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Dark Canyon 2000
You Can't Go Home Anymore

Lost & Lean To Canyons

Monday, May 8 Today was a layover, which at the beginning of a trip, is always welcome, as it gives us all a chance to legitimately divest ourselves of pack weight by gorging on food and snacks. We awoke to low clouds and the threat of a shower. Our tent was right in the flood plain of both creeks, so we were sensitive to the possibility of increased water flow. In fact, the reason why we had picked this particular patch of sand was that there were all these nice pine needles and twigs on the ground near it which provided a "clean" spot to unload our packs. After looking at the needles and twigs, I realized that they had been delivered courtesy of the last major flood in Dark Canyon. Hmmmm ........ We went over to the cook site, where inspection of our insulated coffee-soup-dinner-cocoa mugs revealed that the local rodent population had decided to honor our arrival with a little present: each mug had several fresh mouse turds in the bottom. How appetizing.

Everyone seemed to have their own plans for today. Susie and I wanted to do a bit of exploring of Lost Canyon, upstream of our present position by about 3/4 mile, in the morning, come back to camp for lunch, and then do part of Lean To Canyon in the afternoon. Rest was not part of the itinerary. So she and I headed upstream, whiles most of the others went downstream. We got up to the mouth of Lost Canyon pretty quickly. There is a bit of vegetation at the mouth, but within 30 meters or so, these big sheets of slickrock appear, and it is smooth sailing. There are a few small pour offs at first, but these were easy to negotiate. It looked like rain was imminent just about the time we got to a nice overhang. It provided some shelter just as the skies let loose. We sat on some rocks and chatted, and I remember thinking that it was so nice to be out here in this lovely space, having nothing to do but talk with my spouse. Wonderfully pleasant, despite the cold seeping into my system as the temperature fell. After about a half hour, it looked like the rain, which was not hard, was not going to let up quickly, and both of us were getting cool, despite our having rain jackets on. There was a huge amount of wood brought down by flash floods, and we had matches, of course, so we built ourselves a little fire. It increased the cheeriness, and we reflected on a time when, after fording the Chitistone River in Alaska, we really needed to build a fire in the drizzle to keep from getting hypothermia.

Patches of blue started to poke through, and it looked like the rain was going to quit. Yes, we had squandered an hour at the overhang, but it is nice to get intimate with nature. In a bit, we were treated to blue sky, so we put away our rain jackets and started moving. We managed to get up another pour off by using a strategically placed log for a foot hold. Another hundred meters and we came to a more interesting one. There was a pool that needed to be avoided, and some climbing that needed to be done. Big steps, and we were both getting hungry. So after a couple of half-hearted tries, we opted out and headed back to camp for lunch. We had gotten to about 572,330 East, 4,189,330 (I say "about" because I forgot to take a GPS waypoint until we were a few hundred meters back down the canyon. We ran into Ray, Barbara, and Dolph coming up canyon, and it looked like they were more ambitious. Either that, or they had their lunch with them.

We got into camp for lunch, and ran into George. He had been with Sue, Andy, and Lance, and when they got to an "iffy spot" with the rain coming down, they decided to all turn around. Lance and A&S were up in Lean To, and George was getting ready to do some serious napping. When I had been down to the Lake in 83, I don't recall any really bad spots, but the difference between 35 and 52 can be important when it comes to risk taking. I think everyone would have continue if the rocks had not been rain slickened. We chatted with George in the shade of a juniper, and left him to his napping, while we headed down canyon to the mouth of Lean To. The first half mile of Lean To is a lot of sand and boulders. We noticed, not more than 150 meters from the mouth, a trail heading up to the right, presumably to bypass some significant pouroff. We proceeded in the stream bed, because I was more interested in the scenery than making some ultimate destination. Eventually, you get to nice sheets of slickrock. We worked our way up through some pouroffs, but we got to a point where we could see the 80 foot high pour off and it was clear that we had arrived at our turnaround point (573,698 East, 4,190,617 North). Lance and A&S had called to us from up above on the bypass trail and had indicated that the pour off that we were coming up to would be pretty high, and they were on target. From their vantage point, they had been able to look down on it, but there were big ones further up. It is clear that if you are headed out via Lean To Canyon, you need to take the first bypass trail to the right and plan to spend some time out of the stream bed.

Under threat of more showers, we turned around and headed back to camp, arriving at 3:45 pm. So much for a day of rest. But frankly, after carrying a backpack, nearly any day hike seems restful. Susie and I took a quick bath near the creek with complete sun. How excruciatingly delightful. Temperature was 69 in the shade and we reflected on the fact that in the upper reaches of Woodenshoe it would be in the mid-50s. Four folks from Boulder Colorado, one of which was not mentally prepared, had come down the Sundance trail, and seemed to be a bit taken aback by the entire process. They were planning to spend a few days in the near vicinity and then head back. We had already seen 3 or 4 parties, which was 2 or 3 more than we had seen up to this point in 83. It was hard not to draw comparisons. Dark Canyon had been "discovered." We had one of our heavier dinners (Penne with Prosciutto and Peas with Alfredo sauce) and enjoyed a fine desert starry night before turning in. It was somewhat cooler tonight, for which we thanked the weather gods. That is, we did not start to sweat immediately after entering the tent - it took a few minutes.

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Roger A. Jenkins, Suzanne A. Mcdonald, 2000