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Bowdie Gypsum 2004
Frustration in SE Utah

Ruins in Fable Valley

Wednesday, May 12   It clouded up during the night, so it did not cool off as much as I had expected. Thankfully, it was relatively calm. It was nice not to sleep near a freight train. Andy and Sue decided to join us for breakfast, while the rest of the crew cooked near their tents. Since this was an easy day, the complex breakfast was in order: think cross between blueberry pancakes and muffins, cooked in a skillet. Thick pancakes or thin muffins. Take your pick. They tasted wonderful, but it was a slow process. Sufficiently slow that we got hit by a brief shower. In running back to camp to take care of gear that might have been left out, I managed to plow through one of the many Fishhook cacti that dotted the bench on which we had erected temporary homes. Even though my racing flats (my lightweight camp shoes) have leather on the toes pieces, the spines went right through and reminded me of the harshness of this country. I managed to hobble back over to the cook site, and Sue, with her smaller hands, was able to pull the spines through the leather.

Sue and Andy had long since finished breakfast by the time we finished our last puffin (pancake/muffin) and cleaned up and walked back to camp. I did not feel the need to hurry, but Susie always does. So we picked up the pace and were outta camp by 9:15. (Given the fact that we had been up since 6 am meant we were not setting any records. It was an uneventful hike back up to Fable Spring. Most of the time we were by ourselves, but picked up Cliff for a bit. Actually, it was more like the speedy Cliff condescended to trudge along with the old farts. But it was nice to have his refreshingly youthful company. We moved along at a pretty good pace, and caught up to most everyone else over at a wonderful Claret Cup cactus that Susie and I had photographed a couple of days previously. It was not quite fully bloomed out, but was getting there, and was magnificent. From there we continued our way back to Fable Spring. We stopped for a bit and climbed up into some small ruins that were just down canyon from the spring (and our former campsite). The ruins consisted of a small granary that was pretty intact, as it still had the wooden support for the door opening. Cora was able to join us on the climb up into the ruin, as I had loaned her one of my nadir-of-eroticism knee braces. Her knee had been giving her fits the past few days, and such probably contributed to her decision not to drop down into Gypsum. She smartly decided to wear the brace under her hiking pants, as she had given me a hard time about how low-fashioned my Polartec pullover looked, and knew that revenge could be just around the corner.

Susie and I were the first to cross over the drainage to the north of Fable Spring, and we found a small note from Ray. (Not too surprisingly, since we had been following his fresh boot prints for the past 300 meters or so.) He indicated that he would meet us near our projected camp area for the night. The weather was pretty cool this lunch time, and most of us put on jackets as we lunched near the spring. Susie and I, like most folks, decided to partake of the fine water gushing from the spring for tonight's dining, so we filled all of our water bottles, and I loaded my 10 liter water bag pretty full, and trudged up the trail toward our intended camp. With the extra load, I was appreciative of the brisk weather. Our official campsite was about 1.25 miles upstream from Fable spring, and pretty uninteresting. Big huge field, with zero shade, and no protection from the wind. But it did offer our long separated companion Ray, sounding, unfortunately, pretty ragged. Not only was his hip bothering him big time, but he seemed in the full blown middle of a bad cold. He sounded stuffed up, and coughed a lot. His spartan accommodations (a tarp rather than a real tent to save weight) seemed pretty inadequate for the cool weather. He confessed to having been pretty cold the previous night. (And I had a hunch that tonight would be much colder if it cleared off.)

Susie must of spent a good 30 minutes trying to find an acceptable place to put up the tent. Frankly, no where seemed particularly good, but we did find a small spot with a tad more grass - eventually - so that is where we called home. It seemed a good idea to focus on the positive aspects of the campsite - that it was underneath some really good looking ruins - than the negative aspects (a tiny pond supposedly a quarter mile away, the alternative being what Ray called ‘cow piss" in the stream bed, no shade, and little wind shelter). So focus we did, and we took off with several of the folks that had not climbed up into these ruins earlier in the trip. To get there, one has to climb up into a small side drainage, (past the small pool of stagnant water- OK, it did have a bit of a drip running into it, but it looked to be the home of lots of both flora and fauna), make a U-turn and begin a climbing traverse of perhaps 200 meters. There is a slight slot climb up to the ruins themselves, but it is pretty easy. And what magnificent ruins they were. Probably the best, most complex set of backcountry ruins we had seen since our last night in East Slickhorn Canyon. Multiple rooms, big roof timbers, some granaries, and blackened walls. There was a small drip (that was probably bigger a thousand years ago) that could have provided water to the former residents. We spent a lot of time up in these ruins, looking through the holes that they must have used to see their enemies coming.

After all that poking around, it was time for me to bathe. The options were pretty limited: risk contaminating the only real water source around or finding my way to the bottom of the arroyo, to a spot where the water was sufficiently deep to dip a cup. After about 15 minutes, I found about the lousiest spot I have ever bothered to clean up in, but it was better than nothing (Susie disagreed and decided she could clean up tomorrow noon when she got back to the vehicles). The bottom of the arroyo is so flat that it is hard to find water actually flowing. But it was deep enough to dip a wash rag in, and given the amount of cattle sign, I was not worried about any cross contamination. Dinner: we decided that the best place to cook was right near our tent, as the bushes provided a bit of a breeze break. This was Lipton Cajun Beans and Rice with dried ham night. It was easy to fix, and tasty. After dinner, we dug out a spot in a sandy area, and built a small fire of dead juniper. Ray had already gone to bed, and we could hear him inside his tarp snoring. Unfortunately, he had pitched the inverted V in such a way that the wind blowing up canyon was perfectly aligned with the upstream opening. Not a good situation for someone who has a bad cold. So Barbara and I conspired, with help from several others. She had a large piece of plastic that she used to sit on. All of us had these small clips (like you have on name badges at conferences) that we use for laundry. We took a bunch of those clips and fastened the plastic so that it covered all but a few square inches of the upwind opening of Ray's tarp. He would later report that it made a big difference in his comfort level.

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© Roger A. Jenkins, 2004