Member Trip report
My Spring Break Trip to Utah
Trip Report/Photos from Mountainrabbit
With few exceptions, I have been to just about every state that offers what I deem to be worthwhile backpacking. I have backpacked the ocean shore on both coasts; I have tromped through the searing heat of the Sonoran Desert and climbed Rocky Mountain peaks in the dead of winter. I've heard wolves howl in Yellowstone and watched whales breach in Hawai'i. But the runaway champ for outstanding backpacking is, in my mind, Southern Utah. If I were only permitted to backpack one region for the rest of my life, then Canyon Country would be my pick. I go there year after year, and the destinations I choose never fail to quicken my spirit.
This year's trip began with a dayhike in Goblin Valley State Park, to the delight of my inner sci-fi nerd. Goblin Valley was the shooting location for the alien planet in the Tim Allen comedy "Galaxy Quest." I spent seven hours roaming among the surreal rock formations, giggling occasionally about carnivorous space babies, beryllium spheres, and fashioning rudimentary lathes for self-defense against rock monsters. If you haven't seen it, never mind...
Next up was the backpacking portion of the trip. This year, my destination was Grand Gulch, a large canyon system that dissects the uplands of Cedar Mesa. The area has a long history of human habitation, owing to the suitability of the mesa top for farming and the protected environment of the canyon. A showcase of archaeology, Grand Gulch features numerous cliff dwellings and pictograph panels. I discovered several carnotite (uranium ore) deposits, a worrisome thing, since the area, having been removed from Bears Ears National Monument by the current White House, is now being hungrily eyed for development by the energy industry. Locals told me that geological survey crews have been prowling about. I could say more about that, but my language would likely get me banned.
It took me four days to walk from the Kane Gulch Ranger Station to Collins Spring, the last road-accessible trailhead of the canyon (you can go farther by hiring a rafting company to pick you up at canyon's end at its confluence with the San Juan River, but that's for people with more cash than me). I passed numerous ruins and rock art panels, many more than were shown on the maps. Temperatures were unseasonably cold, with hard freezes every night. Although the area is under a severe drought, there was abundant water in potholes, springs, and catchpockets, showing why the Ancestral Puebloans found this area so inviting.
After the backpacking trip, I headed up to San Rafael country for one last adventure in Little Wild Horse Canyon. This is one of the most easily traversed slot canyons in Utah, and arguably the most popular. I hustled from the campground in Hanksville to the trailhead before sunrise so I could have it and neighboring Bell Canyon to myself before the crowds arrived. It was indeed a fun slot, full of twisty little galleries of flood-polished pink sandstone displaying graceful cross-bedded strata.
As always, my annual trip to Utah left me hungry for more, and ready to plan next year's adventure. Next up on the docket? The legendarily remote and challenging Maze District of Canyonlands National Park.
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