Spring Canyon Adventure 2007 – Day 1

Synopsis: Backpack from the trailhead at B— Point into T— Canyon. 9 miles. Monday, March 12.

Charles and I rose a little before sunrise to begin preparing for our day.


Andy had risen as soon as he could see.

This was Andy’s first backpacking trip ever.

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Sunrise at B— Point, with the H— Mountains on the horizon.

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Reid helping Andy with his pack.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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A couple of hours later, final packing was done, and we were ready to start.


Mandatory “before” photo. Left to right: Charles, Andy, Reid.

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A hundred yards southwest along the rim was a sandslide and the way down. We descended a few hundred feet through the Carmel Formation onto an undulating bench of Navajo Sandstone.


Once on the bench, Andy’s pack required adjustment. This was accomplished using the ample supply of cord that I lug around. We moved the hip belt down several inches and wondered how Andy’s dad, the owner of the pack, who is taller and used the pack extensively as-is, avoided huge chiropractic bills.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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Once Andy was repaired, we made our way northwest to the next jumping-off place.


Andy and Charles on the bench. From above, the bench looked pretty flat. Unsuprisingly, this turned out not to be the case.

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Pretty soon, we arrived at the top of what the guidebook described as “three easy minor cliffs”.


Me casing the top of the first cliff. It was quite straightforward, though a tad exposed, so we passed packs down.

Photo by Andy Exley.
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The second cliff was not really a cliff at all, just a steep friction slope into a small bowl. We didn’t bother to pass packs. This led to the top of the third cliff.


Looking the down the third cliff as Andy and Charles get into position for pack passing.

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Climbing down the cliff.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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Charles de-rigs the hauling rope while I finish making my way down.

Photo by Andy Exley.
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Once off the cliff, there were a few hundred yards of traversing before we could take an easy friction slope down to the Kayenta bench, which would be our home for the next several miles.


Coming down from the traverse. Our traverse line led along the four deeply-shadowed small pockets near the top of the sloping part, passing about one apparent body length above my head. (You can follow this ledge by eye back to Third Cliff in the left background). It looks just as scary in this photo as it did from this vantage in real life, but it’s actually nearly level and very easy ledge.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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The route down from the Navajo bench. The first and second cliffs are hidden behind the skyline to the right of the notch. Again, just as impossible-looking in the photo as in real life.

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Once on the Kayenta bench, we traversed over a wide pass and were treated to a fine view of the system of alcoves culminating in what the guidebook dubs “G— Alcove”.


Charles peeing on the ground.

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Somehow, a trail makes its way through this impossible place. Note particularly the area to the right of the G— Alcove, the large alcove in the center of the photo.

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The trail turned out to be pretty straightforward as we began to make our way along the Kayenta slopes hanging above the gaping Wingate abyss.


Approaching the G— Alcove and its still-impossible-seeming cliffs.

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The crux simply looked more and more appossible as we approached. The only possible place for a trail seemed to be through a lengthy pile of rocks precariously perched above a huge drop. It looked like a mouse or three would be enough to send the whole mess crashing into the depths.

However, when we got there, it was no problem. The path through the G— Alcove was a sidewalk wide enough for four or five abreast, and while the abyss gaped and yawned hungrily as we crossed the crux, the trail was solid and the ledge, while sloping, was firmly attached to the cliffs. In one place we passed behind a shed-size boulder that was tilting drunkenly, but everywhere else things looked like they would be there for thousands of years.


Charles at the drunken boulder.

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Abruptly we turned the corner, and the wide Kayenta bench reappeared.



Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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After lunch, we continued northwest along the bench, heading for T— Alcoves and the way down to the river.


View across the river to S— Canyon.

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Hiking along the bench.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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Ice! hiding in a shadowed nook.

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The confluence of T— Canyon and the river. Note the huge mud deposits left by giant floods in October of 2006.

Folias and Smale have written a very interesting report, with photos, on their experiences in the Escalante region during this flood.

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Full extent of the flood.

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Me taking in the view.

Photo by Andy Exley.
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At T— Alcoves we were greeted by the sound of trickling water. We took a short break and headed down.

Verdict: it was hell. My wrong turn didn’t help. Fortunately, we only found one of the three “minor cliffs” promised by the guidebook, and it was indeed “easy to negotiate”, not even requiring pack passing. For those of you familiar with the Spanish Stairs in Dark Canyon: it’s like that, only steeper and a crappier trail.


Charles just below the Wingate, near the bottom.

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Andy at the bottom. This is how we all felt.

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View from the bottom.

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We took a well-deserved rest and then headed out to find a river crossing and make our way up T— Canyon.


Entering the flooded area.

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River mud deposits on top of wind-blown sand. There were two inches of gray mud covering this area, which was above the normal high water mark.

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We reached the river and scouted around for a crossing. It was running about 115 cubic feet per second (I later discovered), well above what we were expecting. After a couple of false starts, we found a reasonable way to get across.


Me delivering my walking stick to Andy.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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We put our shoes back on and started up T— Canyon.


Charles and Andy leaving the river crossing.

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The wide sand flats at the mouth of T—. Andy later reported that the theme from Lawrence of Arabia kept running through his head.

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The hike up T— was long and tiring. We arrived at the mouth of the first fork at my gallantly-predicted time. I saw some cottonwood tops up the side canyon a few yards and did a quick scouting mission. No dice. I didn’t return totally empty-handed, though.


Results yielded by my scouting.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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So, we continued on up the main canyon, heading for the small forested area marked on the map. This failed to materialize; rather, the canyon bottom abruptly grew rocky and tangled. After a few minutes walk we encountered an pile of boulders strewn in the path. At this point we were hemmed in by dirt cliffs on both sides, so we exhaustedly dropped packs (again) and I ran on to see what there was to see.

The verdict: pretty much nothing. After filling my palm with tumbleweed stickers trying to climb the dirt cliffs, they finally subsided and I located a nice area of flat limestone which wasn’t above the high-water mark. On the way back I stayed high and nearly got cliffed out.

We backtracked, and after a little more futzing settled on a flat-topped boulder only a few yards from where we had stopped for my first scouting trip. It was 6:45, only 75 minutes past my promised arrival time.

We set up camp very slowly.

Dinner was Charles’ patented “Extra Flatulence” vegetarian chili. I was mocked soundly for consuming three Bean-O tables before partaking, but given the level of results even post-Bean-O, this stopped several hours later.

Please continue reading on Day 2.

E-mail: reid@reidster.net
Copyright © 1999-2013 Reid Priedhorsky. Last modified: 2010-01-24 21:14 CST. Disclaimer.