I spent the past week in Utah playing in slot canyons, backpacking, and mountain biking. Dane, Phil, and Phil's roommate Evan came along for the slot canyon adventure, and Dane joined me for the backpacking trip. When they all had to return to work, I mountain biked at a few locations on the way home. Both canyon trips were in remote parts of Utah, approximately 50 miles from the nearest paved road. To view all my pictures from this trip, go to http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/elliojos/album?.dir=/dac9&.src=ph&.tok=phlUfeEBMZuEQ4an and make sure to read the captions.
Part I - Bluejohn Canyon
On Feb. 22, we set out to descend 15 miles through Bluejohn Canyon, ending up in Horseshoe Canyon, which is part of Canyonlands National Park. What starts out as a mellow hike down a shallow ravine abruptly turns into a tight, steep slot canyon. There intriguing slots were the highlight of the whole trip. For the most part, the canyon walls were about shoulder width, allowing one to perform a very effective body jam, weather intentionally or unintentionally. To make things even more interesting, the tightest parts also tended to be the steepest and the darkest. There were a couple times when the darkness resembled a cavelike atmosphere. At perhaps the coolest location on the planet, we emerged from the darkness into a section of canyon that appeared to be glowing from the light shining in from around the corner. As you are drawn towards the light, similar to what some imagine death to be like, you emerge onto a small, sunny platform. If you were to continue walking, you would fall over a 70 foot cliff. You are now unmistakably at the Big Drop rappel. With a prebuilt, 3-bolt, well-equalized anchor, the four of us rappelled to the bottom of a broad box canyon before hiking the 7 miles back to the car we had left at the other end of Horseshoe Canyon. Luckily, the fun wasn't over. There were several bouldering opportunities on the way down Horseshoe, and a collection of the best Native American Pictographs known. According to the National Park Service, these are over 2000 years old. Phil posted his pictures of this trip at http://www.flickr.com/photos/phillipkast/.
Part II - Robber's Roost Canyon
This was a non-technical hike into a very remote canyon. We didn't see a single footprint other than our own on this entire hike. The day after the Bluejohn trip, Dane and I hiked down into the canyon formed by the Dirty Devil River. Just past a faint cluster of Pictographs, we crossed the river and headed into a side canyon by the name of Robber's Roost, named after the Butch Cassidy gang as this was apparently one of their hideouts. The river was so muddy, we couldn't tell how deep it was. We thought we might have to hold our packs over our heads to avoid getting all of our gear wet. As it turned out, the water barely made it up to our knees. Good thing too, because it was bloody cold. After a strenuous bout of sunning our feet to warm up, we continued up the canyon for several miles before finding a place to camp. Of course, we stopped at a few places to boulder amongst the rocks. The view from our campsite was incredible. I think we managed to burn an entire dead tree that night in our campfire. Every night the temperatures dropped below freezing, but during the day hiking in shorts and a teeshirt seemed reasonable. The next day we hiked further up the canyon, which gradually narrowed as we went along. We saw four mule deer along the way, and pushed them up the canyon in front of us along the way. As the canyon narrowed, we noticed one of them slip by us and run back down the canyon. The other three disappeared - cleaver critters. The rest of this trip consisted of hiking back to camp, packing up, and hiking back out across the Dirty Devil and up to our car parked on the canyon rim.
Part III - Mountain Biking
No pictures here, but I rode the Slickrock Trail in Moab on Saturday. This is perhaps the most popular mountain biking trail in the world, and for a good reason. The entire ride is up and down rolling sandstone, with a few sand traps. Super fun, and about the most strenuous 10 mile ride imaginable. On Sunday I rode a few trails in the Fruita, Colorado area. More precisely, I rode just south of Loma on Mary's trail, Horsethief Bench, and part of the Kokopelli Trail. Both the riding and the trails were excellent, and I'd like to go back there again as there are an infinite number of trial options yet to explore.