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 Cascade Bill (William Mooseker) | Home > Backpacking Trips > 2012-2019 Trips > 
Dark Canyon 2012
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Dark Canyon Wilderness, Utah
May 2012

Don't Tread on Me! - Canyon Resident We Met on Trail

Attendees: Bill Mooseker, Fred Stong, Joel Fuller, Nick McMahan

This was the 12th springtime trip to Utah's Canyons for the Troop 24 Kickass Trekkers. There were only four of us for this trip. I've often wondered about going to Dark Canyon, but the trailheads are above 8000 feet and usually are snow covered when we usually make our trips.

This year we were making the trip in mid May, and the access roads were open. It takes two days to reach the trailhead from Lynnwood. After a long, long first day we overnight in Tremonton, Utah (about a 700 mile day)

The next day was much shorter and we hoped to meet Fred at the National Bridges National Monument Headquarters in mid afternoon, but it took us longer as we were wandering all over Price, UT to find an auto parts store to get some fuses to fix the taillights on the Gray Ghost.

It was late afternoon when we pulled into the parking lot at National Bridges NM. We sorted out our gear and got our packs ready and transferred them to Fred's truck. Taking off we made our way on a fairly good dirt road up and through the Bear's Ears. We dropped the car off at the Peavine Trailhead and all of us piled into Fred's Truck for the long drive to the Big Notch Trailhead.

The Dark Canyon Wilderness is very remote, and we did not see many people during our trip. It was quite different from our other canyon treks due to the higher elevation. Water was a concern as 2012 was a very dry year, and any visitor should consult local sources for the latest information before making a trip here.

In order to locate where the photos in the album were taken i've used the online map tool, Acme Mapper. This is a superb application which gives you linked topo and aerial photo (google) maps. I used to use some Bing maps but those didn't work anymore, so I've converted them to Google Maps.

Note that photo titles ending in "Joel" are by Joel Fuller. The rest are mine.

Troop 24 Kickass Trekkers Backpacking Trip
-Cascade Bill Mooseker

Date(s): May 15 -19, 2012. Album by Cascade Bill. 1 - 214 of 214 Total. 5529 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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Fred, Joel, and Nick - Near the start of the trail at the Big Notch Trailhead.

After a long drive from Tremonton, we met Fred at the Natural Bridges NM parking lot.  After packing up our packs and getting our gear in order, we took off on a rough road up through the Bears Ears.

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Nick, Bill, and Joel at the Notch Trailhead, heading down into Dark Canyon.
The Big Notch Trailhead is located HERE

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The trail drops sharply and we were soon down on the valley floor.

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The trail crosses grassy flats, dotted with aspens and evergreens.

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Heading down the trail.  When you notice a faint fork in the trail head to the left to avoid a big gully which opens up and will leave you stranded.  If you see a big dropoff to your left head back to go down the other side close to the hill on the south side of the canyon.

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Rock formation across the canyon - the sun is dropping fast.

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Nick, Bill, and Fred - the sun is almost down and we start looking for a camp spot.

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"Canyon" Bill??

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Here you can see the "Gully" - it's deep with steep sides - we are on the south side.

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Heading down the Canyon as the sun sets.

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Rock formation across from our camp site - you can the the Gully in between.

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Joel - trying his hand at star photography.  Do you see the meteor he caught. Enlarge for best view.

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Another star shot.

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Nick, Joel, and fred on our first morning.  It was a great spot to camp and we were lucky that we didn't go much further as we were hiking down the wet and muddy Gully bottom for a long time.

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Fred and my tents.  Just beyond my tent the trail dips down into and crosses the gully to the other side.
Our Camp was located HERE

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Breakfast on a chilly morning.

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Looking down into the wash from our camp. You can see the trail climbing up the other side on a sandy slope.  There was a little water in the wash here.

The trail is shown here on this MAP

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Beautiful flower along the way - I couldn't identify it but you don't have to know what it is to enjoy it.

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Back on top of the vally floor on the north side of the gully heading down canyon.

