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Grand Gulch Primitive Area

 
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Trishness
The Snake Charmer




Joined: 21 Sep 2003
Posts: 2530
Location: Apache Jct, AZ

PostPosted: 10/2/2008, 7:18 pm    Post subject: Grand Gulch Primitive Area Reply to topic Reply with quote

Michelle and I had to make some difficult decisions on this leg of our trip. Do we do this backpack trip armed with the information we have on the almost non-existent water conditions and difficult terrain as we received from other backpackers and the rangers at the Kane Gulch ranger station just to say "we did it?" Plan A became Plan B became Plan C and I feel we used our common sense in knowing when we were in over our heads~~~Trish

Grand Gulch Primitive Area

September 22, 2008

We reluctantly left Canyonlands around 9:30 AM and drove south through Monticello where we filled with gas @ $4.15 a gallon and got more ice. Drove through Blanding and picked up Utah 95 toward Hanksville when I see there is a Semi closing in fast on me so I pull over to let him pass. I was cruising along at 65-70 but this person meant business!!! Then we all got stuck behind some Model-T Fords on their Monday stroll doing 25 MPH. Mr. Semi passed the Model T’s in a no passing zone and we never saw him again…..I waited for a passing zone and flew by them.

We stopped at the Kane Gulch Ranger station and talked to a nice volunteer couple…Paul and Debbie Johnson. They were a virtual fountain of information regarding the Grand Gulch trail and water conditions. Both Michelle and I were leery about doing a through backpack trip because the information I received the week before we left stated that the conditions were dry and we knew that we could not do a through backpack trip of 24 miles over 3 days if there was no water. The information we got from Paul and Debbie was even worse when we spoke with them. There was NO water in the Narrows and only sporadic small pools in upper Kane Gulch. Junction Spring was dry, Todie spring was dry, Jailhouse spring was dry. Sheiks Canyon spring was running but at a trickle. That meant only one “supposedly” running spring for 24 miles IF we could find it once we got there. Michelle and I then had a quick meeting to decide what we wanted to do at this point and we decided due to lack of water and our not knowing the terrain, was to do a day hike down Kane Gulch to Junction Ruin in the morning to scope it out. We then set off to get a campsite at Natural Bridges National Monument about 5 miles up the road. This is a nice little campground (11 sites) and very quiet. Set up camp and then drove out to Bullet Canyon TH to scope it out and also get some wood. Kane and Bullet TH’s are located on BLM land so you can gather wood there and we filled up the back of the X-Terra for two night’s worth of fires. Came back to NBNM and decided to take some quick hikes to Supapai Bridge (the largest natural bridge next to Rainbow bridge) which was short but very steep….520 foot elevation drop in 0.6 miles…and included descending ladders and many small switchbacks. Also went to Horsecollar Ruins which were pretty nice.

Michelle:

Woke up to a beautiful Sunrise only to know we would be leaving this beautiful peaceful place. But the next leg of our Journey was to be one that we were anxiously waiting for “Grand Gulch”. As we came closer my excitement grew. I was really looking forward to this with the knowledge that I had never done a backpack more than 2-3 days and this would be 4. A new achievement for me.
When we arrived at Kane Gulch Ranger station we inquired about the trail and water. As we knew prior, water was scarce. But we had not known exactly just how scarce. Paul suggested why do a backpack? Just do several Day Hikes. No sense worrying if you’ll find water. There are so many trails to explore. We thought about it but still wanted to try the backpack, even if for 1 or 2 nights. Figured we could dry camp and just make sure to have hiking water. But that meant carrying extra with. We decided as Trish said to check out Kane Gulch Trail the next day to help us decide what to do. We headed off to find a camp spot for the night. Natural Bridges was close by and thought, “Heck why not check it out, as long as we are here”.
Natural Bridges didn’t seem as tourist populated as Arches and the limited campsites helped. Various Bridges and some ruins exist to hike to. We had limited time here and selected a couple to see. Chose Supapai Bridge since it was touted as 2nd in size to Rainbow Bridge and Trish didn’t get the chance at Lake Powell to actually see Rainbow Bridge. Headed off in that direction, down some ladders and switchbacks to get to it. It was nestled at the canyon bottom, differently situated than Rainbow or other Arches we had seen. You looked down at it rather than up with Vegetation below it rather than just rocks. Rather pretty and different. Then off to Horsecoller Ruins. A very short walk and over slick rock to the edge. Off in the distance you saw the Ruins, but needed to use my binoculars for a good view. The ruins were pretty much intact. Being located where they are, it really makes one wonder “How in the Heck did they get to it?” The Canyon surely couldn’t have been cut so deeply back then, as I can’t imagine people would rock climb just to get to their home? I dunno, maybe they did, but I don’t know how.
Back to camp to pack our day packs, have some dinner and relax by the fire, before tomorrow’s hike.

