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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 - Bullet to Government Trail, UT

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278 6 3
Guide 6 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List UT > Southeast
Rated
5
5 of 5 by 3
 
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 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Shuttle 22 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,405 feet
Elevation Gain 1,346 feet
Avg Time Hiking 3 Days
Kokopelli Seeds 26.49
Interest Ruins, Historic & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
70  2009-03-28 PaleoRob
137  2009-03-28 rushthezeppelin
21  2009-03-28 oliverr99
50  2009-03-28 Randal_Schulhaus
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   May, Oct, Apr, Sep → Early
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  6:03am - 6:25pm
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Geology Nearby
Culture Nearby
Grand Gulch highlights!
by PaleoRob

Likely In-Season!
Grand Gulch Primitive Area has been one of the best places to see Anasazi ruins since the area was first discovered by Blanding ranchers and later the Wetherills during the late 1800s. Most of the major ruins have since been excavated or pothunted, their buried secrets winding up in museums and occasionally on Victorian mantles. Today, though, much remains in the backcountry of Cedar Mesa. Rock art dots high canyon walls. Ruins sprout out of sunny, south-facing alcoves. Artifacts litter the sandy ground in front of the ancient habitations. For the premiere, outdoor Anasazi experience, there are few places that can top Cedar Mesa and Grand Gulch.


This hike is a shuttle hike, and can be run from either direction. The Bullet Canyon trailhead is here, while the Government Trail starts here. We ran this trip starting from the Bullet Canyon trailhead, so it will be described in that manner.

The trail from the Bullet Canyon trailhead is easy going at first, simply crossing the mesa top for about a quarter of a mile, paralleling the rim of Bullet Canyon. After about a quarter of a mile, the trail takes advantage of a natural break in the cliffs, and snakes down to the canyon bottom. The going is generally easy along the canyon bottom as well, though it can be sandy in places. In the upper portion of Bullet, pools are common, some quite deep, though most are easily avoided.

The canyon begins to deepen not long after you see a cliff-top ruin on the north rim of the canyon. As the canyon drops, the trail encounters a group of chutes. The first is a narrow slot that drops rapidly, and can often be icy early in the hiking season. This chute ends in a two to three foot pour-off, that can be down climbed fairly easily, though it looks pretty intimidating. The next chute is a broader slickrock basin. While no real pour-overs exist in this section, some sections can be quite steep and require careful slickrock navigation. There are often cairned routes through this area, though most seem somewhat useless. The best route seems to be down the central section to the first "flat" area, then detouring to canyon left to bypass a steep section. From there it is an easy walk across gently sloping sandstone to the canyon bottom.

The third "chute" is actually a tangled mess of a boulder fall, just past a deep pool. As you begin entering the boulders, keep a very sharp eye out on the right for a poorly-marked trail. This is a very important bypass, pulling you up and around the boulder fall. If you miss this trail, it can result in wasted energy and hours of frustration trying to pick your way through the boulder fall. The bypass looks down on the convoluted boulder-choked canyon, and then drops in a series of switchbacks back to the canyon floor.

The trail from here is very easy, meandering through the bottom of Bullet Canyon. Ruins and rock art can be seen along this stretch fairly often. Both Perfect Kiva and Jailhouse Ruins lay in this section, two of Cedar Mesa's most famous attractions.

There is a spring just below Jailhouse ruin, on canyon left, and there can be flowing water or some pools, depending on the weather, just below Jailhouse all the way until the next bend in the canyon. This is the only reliable water in Bullet between the deep pool above the chutes and the junction of Bullet and Grand Gulch.

As with the section just above Jailhouse, the trail is easy to follow and not terribly challenging as you cross grassy meadows and the wash bottom. Just before reaching the junction of Bullet and Grand Gulch, you rise up a stretch of old floodplain and get a very good look down canyon as the arroyo has cut down over the past hundred years or so. Ahead you can see an arch on the canyon walls; this marks the actual confluence between Bullet and Grand Gulch. There is a grove of cottonwoods, water, and great campsites at that location, and most people make the junction their goal for the day.

