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Archive for April, 2013

The worst part of spring desert trips is that the weather in Colorado so often tries to stop you from getting there. Despite the best efforts of storms to close both the Chicago and Denver airports, Kyle finally managed to fly in where we did a rush job outfitting him for his first backpacking trip before spending a Thursday driving out to the middle of no where (nearby Natural Bridges National Monument is known for having the darkest skies in the National Park system in the lower 48).

Car shuttled and permit acquired we left the Kane Gulch ranger station to start down Grand Gulch.

Within a couple miles we left the flats and found ourselves within the canyon.

The scenery grew more interesting but the first arch was a disappointment.

Thankfully arches aren’t why one comes to Grand Gulch. The plethora of ancient Pueblo (old term: Anasazi) ruins of granaries, homes, kivas and petroglyphs are the main attraction.

On this first day we’d see Junction Ruin, Turkey Pen, Split Level and several other smaller, unnamed sites.

After 14 miles we camped near the junction with Shieks Canyon.

The best water of the trip was found at the Green Mask spring just up Sheiks Canyon. The site also had some of my favorite pictographs.

Our first night’s dinner of black bean burritos were a big hit and got rid of the biggest weight for a single meal (2 avocados, 10 tortillas, salsa, dehydrated black beans and veggies plus summer sausage and cheese – I was glad to get that off my back).

The next morning we continued down canyon just a mile and a half to Bullet Canyon.

Here we setup Paul’s tent and stashed most of our gear inside to make a 5.4 mile round-trip hike to see Jailhouse Ruin and Perfect Kiva.

Perfect Kiva turned out to be the perfect place to use my fisheye lens.

While in Bullet Canyon we had to celebrate with a shot of Bullet Rye.

Then we traversed over to Jailhouse Ruin.

Exploration complete, we headed back to the Kane/Grand/Bullet junction and had a lunch before putting on the big packs again.

More ruins were seen and some explored as we worked on completing our afternoon mileage.

This section of the canyon had some of the worst hiking – deep sandy creek beds – that really slowed us down. We were all beat up and exhausted by the time we reached Cow Tank Canyon.

While the others took naps or tended to blisters, Grant and I grabbed the empty bottles and filter and hiked a half mile up Cow Tank Canyon to a muddy water source and spent an hour getting 3.5 gallons of clean water.

The silt-laden water took forever to filter but Grant I and eventually came back to camp and very hungry. Tonight’s meal of pasta, pesto sauce, sauteed mushrooms and salmon was largely prepared by Kyle and Paul.

Everyone crashed pretty early and I hoped the hiking would be easier throughout the rest of the canyon or else we’d be in for a very long day tomorrow.

Well rested and feeling better we all took a warm up hike less than a quarter mile up Cow Tank Canyon to a couple ruins and petroglyphs.

Then it was back to the main gulch to carry our burdensome packs onward. Quickly we came to the “Bird Parade” panel and then the Big Man Petroglyph (which required a short, but step hike to reach).

Our next stop was Pollys Canyon where we had an early lunch and filtered more water to get us through the afternoon. The report we’d gotten from the rangers was pessimistic about water availability from here to our exit point. Not wanting to waste a lot of time waiting for the gravity filter to do it’s job, I strapped the dirty reservoir near the top of my pack and the clean hung off my hipbelt while I let Grant navigate for us. I was too busy keeping the connecting tubes from snagging on cacti.

With only a few breaks we pushed on through to Bannister Ruin, finding more water along the way than we’d been told would be available. Also, the canyon views were at their best and the long stretches of sand that plagued us the day before were gone.

We were all pretty tired by the time we hit Bannister and we settled into the shaded alcove for a break. The ruin was interesting but a few of us were more attracted to the barrel cactus flowers.

Past Bannister we only had 3 more miles of hiking today and the canyon had some great views left.

We found a campsite near the turn off for Collins Spring and our exit point tomorrow. In the shade of some cottonwoods we all regrouped and enjoyed our last dinner as the sun set.

We’d gone all day with seeing only one other person but had a visitor as night set in.

I figured I should try to get a few night shots on our last evening in the canyon.

In the morning we did another leg stretcher warm-up hike to the narrows which were only a short distance away.

Then we picked up the full packs back at camp for the 2 mile walk to the Collins Spring Trailhead.

And that pretty much caps a great trip with a wonderful group. Overall the trip was a bit harder than I’d anticipated and I’d recommend 4 days (or going lighter) for the Kane to Collins Spring trip to better enjoy it. Milt’s in Moab provided an always satisfying lunch for the drive home and the Colorado weather reared up with another spring snow storm that nearly kept me from reaching home.

Complete photo album.

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The last few weeks have been busier with normal life stuff than I’d like and while I have been out hiking, running and raced an orienteering meet, the blog has certainly been quiet on those smaller events. However, Tara and I got out for a weekend trip to Shelf Road, a destination rock climbing area of sunny limestone southwest of Colorado Springs. A normal 2.5 hour drive was delayed by rush-hour traffic through Denver and the campgrounds were all full so we eventually punted and got a hotel room for the first night. Disappointing since I was looking forward to camping in the high desert more than anything.

Saturday morning we rendezvoused with two other car-loads at the Sand Bank area and hiked into the Contest Wall. I’ve barely climbed in the last year+, so getting up The Opportunist (5.9) felt significant and once on top I setup a second anchor and took myself out of the climbing rotation and became the trip photographer. Being on a separate anchor and rope I could move up and down and capture more professional-style photographs from above and avoid the all-too-common “butt shots”.

After our group climbed the two 5.9’s (The Opportunist and Enterprise), Brad tried leading Phase Dance (5.12b) and had a handhold break off sending on a fairly major (but ultimately safe) fall. I wish I hadn’t been rappelling off my anchor at the time and had a lens pointed at him.

We moved on to Regroovable (5.11b) and Lime And Punishment (5.11b/c), neither of which I climbed, but the first I ascended and took up an airy perch for more shots.

At the end of the day I did top-rope one more route and we found a dispersed camping site to enjoy sleeping out in the desert air.

A several hour rain setup at 2am and caused some loss of sleep. Lingering clouds and cold air in the morning sent us away from the cliffs of Shelf Road and back into Canon City for breakfast and a drive home.

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