September 23, 2008

Stopped in the Kane Gulch Ranger station again and let Rangers Paul and Debbie know we decided to do the day hike in Kane Gulch. The trail starts directly across the street from the ranger station and we paused to read the board at the TH where we got a BIG laugh! Rules of the house are posted in a picture but it was posted high up so I cut it off (sorry). My favorite was:

“Sign the register not the rocks. If you scratch your name on the rocks, please include your address so we can mail you your fine.” Whoever wrote this had a really dry sense of humor that I can appreciate.

OK..the trail starts off easy as it slopes through an open field of low shrubs of the desert highlands. After a 1/2 mile you come to a green gate, then set off across slickrock for another ¼ mile or so, then come to the head of the Kane Gulch. There’s some welcome shade under some aspens and pines where we came upon the first couple of pools of water……very silty and basically nasty looking but could be filtered in a pinch. Saw some tracks there that look very fresh and large enough to be from a Mountain Lion. 4 toes and no nails that seemed to go from pool to pool. The next two miles was a quick and steep descent into the canyon as the walls rose higher above us. We passed a group of 6 backpackers on their way out who stated there was no water in the Narrows or at Junction Spring. This trail gets very sandy as you reach the canyon bottom and we passed two other older gentlemen who heard us coming and graciously let us pass. We left the TH at 9:15 and arrived at Junction Ruin at 10:30. We went 4 miles in an hour and 15 minutes? I swear I drank decaf coffee that morning!!! There were some nice campsites located at Junction Ruin under some cottonwoods and we went off to see ruins. They sit high on a cliff off to your right. It got pretty confusing with the all the foot trails in this area and we were going to go further up into the Grand Gulch but had a hard time locating the actual trail versus the foot trails that go off into every direction down here. Decided to have lunch and our gentleman friends we passed before showed up and we enjoyed some camaraderie with them. They left before us and said….”you’ll no doubt catch up with us, Rocket Lady”. Well, we just lazed around the canyon bottom, left around 11:30 and were out in 2 hours. We stopped by the ranger station again and there was another ranger there by the name of Stephen. He was VERY interested in our reports of prints at the water holes and wanted to see our digi pictures. He stated these might be from a big dog although we did not see anyone else the entire time on the trail and he was going to go down and check them out. My opinion is that if this was a dog, it was one BIG-A dog. Those prints were about 3-3 ½ inches in diameter, 4 toes and no sign of nails. We hiked 8 miles in 3.25 hours……not too shabby!!! We got back to camp and decided to at least try the backpack and thought we could maybe get to Jailhouse ruin (5 miles down Bullet Canyon) so we readied for the trip. One of our neighbors at the campground saw us packing our packs and came over to talk to us. Her name is Phyllis, she is from Oregon and in her 60’s. She told us she often backpacks out for an overnighter by herself (her husband is unable to do that) so we invite her with us since I have extra permits. They are in an RV with a REALLY big Lab retriever and two sick cats so she can’t go with us but gives us a ziplock bag with some of her dehydrated Fuji apples!