From the Bullet/Grand Gulch confluence camp, the trail heads straight down Grand Gulch. Turning right at the confluence will lead you up canyon towards Kane Gulch. The trail has to make about two miles to cover one as the crow flies, as Grand Gulch is much more convoluted than Bullet. The trail snakes around fins and ridges as strange hoodoos and ruins appear on the rim and ledges. There are several small side canyons with springs in this section of Grand Gulch, though most springs are at least a quarter of a mile up from the main gulch. Keep a sharp eye out also for The Totem Pole, a distinctive spire on the north canyon wall. While there are many trails that jump up out of the canyon bottom, most of these are simply cutting off stream meanders. If you want to save your knees some ups and downs, and the creek is not flowing, it is usually easiest to hike in the creek bed. Any dead trees or large boulders are probably worth bypassing, however. For a neat side trip, try hiking a bit up Step Canyon; there is some rock art and ruins well worth the effort on this side trip.

Most people camp either at Cow Tank Canyon (also called Cow Tail Canyon or Steer Gulch on some maps) or Dripping Springs Canyon. They are only separated by about a quarter of a mile of trail, so it is up to you which one to camp in. There are several good campsites in the mouth of Dripping Springs Canyon, while the mouth of Cow Tank is somewhat overgrown. Both canyons have springs about .8 miles up from the main gulch. Don't get discouraged if you don't come across water right away. Both springs are also marked on the National Geographic Trails Illustrated map.

From Dripping Springs Canyon, you only have about 4 miles left to go until reaching Polly's Canyon and the Government Trail, which will take you up out of Grand Gulch. This can take quite some time to cover, however, due to the large amount of amazing rock art and ruins found in this stretch. Of particular interest are Long House ruins, the Big Man Panel, and the ruins on Polly's Island. Other rock art and ruins are visible and accessible along this stretch of trail, and several arches stand out along the canyon rims.

Polly's Canyon has a spring not too far up it, and unless it has rained or snowed recently, this is your last chance to get water before leaving the gulch. Tank up as needed; the Government Trail is exposed and sandy with no water. Just down canyon of Polly's Canyon, on canyon left, the Government Trail begins as a simple dirt path. From the base of the trail, looking at the rim above a large pour-off, you can see a sign announcing the top of the Government Trail. The trail slowly gains elevation as it heads south, then makes a broad switchback and begins to get steeper just before the next bend in the canyon. As you ascend you being to see the world around you come back into view; the Red House Cliffs, the Henry Mountains, and the Bear's Ears. The top of the trail is marked, as mentioned, by a simple sign on the rim of a slickrock apron. The trail is cairned across the slickrock towards an old wagon road which will lead back to the Government Trail parking area. According to Google Earth, this stretch is about 2.6 miles long, though it can feel a lot longer as there is no shade and the trail is mostly sand. Once you get to the Government trailhead, congratulations! You've finished the hike. Sign out in the register (note water conditions as a courtesy to those coming in), and head on down the road to complete the shuttle!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2009-03-31 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
    Grand Gulch - Bullet to Government Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Grand Gulch 2009

    Believe it or not I've never been to Grand Gulch Primitive Area before. In Spring of 2008 I did get a chance to explore Comb Ridge http://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=5467, Cedar Mesa http://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=5489, and Valley of the Gods http://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=5503. That trip only served to whet my appetite as I jumped at the chance to finally visit the Anasazi Mecca when PageRob organized a HAZ group hike http://hikearizona.com/dex2/viewtopic.php?t=3679.

    FRIDAY 3/27
    The 4-day weekend began early since work prevented getting my backpacking gear assembled any earlier. A run to the grocery store and hardware store were required to complete my pack list. With my F-150 finally packed, I said good-bye to Lynn and the dogs and headed out the door.

