Into the Dark Canyon Wilderness!

 

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The path down Dark Canyon

Backpacking is the perfect recipe for misery: the majority of the trip you’re tired, sore, hungry and thirsty. Not only are you hiking long distances, day after day, over varying terrain, you’re doing it all with a 20 to 30 pound monkey on your back. Why would anybody put their bodies through such a wringer, on vacation, no less? Because despite all the aches, pains and annoyances, backpacking can take you some totally awesome places, places that aren’t reachable by any other means except your own two feet. Like Utah’s Dark Canyon Wilderness!

Into the Dark Canyon Wilderness! Just east of Natural Bridges national Monument in southeast Utah

Into the Dark Canyon Wilderness! Just east of Natural Bridges National Monument in southeast Utah

A few weeks ago my trusty adventure pal Drew and I spent 4 days hiking a 42 mile loop down Woodenshoe Canyon to Dark Canyon and out Peavine Canyon. We saw two people the first day and none the rest. The only signs of humanity were three Anasazi ruins, some pottery and a set of barefoot human footprints that we followed for more than 20 miles.

Barefoot track! About my size, but with a long stride. They were cruising!

Barefoot track! About my size, but with a long stride. They were cruising!

Bobcat track. Lots of cat tracks in these canyons! Notice the lack of toenail marks, which help differentiate cat tracks from coyote tracks.

Bobcat track. Lots of cat tracks in these canyons! Notice the lack of toenail marks, which help differentiate cat tracks from coyote tracks.

The Bachelor Pad, tucked up under an overhang in Woodenshoe Canyon

The Bachelor Pad, tucked up under an overhang in Woodenshoe Canyon

A Room With A View

A Room With A View

Goat Petroglyphs above the Bachelor Pad

Goat Petroglyphs above the Bachelor Pad

Pottery! A very nice piece. I left it in a special place where I might revisit it someday.

Pottery! A very nice piece. I left it in a special place where I might revisit it someday.

The third set of ruins we found: two storage rooms under an overhang in dark Canyon, about a days walk from the first set in Woodenshoe.

The third set of ruins we found: two storage rooms under an overhang in dark Canyon, about a days walk from the first set in Woodenshoe.

Self Portrait as an Anasazi

Self Portrait as an Anasazi

Broken Room

Broken Room

Fingerprints in Mud Wall

Fingerprints in Mud Wall

For the first 12 miles in Woodenshoe, we were flush with water, the deep canyon fed by the fast-melting snow drifts we has driven past up on the canyon rim. As we hiked down canyon, springs appeared in rocky basins and disappeared under gravel. We drank our fill of water and pumped more with my mechanical filter; further treating the clear, cold water with Aqua Mira chlorine drops. Better safe than sorry! But as the canyon opened up, nearing the confluence with Dark Canyon, we didn’t top off our reservoirs, and when we hit the main canyon, we were two liters shy of our full capacity of 8.5 liters. Oops.

Water in Woodenshoe

Water in Woodenshoe

Limestone Basin

Limestone Basin

Water in Woodenshoe

Water in Woodenshoe

Two Toads!

Two Toads!

Sandstone Basin

Sandstone Basin

Lunch Break. Shoulda filled up here!

Lunch Break. Shoulda filled up here!

Day three was thirsty; Dark Canyon was bone dry. By the time we found water – a night and 12 miles after our last Woodenshoe source – we were down to a swig. The little creek was Salvation Water. Hallelujah! I nearly dropped to my knees and guzzled it raw. It was sparkling, clean enough to host several huge toads. We sat by that water for several hours, splashing our dusty faces and guzzling liters of lemonade-flavored toad water as fast as we could pump it and treat it. There’s no thirst like desert thirst; no water like Salvation Water!

At the confluence with Dark Canyon

At the confluence with Dark Canyon

Jasper Vein in Sandstone

Jasper Vein in Sandstone

Dark Canyon Self Portrait

Dark Canyon Self Portrait

We go thataway! At times, the trail was hard to track through the sand, but it stuck close to the arroyo.

We go thataway! At times, the trail was hard to track through the sand, but it stuck close to the arroyo.

Admit it, we make backpacking look cool.

Admit it, we make backpacking look cool.

After a long, fantastically warm winter off grid in New Mexico, I’m back on the road in the Teardrop! Stay tuned for some dispatches from Northern New Mexico!

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently traveling the backroads from New Mexico to Alaska, writing and living out of a tiny Teardrop camper. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
This entry was posted in Hiking!, Photography, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Into the Dark Canyon Wilderness!

  1. ritaroberts says:

    Nice piece of Anasazi pottery there Mary. Spectacular photography Thanks for sharing.

  2. Fabulous photos and great narrative. Yes, you make backpacking look cool! So much so, that I want to go back to Utah’s canyon country – soon. My partner and I spent some time there in 2011, walking in the Moab region and at Natural Bridges. I’d hoped to spend a few days exploring the Dixie forest and Grand Escalante, but time ran out on us. I love your blog and sense of adventure. It’s good that we can share our experiences like this. Susan

  3. Andrew Seal says:

    “Spectacular” doesn’t do justice to this brilliant and awe-inspiring post Mary. Thanks for sharing your amazing adventure. It makes our two hour hike to Chimney Rock at The Ghost Ranch in New Mexico look like a walk in the park. In admiration and best wishes :-)

  4. bubbasuess says:

    I haven’t been to Dark Canyon since 2005. Thanks for posting this. It brought back a lot of memories. I need to get my tail back to the southwest. All glaciers and no desert makes Bubba a very dull boy…

  5. Crackity Jones says:

    I live vicariously through your posts. You keep doing you, girl!

  6. swo8 says:

    I can see that there would be a lot of archeological and geological interests there.
    Leslie

  7. annathrax says:

    What an amazing place! Thanks for sharing.

  8. furrygnome says:

    Fabulous adventure! I’ve been waiting to see what you’d post next. A lady of many adventures.

  9. Donna says:

    Can’t wait for your summer teardrop travel adventures. I’ve missed you posting on a regular basis.

  10. Great story. I had chuckle at the first lines of your account. Every time we’re out backpacking, that is exactly what I think, and then we do it again for the very same reasons.

  11. ezyman says:

    Full with colurful and their are still natural,their enviorment must.
    fresher

  12. ezyman says:

    It wasn’
    t a simply. Buy. tommorow still this memory remind. My how your journal to cross over gran canyon.and develop personal,, reputasion.salute.

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