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The Dirty Devil: Living Up to Its Name

Poking around Twin Corral Box Canyon

Sunday, April 24   Waves of showers passed through the night. I confessed that I worried about the river level rising to the point that all yesterday's efforts would be in vain, and we would have to turn around and head back up the Twin Alcoves. I awoke before 7, was about ready to get out of the tent, when another shower chased me back in. I poked my head outside, and it seemed evident that the showers should be just about done passing through. There seemed more structure in the sky, even though there were still plenty of clouds. Most of the rest of us were sorta staggering around in the huge flat area where our tents were erected, seemingly trying to walk off the hangover of yesterday. Ray, living up to his reputation, was already expressing concern about the water situation: since he had arrived on the canyon floor near the front of the group, he had taken the time before it started raining to collect a liter of river water and let it settle. When he had dipped it out, he said it looked more like thin mud, than anything drinkable. During the night, the solids had settle out, and they comprised an amazing 10% of the total volume of the container. The Dirty Devil was already living up to its reputation. I reminded him that there was supposed to be running water up Twin Corral Box Canyon, and he pointed out that, while true, it was also across the river.

I decided that having a drink of water was becoming distractingly necessary. The only place to find water was up Twin Corral Box, so after a short commune with nature, I headed across the sagebrush flat on which we were camped, and had my first encounter with the river. My first impression was that a lot of attention would have to be paid during a crossing. The opacity of the "water" made it challenging to ascertain the exact location of the bottom. My previous experience with an opaque river was our Escalante Canyon trip in 1980, but the Dirty Devil had that one beat hands down. A river crossing on the latter would require a great deal of prior study to avoid stepping in a hole. The water seemed cold, but maybe that was due to the cloud cover. I headed up Twin Corral Box, and was pleasantly surprised to find fresh running water just a few hundred meters from the mouth. We could thank the fact that it had rained half the night for this treat. Every cloud ...... etc. It was cool and breezy, but by 9:30 or so, we started to get some intermittent sun, so I spread a few things out to dry, and planned my day hike up Twin Corral Box. The floor of the Dirty Devil was pretty open, and I was hoping for a contrast up the side canyon. I was not disappointed. TCB tightens up nicely above its mouth, and it makes for a fun day hike. Sure, it required crossing the river a third time that day, but I did not have any trouble this time, either.

Kelsey notes that water should start to flow about a mile up from the mouth, and from what I tell, by the time I got to that point, there seemed to be the signs of constant water flow. Being the herd of cats that this crew is, various members of the group caught up to me, and passed, and then I would catch up to them. The photographic opportunities were pretty much limitless, and with the day turning sunny and cool, hey, life was good. A couple of miles above the mouth of the canyon, TCB forks, and I went right, following the water. There are a couple of small pour-offs as you go up the canyon, and water was coming over them, but only in a trickle. Water in canyon country always fascinates me: most of the time there is very little, and I can never figure out what does the rock carving: is it the day in day out trickle or the once ever few years floods? I would like to be in a canyon in a real flash flood. Last year (1987) in the Lower Paria, we had a pretty strong afternoon thunderstorm, and we could hear the river rise after dinner, but by the time the water had gotten downstream to where we were, the pulse was pretty tame: maybe 18 inches or so. Of course, the risks associated with seeing a really big flash flood make the opportunity a truly two-edged sword.

Sam and Kevin joined me for lunch "streamside." They were going to head further up the canyon, but I thought such would feel a little too much like real work, so I turned around. I had my mind's eye on a pool I had seen near the mouth of the canyon that seemed like a great spot to take a dip. The air might be cool, but the sun was warm. I had taken my water bag, and both water bottles on my day hike, so I could fill up with enough water to hold me through breakfast tomorrow. I noted that the "creek" at its point nearest the mouth was already receeding, demonstrating that running water can be a fleeting thing in this part of the world. I crossed the river - my fourth time today (good practice for the rest of the week), and walked into camp. There were a few folks lounging in camp, working on recovering from yesterday. Ray had offered me a chance to taste the river water (settled and run through a purifying pump), so I took him up on it now. It was pretty awful, and I would recommend using this approach as a last resort. Most of us "circled the wagons" for dinner. Will was still not back from his day hike up TCB, but no one expressed much concern: pretty typical behavior for him: hike all day and cook in the dark. We all expressed disappointment that John had to leave us tomorrow morning, as he had to head back to his teaching responsibility. We chatted to near-dark, and watched the stars come out. It would be a lovely evening, but no fire: we could hardly find a stick of firewood. That was ok, as it was nice to look forward to a good night's sleep.

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Roger A. Jenkins, 1988, 2001