    Picked up Mike Mattes (aka mattem1) at our pre-arranged 12 noon time at Medtronic and headed off to Glendale to pick up Anne Smith (aka oliverr99) near MWU. Once on the I-17 we made good time and arrived in Flagstaff by 3pm. We met up with my daughter Hannah and her friend Dominic at the Beaver Street Brewery to have a late lunch. Had an opportunity to discuss both their poster presentations at the upcoming Biozona 2009 event.

    We were back on the road just as UA was about to make their televised Sweet 16 appearance. The miles ticked by through Navajo Lands and before you knew it we were at our evening's destination - The Hat Rock Inn in Mexican Hat UT.

    SATURDAY 3/28
    Breakfast at the San Juan Motel - thanks for opening early for us! Get on Hwy 261 and up the Moki Dugway and onto Cedar Mesa to the Kane Gulch Ranger Station (KGRS) to meet up with Rob (aka PageRob), Brian (Vaporman), and Chris (rushthezeppelin). As "group leader", Rob was assigned our overnight permits by the Ranger and we were ushered into a side room to watch the obligatory backcountry etiquette video. NOTE: Only 22 overnight permits are issued daily to enter Grand Gulch via Bullet Canyon. FURTHER NOTE: The KGRS indicated that there's been a rash of vehicle break-ins the last few weeks and you should carry all valuables with you. The Ranger also indicated that most vehicles had their battery cables disconnected, probably to kill any alarm systems, so if your vehicle doesn't start after a break-in --- check your battery.

    We left Brian's car at the KGRS and shuttled my F-150 to the Government Trail Head. Squeezed 6 backpacks and 6 trekkers into Rob's Explorer and soon arrived at the Bullet Canyon Trail Head. After travelling 415 miles in my truck, we were finally on the trail!

    After a short mesa top stretch, we began an easy descent into Bullet Canyon. Bullet Canyon is spectacular! Slick rock areas, undercut alcoves, box-up walls, and of course - the chutes! As we approached the 3rd chute, Rob guided us up the "right-side" trail to avoid the boulder fall.

    As lunch time approached we spotted Perfect Kiva alcove. It was perfect timing to drop our packs and fix up some lunch grub. Desert was strictly visual as we explored Perfect Kiva.

    Jail House Ruins was next on the list. Potsherds were everywhere at this site.

    Across some sandy benches and we arrived at the Bullet - Grand Gulch junction with plenty of day light to set up camp in a cottonwood forest near a water-filled gully. Even had enough light to explore Wall Ruins located upstream about half a mile in Grand Gulch.

    Back at camp again and it was time to cook dinner. I opted for my bag of Mountain House Jerk Chicken. I won't put that selection on my "highly recommended list" as evidenced by my leftovers for Sunday breakfast...

    That evening as we sat upon a ring of logs swapping stories, I don't know if it was just me, but the lack of a campfire (none are allowed in the Cedar Mesa canyons) just seemed to make things "incomplete"...

    SUNDAY 3/29
    Morning arrived as the evening was uneventful (dare I say "peaceful"???). After breakfast we scaled the slick rock up to the Junction Ruins overlooking our campsite.

    Back on the trail and we began the "sand slog" through Grand Gulch. To be honest, this part didn't match my mental image of Grand Gulch. Multiple undulations criss-crossing the gulch and sandy benches! Through continuous tangle woods that seemed to want to rip your pack off your back...

    We spotted a set of ruins on a sandstone fin just before the Totem Pole. Some windfall cottonwoods made a comfortable seat as we grabbed some lunch. My "old-school" external metal frame pack was beginning to "challenge" my shoulders. Felt good to set that weight down on the ground!

    As late afternoon approached we found ourselves at Dripping Springs Canyon. We inspected some camp sites as the winds began to pick-up (foreshadowing maybe?). The spring was marked on our maps about ¾ miles upstream in Dripping Springs Canyon. We dropped our packs at our designated campsite below some rock art panels and headed up canyon to get water. After passing multiple dry pools we arrived at a continuous chain of clear, flowing pools of water!

