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.
Grand Gulch lies in the new Bears Ears National Monument. This and many other national monuments, including three along the PCT, are now under threat. We wanted to continue writing about our hike so more people can appreciate the archaeological significance and natural beauty of this special place.
Rain fell overnight and into the morning of our third day in the canyon. A cliff overhung Split Level Ruin, keeping it dry. We ate our breakfast up near the ruins and explored the area a bit more as we waited for the rain to calm down.
Split Level Ruin
Hundreds of Ancestral Pueblo pottery shards were scattered on the ground. We feasted our eyes but didn’t touch anything.
The creek had developed a nice flow from the night’s precipitation. The rain eased as we walked, but we still became soaked as we brushed against wet vegetation. On the positive side, all the wet sagebrush smelled fantastic!
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
Happy holidays! We’re offering our biggest sale ever: 35% off our book Pacific Crest Trail: A Journey in Photographs. Click the “Buy Now” button to order directly from us.
The book is also available from Amazon.
To create this spectacular coffee table book, we hiked the entire 2660-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. Living in the wilderness for over five months, Chris photographed the starkly beautiful deserts of southern California, the deep blue alpine lakes and snow capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the volcanoes and lush forests of Oregon and Washington. The journey was challenging, inspiring, and visually stunning.
Chris’s landscape photographs portray the essence of each section of the Pacific Crest Trail. Every image is powerful. Viewed in sequence, these photographs take you on a journey through some of the most beautiful and compelling landscapes in the world. You can learn more on our book page. The book is a great gift for you or a friend.
Wishing you a fantastic holiday season with family, friends, and time in the great outdoors. Here’s to awesome adventures in 2017!
In late April we embarked on a backpacking trip in Cedar Mesa, BLM land in southeastern Utah. We planned to hike from the Kane Gulch ranger station to the Bullet Canyon trailhead in four days. The area is renowned for its concentration of Ancestral Pueblo (previously called Anasazi) ruins and rock art.
We picked up our backpacking permit and got information about current water availability at the Kane Gulch ranger station. Since we were doing a one-way hike, we then drove to the Bullet Canyon trailhead and left our car there, then hitched back to Kane Gulch.
With everything in order, we began our descent into Kane Gulch.
Hiking the Kane Gulch Trail
Dozens of lizards watched us walk past
A massive chunk of rock split off to form this narrow passage.
In early October we went on a backpacking trip in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park. We experienced some gorgeous fall weather and colors, but also rain, snow, and ferocious wind. The weather sure changes quickly in the mountains!
Today’s post is all photos. Enjoy!
Backpacking Wild Basin Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park
Raindrops on floating aspen leaves
So far our trip has consisted of idyllic backpacking on Day 1, fearsome wind and fog as we hiked across the island on Day 2, and being stranded on the island, holed up in an empty ranger station on Day 3. That brings us to Day 4 when a short break in the weather might finally allow the ferry to reach us before we get cut off from the mainland again.
Overnight the brutal wind gusts felt like they might blow the roof off the barracks as we slept. Fortunately, morning brought calmer winds. We used the ranger station’s internet connection to view NOAA’s marine weather forecast. It indicated that the wind would pick up throughout the day, then stay high for several days. If the ferry left the mainland soon, it might be able to get us off the island today. Otherwise we might have to spend several more days on the island, including Christmas.
All 15 stranded campers gathered in the main ranger station house. Joe picked up the mic. He was getting good at the radio lingo and protocol: “Dispatch, dispatch, this is Santa Cruz visitor…”. The National Park Service and Island Packers ferry service responded over the air.
Island Packers said they would attempt to make a pickup this morning. If conditions were so bad that the ferry couldn’t make the crossing or dock on the island, then they would turn back around. If the ferry pickup failed, there was talk of calling “Aspen”. We later learned that the USCGC Aspen is a large Coast Guard cutter with a crew of 50.
Somehow the authorities had determined that there were two people still at Del Norte campground (the backcountry campground without water on the far side of the island). If all went according to plan, the ferry would stop at Prisoner’s Harbor to pick them up first. Then they would motor around the island to pick us up at Scorpion Harbor.
We packed up our stuff, then took everything down to the beach to await the ferry. Joe stayed by the radio in case there were any updates. We were anxious given the strengthening winds predicted by the forecast.
We waited on the beach, scanning for boats and wildlife. We spotted a seal! We’ve seen so much amazing wildlife on this trip.
High winds made for a very noisy night on Santa Cruz Island. Gust after gust whooshed down the valley, rocking trees and sometimes cracking branches. As the sun rose, before everyone else woke, Chris decided to explore the cliffs above Scorpion Campground. Up there he found a perfect mix of drama, beauty, and solitude.
Channel Islands National Park
The wind remained fierce. When Joe and Becky emerged from their tent, it immediately blew away with all their gear still inside. They quickly retrieved the tent and collapsed it, preventing it from turning into a kite again.
We had planned to kayak through sea caves today, but that trip had been cancelled due to the bad weather. Now our hope was to catch the emergency ferry back to the mainland at noon.
Over the past two days (see Day 1 and Day 2), we heard so much conflicting information regarding ferry times and weather that we didn’t fully trust anything people told us. We decided to be on the safe side. We packed everything up and walked to the dock, planning to wait there all morning in case a ferry arrived before noon.
While we were eating breakfast on the beach, other campers came by and informed us that they called Island Packers and were told that the emergency noon ferry had been canceled. There would be no ferry service to the island at all for today. We were shocked, and to be honest, a bit skeptical because of past misinformation. We decided to hike up to the cliffs ourselves, hoping to find a cell signal to call the ferry service.