Dark Canyon 2000
You Can't Go Home Anymore
Another layover - exploring Youngs
Wednesday, May 10 Young's Canyon is worth a day. (Click here for a 3D rendering of the route.) Sure, it is a bit of work to get up into it, but everything worth anything usually doesn't come easy. Actually, it is not all that hard: you just scramble up the side of this cliff, which is not too steep, watch your step at a couple of points, and soon, you are overlooking the campsite. One of the things that I noticed right away as Susie and George and I completed our scramble was that of increased vegetation around the campsite, compared with 1983. What probably were small or non-existent cottonwoods at the edge of camp back then were full fledged trees by now. After glancing at the dark pool (more about that later), we headed up into the mouth of the canyon. The next obstacle to challenge us was poison ivy. Lots of it. Vastly more than 17 years ago. What was a small, albeit potent patch in ‘83 now stretches on for 200 meters or more. Not to say that you, with some care, can not get through it without having later to spend a small fortune on cortisone cream. But it does take some care, especially while wearing shorts, and I do admit to buying a tube of the aforementioned cream six nights later in Las Vegas. Most unpleasant.
After negotiating the cliff, and the toxic plants, you finally get to relax a bit after you leave the soil bottomed part of the canyon and hit the slickrock. Big, long sheets of it. A joy to walk upon and photograph. There are really no places to camp in the lower mile or so of Youngs Canyon, except for a small tent site in the woods, surrounded, you guessed it, by Toxic Tilly. Definitely not a useful overflow site if the spot across from the mouth of the canyon in the main Dark Canyon is full. The three of us walked along, and others caught up. We stopped and rested in the shade, which was still a bit cool, but it would only be such for a short time: we could feel the day warming up. The lower part of the canyon is pretty easy going, with only an occasional pour off to negotiate. We finally arrived at a small pool, and I knew what was beyond it: the big Pour Off, which is the one that required a helicopter to negotiate. Well, not really, but it seems so when you look at it. By this time, George had turned around, and the rest of the crew was shinnying up the shelf that was slick with algae, so they could take a look at the big pour off. I walked over to it, and could see, that for me, the only way up was to lean on my belly and slide up through the greasy algae. Since I had put on a clean shirt this morning, the prospect did not seem too appealing, even though Susie was claiming I was a wuss for not trying harder. (Of course, she was claiming such from the comfort of her spot, across the pool from me.) Since I knew we could only go an additional 30 meters or so, it seemed like lunch was a better idea than sliding over the rock. So lunch we had, even though I could tell Susie was aggravated that I did not try harder.
After lunch, we turned around and headed back down, while some of the more energetic folks decided to climb way up along the west/north side of the canyon to get around the pour off. Dolph joined us on our hike back for a bit. Always, always, going down canyon is tougher than going up, because you come to these pour offs for which it is not easy to see your way around from the uphill side. On the way back, we stopped at a wonderful spring on the left side of the canyon (heading downstream). It was like a little oasis right there. We continued back down, slipping through the poison ivy, which seemed to be waving in the breeze, just trying to rub against our legs. We finally came to The Pool, and Dolph continued back on to camp. Ah, The Pool. What a place. Probably the finest pool I have ever seen in canyon country. It is perhaps 60 feet by 15 feet, and filled with deep emerald green perfectly clear water. The sun only hits it for a small part of the day: be sure to catch it in mid-afternoon. The stream in the canyon bottom flows over a small cascade and into the pool. The outlet is a big water slide, that ends up on the floor of Dark Canyon. The experience of floating in the pool, looking up at the canyon walls, is worth the price of admission by itself. I even convinced Susie to go skinny dipping with me, which is a real tribute to the magnificence of the place. All backpackers should put this spot on their "must see" list.
We knew we had to get out, so that the rest of the crew coming down canyon could experience this place with all its wonderful solitude. We slid out, and photographed the cascade, and headed on back to camp. The contrast was amazing. Within a minute or so after leaving The Pool, you are slabbing around this hot, dry bench, getting ready to descend the cliff face. What a difference. The juxtaposition of the two places, so close together, is a bit daunting.
Back in camp, we completed bathing chores, laundry chores, and GPS Chores. Today, these consisted of making important measurements, such as the exact distance from The Pool to our house in Knoxville, using waypoints we'd marked during the day's hike. Most of the women on the hike disdain these critical activities, but George, Andy, and I feel like it is our duty, and it is one way we can contribute to the welfare of the entire group. We all sorta hung out, waiting for the sun to drop behind the canyon wall, and bring shade to the official dinner spot, the shelf of rock on the opposite side of the creek. Susie and I had Lemon Pepper Linguini with home-dried smoked turkey. Wonderful, but the turkey was a tad chewy. Certainly, a small price to pay. We sat around and chatted after dinner, knowing that the tents would be pretty warm when we climbed in. Nary a truer word was spoken. Lordy, it was toasty. Today's high winds had blown over A&S's tent, and managed to deposit a layer of fine grit inside all the tents and over all the gear therein. Susie was already in a foul mode, due, no doubt, to a wise ass remark I had made concerning the need to do a six night backpack with eight dinners, because there were so many great things to eat on the trail. Said in the context of my having difficulty negotiating the slippery pouroff in Youngs Canyon, which she ascribed more to my overweight condition, rather than any legitimate fear of falling backwards and breaking bones, it was a seminal remark. Combined with the heat in the tent, it was a straw heavy enough to break any camel's back. She layed on top of her foam pad, and stewed, literally and figuratively.
© Roger A. Jenkins, Suzanne A. Mcdonald, 2000