    With our water issues now solved, we set-up camp and began cooking dinner. I'll give my Mountain House Beef Stroganoff dinner two thumbs up as it completely disappeared way too soon...

    With the sun setting, temperatures were plummeting downward fast and the wind speed only seemed to be multiplying. Hanging out to talk was just too uncomfortable as we all elected to call it a night...

    MONDAY 3/30
    Monday Morning Surprise --- snow and fricken cold! See Rob's trip report for the complete low down. After some character building minutes, the sun finally reached the canyon bottom chasing away the cold. Hot chocolate with some of Rob's rum also helped the cause...

    On the trail again I could see a POI on my GPS labeled "Big Ruin". We spotted a side trail heading up a sandy bench maybe 50 feet above the stream bed. Mike and Anne decided to sit this one out, but the rest of us clamored up the steep sandy trail and onto the bench. We weren't alone on the bench - a Scout Troop from Denver was scattered all amongst the ruins...

    After thoroughly exploring Long House Ruins (aka Big Ruin), Grand Gulch beckoned with a series of arches and hoodoos lining the canyon walls.

    Big Man Panel followed by Polly's Island ruins completed our eye-candy trek through Grand Gulch. Cairns marked the entrance to Government Trail. Up the switchbacks to the top of the mesa.

    Atop the mesa we were rocked by some high winds, but we didn't care. They were at our back and only seemed to push us faster towards my truck (and the well stocked cooler).

    Back at the truck we all enjoyed a beverage and choice snacks before shuttling back to Bullet Canyon to collect Rob's Explorer. Back to KGRS to get Brian's Sebring where the Ranger asked how we made out Sunday evening because their thermometer recorded a low of 5 degF - yikes!

    Dinner at Goulding's for Navajo Tacos http://hikearizona.com/phoZOOM.php?ZIP=91198 where we all made plans to do this again - real soon!
    Grand Gulch - Bullet to Government Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    There were bad omens hanging around the beginning of this trip. While the plan was perfect, as usual, things didn't go correctly from the get go. SPAM? Who the hell wants SPAM as a lunch meat? Well, when you're two hours behind schedule leaving Page and WalMart doesn't sell those handy chicken pouches, you take what you can get. On the road, down towards Kayenta. Dinner plan? Sonic. Twenty minutes after taking my order, my chili dog finally comes out the drive-through window. Twenty minutes? Really? I guess it must be rush hour here in K-Town. Oh well, I got the food, time to make tracks.
    About twenty minutes later, just north of the pass at Monument Valley, I spot a red F-150 on the side of the road, barely visible in the gleam of my headlights. Randall's truck? I wonder to myself. I tell myself that I'll drive on to Mexican Hat, and if his truck isn't there I'll head back this way. But not a half mile down the road, I notice two fellows walking towards the truck, carrying something that appears to be a gas can. Crap! I'm by them before much else can be determined, so I turn around and head back, thinking I can help out my fellow hikers. As I pull along side, however, I realize my mistake. This is not Randy and one of his carpool partners. Rather it is two middle-aged drunk Navajos, carrying a plastic bag full of beer cans. Oh hell. But now that I've stopped, I can't just take off without seeming like an ass, so they hop in.

    "Thanks man," they slur, but I inform them I'm not heading towards Kayenta. I let them know I was just searching for my friends that were in the red truck parked just down the road. I have to wonder if I am hallucinating, though, for as I drive towards the pass again there's no red truck! Tonight certainly can't get any better. I hastily get rid of the drunks on the pass ("Be careful out there," I say) and spin around yet again, heading northward for the San Juan and hopefully Cedar Mesa.

    Stopping for gas in Mexican Hat, another obstacle literally blocks my path. Some poor foolish truck driver has jammed his Mayflower trailer all the way across Highway 163 at the Shell station, wedging the right front corner on the asphalt where the highway drops away into a dirt parking lot. I observe the spectacle while gassing up, an after a short parking lot bypass, I'm on the highway again, rolling towards my destination.

