Preparing for the Kokopelli Trail and Jones Canyon; Everett Ruess, and the Tamarisk Beetle

I have less than a week before I drive back over the mountains.  This time my itinerary includes about 5 days on Kokopelli’s Trail, a day or so in Moab, then a few days in Jones Canyon in the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness. The focus of the trip is the Kokopelli ride, but I have been thinking about exploring Jones Canyon for years and decided this is the time to do it. I am busy laying out gear and food for both trips, and as usual trying to lighten the load by going through it all again.

Jones Canyon

I have been through many of the canyons in the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness including Knowles and Mee,  parts of Rattlesnake and Jones, and various other small drainages and treks around the area.  Jones Canyon is typically accessed from the south, via DS and BS Roads, through Glade Park.  It is a trek in itself to get to the Jones Canyon Trailhead which is at the end of the road.  I have decided, since I will be passing by Westwater anyway, to hike Jones Canyon from near its mouth at the Colorado River.

The plan is to  simply park at Westwater, ford the river, and spend a few days exploring the 80 kilometers or so of Jones Canyon. Of course this plan assumes that the BLM rangers at Westwater are okay with me swimming across the Colorado with my pack.  And then there is the question of whether or not the private land at the mouth of Jones Canyon can be skirted from up river.  I will bring along my PFD to help with the first issue, making a clandestine crossing at dusk if all else fails.  As for the second issue, I will asses the possibilities when I stop at Westwater on my ride.

Kokopelli’s Trail and Water

An unsupported bikepack of the Kokopelli poses the challenge of limited water at this time of year.  Over the first three days of the 140 miles ride I’ll have access to the Colorado River for water. But after that, on the two days of riding through the La Sals, I’ll be relying on what I can carry. Or on what I might be able to find.  In my experience there is nearly always water to be found out there.  Its the “nearly” that can get people in trouble. I’ll have the capacity to carry about 4 gallons of water with me, and may add another 2 liter Platypus bottle or two just to be safe.  I’ll make that decision when I do my final weather check, just before I hit the trail.

On this trip I am riding with panniers and Camelbak, not towing a trailer as I did on the White Rim Ride, so I am more limited on what I can carry. I’ll be adhering to ultralight principles to be sure.  At least most of the riding will be on roads by the end when I may be carrying more water, which will make it somewhat easier. The temperature promises to be in the 90’s, so as I usually do, I will be on the bike by about 0600 in the morning. Then I’ll be resting in the shade by 1000 or so, sitting out the hottest part of the day, watching the sun move across the sky from the shade. For more on bikepacking  and packing lists, see the Desert Explorer Bikepacking pages.

News From the Southwest

I have been meaning to add a few quick updates over the last month or so regarding events in the Four Corners region.  I mentioned the big bust of looters in southeast Utah in previous posts.  Another big event, which many people have already read about, was the locating of the remains of Everett Ruess. Ruess is an icon, a legend in the annals of desert mysteries.  His bones and a few identifying items were found early in the year along Comb Ridge, near Bluff in southeast Utah. DNA testing confirmed that the remains are in fact Ruess.

His last sighting was in November of 1934,  near the town of Escalante, over 100 miles away as the crow flies. His outfit- burros, saddles, journal, paints and so on- were found in a corral in Davis Gulch near the Escalante River.  Fortunately his journals were returned to his family.  These, along with his artwork- mainly his woodcuts, but also photos and paintings- allow us a look into the mind of this young adventurer that met his untimely death in the desert. His body his been found, but the question of what happened and how his body made it to Comb Ridge remains.

There are many great books and videos on the life of Everett Ruess.  The April/May National Geographic Adventure magazine covers the recent discovery. Two books of note are  Wilderness Journals/ Vagabond for Beauty combination edition by W.L. Rusho and On Desert Trails with Everett Ruess by Gary James Bergera. The film called Lost Forever explores his travels and the possibilities of his death. It is both entertaining and compelling in its presentation. And if you ever get a chance to see his art work, don’t miss it. In August of 2006 I saw a display of 25 of his woodcuts at the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores. I thought they captured the essence of the southwest and Everett’s travels perfectly in their detail.

On to bugs and trees- it seems there is already, or maybe I should say finally, as it was inevitable- a lawsuit against the government for the tamarisk beetle program.  According to the June issue of the Four Corners Free Press, two Arizona groups have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture and the Fish and Wildlife Service for introducing the beetle into critical habitat.  It seems that tamarisk is the home of the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher.  Apparently this flycatcher adapted to the takeover of native willows by tamarisk well enough. The fear is that it may not now be able to re-adapt to the slow reintroduction of native vegetation in areas previously overtaken by tamarisk. For more on tamarisk and the tamarisk beetle, see the beetle article at the Desert Explorer website.

Next post: Update from Moab after the Kokopelli ride.

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One Response to Preparing for the Kokopelli Trail and Jones Canyon; Everett Ruess, and the Tamarisk Beetle

  1. rockwell says:

    Good post. Looking forward to seeing you write more articles about this topic.

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