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The rocks are similar to our other canyon hikes, but the evergreens are not.
After a while we came to a point where we had to descend down into the gully wash again.  
There was a trail up the other side so we took it only to find out that we were just on a peninsula between another gully coming down a side canyon.  Looking down we could see a trail going down the wash.
For Location: CLICK HERE

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Fred and I decided to go back down and head down the wash where we saw the trail.  Nick and Joel decided to drop down into the gully coming down the side canyon.  Not the most pleasant hiking as we had to contend with brush, mud, and water in the wash.
Eventually, Fred and I stopped for a break where we found a trail up out of the wash.  Nick went up to investigate.
I think that this is located HERE

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Fred and Joel, waiting for Nick to tell us if it was a go or not.  Our map showed that the trail up out of the wash was further back, but we never found it.  After looking around, Nick came back and told us that there was another side canyon gully blocking the way, so we decided to keep on going down the wash.

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A short while later we found another trail up the side - this is the view from the top.  Since a cairn marks the spot we were pretty confident that we were on the right path.

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Looking down canyon from the top of the trail to the bluff.
I think that this is located HERE

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The trail crossed the level valley floor headed towards this interesting rock formation.

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When we got near the rocks we could see that we had to cross another deep gully from a side canyon on the north side.  This was Drift Canyon, although I didn't realize it at the time and I thought that Drift was further down canyon.

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Looking down into the wash at Drift Canyon and back up canyon where we had come down (we had crossed the gully and climbed back up to the valley floor).  You can see the steep trail down the side of the gully and that there was a little water Drift Canyon.

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Another view looking up canyon.
The wash crossing is located HERE

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Looking across to the rock formations on the other side of Drift. You can see Nick if you look closely.

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Bill hiking through the sage brush.

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Close up view of the rock formation at the mouth of Drift Canyon.

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Fred and Bill.

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Fred rounding the rock at the mouth of Drift.

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Joel and Nick at the mouth of Drift Canyon.

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After rounding the rocky point at the mouth of Drift, the trail entered a wooded basin - this view is looking back up canyon.

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Fred at some of the Ponderosa pines in the basin - very pleasant spot.

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I'm gettin too old for this!

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Rounding another knob, we find rocky cliffs surrounding the next little basin - as we walked by, Joel spotted a ruin in the cliff above.  Enlarge the photo and see if you can find it.

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Telephoto view of ruin.  I don't know how they got up there. Enlarge for best view.

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Another view.

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After passing the basin with the cliff ruin, the next basin (or more correctly a "box canyon" harking back to my Gene Autry and Roy Rogers terminology) was a large meadowed one.  We left the trail to find a good spot for lunch (as seen here). After lunch Nick and Joel took off to explore the basin.  As Fred and I waited, the sky clouded up and we had a short period of wind and rain.

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This is the rock buttress at the south end of the box canyon where we had lunch. You can see what looks to be an alcove.  Nick and Joel went on down the trail while Fred and I went up to explore the alcove.

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Getting a closer view of the alcove. We dropped our packs and went up to explore.

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In the alcove are a few random rocks - remnants of a ruin? probably not.

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Looking back up canyon from the alcove.
This box canyon is located HERE

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Hiking down from the alcove, I was holding the camera and I accidently snapped this photo.  Fred and I decided that we would explore the basin.

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Desert paintbrush - seems "stringier" than those in Cascade meadows.

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Telephoto looking back to the up-canyon end of the meadow.

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Fred heading to the upper end of the meadow.

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Fred climbed up the rocks at the head of the basin and got this photo.

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Video taken by Fred as he climbed up the cliff at the head of the meadow.

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View from the cliff looking back toward the main canyon.

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View looking back along the cliffs surrounding the meadow.

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Another view.

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After our side trip, we returned to our packs and headed back down canyon. Rounding the Rocky point that had the alcove, we traversed another small basin.  Rounding the bluff at the end of the basin, we were surprised when we found that we had arrived at the Scorup Cabin at the mouth of Horse Canyon.  This is a view looking down canyon at the mouth of Horse Canyon.

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Fred sitting on the steps of the Scorup Cabin, reading the history of Al Scorup a copy of which can be found online:
We camped at the campsite Located Here.