    I finally mount the switchbacks of the Moqui Dugway and make a beeline for the Muley Point lookout. I pull off at the point just before Muley Point proper, lay the rear seat of the Explorer down, and nod off to sleep at around 11:30pm, Utah time.

    The alarm on the cell phone wakes me up at 6am, the sun just barely lightening the eastern horizon. I leave the warmth of the truck to take a leak, and then I'm back inside to make some breakfast. It is then and only then when I discover that one of the drunks from the night before knocked my bag of bagels out of the truck. Hell. I guess it is Cliff Bar breakfast for me.

    Getting things together in my truck, I notice a pair of headlights moving along the rim to my west, headed my way. I couldn't figure that anyone else would be moving around except maybe members of the HAZ crew. Sure enough, a convertible Seabring rolls into my little point, and out steps Vaporman (Brian) and rushthezeppelin (Chris). It is freaking cold, but we do some brief handshakes and walk out to the rim and check out the view. Pretty damn dark, but we ooh and ahh for about thirty seconds before scurrying back to our vehicles and hit the road. Over the dirt and back to the pavement, where we head north to the Kane Gulch Ranger Station.

    Brian has some minor issues with the bathroom door while Chris and I putzed around with our gear. As Randal arrives, Brian gets the word he was trying the wrong door. As he goes off to change I greet Mike and Anne. They head off into the newly-opened ranger station. I still need to get into my hiking clothes as well, so I head into the other restroom just as the sun begins to crest the horizon. After my quick-change, I proceed inside where the gang is standing around the counter, talking to the rangers. After finalizing our permit info we settle down to watch some backcountry ethics movie. That's new from my last trip, and it basically "don't poop in the ruins, don't walk on the midden", all stuff I already know. We're anxious to get done, and we bolt as soon as the video is over.

    We cruise to the Government parking area en caravan, and after dumping after-hike essentials in Randy's truck we pile into the Explorer. A rough ride up to Bullet, but we make it all relatively intact, and after forcing the Explorer to disgorge the cargo we're finally on the trail. Across the rim and then down into Bullet we speed. We make good time to the chutes, and find them somewhat less intimidating that previously thought. They are still skimmed in ice, however, so we take some care, and with Chris forging the path we make our way down. Descending another slickrock drop, and then we're at the boulder fall. I had to sound the alarm as several of the party started to descend into the boulder fall. We take the upper bypass and soon thereafter we find ourselves at Perfect Kiva in time for lunch.

    We took ten for lunch, and after relaxing and soaking up the sun, we headed towards the ruin. Randy had brought along some old 1800's photos of the Wetherill excavations, and he heads up a side draw to get a good angle down into the ruin. The rest of us walk up the slope and enter the Perfect Kiva alcove.

    This is the first serious ruin we've come to along this stretch of canyon, and everyone is pretty well excited. The ruin is in fairly good shape, though there is some evidence of recent digging south of the kiva. Artifacts are piled up on the "display rocks" around the site. Ugh. But despite that, it is still a neat place, and the view is outstanding as well.

    We head back down and head around the corner to Jailhouse. Dropping our packs again, we attempt (and fail) to find a way into the upper level of Jailhouse, leaving us only the lower section to explore. None the less, it is pretty cool. There are shelves masoned into the cliff inside some of the rooms, and the "jail cell" is just unique. There is an enormous rock literally covered in pot sherds and lithic flakes on "display." Sad yet impressive at the same time.

    We find very little water below Jailhouse, and while I tank up, everyone else pressed on. I caught up with Randy and Mike not too long afterward. We hiked on, winding and weaving, until we crested the big alluvial ridge. From there we could see the junction of Bullet and Grand Gulch. On, down, and to the campsite where we get things set up for the evening. Dinner was varied, with an experimental dehydrated bean mix for me, freezer bag cooking, and Mike's expired Mountain House lasagna. Yum. After dinner a few of us head up Grand Gulch to check out Wall Ruin, which both Brian and I had seen on previous Grand Gulch trips. What a great site! Chris and Brian figured out the devious route up to the upper level, which provided great views up and down the canyon, as well as access to the rest of the site.

