… and, that would just be easy walking and fairly level ground. I could do that.
Driving up the hiway, on impulse I turned into Dry Canyon… Glancing up at the Buttes inspired the detour. The old jeep tracks were up on top of those cliffs. Instead of driving up and hiking down, I could simply hike off trail… ascend and access the tracks… then loop around on one of the real forest trails back down and into Dry Canyon. It would be less than a mile of off trail… it might inspire some renewed motivation? It would illustrate clearly how out of shape I am. Yeah… that might be a good day.
10:00 am…The best approach… hard call. I decided to hike up an old mining road that shot straight up the hill towards the cliffs towering above… looked as if it might get up a goodly way up… and it headed for a break in the lower cliffs that would allow me to get up the base of the upper cliffs. From there, I should be able to follow the cliff around into the canyon to the south, ideally finding a break that would give me access to the top…?
It mostly did just that. Once above the lower cliffs I intersected a game trail that wound around towards the canyon cut… did not even have to go up to the base of the cliffs… it angled ever upward such that as I turned into the canyon I was at the cliffs, and around the first corner: a cleft that allowed upward progress.
A little earlier I’d been thinking about the joy of trekking off trail, out and about with new around every corner… idiotic grin plastered to match the too simple thought process of one foot ahead of the other. Life: too good!
Now, Climbing up and through that overgrown, rocky cut I had a set of interesting thoughts: I imagined I was someone else; their thoughts might be one of two: first: “Wow… what a great day! This is good stuff.” OR:… “Wow… how did I get myself into this! I gotta quit reading those damn off trail route descriptions… or better yet, they gotta make Imike quit writing them!”
The two counter balancing perspectives probably size up the opposing personalities that might find themselves up in that nasty little cut. I was loving it. Go figure.
Up and through the short scramble, I found an easier slope that lead me up and through the final upper rock ledges… and on to the plateau. Within 100 yards I sighted vehicle tracks… soon thereafter a water catchment tank and one of the old jeep roads.
It was an easy uphill amble from there… with ever nicer vista views.
I came across a pile of cans and jars… a 30 year old collection including dozens of Bell pint jars. Most are not broken; I’ll have to think about reclaiming a few of those; the tops are still the same size to hold new lids.
The Jeep routes wound up and over the ridges, angling south and east towards Forest Rd 90, West Side Road. The various offshoots were likely the result of jeep/ATV ambles to the various ridge high points. One in particular caught my attention. It turned back towards Dry Canyon. I thought it might offer interesting overviews, or maybe a possible descent to the canyon floor. Lots of old mining activity in Dry Canyon… might be an old cut?
So… instead of doing the plan (that flat Jeep trail hike)… I added in the second deviation of the day. I started out and down the off shoot.
It was good.
Eventually, the double track ran out, still high above the cliff levels, but there was a faint track off and down into an adjacent drainage… and I could see a continuation of that route back out of the drainage on the far side of the canyon (…at least I thought I could see that…?) With the thought that the route ascending on the far side guaranteed that I would have little trouble making it down and into the canyon, I went ahead and down.
…and was once again gifted with some bit of luck… sort of. It was easy to get down and into the canyon.
I’d found a traversing route for canyon access from the top of the Buttes Ridges.
Of course, the nature of luck… it can be good… it can be bad.
Over the years, as I’ve guided various hiking groups, and counseled myself about just how to explore canyons, the one constant has been: if you do not have the rope, the gear, the skills… do not descend an unknown canyon.
You explore up if you are just out hiking. Down climbing is a big no-no.
I headed down.
It was great. Rock slabs, boulders… easy down climbing on mostly good rock. Then… the rock was not so good. I hit a section of falls in the 15 to 20 foot range where the rock was just plain bad… a bit of traversing was called for… and, it brought up the issue I’d felt earlier in the day when ascending the cliffs: my problem with heights.
I’m never great with exposure. At times I’m really bad. I’ve been know to crawl on all fours on nearly level ground. That would be one of the really bad days. Today, more in the medium level; I was feeling it when I should not have been feeling it, but I was still functional. No big problem… move more carefully, take care. Last week’s flu fever probably incited the problem today?
More down scrambling… and then… a ledge.
A cliff… a 70’ waterfall feature.
But… there were signs of game moving off up and around… ideally down and around to the left. I slipped over into their tracks and began to once again wish deer were taller. Fitting in and under the tree limbs would have been nicer with another 24” clearance. As the track curved down and around the edge of the falls I heard a noise from below, and looked down in time to see 8-12 Mountain Sheep bound out from the undercut caves in the falls. I grabbed the camera… caught a few pictures.
As I put the camera away it occurred to me that this trail might be one of their trails, and unlike deer, they can go places I might not enjoy…!
Way too close to the edges of the cliffs… not good. Then, they combined cliff edges with the low hanging tree branches. I was crawling and scooting along, at times with my legs dangling over the 40’ drops. I am not a leg dangling kind of guy. On my best day on a mountain I don’t dangle. This was no where close to one of my even better days. Interesting moments.
Fortunately, when they traipsed to the bottom, they did it down a scree cut lined with scrub… no rock hopping down the cliff! Nice.
From there, it was about an overgrown mile with some intermittent bouldering that was just fun. I’d finally decided the hard was over. I could see enough game activity to know they’d been moving from the Dry canyon bottom up this canyon. Hard was over.
Or not… about as fast as I’d drawn that conclusion the game activity concentrated into a game hiway angling up and out of the canyon bottom. That is usually a good sign that none of them were capable of moving down the bottom of the cut, and sure enough, around the next corner… that tell tale edge of solid rock spanning the width of the canyon… yet another water fall.
Luck… it flowed my way. I walked up and peaked over… it was a nice bedrock falls, tilted too steeply for game, but a fun slide for a tired old man.
Below the falls, the canyon showed signs of heavy use… cattle and lost hikers had cleared out all the over growth. Soon, I found an active spring supplying a tank and cattle trough… and from that point to the bottom of Dry Canyon… a jeep track.
20 minutes of walking down the Dry Canyon trail returned me to the jeep track where my morning ascent had begun… another 15 minutes of slow walking had me back at my truck.
I downed the remaining orange juice (half gallon for the day… fasting day, but 1000 calories of juice with potassium to keep me from cramping up) and began to wonder whether I could remember enough of the details of the day to put together this Triplog… and the Trail Route Descriptions that I should compose. I need to get some kind of voice recorder… note the highpoints as they happen. I guess that tape might become an attachment? I don’t do videos, but I guess I could do a narrative??? Probably a bad idea.
So… wrap this up. Thinking about tomorrow’s recovery hike… and what meal I’ll get to enjoy tomorrow night to break fast on!!!
Life be very good…