We woke to a peaceful morning on the second day of our hike in Grand Gulch. Quiet surrounded us as we filtered water from the creek near Junction Spring.
Cottonwoods thrive along the creek
Backpacking in Grand Gulch in late April
We found an intriguing collection of rock art at Turkey Pen Ruin. It is thought that the sheep pictograph on the right has a spear in its back.
Peering inside an ancestral Pueblo structure
We noticed ancient corn cobs scattered at Turkey Pen Ruin. Corn was cultivated on the canyon floor by the ancestral Puebloans, and was a major year-round food source. We were careful to leave the cobs, and everything else, untouched for others to enjoy.
Walking in a section of dry creek bed, dwarfed by the canyon walls
Huge bumblebees were collecting nectar from the beautiful purple flowers of this American vetch.
Several times the trail led us down into the creek bed, then back up, then down again. The transition was often steep and slippery.
We were glad for a bit of blue sky, as the day was on the cooler side. We continued hiking in pants and jackets.
Grand Gulch provides a feast of beautiful rock formations. The dark streaks on the rock are called desert varnish. They are mineral deposits left by bacteria, which are sustained by water running down the rock.
Dying prickly pear cactus
The wind grew fierce in the canyon. As the trail turned a corner, we found another ruin and some relief from the wind. The ancient people definitely knew where to build!
Some of the structures were in surprisingly good condition.
The Pour Off Pool was one of the water sources marked on our topo map. As you can see, it was very silty, but the creek had been dry for a few miles, and it’s never a good idea to pass up water in the desert. We filtered as fast as we could because a powerful wind was whipping up the creek bed, blasting sand in our faces.
Walking towards Split Level Ruin, which is barely visible just above the trees in this photo. Additional ruins are perched on the ledge above.
Split Level Ruin
It was starting to sprinkle so we set up camp below Split Level Ruin and quickly cooked dinner. Minutes after we got cozy in our sleeping bags, the rain picked up. It had been a good day.
We didn’t know it yet, but we would see the coolest rock art of the whole trip tomorrow!