Utah- June 2010 Trip Report

5 July 2010

We are safely back from another great trip to southeast Utah. We spent two and a half weeks exploring, hiking, finding ruins and rock art, and backpacking. We fought gnats and wind, and had a few cold nights, but the weather overall was cooperative, just cool enough most nights to enjoy a  fire. Fire bans had not yet been imposed, in Utah at least. We even managed a mid-trip blog post from our hotel room in Kayenta, Arizona. You can see that blog post below.

Nightly fire in our fire pan.

We always use our fire pan to lessen the impact we make in the bush. We select campsites that have already been used, and prefer them without piles of blackened rocks filled with half-burned trash. We make it a point to leave our campsites in the same, or better condition. See the Leave No Trace website for more on minimising your impact in the wilderness.

Grand Gulch
One of the highlights of our trip was the few days we spent in Grand Gulch. It turned out to be the hottest few days of the entire trip, with temperatures right at 100 degrees, but we endured and found plenty of water to keep us hydrated. The water was on its way out though, drying up quickly. There were murky potholes at many of the cooler, tighter bends in the canyon bottom, and plenty at the mouth of Water Canyon. Keep this in mind if you are planning a trip into the lower end of Grand Gulch later in the summer.

At the junction of Grand Gulch and Water Canyon- plenty of cold, clean water still there.

We started out from Collins Canyon trailhead and made our way down to Red Man Canyon.  There are a couple of small ruins and amazing rock art in that section of Grand Gulch. As I mentioned in our mid-trip post, I have been down that stretch before, but saw many panels that I had walked right by on my previous trip. I wonder how many more times I can walk it and still see something new?

200 Hands panel- an amazing sight to see. I think there are more than 200, this being just a small section of the 30 meter long panel.

Grand Gulch pictograph

An interesting pictograph found in the main drainage of Grand Gulch.

Navajo National Monument and Betatakin Ruin
After Grand Gulch there was more exploring, including our trip south into Arizona for a few days. We visited Navajo National Monument and did the hike out to Betatakin ruin. If you ever visit that part of the Navajo Nation, be sure to allow time for a visit to the monument. Visiting Betatakin requires about 5 hours or so and must be done with a ranger at the designated times- 0815 and 1000 when we were there. If you have more time the ruins of Keet Seel require a day for the walk out and back. You can do this on your own, after an orientation, and you  can camp overnight at the ruins. The times and days for visiting the ruins changes throughout the year and based on budget, so be sure to check in ahead of time to see what your options are. See the Desert Explorer Navajo National Monument webpage for more information.

The ruins of Betatakin as seen from inside the alcove. Betatakin was occupied only for about 30 years between about 1250 and 1300 .

Newspaper Rock and Other Petroglyph Sites

We also visited Newspaper Rock along the way. The petroglyphs there cover a wide range of dates, from about 2000 years back through historic times. They are very dense, well-preserved, and easily visible on the patinated Wingate sandstone surface. The site is well protected by a fence and appropriate signage. For more on rock art and how to help protect it, visit the Rock Art pages at the Desert Explorer website.

Newspaper Rock, a petroglyph site on the eastern edge of Canyonlands.

Newspaper Rock, a petroglyph site on the eastern edge of Canyonlands.

Sign at Newspaper Rock. It is unfortunate and sad, but some people do need to be told that destroying 2000 year old rock art sites is a bad thing.

Rock art is everywhere in southeastern Utah. All you have to do is look for it, and you will find it. Much of it can be seen along once-ancient, now modern roadways. An example is seen in the image below. This panel, along with a couple of others nearby, has historic Ute elements and prehistoric elements as well. We found it right off the road outside of Bluff and spent some time photographing and sketching the deer, or perhaps elk, in the photo.

Detail of petroglyph panel near Bluff, Utah.

Detail of petroglyph panel near Bluff, Utah.

Moab Area
We spent a couple of days in the Moab area as we usually do. We visited some rock art panels there, including the Gold Course panel. We did some swimming in the Colorado and in Mill Creek, and enjoyed Moab’s great parks and the free internet at the public library. Some good news from the area is that Matrimony Spring is flowing once again. The Times-Independent had an article that said the fate of the spring was still up in the air, then a couple of days later we found the water flowing freely. Someone had placed a piece of flashing under the spring to divert the water for filling bottles. We drank plenty of it with no ill-effects, as has been the case for may years. We have been told that it takes 90 years for the water to get from the top of the La Sals down to the Colorado. That is alot of filtering! Still, use it at your own risk. Who knows what goes on just upstream.

Matrimony spring, Moab, Utah.

Nicolai next to Matrimony Spring outside Moab.