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 Cascade Bill (William Mooseker) | Home > Backpacking Trips > 2012-2019 Trips > 2017 Grand Gulch, UT > 
2017 Grand Gulch - Day 1
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Grand Gulch 2017
Day 1 - May 22

Gov't Trailhead to Pollys Canyon
Day hike to Big Man Panel

Mike and Nick T. Descending Into Grand Gulch on the Gov't Trail

The plans for Day 1 were not too ambitious as we had to pick up our permit; watch the mandatory video; shuttle the gear, the Nicks and Will to the Gov't Trail trailhead; drive from there to Collins Canyon trailhead to park the Subaru and meet our shuttle who would return us to the Gov't Trailhead.

After arriving at the Kane RS at 7:45 AM, it wasn't until shortly after noon that Mike and I finally started down the trail. Our plan was to camp at the mouth of Pollys Canyon and then day hike up to the Big Man Panel.

Note photo takers are given in the titles under the thumbnails: Bill (bm), Mike (ms), Nick M. (nm), Nick T. (nt)

Kickass Trekkers on this trip were: Bill Mooseker, Will Stong, Mike Stong, Nick McMahan, Nick Tuggle

The descriptions under the photo thumbnails in the album sometimes contain links to maps or additional information. These are identified by "Blue” text for links. I've also inserted links to Google Maps to show where certain photos in the album were taken or to locate features shown in the photos. Click on the link, close the sidebar, and choose satellite view. Basically, you can then zoom in and out using the mouse wheel or drag the map by clicking and holding.

For panoramic photos, I would recommend clicking on the thumbnail photo to enlarge. View at original size for most detail. The thumbnails do not do justice to petroglyphs and pictographs, so I would recommend enlarging them as well. Please take the time to view the many videos to better experience what it was like to be there.

Troop 24 Kickass Trekkers Backpacking Trip
-Cascade Bill Mooseker


Date(s): May 22, 2017. Album by Cascade Bill. 1 - 78 of 78 Total. 166 Visits.
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To get the plugin just Google "videolan" or CLICK HERE FOR DOWNLOAD for Windows. There is a MAC version as well. Disable the Quicktime plugin if you use Videolan. To view fullscreen videos click the icon on the top right of the video when it starts playing.

If you want to save photos to your computer, click the box under the thumbnails of the photos you want to download. Then click the "Download" button at the top of the album. Pick the size you'd like to download (Original is best)and the photos will be downloaded to a folder of your choice.



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The Kane Gulch Ranger Station is open only from 8 AM till noon for getting your backcountry permit.  When we got there at 7:45, we were dismayed to find a large crowd gathered at the door because we were under the gun to meet our shuttle at the Collins Canyon trailhead at 10 AM.
Fortunately, the ranger asked if anyone had reservations for their permit.  We were the only ones who had so we got to go in first.


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Here we are at the Government Trailhead - Bill showing Nick T. and Nick M. the route on his maps.  After getting our permit and watching the mandatory video (for the 3rd time), we hit the road for our starting point - the Government Trail.  It takes about an hour and when we got there we dropped off all our packs along with Will and the two Nicks. Mike and I then headed off to meet our shuttle at Collins Canyon.

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Getting the gear stowed away - you can see the stock pond beyond.  This is where we ended out 2016 hike as shown HERE.

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The Subaru emptied of its load.

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"Last Words"


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Heading back up the road.  The last half mile of the Gov't Trail road is pretty rough as you can see here.

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This is  a road?

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Over the rocks.

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Back on UT261, the Bears Ears in the distance.

For a map of the drive from Gov't Trail to Collins Canyon CLICK HERE


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Another view of the Bears Ears.  We drove through them in 2012 on our trip to Dark Canyon. For a photo album of that trip CLICK HERE

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360 view from Government trail across Cedar Mesa.
As we were driving to meet our shuttle, Will and the Nicks headed out on the trail.


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Meanwhile back on the trail, Nick T. got a shot of this cactus in bloom.

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Nick M.'s photo of this Prickly Pear cactus bloom.

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Bill's photo (much later) of another Prickly Pear cactus bloom along the Gov't Trail.

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Panoramic shot of Grand Gulch at Polly's Island from the rim.

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Looking down into Polly's Canyon.

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Video showing 360 degree view of Grand Gulch from the rim where the Gov't Trail (note post in video) begins its descent into the canyon.


