Finally made it to dry ground, and the newly christened Dominguez Canyon WILDERNESS in western CO this weekend. What a trip.
nerdy gear talk will follow, but first THE TRIP::
Parked, signed the register with a pack full 3 days of food, and started the hike parellel to some RR tracks. Sure, it was cloudy and windy, but not that bad really with views like this
Things were a tad muddy, something that would get MUCH WORSE later in the trip, but for now, wasn't so bad. After maybe a mile of hiking, I cut down to the Gunnison River, and eventually had to cross the bad boy to get into the Dominguez Canyons. They had a cute little bridge for feet to cross by
At this point I was truly blown away by the area. The effect of the canyon walls and clouds had me taking entirely too many pictures. I live in a land that hasn't seen dry ground in over a week. When I left it was dumping something like it's 6th consecutive day of 4-6" of white fluffy stuff. With a broken wrist, I had been longing for the feeling of dirt and rock underfoot, and this trip gave it in spades. Jeez
This area used to be a Wilderness Study Area for 2 decades, and less than a month ago Salazar made it a Wilderness Area, protecting it forever. What the area is known for is it's petroglyphs, tranquil canyon beauty, and desert bighorn sheep. I was able to photograph the former 2, but was unable to get the latter, despite the fact that I saw over 25 of these beauties in the ~3 days I was down in there. Still got lots of beauty I might say
I love rock and the high desert and canyon-country is wonderful for this stuff
trees and rock and rock
whale or rock?
Soon enough I was starting to get frustrated. Why hadn't I found the petroglyphs that I was promised near the trail by those guys leaving at the trailhead? I had been looking fairly closely since the canyon got tighter, had curved into Big Dominguez Canyon, not Little, but no sign of man from years back. Had I been taking so many photos of the distant landscape that I missed what was right in front of my face?? I noticed that spotting them was made a bit tricky by the lichen all over the rock. Finally, I got to a rock that I could tell from many many feet away was covered. And I mean covered. Here is a tiny sampling with a bit of lichen:
Soon enough the 200+ mile drive and hiking and godknows what else was making me tired. Plus I wanted to squeeze in a 30 min trail run on dry ground before dark. That meant I needed to score some water before finding a campsite and calling it a night. I could hear the water flowing in the canyon below and a short trip down a gully got me there. ugh:
I was actually carrying a stove this trip, which I didn't do thru-hiking last year, and enjoyed my mediocre Lipton Side to the fullest. Wanted to make a cup of tea, but not quite enough water to justify. argh. Woke up to a nice view though
I had some big plans in my head for this trip. Wanted to hike the length of Big Dominguez Canyon (~11 mi), then connect to Little Dominguez to the southwest to make a sweet loop back to my car. Trails didn't work out that way, so I had planned to connect the canyons via unmarked forest roads. After hiking some miserable miles on logging roads on the PNT last year, I knew what could be in store, so I picked up the hiking pace that morning. It was a bit chilly out, but the views, and the cactus framing the trail kept me going
Lots of cool light for the first few hours. Fun shadows. More great great rock
It had gotten pretty cold that night. I've stopped caring and measuring it on my watch, but my water bladder froze (rookie mistake), as did the rare section of water on the trail
I thought I was making good time, I really wasn't. Whatever, I felt good and didn't care.
It was obvious that halfway thru the canyon, the trail wasn't used very often. I would get to many many spots where a huge slab of rock would cross the trail, and I would be standing there with a stupid look on my face. With nothing but random splatterings of brush, cacti, rock, and dirt in front of me, no trail. If not for these magnificent cairns, I would have been making my own way through the canyon:
The canyon never stopped bringin' the rock
Nearing the top of the canyon, there were more and more trees. The variety was stunning in this 8 mile section of canyon
had to admire this section of trail here
there was even a bit of grass up here, and the word 'lush' may have started to enter my mind a time or two
That was nearly all the way upcanyon. Things started to get pretty muddy up there, but I knew I was nearly to the campground where I would meet those evil forest service roads. Once while climbing a steep muddy slope, I managed to get my cast soaked in mud, which eventually entertained the docter the next day.
Anyways. The road walk.
it was nice. For a mile. Up on the rim of the canyon I was up on the Uncompagre Plateau, and there was a little bit of snow. I had to ford Big Dominguez Creek, which wasn't so bad, just cold. cold. Did I mention how good the views were from the rim? Phenomenal.
