Making a loop out of these canyons has been on my to-do for at least a couple years. I’ve spent a decent amount of time in the area, but never backpacking. Saturday morning was pleasant walking in splendid early March weather.
I was able to follow the trail intermittently as I gradually continued to climb. On top, rotten snow and clay mud made the going quite a bit less fun than the canyon floor. I laughed out loud when I stepped onto the soils of this short section; it was like hiking through Crisco.
I didn’t mind the mud as much as I minded the fact that the upper bench was completely decimated by cattle. Adding soggy cowpies and the fields of dense prickly pear that are often a consequence of heavy disturbance made the afternoon increasingly not fun. After about eight miles of of this, with probably another eight to go to the top of the other canyon (and a big chunk of that on old jeep roads), I decided I’d had enough. I took my time walking towards the sandstone rim of the inner canyon and made camp.
In the morning I walked the rim until I found a break in the cliffs that looked like it would go to the bottom. The canyon floor, which I expected to be a thrash (the main reason I had taken the rim route), had enough game trails to make brush a non-issue. I was somewhat disappointed I hadn’t just taken the floor all the way up the canyon, or done the route the opposite direction. My camera battery died (with no backup) the previous afternoon, so I only was able to squeeze out one last pic on the way back. Out of focus because I fired the shutter as soon as it powered up, but above are Sclerocactus glaucus, endemic to western Colorado.
On Saturday afternoon I felt somewhat bitterly satisfied; I had spent enough time in the area that I didn’t really care that I didn’t finish the route, and the new parts I had seen were ugly and disappointing. After a couple days of more level-headed reflection, though, I’m sure I’ll be back. Canyon floors all the way this time, though.