We drank yellow death water and I nearly shot powdered goat milk through my nose. We saw a lifetime’s worth of Anasazi ruins and unadulterated rock art sites and we wanted to go back before the current Bears Ears hooplah completely flooded the area with #monumentsforall toting tourists and backcountry permits were difficult to score.
Four years after our first foray into Grand Gulch, we descended Collins Canyon despite warnings of poor water conditions and urgings to day hike rather than overnight backpack.
We took off down canyon and trudged through the bottom of the canyon for hours in the HOT before finding a place to drop our gear and set-up base camp for the weekend just in time for HAPPY HOUR.
The ranger said she has “Anasazi eyes.” Coby, my dearest desert exploring partner, can spy the remnants of ancient cliff dwellings a mile away with her naked eye and can spy the faintest hand prints on the alcove roof hundreds of feet above our head. She also has the best selection of tiny backpacking booze and for that I love her. There was that time she put up my tent and made me ramen while I was puking my guts out in the sagebrush with the worst migraine of my life and that time we got lost in our home mountains and gave zero sh!ts! She’s always got my back and there is no one I would rather be tucked away in a remote desert canyon with.
In the morning, we packed our day packs and headed out down canyon in search of both water and adventure. We found a bounty of both. With so many lack of water warnings, finding water was our first objective and we found water everywhere! Not necessarily water you would want to drink, but water that could keep you alive if you needed it. We waited to fill our bottles until we found some free flowing freshies in aptly named Water Canyon.
We saw so many fantastic rock art panels – there were birds like I’ve never seen before, huge alien people high-fiving us with dots shooting out of their head, stick figures holding spiral lolly pops, and plenty of phallic looking objects which we concluded were pelts of some sort. We didn’t see another soul for 48 hours, so much for the hooplah.
There was this moment in the afternoon when the wind picked up and the sky turned an eerie pink. Was it the red rock dirt being blown through the air, reflecting off something? I have no clue, although it did make my skin prickle with fear. A storm would make things treacherous down here. North Korea finally dropping their nukes or a uranium mining explosion in one of the local mines? We don’t get any news down here.
We hiked out the following morning stopping by an old cowboy camp filled with trash now considered artifacts. Apparently trash becomes a historical artifact after 50 years. Does that mean all those plastic trash blobs floating around the ocean will become a protected treasure in just a few years?
We stopped by the ranger station on the way out and gave them an update on the water situation and had a proud moment when they were impressed with all the water holes we found. I often fantasize about drinking whiskey around campfires with rangers – them letting me into their inner circle and telling me all their secrets like the hidden locations of intact pots and untouched ruins. But then I think how amazing it is to stumble upon these things with no expectations, on your own. More magic there, indeed.