Then I slipped back into the trees, but the clouds and easy walking kept me company
Until the mud hit
Every step would have me sinking 1/4" into the dirt. Mud. Yuk. Mud ain't that bad, but the prospect of walking in 4 miles of road covered in it, then 8.1 miles on a high elevation trail kinda sucks. Made the tough decision to bag it. Turned around and descended Big Dominguez Creek.
With less mileage to cover, I started walking slow, really enjoying the hiking. No timeframe to meet anymore, and the views were mindblowing when going downcanyon looking down down down as the canyon sank with the creek. These next few hours were a highlight. yup.
it just didn't stop
and then it was time for one more last load of water before making camp in the exact same incredible spot I had made before. The water had turned clear after that horrible silty nonsense from the night before. This was a great water source and I was in my element. Naturally I didn't treat this stuff
The moon came up over the canyon wall way before darkness would hit. Just something else to stare at. How could this day get any better?
Another cold night of sleep, but the moon was nearly full, allowing me to read after dark without a headlamp. The cliffs got shadows from the moonlight. I drank caffeinated tea because I didn't want the night to end. Naturally it did, and I woke up after cowboy camping to sweetness
I left the canyon the way I came, but not before sneaking in a nice 45 minute run up Little Dominguez Canyon where I saw at least 10 of those Desert Bighorn Sheep. No pictures because all I had was a water bottle in hand. A lot of those views are etched in memory, perhaps more important than being on a memory card. The stream crossings. The double track trail. The house (!!!) in the canyon. The sheep. Great day.
so yea. Hiked back on a nice and wide trail
and along the railroad
Being away from the thru-hiking world has made these weekenders have even more meaning. Even more spectular is being able to drive 3 hrs, and be in a landscape that couldn't be any more different than where I currently live (high alpine, SNOW SNOW SNOW). the air was wonderful. I didn't see a single soul while I was down in those canyons for nearly 3 days. And it was a great weekend! This only whetted my appetite for the 2 month adventure that is going to come in Utah beginning this weekend. How could anyone dislike the desert???
okay, fine, I'll dedicate a short section to gear I used on this trip. I should say that last year I hiked for 7 months with a 7 lb baseweight. So you might find it a bit strange that I carried relatively heavy stuff this time around. I contribute to the fact that I A)don't care on short trips and B)my ULA Amp is in the shop (Frankle's) so I used a Catalyst which has wwwaaaayyy too much space for me on a 6 day hike, much less a 3 day one; leading me to just stuff it 'cause I can! plus, I don't like carrying trekking poles anymore, wasn't sure about branches and whatnot, so decided against a tarp. here's what I carried and maybe a note or two:
Pack: ULA Catalyst (yea its too big, but the frame is killer and the weight never bothered me, so there. really really can't wait to get the Amp back though...)
Shelter: Tarptent Rainbow. (love the easy easy setup. didn't wanna find tree setup or whatever to pitch tarp. LAZY really)
Sleeping system: TiGoat Bivy, Nunatak Arc Alpinist 20 deg quilt and Prolite 3 short pad
Layers: short sleeve wicking shirt thingy from a marathon, O2 Rainshield Rainjacket (love a hood, which my golite Whim doesn't have...), and a Montbell Thermawrap jacket.
cooking: Antigravitygear 3 cup pot, homemade cat stove (no woodstove, not sure why....)
Camera: Canon a590, which didn't annoy me quite as much as it typically does, although I"m currently looking for a replacement for my Utah trip....
stuff I changed:
-made 3 lbs of cookie dough (aka "Buttery Goodness"). Brought this to try out for the oft-mentioned upcoming bikepacking trip, because well, its darn cheap. lots of calories that pack down well, and all in one big ole baggie for no trash on trail. It was dang tasty, but I was surprisingly hungry after eating it. Why didn't the fat in the butter keep me full longer?? I'll pry take this again, because it's pretty dang CHEAP. and good.
-No trekking poles. I really love hiking without poles. Really do. Only time I wanted them was that muddy section, but since that comprised about 1/50th of the trip, I could care less. No burden. on more technical trail, I wouldn't hesitate to take them.
-Tarptent. maybe I'm getting soft, but it was so so nice to have the super quick setup of the sorta-freestanding tent. If I had the money I'd switch to a Wild Oasis in a heartbeat, but I don't have it. Loads of space, and kept me out of the wind better than my bivy woulda on that first night.
Thanks for reading, man!