    Our evening was short due to rapidly falling temperatures, and after a long, cool night of fitful sleep for most, we were up at the crack of nine. Randy offered to share his Jamaican jerked chicken dinner leftovers for breakfast, but no one took him up on his generous offer, so he scarfed most of it down himself. While Anne and Mike warmed up and shook out the cramps of the previous night, Brian, Chris, Randal, and myself scaled the ridge to the north to gain access to a small set of ruins that we had spotted the evening before, walking back from Wall Ruins. Chris took the most direct route possible, scrambling like a monkey up the slickrock face, while the rest of us took a more cautious route to the top of the ridge. There was found a wall perched on a boulder, seemingly impossible to get to. We pondered the mystery of the wall for a few minutes before heading over to the end of a ledge, where the combination granary/living structure was built into the cliff. Did it serve as a watch house, protecting the junction? Or was there more to the story behind the stone, mud, and sticks? Chris went off, determined (but eventually unsuccessful) to find a way to the boulder-top ruin, while the rest of us eventually made our way back down to the canyon bottom.

    We finally hit the trail around 10:30, with the sun hitting the stream bed. We meandered here and there, occasionally staying in the wash, occasionally following well-worn trails out of the wash bottom to cut off meanders or just apparently irritate and tire us. We had to make a huge detour around a sandstone fin that jutted south; covering half a mile on the trail to gain 50 yards of lateral distance. We took plenty of breaks, and by noon we were near the mouth of Green Spring Canyon, at the base of a tall hoodoo. We have lunch looking up at the hoodoo and some ruins, and after we've eaten, Brian, Chris, and I scampered up to have a look-see. Not really much to say about it; one storage room and one Glen Canyon Linear petroglyph nearby. I head back down to the rest of the group while Brian takes a nap and Chris nearly falls to his early death off a sand hill. Tragedy avoided, we all regroup and press on downcanyon.

    Time and water are starting to wear on our minds as we pass more ruins as well as Step Canyon. There's supposed to be water in Dripping Springs Canyon, as well as Cow Tank Canyon, but I've never been through this stretch before so I am a little apprehensive. The miles grow longer and dustier as the wind picks up, flinging sand into our faces. The wash bottom is like walking on a beach, and each trail out of it is like climbing a sand dune, only to walk back down the backside 100 feet later. The group is definitely showing fatigue, and by the time we reach Dripping Springs Canyon in the middle of a gale, we all decide we're done for the day. At first we attempt to camp near a giant cottonwood near the mouth, but Chris, the only hanger in the group, points out that it is too massive to get his hammock webbing around. We all need water; no one has more than .5 liters left, and we've got 6-ish miles to go the next day. According to my map, there's a spring up the canyon, "just around the next bend." Everyone dumps their packs and takes only what they need; water bottles and purification equipment. As we head up Dripping Springs Canyon, the group begins to take on a somber mood, and all conversation evaporates. Everyone is in their own private grind looking for water, as the wind continues to sandblast us. Our mouths are dry, and grit gets in our eyes, our noses, our ears. Finally I round a corner, Chris and Brian just ahead of me, and Chris lets out a cry. "There's a pool here!" The most beautiful sound of all in a dry desert canyon. That special magic of water in the arid country. "We're saved!" I exclaim, but only half joking. Water is a sacrament.

    We continue upcanyon just another few dozen yards where the scummy potholes turn into deep, clear pools with some flow to them. I dunk my bottles and drop in iodine, and then sit back on the warm rock and just enjoy that sacred, all-important ritual of gathering water in the desert. Randy, Brian, Anne, and Mike all pump for several minutes while Chris has already scooped water for iodine treatment from another pool just upstream. Puffy clouds are rolling in, and Randal taunts them. Insults their parentage and their ability to do anything at all. Oh, but we would rue those statements, but for the moment they brought laughs.

