Added 21 February 2010
Saturday, 21 March 2009, Grand Gulch, Utah
I was ready to go a little before Steve and Mindy, so I wandered up canyon to Split-Level Ruin to take some photographs in the morning light. The barriers the BLM put up prevented me from taking many of the shots I wanted to take, but I was able to get some decent shots.
When everyone was ready to go we headed up canyon to an unnamed ruin that was really cool, though not very well preserved.
Hiking further up we saw a neat plunge pool, and some nice rock spires. In contradiction to the snow and ice we found on the first day, spring flowers were coming out as well.
We then headed up to Toadie Canyon, up which we diverted to replenish our water supplies. Fully stocked up, we left our packs at the spring and did a little side hike up Toadie Canyon. We found more cliff dwellings, which we didn't explore, and eventually came to a spot that we didn't feel like navigating around, so we turned around. It looked like backpacking down Toadie would be a challenge based on what we saw, as the canyon had become brushy and boulder choked. As we were exiting Toadie, Steve stumbled upon, almost literally, a recently deceased bobcat. It was sad to see it lying there, and Mindy and I couldn't help but to touch it. I always expect wild animal hair to be coarse, but it never is, and there's something about the softness that makes it more sorrowful.
Back in the main canyon, we continued upstream to Turkey Pen Ruin.
Turkey Pen Ruin was named after a feature that was not a turkey pen, though it is believed that the inhabitants of the area did semi-domesticate turkeys. Much of Turkey Pen Ruin was cordoned off due to recent rockfalls at the site. We had lunch in a nice shady spot near an unnamed ruin further up canyon before our final push to Junction Ruin.
We were surprised to find that we had the place all to ourselves, as we were within striking distance for day hikers coming in from Kane Gulch. We had only seen a handful of people, and there was no one camping in the area. Pretty good seclusion for a Saturday at a place popular enough that permits are required for backpacking. Once we set up camp we explored Junction Ruin and we each ended up in a different spot, each contemplating our surroundings.
After a bit of solitude, we decided to explore up Grand Gulch a ways. We passed a small side canyon that looked very enticing and seemed to have my name on it, but I hiked on with Mindy and Steve to satisfy my curiosity of what lay around the next bend.
When we decided to turn around, there was still some light left in the day, so I decided to check out the little side canyon. Steve and Mindy headed back to camp, with Steve admonishing me not to stay out too late. That crazy Steve.
Travel up the side canyon proved to be more challenging than expected, due in part to the terrain, but mostly because there was a lot of undisturbed cryptobiotic soil. The fragile soil proved difficult to navigate around, slowing my progress significantly as I had to reroute and backtrack. I got or top of a high rock and surveyed ahead and it looked like I would have a hard time reaching any discernible point of interest in time to be back at camp by dark, so I started winding my way back down. Unfortunately, as I climbed down the boulder I was on, something popped in my left knee. It wasn't major, nor particularly painful, but I knew I had tweaked something. Fortunately, it didn't hinder me too much.
Shortly after I returned to camp we all had dinner, then we stood around in the dark again and talked. While we were chatting, we kept hearing a rustling noise in the nearby bushes. We turned our lights on and looked for what we assumed was a mouse, but couldn't find anything. We resumed our conversation until we heard it again and searched again. Still nothing. The third time we heard it, we actually found our nocturnal visitor, which wasn't a mouse but a large, well camouflaged Woodhouse's toad! We were excited by the discovery and watched him hunt for a little while before turning our lights off and letting him be at peace.