Moqui Canyon/North Gulch Loop - 2002
Spectacular side canyon
Friday, April 26 We knew this would be a really easy day for us, but I guess we had completely recovered from our workaday sleep deficit. We were up by 6:30 again, and rolling a bit before 9. Must have been really stimulating conversation at breakfast. Our goal for the day was to get to within a mile or two of the pick up spot. When I had planned the trip, I had been thinking something like 4 miles the last morning, but the prospects of rough terrain and beaver dams (indicated on Kelsey's maps) had encouraged us to adjust our route. After going through a jumble of chokestones and significant elevation loss in the stream bed, we stopped about 3/4 mile downstream of camp, and took in a nice little side canyon, walking back quite a bit. In another mile or so, there was a second canyon coming in from the north (540,171 Easting; 4150,100 Northing). The walking was pretty easy, so we thought we might spend a bit of time. The entrance to the canyon seemed pretty photogenic, probably because it was still way before noon, and the lighting was good. As we continued up into the canyon there was a bit of water flow. We got to a large pool and pouroff, and I suggested that this might be a good place to turn around. But Susie wanted to keep going and I am glad she did. We skirted the pouroff on the left side of the canyon, and could see what some might call the Mother of All Pouroffs. The canyon was the ultimate box canyon, ending in a huge pouroff that I estimated to be 200 feet high. (Subsequent examination of topo maps in the reality of my own home suggests that 150 feet is a much better estimate. But it clear that this thing was big.) It was in a lovely layer of rock and was undercut by at least 75 feet. A small slot was cut into the top layer, adding another degree of delight to this place. For me, this sight was the scenic highlight of the trip.
We ran into Andy and Sue as we turned around, and others of our party had apparently noticed the pile of packs in front of the canyon mouth and decided to partake. If you do this trip, you need to visit this side canyon. It is that impressive. OK, so after all this exploring, it was time for lunch. Since this was our last of the trip, I devoured the remains of my tub of "Lite" sharp cheddar cheese food product that I had been husbanding all week. Noting the calorie content of this stuff, it tastes good, but has nowhere near the calories per ounce of a granola bar. Next time, I take the real thing. We walked a mile and a half after lunch. We kept looking for the beaver dams that Kelsey mentions, but there was no sign of them now. Things change. The canyon bottom continued to be tight, and we noticed that the quantity of water flow seemed to be decreased from what we had experienced at our previous camp. We had made pretty good time, and it was nearly 2 pm, so we decided to take a break. We had also noticed that the breeze had picked up, which made for pleasant hiking. We continued to be impressed with the lack of places for a larger group to camp. I was thankful for the spots we had found.
We left the creekbed and began to cross our first sandy bench in a while, and saw George. Of course, he had been here for a long time, and was enjoying himself. He had his tent set up, and was inside, escaping the flies. We were home. I looked at my watch, and it was about 2:10, another 5+ hour day, this time to cover maybe 3.25 miles. Too much interesting stuff to see. Susie and I debated on where to put our tent. There were several spots shaded by huge dead tamarisk bushes. After first placing the tent, Susie decided that she liked another spot better. So we un-staked the tent and carried it about 100 meters up canyon. This afforded us superior shade, of course. It was not too long before the rest of the crew trickled into camp. Since the afternoon was young, their needs for exploration was still unsated, so several folks took off to check out our down-canyon route for the morning. Susie and I decided that we only needed to see the final two miles of the canyon one time, and opted for a bath in the dwindling creek. All the time, the wind gusts were picking up.
Since the creek went through a tunnel of dead tamarisk and the banks were actually grassy, we set up the dinner spot down in the creek. Ray was a bit incredulous when he showed up for dinner, asking how could we possibly cook dinner in the damp sand. The answer, of course, was that it was out of the wind and blowing sand. He reported from his explorations that it would be "no stroll" to get down to the lake. Lots of brush, necessitating climbing up on benches. As tradition has it, the last night of the trip is portrait night. We always pick the last night, since that is when we tend to look the grungiest. However, Ray decided to spiff up and bit and he put on a bolo tie made out of flourescent pick parachute cord that Barbara had brought on the trip. During dinner, the wind really picked up. Someone hollered that George's tent had pulled out the two rear stakes. Andy and Sue's tent also got blown over. I got up out of the creek bed and walked upstream to see how our tent was fairing. It was crosswise to many of the gusts, and was taking it pretty hard. The Clip 3 is a great tent, but it is always wise to pitch it such that the foot of the tent is into the wind. Catching the wind sideways can be catastrophic. When I got out into the open, I could see our tent was practically on its side. No stakes were out, but it was having a hard time. I looked into the tent, and there was sand everywhere. But there was nothing I could do, so I went back to the "dining room."
We chatted for only a bit, until about 8 pm. Someone noted a huge black cloud forming to the west, and so we started quickly securing the campsite for the night. The wind was howling, coming in huge gusts, followed by a steady breeze. I made a quick bathroom stop, and just as the rain started, I dove into the tent. Susie was already inside, surveying the damage. Her zoom lens, attached to the camera she had laid on the sleeping bag, was totally frozen from the wind blown sand. There was grit everywhere. Susie, in her usual upbeat mood (NOT!) declared both of our sleeping bags totally ruined. (Of course, they weren't. They just had a lot of fine sand covering them. We commiserated, wondering why, this, the only day that we had both aired out our bags after getting into camp, and thus throwing them into the tent before dinner, was the day Mother Nature had decided to throw a sand storm at us. We brushed off the sand as best we could, but it was the worst I had ever seen the inside of our tent. It promised to be an unpleasant night.
© Roger A. Jenkins, 2002