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Panoramic shot of Grand Gulch, Polly's Island, and Polly's Canyon.
Our camp was in the cottonwoods where the canyons come together - L to R: Grand Gulch downcanyon, Rincon around Polly's Island, Grand Gulch up canyon, and Polly's Canyon.


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Looking down into Grand Gulch - the trail leaves the rim here to switchback down to the wash.

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The Subaru at Collins Canyon Trailhead.  We made it to the trailhead at 5 min after 10 to meet our shuttle, which was waiting for us with a 12 passenger van instead of the jeep we thought was going to be there. The van was a little slower than the jeep would have been but we didn't have to pay the extra.

We enjoyed the ride and the conversation with the Four Corners Adventures driver,Lane Palmer. While Lane was waiting for us he had been braiding a yucca cord.  When we got back to the Gov't Trail, he taught Mike how to do it.


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While Mike and I were dropping the Subaru off at Collins the Two Nicks were fooling around with the "Fisheye" lens at the rim.

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Nick T. and Will heading down from the rim.

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Finally on the trail almost 4 hours after we dropped of the gear.  That sure is a long shuttle.  In 2000, they were more lax with the permits as the volunteers at the ranger station (a trailer) usually were open in the afternoon or put the permits on a bulletin board outside the trailer if they weren't there. We got our permits the afternoon before and were able to shuttle the cars that same day we got to Cedar Mesa and get an early start the next morning.  To be fair, we were going down Bullet Canyon which is much closer than the Gov't trail.

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Mike - mountains in the background are "The Windgate" on the left and Moss Back Butte on the right

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On the mesa top you can't tell that there are deep canyons there.

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The two Nicks came all the way back after climbing back up to the rim and most of the way to the trailhead so they could carry my pack for me.  Nick M. carried it to the rim and Nick T from the rim to our camp.  Bless them for making it easier on an old man.

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The Nicks forging ahead with my pack along the trail to the rim.  At the end of the video, you can see the Bears Ears in the distance.


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Approaching the rim.

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Approaching the rim and then descending down switchbacks along the trail.


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Nick Tuggle, Nick McMahan, and Mike Stong at the canyon rim - you can see the post (to the right) that used to have the trail signs attached: See Here in 2002

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Looking down into Grand Gulch at Polly's Island.

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Looking down canyon from the rim.

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Following the trail down.

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While Nick Tuggle, Mike, and I headed down the trail, Nick McMahan did a little scrambling and found this crack to squeeze through.

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View of the "crack"

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Nick M. also found this petroglyph panel - note the 4 Kokopellis which are pretty rare in Grand Gulch (from my visits anyway).
(Click thumbnail to enlarge photo)


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Almost to the bottom and we can see that there is a lot less water here than there was a year ago - Same view in 2016

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Nick T. rounding a switchback.

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Mike and Nick - couple more switchbacks to go to the bottom.

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Nick Tuggle carrying my backpack.

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Nick pointing to ruins under the rim of Polly's Island.

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Polly's Island ruins that Nick was pointing out.

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Bill taking photo of Polly's Island ruins.

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Panoramic view of our camp at the mouth of Polly's Canyon.

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After we had lunch, everyone but me Hiked up the canyon to see the Big Man panel.


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Nick M. doing a little off trail exploring up canyon from Pollys Canyon.

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Hiking up the wash in the late afternoon.

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The wash skirts the canyon wall.

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Desert "varnish" stains the red rock of the canyon wall.

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Heading up canyon from Pollys Island to the Big Man Panel.


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Panoramic view of canyon from ledge above wash.

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Wind sculptured canyon walls.

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Bee pollinating some desert blooms.

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Magenta colored prickly pear blooms.

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Granary spotted.

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Granary on ledge.

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Nick M. inspecting small granary.

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Granary shows some dilapidation.

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Nick M and Mike at the Big Man Panel.

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Nick M at Big Man panel.

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"Sometimes there's a man, well... he's the man for his time and place". - Nick McMahan.

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The two Nicks inspect the panel.

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Video of the Big Man Panel.


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The "Big Man".

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Overview of panel.

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Secondary figures, hand prints, and bearpaw on the panel.

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The late afternoon sun emphasizes the combination of petroglyph and pictograph techniques in the figure.

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Torso of the Big Man.

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Details of the Big Man's head.

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Nick McMahan climbs to vantage point located HERE.

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Nick at vantage point at mouth of small side canyon.

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Nick M's video from vantage point above canyon.


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Prickly Pear cactus with yellow blooms growing out of the rocks.

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Yellow prickly pear blooms.

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Panoramic view of canyon.

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