Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Deep Canyon Hike

There are many trails we only travel on foot. A good mule man like Fremont Bob might ride them, but Dangerous leaves Dottie and Little Guy home and digs out his old external frame pack. He even puts a backpack on me. Like the rest of them, I am expected to carry my own food. I can't complain about packing my own eats, but I do object to carrying the extra water that I don't get to drink. Dangerous thinks the stream is good enough for me. What really gets me is that he makes me carry all the garbage. Now, how fair is that? I don't get to eat any gourmet, freeze-dried food, but I get to carry all the used wrappers.

Dangerous isn't good about sharing the trails he rides and hikes with others, but if you want to know where we go, just ask Utah Jack. I have never known him to keep a secret, but finding him is sometimes a problem. You can probably figure out most of the places we go by studying one of the numerous trail guides published today. Dangerous has hiked them so many times that he rarely consults a map anymore. Even when he did, he wasn't very good at reading directions. With us, we usually talk about up canyon and down canyon. Usually, down canyon means if you walk far enough you will eventually find a road. At his age, all hikes are new to Dangerous. Even the ones he has hiked over and over again.

Dangerous believes that knowing where you are ruins the sense of adventure. Ignoring the trail guide or map gives you the opportunity to discover things for yourself. On occasion, this attitude can lead to near rebellion among Dangerous' hiking friends. They aren't satisfied with his answer that "I am not lost I just don't know where I am right now." I suspect he hasn't known where he is for years, but what do I care. Sheep dogs live in the moment, so I readily accept his explanation.

I really like the deep canyon hikes where there is water and shade. The attached pictures show one of my favorites. According to Dangerous, there are at least four different ways to access this tributary of the Escalante River. So, which one does he usually use? Off course, the dry, steep, sandy route is his preferred alternative because you rarely see any other hikers.

I won't bore you with the long, dry traverse to reach this favorite spot, but Dangerous likes to test first time hikers over this route. They usually show up full of romantic ideas about hiking the red-rock country. After humping their 50 pound packs through heat and sand the romance ends abruptly. They get their reward, however, when they gaze down at the stream, shade, water, and vegetation below them. All they have to do is drop 500 feet down a very steep trail, and they earn their reward.

The canyon floor gives instant relief from the heat and sand. However, reaching the bottom doesn't mean the challenges are over. This canyon is narrow in places and the slick, rocky stream bed can be difficult for sheep dogs and aging hikers to negotiate. There are numerous campsites and places to stop and rest. But, my aging companions have to cross and recross the stream numerous times while trying to stay dry. During wet years, you might have a swim or two. Even during normal years, you get wet. I was walking along enjoying the day when I heard Dangerous let out a horrible shriek. Since he scared of snakes, I thought he had found one. It wasn't one of our slithering friends that caused him to yell like a girl. Dangerous was negotiating a narrow ledge around a deep plunge pool. One more step and he would have been across. As you can guess, he didn't make it. I turned to see his ball cap floating in the pool. He fell in, feet first, pack and all. Fortunately, he didn't lose his glasses, or my role as pack dog would have changed to seeing-eye companion. With a little help, we got him out of the pool, but two steps later he was back in another one. Needless to say, I was a bit embarrassed to be seen with him.

Some of you might want more information about the trails we travel. Drop me a note, and I will see if I can get him to share some information with you. If that fails, track down Utah Jack, and offer him a double-bacon cheeseburger. I am sure that will get him to talk.


Max said...

Rosie. It’s come to the end of a workday and I thought I’d check in on the doings in Grover before hitting the rush hour traffic. By now your readers have a pretty good idea of what makes Dangerous and his gang tick… adventure (and maybe food and loafing). Your tale of Dangerous hiking the Escalante is certainly riveting (especially the part about his reaction to reptiles), so I thought you might enjoy a tale in return about Ole Dangerous and reptiles from a time when you weren’t around. Several years back Doug and I were taking a little canoe float down the Wakulla River south of Tallahassee. For those who may not know, that’s where some of the old Tarzan movies were filmed that show the “crocs” sliding into the river as Tarzan swims across to rescue Jane. Well, I believe it was the first time for Dangerous to be on such a stream and he was anxious to get a peek at his first “au naturel” alligator. He kept a close watch on the banks, as we quietly slid down the Wakulla, a spring fed, crystal clear river. After floating along for a while I said, “Doug, quit looking at the bank and look about three feet in front of your right hand.” There in the duckweed was the head of a pretty nice little alligator, that, based on his smile, had a fine dental plan. At that point I learned what a truly colorful vocabulary Ole Dangerous had at his disposal for describing little vignettes from nature like that one. As we surveyed the scene around us, we could see a dozen or so alligators in the water in every direction. It was as if they had come out of nowhere. Needless to say, for the rest of the trip Doug and I were pretty careful about rocking the canoe. However, I’ve always wondered… if we had rounded a bend in the river and seen Jane in the water, would Dangerous, being a man of action, have been the first out of the canoe to swim to her rescue? Some of you who know him best may want to weigh in on this question.

Anonymous said...

My only 3 day back pack was the Grand Gulch, it would have been handy to had a nice pup carry some of the water, that was BL, before Lefty. Nice pictures!
Reading all your packing tales almost makes me want to try another, maybe I better start training Lefty to carry, before Spring. We'll be having Spring this next week, I'm ready.