Michelle:

Kane Gulch trail started out really very slowly and relaxing through tree covered fields. Ran across three small, shallow, silty pools in the very beginning of the slick rock portion of the trail. These would be the only ones we saw. We encountered some tracks near the pools which were fresh (and I do mean fresh). We made sure not to linger very long, in case the owner decided to return for another drink. I / we thought they were Mtn Lion but once back from the hike, the Ranger thought possibly a dog? He asked explicitly where we saw them, how far in and wanted to check them out. I don’t know about a dog theory. We saw no one with a dog on the trail there or back. Earlier Paul and Debbie said there was no one scheduled in that area except 6 people from a Mountaineering College the day before. We saw those backpackers on our way down Kane, coming back from their departure the previous day (no dog along). When we initially inquired about the trail and predators, we were told someone said a Mtn Lion was spotted a few days before but it high tailed away. The 6 backpackers who started down Kane the day before were heading back. They told us they intended to go from Kane to Bullet (just opposite of us) but said there was No water at Junction Springs or in/through the Narrows so they were heading back. We proceed down at a fairly good speed, taking in all the wondrous scenery, rock formations and variations or color and textures. It was a beautiful trail and the Cottonwood lined Canyon was a pleasant stopping point for lunch. Found the one set of ruins high up on the rocks at Junction Springs. Snapped a couple of shots (hoping my camera could at least capture a little bit of it) and ate lunch. Intended to get to Turkey Pen but where was the trail, it was there somewhere. Many side footpaths lead toward the stream bed but seemed to dead end (where the heck was that trail)? Or do you just walk the creekbed? We decided best for us not to lose sight of where we came from and started our return trek back. Probably fate telling us something? Don’t know but felt it a wise decision anyway. Back at camp started to ready our backpacks for the next day. We intended to change our original plan and go down ½ way, camp for the night and head back up the next morning. We couldn’t carry enough water to get us through the canyon for sure and even didn’t think enough to get down to the first junction and back. Trish had used more water in the hike down Kane than she normally does so we pondered, if Bullet was steeper, longer and more climbing we’d most likely drink more. But we got ready anyway for whatever we would do.

September 24, 2008

We decide to attempt Bullet Canyon and at least backpack to Jailhouse Ruin despite reports of no water. So we had packed up our backpacks with the essentials as well as extra water…..Michelle had 6 liters of water, I had 7 liters. We again stopped at the Kane Gulch Ranger station for our overnight permits, talked to Paul and Debbie Johnson again who stated the water situation is the worst they have seen all season. DRY DRY DRY. We assure them we are probably only going to Jailhouse ruin and are set up for a dry camp….which will give us enough water to hike in and out the 10 miles RT. We drive to Bullet Canyon TH and get our packs on…..mine weighed about 50 pounds….this is the heaviest pack I have EVER carried. Michelle’s was just as heavy. We meet up with Scott from California, who is doing a day hike in. We start down the trail which starts out flat but quickly becomes steep with sections of bouldering and rock ledges to navigate. The first part of this trail is an almost 100 foot drop in no time at all and I’m clinging to a rock face on a 12” rock ledge with a 50 pound pack that is threatening to send me somersaulting backwards and falling onto the slickrock below. I looked at Michelle and said…..”This is NOT worth it”….I say let’s abort this decision”. She agreed and we both struggle with our heavy packs and haul ourselves back to the TH. I actually had to take my pack off to hoist it over some of the boulders and then crawl up on my hands and knees…..both knees are raw from climbing up the boulders since this is NOT accommodating to short-legged munchkins. My bad knee is screaming from the extra weight of 50 pounds. It was just way too much than we anticipated to do with heavy packs and no available water further down canyon. Feeling a bit defeated, we returned to the TH and thought maybe we could do a day hike later in the day or tomorrow. We set up camp at the TH……we see a group of three backpackers who trudge out around noon who say the trail is BRUTAL, what they could find of a trail. They haven’t seen anyone in 3 days….I share some of my cold lemonade and iced tea with them. Scott then comes out around 1:30 and said he'd only gone a couple of miles and there is NO water and he lost the trail in the boulder field. He knew it was a primitive area but said he would only do this trail with a satellite phone, a GPS and a buddy. He was concerned about us doing a backpack down there…we assured him we aborted that and might do it as a day hike in the morning. We also talked to two gentlemen who hiked a loop from Sheiks Canyon to Bullet and they told us the same thing. No water, difficult, unmaintained, bushwhacking trail, it had taken them 12 hours to do 14 miles. Michelle and I decided to negate even thinking about a day hike the next day so we decided to leave the Cedar Mesa/Grand Gulch area in the AM. I read the Monkey Wrench Gang this afternoon.

