Grand Gulch 2001
Collins to Todie - Opus 2
Sunday, April 15 - Easter 22 years ago, I seemed to have started a tradition: when I was on a backpack with Susie and her ex- on this holiday weekend, I brought along a small bit of Easter Candy and Easter grass, just to make a bit of a nest in a hat or shoe. Just like the Easter bunny had found us. Although we have not been backpacking every Easter weekend, the tradition has carried on, and this year, Susie wanted to extend it to everyone on the trip. She had brought the makings for cupcake-sized nests - to be made in cupcake paper liners, of course - and was up before sunrise distributing them to individual tents or cooking spots. Meanwhile, I had to dig deep and quickly into my clothes bag, to get out the little nest I had brought her. This time I beat her to the punch, although she surprised me with a huge dark chocolate-orange Easter egg. This ended up augmenting our desserts throughout the trip.
So much for sleeping in on our only layover day. Simply too many things to see. George took off first: the plan was to head down canyon to a small side canyon that quickly boxes out. However, in 1982, we had found a way out of the canyon system via this complex, and had ended up using it as an exit route in 1985, when we did a trip in lower Grand Gulch. When we hiked there previously, my former wife, Sunny, named the formation - aptly - the Toilet Bowl. Indeed, when you are overlooking it, the shiny white sites, and the slope of the rock do indeed look like a toilet bowl - complete with the turds - brown rocks - in the bottom. While there are many interesting formations throughout canyon country, this one, when climbing to the top of the rim, and lunching in the shade of the mushroom rocks, makes a nice, easy, day excursion. The coordinates of the formation are 574499 Easting, 4140788 Northing. Several of us headed downstream from camp, back to the confluence with Collins. A few hundred meters below the confluence, you have a choice; go through the sometimes-deep water of the narrows, or take the long way around. There is a huge rincon at the narrows, which has several ruins and neat pictographs in it. Since the low had been in the low 40's that night, we decided to opt for the longer, but warmer walk around the narrows, and explore the ruins, etc. We spent nearly an hour going around, as there was a lot to see, and it was, after all, our first encounter with Anasazi ruins in almost a year.
After the loop around, we headed down to "Toilet Bowl" canyon. George was waiting for us, and expressed some concern that we had not shown up sooner. We explained that we had been looking at ruins, while he explained that he had been relaxing and under no pressure to expend any additional energy. While waiting for us, he had located the key to exiting the canyon at this point: there is a large boulder on the right side of the canyon way in the back, that, once you get behind the bush growing in front of it, one can climb up on the first shelf of rock. From there, it is a simple matter of picking your way, and switchbacking up across the shelves. Nothing is particularly hairy or anything. The friction walks are easy. By this time, most all of us, except Lance and Cora, were on the route up. We hiked around, and decided we would head for the top, rather than do much exploring at this intemediate level. Eventually, we got to the mushroom shaped rocks that are at 574,900 East, 4,140,800 Northing. Seemed like a great place to stop for lunch, although with the breeze blowing, it was a bit cool in the shade of these sandstone trees. Not complaining, mind you. Such is what wind shirts are for. The Foccacia bread I had lusted after the previous day was generously shared by Susie in the spirit of Easter. I shared my turkey pepperoni, which was holding up nicely in the cool temperatures. The views were a bit hazy, but it was fun to sit up there with Lance and Andy, and relive the memories of using this point as our 1985 canyon exit. We all walked over to the canyon lip to our east and were amazed to see our campsite below and to the north (downstream of us). Of course, since we already knew where we were from the maps and our GPS units, we should not have been surprised, but it seemed counter-intuitive to have hiked downstream all that way, climbed up on top, and be UPSTREAM of our campsite.
No matter, it was neat to look down on camp, and realize it would be a couple of hours before we got back there. It was time to go, and work our way down to the serious overview of the Toilet Bowl. This meant working our way down a couple of ledge levels, which took us back to the southwest, and then back around to the northeast, so we could get a good look right down into it. No doubt, it is an interesting formation, but it was more of an excuse for a pretty walk than anything else. A funny incident occurred while I was standing on the rim: I exclaimed that there had been something I had been wanting to do for a long time, and I bent over. Barbara yelled "Oh my God," thinking I was getting ready to drop trow and take a real dump into the Toilet Bowl. In fact, I had bent over to retrieve my 21 mm ultra wide angle lens so I could photograph the formation properly. As they say, communication is everything.
George had already headed on down, deciding he needed to do some serious relaxing. We worked our way back down to the canyon floor, rested in the shade, pumped a bit of water, and then took off upstream through the narrows. The narrows is a spot where there canyon wall are not much more than 15 feet apart. As a result, to go through you are going to have to get your feet wet. John, Susie, Andy, and I came through at the same time, and the day had warmed up sufficiently so that the cool water seemed refreshing, not frigid. A quick stroll back to camp, and we were ready to relax.
Most of the crew had gathered under the shade of a couple of cottonwoods. Since I had not eaten my daily ration of snacks, I felt justified in chewing on a couple of Reisens, delightful dark chocolate-covered caramels. It had not been but a minute or so, and I felt a twinge in the back of my right lower jaw, and a crown that had not been in more than a couple of months popped out. I was a bit pissed, because these things are not supposed to come out, and at this particular moment, it was not a particularly convenient time. I washed the $700 piece of metal and enamel off, and stuck it in an empty film canister, so graciously provided by Andy, and tried to avoid eating on that side of my mouth for the rest of the week. The thermal shock from anything other than the most tepid water or food provided a continual reminder.
After a quick but wonderfully warm bath down canyon, it was time to make dinner. We decided it was OK to blow off our cajun beans and rice, with ham, even though it was Easter, and have Lemon Pepper Pasta and smoked turkey. We sat around a bit after dinner, but most folks were in bed by the time it got dark, thinking that tomorrow would be a real hiking day. And the mosquitos were a bit annoying.
© Roger A. Jenkins, 2001