Bears Ears National Monument is threatened. Please sign this petition to protect it.
On our 4th day in Bears Ears National Monument, we woke to a lovely morning, then packed up and left Grand Gulch behind. The final day of our hike would involve 7 miles of climbing up Bullet Canyon. Hummingbirds zoomed around us as we began our day.
Early in the day, the hiking was flat and easy. Not so much later!
We continually marveled at the great variety of rock shapes and layers all around us.
After 2 miles, we came upon Jailhouse Ruin nestled in the canyon wall. We noticed the large, bold white circles first. According to an interpretive sign at the ranger station, they are thought to possibly depict a shield, moon, or eye-like openings (for the pictograph on the right). The ruin’s structures occupy two levels in the rock face.
We had to do a bit of scrambling to get up closer to the ruin.
This small barred window gave Jailhouse Ruin its name.
It was exciting to view ancient architecture, like this small room with a window, and speculate about how the Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) used it. We were very careful not to disturb anything in the sites and never entered any of the structures.
These handprint and line pattern pictographs stood out against the soot-covered ceiling of Jailhouse Ruin.
From Jailhouse Ruin, we had a good view back down Bullet Canyon to its junction with Grand Gulch.
We continued up Bullet Canyon, gradually gaining elevation. We saw Perfect Kiva Ruin from a distance, but opted to save our energy for the steeper areas of the canyon.
A set of cairns led us out of the creek bed and up to an adjacent shelf on the edge of the canyon.
The canyon felt huge even from our higher vantage point.
The cacti blooms were intensely beautiful.
We could see lots of caddisfly cases in pools of water like this. Caddisflies build their small homes by binding together tiny pebbles with silk.
This trickle reminded us of how water carved the canyon over millions of years.
The canyon narrowed as we continued upstream.
The climb up Bullet Canyon grew steeper. It was more challenging, but also extra fun!
Near the top, the creek bed flattened out, and soon we reached the trailhead. It had been an amazing trip. We found the canyon to be very peaceful and calming. The solitude of this place gave us a profound opportunity to reflect on how the Ancestral Pueblo had lived here, over a thousand years ago. Sometimes history can seem far removed from the present, but on this hike it felt surprisingly close at hand.
If you are considering hiking Grand Gulch or any of the surrounding Cedar Mesa canyons, we suggest reading this BLM guide. Please do your part to respect the canyons and the structures that remain inside them by practicing Leave No Trace principles.