    We had all tanked up and sadly turned our backs on the oasis. The clouds began building again, and the wind was still fierce as we headed back downcanyon. Another potential campsite was spotted, one with enough flat space for us to all camp together and trees for Chris to hang. We dropped our water, went to grab our packs, and set up for the night.

    It was another cold one, with the winds howling like banshees and the clouds racing overhead thicker and fiercer. After dinner, there was little talking. It sounded like an airplane was going to crash into the canyon, what with the wind and all anyway, so bedtime came at around 8:30pm. Two hours later I was awakened from my slumber, glad I had a warm water bottle stashed between my legs, by Brian. "Hey, you guys might not hear it because it is real soft, but its snowing!" Hell. Why would he know this, you might rightly ask? Why because Brian didn't have a tent, and was sleeping on a tarp in his bag, exposed to all the elements. I clutched my warm water bottle tighter and attempted to drift back to sleep.

    I woke as dawn was once again just barely lightening the eastern sky. I wanted to put some miles under my boots early; I was dreaming of a Navajo taco at Goulding's. Plus it was frozen-ass cold outside, and I knew the sooner we got moving, the sooner we'd start to warm up. While most of the party was reluctant to get a move on, after taking some sensible emergency warming actions, we got pretty well rousted and began to pack. We hit the trail just as the sun came up on our campsite, though it had been illuminating the rock art panel on the cliff above us for over an hour.

    The hike wasn't bad. Cold, but not bad, as the snow kept the sand together. We decided to abandon all but the most serious meander cutoffs and stick to the stream bed to help save our legs, so we zigged and zagged with the wash. Rock art and ruins floated by, out of reach, until we came to what Randy's GPS called mysteriously "Big Ruins."

    We drop our packs in the wash and head up the sand trail to the old floodplain. Group of Boy Scouts from Colorado is already up in the ruins, and the scoutmaster is reading from some rock art pamphlet, telling the boys what each dot and figure means. I'm more than slightly skeptical. The Boy Scouts seem interested, though after the Scout Master leaves, some of them begin throwing corn cobs at each other. They don't seem too impressed when I scold them either, but when I point out a huge lizard, everyone comes to see. At least they are interested in the outdoors, I just wish they'd be a little more respectful of the site.

    It is warm in the alcove, and we don't want to head back down to Anne and Mike down in the wash, but the thought of Navajo Tacos drove us on. Down we went, where we again ran into the Scout Master. They'd come up from a camp at Polly's and wanted to visit the Big Man Panel. They'd overshot and ended up at Long House. We dig out the map and set them straight. They disappear downcanyon, and after giving them enough time to clear out we picked up our gear and followed suit.

    The Big Man Panel wasn't far downstream, maybe a mile, but it was obvious how they could have missed it coming upcanyon. It is on a north facing wall on the east side of the canyon. They cruised right on by it. The climb is steep to get up to the panel, which is near the top of the cliff, but we cajole all of the crew to make the climb. It was well worth it, and we stand in awe of the amazing ancient art. Even the Boy Scouts seem impressed. They head down another way, while we linger. Randal shoots a group shot, and then we made tracks back down to the canyon bottom.

    After a brief consult, we decided to lunch at the base of the Government Trail. Boots on the sand, we put the miles behind us, passing arches and overhanging walls. It seems like in no time at all, we encounter Polly's Canyon. Just after, we find the canyon bottom turns to slickrock with some puddles of melted snow. A perfect lunch spot. I faced the unfortunate task of having my SPAM and mayo burrito, while the rest of the gang munched on items that looked a little more appetizing. The scouts had made it back to their camp, and we could hear them cavorting just upcanyon. The Scout Master (who had a Swiss accent, by Randal's reckoning) came by to jaw for a little bit. He'd been Scouting for about 20 years, and had been all over this stretch of country; Fish, Owl, Road, Kane, Collins, The Maze, Moab, etc. He'd never been between Government and Bullet though, so we had something in common. We talked for a while, and then he went back up to Polly's to check on his charges. We shouldered our packs for one last push, and headed up the Government Trail.