The Grand Gulch turned out to be a Grand Disappointment. I bit off more than I was capable of doing but at least I recognized that. Well, maybe another time when there is reliable water.


Michelle:

We set out early in morning to head off to the Ranger station for one last requirement of watching a film and to pick up the permit. We told them of our plan changes and set off for the Trail Head 8 mi down the road. Once there we were still keyed up with anticipation of a backpack, if only short. Gosh, I haven’t been on a backpack in, I don’t know how long (I know but hate to say it has been a very very very long time ago) ;-( I was really excited to actually be doing this, you just can’t imagine. We start out and maneuver down through the first drop of rocks and boulders. Geez the pack was heavy! Trish stopped and stated exactly as she said. Those packs were heavy with the extra water and I would have had a difficult time continuing. When Trish asked, my sixth sense kicked in and it agreed. Fate must be telling us something. So it was for our best to change the plan once again. Since we got a late start with stopping at Ranger Station for last minute instructions etc. and temps already in the low 80’s, we decided we still had time in the area and could do it as a day hike the next day. We set up camp at TH to wait for an early start in morning as the trail was mostly exposed with little shade. As we encountered a few people coming back that day, with their reports of a Brutal trail with No water, we once again had to think. We squashed our plans, thinking it best to abort all together ;-(
Grand Gulch was not to be…. At least for the time being! I was looking forward to this so, I don’t want to say “Never”, I will say, “Another time when I can do”! There is a reason we made the decision we did, fate, our Sixth Sense, whatever. It wasn’t meant to be at this time. Besides I can always return another time (I really would like to) and Gives me something to work towards Wink Not a total loss just a delay!


NEXT STOP: Butler Wash and Valley of the Gods
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~~~Trish~~~

"Eastward the dawn rose, ridge behind ridge into the morning, and vanished out of eyesight into guess; it was no more than a glimmer blending with the hem of the sky, but it spoke to them, out of the memory and old tales, of the high and distant mountains." — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of The Rings.
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RedRoxx44
Queen of the Walkabout




Joined: 15 Jan 2004
Posts: 1167

PostPosted: 10/2/2008, 7:45 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

Sorry it didn't work out. Much better in the spring in a rainy season. Kinda surprised so dry with summer monsoons but maybe that area just didn't get as much.
Road and Slickhorn canyons are also nice up there.
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Trishness
The Snake Charmer




Joined: 21 Sep 2003
Posts: 2530
Location: Apache Jct, AZ

PostPosted: 10/2/2008, 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

Letty,

We were told by rangers and other hikers that is was dry as a bone out there. No water in the narrows and only a "trickle" at Sheiks. I'm thinking I'll return in the spring after the winter melt. It was a heart-wrenching decision to abort this but we didn't feel safe with no reliable water until we were 10 miles in and no water from that point on for another 13 miles so we made a good decision.



