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Slickhorn Canyon 1997

Up East Slickhorn

Temperature was 40 when we got up, and a very breezy nite. The wind just quit around 4 am, and no one was in a hurry to get up and moving this morning. We had a very leisurely breakfast, and Lance and Susie and I and Andy and Sue seemed to spend a lot of time philosophizing. I guess it was our last full day in the canyons, the weather was terrific, so why hurry things. Our camp was in the shade for some time, which contributed to the slower activity pattern. I guess we are hardly different than the insects.

Susie and I were underway at 9:35 am. The rangers at Kane Gulch had told us that the bottom of this canyon is really brushy, and that there is no trail. But neither is particularly true. "Brushy" is like what we have in the Smokies, and this is nothing like that. And there usually has been a pretty good path to follow. Sometimes, you miss a turn, but in general, route finding up the canyon has not been difficult. The walking gets easier as you go up the canyon. After about 90 minutes, the walking really eased up, and there were big sheets of slickrock on which to walk. Lots of interesting rock. Air temperature was struggling all day to break 60F, which is just the way I like it: just a tad too cool in the shade. Did lose a bit of blood today: just before lunch, Susie and I were by ourselves, on a ledge maybe 15 feet above the streambed. I slipped and fell against a yucca plant, and rotated slightly, and smashed my shoulder into the rock wall to my left. When I fell against the plant, the spines shot like razors into my legs. I looked down, and there was blood on several spines, it was running down my leg, and my left boot was already stained with blood. My shirt got ripped in the process, so I was a real mess. We decided to stop, and I washed up. The stream bed was nice, so it was a great spot for lunch . My little slip was an excellent reminder (good because it was not very "costly") how fragile we humans are out here. George sliced open his hand a few days ago, and has had a difficult time keeping the wound closed. He seems to have used about a half a roll of tape on the darn thing.

A little after lunch, we caught up to most of the crew, who were inspecting a ruin site to the left of the main canyon in a small rincon. Just a few ruins, but we had not seen any for a few days, so it was nice to poke around. As we moved up canyon, we came across some of the strangest formations of vegetation that I have seen in canyon country: low growing grass, really dry and brittle, growing in perfect circle formations, maybe 15 - 20 feet across. No one could figure out what it was due to.

Our plan was to camp at the confluence of the main fork and the side canyon that we would go out. Actually, it was not the side canyon, but probably the main fork in and of itself. Anyway, we got to that site, and the camping was nothing to write home about, and there was no running water. Absolutely unacceptable to this now-spoiled crew, that had had near perfect campsites the entire trip. There was a note from George stuck in the sand, to move up canyon about 15 minutes, so move we did. In the designated duration, we came upon this huge alcove, with a fortress like set of ruins, and our campsite for our last camp, arriving about 1:50 pm. After setting up our camp in the shade of a juniper tree (as usual, the crew scattered out over a distance of a couple of hundred yards), Susie and I went up to explore the ruins. Although no perfect kivas, this was clearly the largest set we had seen in this canyon system. There were remnants of what looked like a multi-room house. Except it was very heavily defensible. What I mean by that is that there were many small holes pointing down on to the floor of the canyon. Also, when you went in to the system, you had to go thru some body contortions. If you were trying to attack the place, you would really be exposed during your contortions, and likely to end up with a spear thru your gut! There was one room on the cliff side, the front of which was pretty much destroyed, but the inside roof was heavily blackened, and there was sort of a pen-like structure in the back. Just the place to keep captured turkeys. I think we must have spent an hour up in the ruins. There was not much else to do, and the weather was particularly comfortable. I walked up canyon about a half mile or so, to get a feel for the difficulty of our push tomorrow morning. There was one easy pour-off to get around, but I could see that the canyon bottom was going to be rough.

Back in camp, I got a bath, and basically goofed off, while Susie dozed. Ah, vacation. It is nice to not have much to do for a while.

Many of the crew gathered for dinner near our tent. Dolph climbed up on the slope opposite our camp after dinner, trying to discern what a white blotch on a rock was (he couldn't figure it out). Meanwhile, Ray and Barbara A. headed off down canyon to retrieve his Swiss Army knife that he left at his lunch site. This was nearly 2 years to the day that he did the same thing on the 20 Mile - Harris Wash trip. That knife has a way of getting away from him; and he can't blame increasing age: he left his camera at a lunch stop back in '82 on the Grand Gulch Trip.

We had a little fire, and were all torn (I suspect) between the joys of getting back to civilization and the wish to stay out for another week. That is usually the way I feel anyway. But life is a journey, so it is best to just enjoy the ride (so says the Nissan commercial).

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Roger A. Jenkins, 1997, 2006