The following is a true story, only the names have been changed, to protect the guilty.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Gravel Canyon

Gravel Canyon was the pinnacle of the Utah Super Trip for me. It had everything, a twelve mile fat-bike ride on the beginning and end, a scenic canyon with nice slots, wide open spaces in between, and some swimming. It also had the best ruins, and it took all day.
"Those are some big tires"

6 mph was all I could muster most of the way up

"Where the hell are we anyway"

Down climb

That looks safe. We came to trust rappel anchors like this one!

This was the most memorable scene for me on the trip


The log above Steve's head represents the water level at some point

On top of the first bench,our clothes are drying on the large rock below

Remnants of a fire still remain

No I did not take it. My hand is there as a reference of the large piece of pottery

You can just barely  make out some images in the rock

The front entry

Those are some old sticks

The only thing that would have made this entire trip better was if we saw a UFO

"Who broke all the dishes"

     We got a late start for this one, we had to do some driving that we skipped the night before. It wasn't until 11am that I threw a leg over the trusty Pug and started heading up hill for twelve miles ,which took nearly two hours to complete. It was already hot, and the 20 + pounds of gear in my backpack were not making things any easier. In the bag was a jacket and farmer john wet-suit and hydroskin top, a harness, misc.climbing devices, a helmet, a small rope, food, a headlamp, 100 oz of water, a knife and my "possibles" bag. This was our standard set-up for a wet canyon. A ride up and back would have been enough for most people, or even myself on a weeknight, but we were just getting started, I knew this was going to be a good adventure. After ditching the bikes, we headed for the canyon rim and the wash where we would be able to drop in and reach the canyon floor. We went off route again and wandered around looking for a safe place to descend, which we found after twenty minutes of backtracking.  The first slots were dry which was good since it's a pain to change in and out of a wet-suit, or it's very hot if you just leave it on. Towards the end of our route we did have to put them on for a couple swims in some narrow slots. This is where we got a glimpse of the ruins, it was awesome seeing a small dwelling through the slot, way up on a cliff. I had to get up there! We swam through the slots we could fit into and stemmed others with our bodies horizontal and perpendicular to the very narrowest ones. Some of these were very deep (20-25 feet) and I didn't want to think what would happen if my foot or hand slipped. Once past all the swimming and climbing we were at the exit route, now we had to figure out how to get to the ruins. Once again I was not leaving until I saw them first hand. We figured out a way to ascend the first bench and see some crumbling ruins, rock art and more pottery. I was not satisfied yet and continued up canyon. About fifteen minutes later I rounded a corner and there they were! From the bottom of the canyon we could only see one dwelling, but now the scene revealed a long line of well preserved dwellings and granaries. Now all I needed was a ladder as there was no safe way up the cliff ! With a little scouting I found a line of weakness that I was sure I could climb. On a climbing scale I would rate it a 5.6b, I used the small, pinchy hand holds and smeared my feet twenty feet to the top. I was glad not to fall here, it was a little sketchy but I made it and that's all that mattered to me at the moment. Steve went to look for a different spot to climb up while I had the place all to myself. When I approached the ruins it was like stepping back in time, there was a clear entryway that pulled me in. It was a surreal experience, everything was in such great condition. The mud mortar in the walls still showing  hand formed ridges from ancient fingers, the unspoiled structural pieces of wood tied with some sort of stringy plant, the knots themselves, the soot on the ceilings, and the ash and charred bits of wood where they had their fires, the plant material and corncobs still in the granaries, was amazing! At this point I wanted to take off my shoes and walk around bare foot, the foot prints left by shoes didn't even seem right here. If I could, I would have slept here.
         The rest is pretty straight forward, it was easier getting down (in a different spot) from the ruins than up, we walked back to the wet clothes we set out to dry, had an awesome hike out of the canyon, criss-crossing benches and smearing up huge slabs of rock. We had several miles of desert hiking with a mesa on our right hand side to guide us back to the road and our bikes. We arrived at our bikes just before dark and quickly got rolling. It took 45 minutes to ride back, half of which was dark enough I could not see the surface of the road. Steve forgot his headlamp so I didn't bother getting mine out to keep things even. My Pug came through again, with the huge confidence building tires, I put it in the biggest ring I had and hauled ass down the road, I busted my butt to climb this thing, and was not giving up a fast down hill on account of darkness. We finished at 9:00 pm, ten hours, my favorite kind of day.

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