Grand Gulch 2001
Collins to Todie - Opus 2
Sometimes it is almost spooky when everything comes together on a trip, just the way you plan/anticipate it. You can't decide if the trip gods are smiling on you, or just taunting you. Our trip in Grand Gulch this time was one of those rare excursions: near perfect weather, not very many surprises (three of the participants had done "the original" version of this trip in 1982: Collins pring to Kane Gulch), hiking which was not too hard, and increasing evidence that getting the cows out of the canyons of Cedar Mesa is having a big effect: the green grass is returning like gangbusters, and the cowpies have all but disappeared. And with the water easy to come by, well, it all seemed pretty idyllic. That is not to say that I did not have a lot on my mind: I did my best to suppress all the problems at work, and such left a bit of a vacuum which was filled by memories of what life was like for me 19 years ago. We have all grown up. A huge chunk of my professional career has passed. On the previous trip, Lance and his wife Carol celebrated their first anniversary. On this trip, Lance, and his 16 year daughter backpacked together. For me, the biggest change was that I was backpacking with my favorite hiking buddy of all time: Susie. On the previous trip, I had been married to Sunny, and oh, how life was different. Not bad, mind you, just different. But enough memories. Let's talk about the trip.
Perhaps the biggest challenge we had to deal with were the logistics and permitting. The driver was the permitting process, which has been established for backpacking in the Cedar Mesa canyons since the last time we hiked in Cedar Mesa: Slickhorn Canyon in 1997 . Once you get a permit, which requires signing up a very loosely interpreted "three months prior to the start of the trip." Details can be found at the BLM web site, but I would strongly suggest that you talk to the person handling the permits, and not rely on the info posted. If you are unfamiliar with hiking on Cedar Mesa, you will learn a lot. The rule is that you have to physically appear in person at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station by noon of the day you want to start hiking to actually pick up your permit. While at first this may sound like something that is easy to do, it ain't if you follow our usual drill of flying to Albuquerque on Friday night, driving to Gallup, getting up the next morning, and driving to the trailhead. One has to get going pretty early from Gallup if you want to be at Kane Gulch by noon. So most of us flew to ABQ on Thursday or Friday morning (Good Friday being a holiday for those of us still among the world of the fully employed). Our friend Sue had to back off the trip a couple of days earlier due to some health problems her mother was experiencing. She graciously allowed her husband Andy go on the trip unsupervised.
While we waited for Andy to land at his scheduled time (3pm), a few of us drowned our sorrows at not having Sue along by drinking margaritas in the ABQ airport Garduno's, while the group that had flown out on Thursday (Ray, George, and Barbara) spent the morning and early afternoon hiking in Petroglyphs National Monument. The Petroglyph crew showed up a bit early, so we got the vehicles packed with luggage a bit sooner than expected. Andy arrived a bit after 3 pm, his bag was one of the first off, and we were rolling out of Albuquerque. Originally, we had planned to spend the night in Shiprock, New Mexico. But when I went to reserve some motel rooms, I found that there are no motels in Shiprock. The nearest one is in Farmington, 30+ miles out of the way. So we ended up getting rooms in Chinle, AZ, which turned out to be a great decision. We frogged around in Gallup for 90 minutes, doing grocery shopping, while others had dinner at Denny's ??!! for god's sake. Susie and I, after our lunch and beverages at the airport, opted for a Blizzard at the Dairy Queen. I had to explain to them how to make a Mud Pie flavored Blizzard, since they had never heard of that combination before. (For the curious, it is Oreo cookies, chocolate syrup, and powdered coffee. Outstanding!) But even though the stop was longer than scheduled, we made it to Chinle before 9 pm. Susie and I repacked quickly, and filled our fuel bottles, secure in the knowledge that breakfast would be good because we had already picked ours up at the Safeway in Gallup.
© Roger A. Jenkins, 2001