Sad
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~~~Trish~~~

"Eastward the dawn rose, ridge behind ridge into the morning, and vanished out of eyesight into guess; it was no more than a glimmer blending with the hem of the sky, but it spoke to them, out of the memory and old tales, of the high and distant mountains." — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of The Rings.
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GeorgAz





Joined: 04 Jan 2003
Posts: 815
Location: Scottsdale

PostPosted: 10/3/2008, 7:07 am    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

Thrish,Michelle.. you surely did make a good decision about aborting that little trek!Sounds like it was pretty unforgiving!Gotta be safe!
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wanderingsoul





Joined: 19 Jul 2004
Posts: 2285
Location: Gilbert AZ

PostPosted: 10/3/2008, 7:33 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

I am comfortable with it. Maybe there are some more experienced hikers here that could have done it, but for us it was the correct decision. I do what I feel or know I can do, but sometimes stuff happens. So I have become more aware or concious of what I'll do now. I suppose at times I may end up short-changing myself now and again, but then that will just have to be and will prod me on to work harder to improve myself for another time. I enjoyed the trek down Kane to Grand Gulch junction tremendously. Just will have to delay doing the canyon for another time. Not a big deal.
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Wanderingsoul (Michelle)

Positive Thinking Is the Spark that Makes Dreams Happen~~~Unknown
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azbackpackr
Hi Tech Wizardess




Joined: 31 Dec 2005
Posts: 3639
Location: Needles CA

PostPosted: 10/4/2008, 3:35 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

Yikes, I can only imagine how it would be when it's that dry! Yeah, I went there in early May 2006. We hiked down Bullet and downstream in Grand Gulch and then up Government Canyon. We spent one night on rim, one night at Junction with Bullet and Grand Gulch, and one night near junction of Dripping Canyon. That steep waterfall in Bullet not much of a problem if your pack not so heavy, I think. Anyway, water was starting to dry up at that time. If we had gone a couple weeks later than the first of May not only would it have been very hot, but also there would have been only a few potholes of dirty water. So we did luck out. I recommend trying it again sometime during the spring. It is definitely worth the trouble. I think it is one of the best hikes I have ever been on.

We also dayhiked in Road Canyon on one of the days. I also went to Natural Bridges and went to that Sipapu Natural Bridge, as you did. Very nice area, I agree. And I loved driving up the Moki Dugway from Mexican Hat. I drove up there by myself and met up with some people from my hiking club at the ranger station, where we rendezvoused. I enjoyed the solo parts, too.

I should try to find my photos for you and give you the link.
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wanderingsoul





Joined: 19 Jul 2004
Posts: 2285
Location: Gilbert AZ

PostPosted: 10/6/2008, 12:28 am    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

Finally posted a few of my pictures... sorry to be so slow
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Wanderingsoul (Michelle)

Positive Thinking Is the Spark that Makes Dreams Happen~~~Unknown
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azbackpackr
Hi Tech Wizardess




Joined: 31 Dec 2005
Posts: 3639
Location: Needles CA

PostPosted: 10/6/2008, 5:33 am    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

Here are my photos from May 1-5, '06. I notice that the last one, on page 2, I titled, "All that's left of the water in Grand Gulch." I remember also corresponding with someone who went there two weeks after I did and had a heck of a time with the water situation.

http://www.arizonahikers.com/forum/modules.php?set_albumName=albvg94&op=modload&name=gallery&file=index&include=view_album.php
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desert spirit





Joined: 12 Nov 2008
Posts: 8
Location: Tucson, AZ

PostPosted: 11/12/2008, 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

You had a wonderful time, even if you weren't able to do everything you wanted. And you were smart enough to make sure there will be a next time Wink
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Hikngrl
Canyoneering is my 'Happy Place'




Joined: 27 May 2003
Posts: 5578
Location: Peoria, AZ

PostPosted: 11/13/2008, 5:10 pm    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

What a trip! Sound decision making there my friends! Glad you decided the way you did!That way when I get back on the trail we can hike together again!
Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us! Now I am off to go see the pictures!

P.S.! Theres a new face on this thread! Welcome to the site desert spirit! Glad to have you drop in! You got some good hiking down your way and I haven't even hiked much of it! Will have to change that some day!
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desert spirit





Joined: 12 Nov 2008
Posts: 8
Location: Tucson, AZ

PostPosted: 11/15/2008, 1:26 am    Post subject: Reply to topic Reply with quote

Thanks Diane! What a nice site you guys have Very Happy

Hayley
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