    We passed mushroom rocks as we ascended, and finally connected with the actual Government Trail after a little bit of "exploration." It was quite obvious when we found it; well constructed and wide. We chugged on up and out of the canyon, coming up from below the rim of the world. Features started appearing on the horizon like Moss Back Butte, the Henry Mountains, and the Red House Cliffs. We finally crested the last rise and there we were on a slickrock plain, dotted with tinajas. We'd made it out of Grand Gulch.

    We still had some miles to go though. Randy's GPS showed about 1.5 miles (as the crow flies) from the rim to his truck. Brian's trusty photocopy of the Falcon Guide map showed 3.2 miles. I was banking on the BLM ranger's estimation of 2 miles. In either case, we had some more time to go with weight on our backs before we could drop our packs and suck back a beer or two, to say nothing of those Navajo Tacos. The last leg was on.

    It was a sand slog across the mesa top on an old wagon road. The wind howled at our backs and we had to stop to rest our legs every half mile or so. Every time Randy would check his GPS, and it would seem the truck was barely getting any closer. Brian and Chris surged ahead, while the rest of us ground across the sagebrush plains. The views around us were astonishing; Navajo Mountain, the Rainbow Plateau, Skeleton Mesa, The Red House Cliffs, the Kaparowitz, Woodenshoe Butte, and the Bears Ears. Finally we crested a rise and saw metal in the distance! The trailhead! Chris and Brian were there, waiting for us. I signed the register and we trudged the last quarter mile up the road to where Randy had parked. What a glorious sight that was. We were finally able to drop our packs one last time. All who wanted to cracked a beer in celebration. One hell of a trip indeed. All that remained was to complete the shuttle. Once we'd done that, it was on to Goulding's, where Randy learned he was supposed to be in Denver. Ooops. Hard to top a Grand Gulch trip followed up by Navajo Tacos, though! One hell of a trip!
    Grand Gulch - Bullet to Government Trail
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    I also was on that amazing adventure up in sweet Grand Gulch with great company. Thanks Rob for setting it up and Randy for the shuttle. Hmm, what more can I say... Refer to Rob's triplog and trail writeup. :D Yes, I did only bring a tarp, pad, and sleeping bag with an additional liner though it kept me plenty warm. I don't backpack very often and most of the time it's in the summer so I can get away with less. But as luck would have it, we got dusted with some wet snow Saturday evening... ](*,) Maybe I should invest in a good backpacking tent. :lol: A straight route thru is like 21 miles but we added a couple miles with sidetrips to ruins and water.

    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 / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To hike
    From Kayenta, Arizona, travel north on US 163 to Mexican Hat, Utah. Just past Mexican Hat, take the signed turnoff onto UT-261. This road is not recommended for motorhomes or vehicles towing trailers, as it ascends the face of Cedar Mesa in a series of tight, narrow, unpaved switchbacks. Take 261 north to the Kane Gulch Ranger Station, where you will pick up your permits and (as of 2008) watch a short backcountry ethics video. Then set up your shuttle.

    From KGRS to Bullet Trailhead: Take 261 approximately 7 miles south. Past the Snow Flat Road, on the right, will be a road. There will be a sign that says "Bullet Canyon" with an arrow pointing to the right. Take this road for about a mile to the trailhead parking area.

    From KGRS to Government Trailhead: Take 261 south approximately 9 miles to San Juan County road 245 on the right. This road is not signed, but is directly opposite the signed "Cigarette Springs" road. Follow 245 to the Government Trailhead, mainly staying to the right. Pretty much every junction is well signed for Government, so it is not hard to find. Approximately .25 miles away from the trailhead, there is a series of stone ledges that lower-clearance vehicles will not be able to pass. There are places to park your car (or low clearance truck) just off the road near there, or a little farther back if the close spots are all taken.
    page created by PaleoRob on Mar 31 2009 9:10 am
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