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Dark Canyon 2000
You Can't Go Home Anymore

Back to civilization

Monday, May 15   I heard some noises around 6:07 am: I would imagine it was the shuttlers. Again, no one was in any hurry: the car shuttle would take a minimum of 4 hours for the three of them to complete, once they got to the minivan. The long, slow drive through the forest, through the Bears Ears, off of Maverick Point, about 40 miles of highway driving, then the long, slow trek to the Sundance Trailhead. Pick up the van, and repeat the route. So we all figured that if we were behind the shuttlers by 3 - 3.5 hours, we would be in good shape. Susie and I pulled out of camp at 8:20 am, while A&S and Lance headed back down canyon about 15 minutes to a small arch on the canyon wall that Sue had spotted previously. The hike up Woodenshoe was a climb, and the water was sparse at best. In places, the canyon really tightens down, and the lower wall are perhaps 100 meters apart. We ran into a group of backpackers that had left the trailhead the previous nite, and apparently run out of daylight. They were camped in a little opening in the forest, with no water nearby. Amazing the extent to which some people plan their trips. I know: we are not spontaneous enough. Actually, according to Diane, we are so "domestic." In a conversation with her yesterday, I asked her what had surprised her most about the trip, having never hiked with us before. She indicated that we were surprisingly domestic. She is more used to hiking with folks who don't plan their route with the care that we do, and we seem to spend much more time in camp, enjoying our meals and conversing and washing dishes, doing laundry, and doing all these domestic things. She is used to going with folks whose concept of a formal dinner is "Let's have a granola bar and hike another 3 miles." I said that I guess after all these years of hiking, we had refined our approach to what was comfortable for us. It is true that we seem to spend a significant chunk of time in camp, which is one of the reasons I go to the trouble of pre-selecting the campsites with such care. Since you do spend a lot of time there, I want them to be great. Certainly, we had our share of good ones on this trip.

After more climbing, followed by more elevation loss, followed by regaining the elevation just lost, we finally came to the grove of aspens just leafing out, signifying that the hike is nearly at an end. Well, maybe my memory was a bit more cloudy. It turns out there is still more climbing left, and more and more aspens through which to hike. Not difficult, just time consuming. Most of the real elevation gain is near the end of the hike. It is only 4.75 miles straight line distance to the trailhead, so it took us a bit less than three hours to make it to the trailhead. We pulled in at 11:13 pm, and I figured that we would be lucky to see the shuttle before 12:30 pm.

Pretty good guess. The vehicles pulled up at 12:35. We all piled in, and headed back down to the highway. This was, of course, the third time that the shuttlers had made the trip this day. The road off Maverick Point has all the exposure of the Moqui Dugway, but the road surface itself is in poorer condition. The drive requires a lot of the driver's attention. Since it was getting late, we opted for a mid-afternoon stop at one of our favorite places in Canyon Country, the San Juan Café in Mexican Hat. It has outstanding Navajo Tacos, although this time, the waitress seemed to be skimping on the salsa. This crew can easily knock down a gallon of salsa with a meal like that. After lunch/dinner, or whatever it would be called, we made a beeline back for Albuquerque. I drove the GPS van most of the way back, and kept the hammer down most of the time. I was interested in getting back as soon as possible (we made it by 9:20 pm), as I had a 6:30 flight the next morning, heading off on a business trip to Las Vegas, while Susie went home to piles of dirty gear. Not exactly the way to end up a great trip in canyon country, but at least this time, we came out all in one piece. Thirstier and wiser.

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© Roger A. Jenkins, Suzanne A. Mcdonald 2000