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The Scorup Cabin. Photos of the interior of the cabin can be found HERE
The cabin was originally located in Rig Canyon (1927) where it was used as a base for an oil drilling operation until it was moved here in 1930 for the summer headquarters of the Dugout Ranch Cattle cowboys. In 1970 the cabin was turned over to the Forest Service.

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Nick heading up Horse Canyon - Nick and Joel took an afternoon sidetrip a ways up Horse.

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Horse Canyon is wide at the mouth with a big meadow.  
Fred was telling me about the book "Dark Canyon" by Louis L'amor with it's tales of rustlers hiding cattle in it's side canyons. Horse Canyon does appear to be a place to hide a bunch of steers.

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Nick in Horse Canyon.

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Claret Cup cactus flowers in Horse Canyon.

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Close up of Claret Cup flowers.

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Group of Claret cup flowers.

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Nick doing some "bouldering" in Horse Canyon.

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Note the interesting hoodoo's in the background.

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Looking up Horse Canyon from it's mouth.

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Fred in Horse Canyon.

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View of Horse Canyon.

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Cattlemen's shed near Scorup Cabin - filled with interesting junk.

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phlox flowers near Scorup Cabin.

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View from near the "waterfall" below Scorup Cabin.

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Waterfall at Scorup Cabin - there was some seepage but no water coming down the wash.  There was a big pour-off pool below the falls.

Off to the right of this picture there was a pipe (3/4" maybe) jutting out from the hill dripping water.  We would put our big pot under the drip and come back an hour or so later to transfer it to our 5 gal jugs.

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Looking down canyon from the "falls".

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Fred - Heading out on our 3rd day.  This is really an impressive view.

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The Old Man.

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Another view.

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Looking back towards the falls.  It was very swampy here and we had to make detours frequently to avoid going over out boot tops.

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Hoodoo down canyon from Horse Canyon.

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Further down the canyon, the wash dries up.  This is another "Falls" as noted on the topo map. The road (accessible by ATV from Peavine Canyon) winds around this spot.
This Pour-off is located Here

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Looking back up canyon.  You can see the road as it comes down the bank into the wash from a side canyon.

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Another bank of phlox flowers.

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Horned toad - the first I've seen.

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When we got to the mouth of Peavine Canyon, we met this group of hikers who are members of a seniors bicycle club who were doing the Woodenshoe - Peavine Canyon loop trip.  It's all relative when I say senior as they were all junior to me.  They told us that other than where we were, there was no water available until the spring just up canyon from the Mouth of Trail Canyon.
We had planned to camp somewhere near Rig Canyon, but with no water our options were either staying put or hiking all the way down to the next water.  As it was still early in the day, we decided to hike all the way down the canyon.

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Looking up Peavine Canyon. You can see the "Seniors" heading up the trail.

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Nick at the mouth of Peavine - we took a break for lunch here.

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Nick looking for a little shade!

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If you look closely you can see the Peavine Arch in the rocks above.

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A view of the arch.

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Another view.

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Close up of Phlox flowers.

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Another view looking towards Peavine Arch from the wash at the mouth of Peavine Canyon.

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On our way down to Rig Canyon - this shot is looking back up canyon to Steamboat Point,which is the peak dividing Dark (which goes to the left) and Peavine (which goes to the right).  The path here is the Peavine-Rig Corridor which is a strip in the wilderness that allows ATV access.

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Joel & Nick ahead on the way to Rig Canyon.

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At the mouth of Rig Canyon, the ATV track turns left and heads up Rig Canyon.  The backpacker trail (no vehicles) turns right for a few hundred yards and then heads back down Dark Canyon.  This photo shows Fred along the stretch between Rig Canyon and Poison Canyon.

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Some flowers along the way.

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Almost to the mouth of Poison Canyon.

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Now heading down the main canyon after the junction with Poison Canyon - Dark Canyon is a broad valley now with imposing buttresses along it's length.
The wash is to the left as the trail shortcuts a loop in the wash - note that the headland above is the same one as in the previous picture.

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This one faked me out - I thought we had reached the big loop that the trail shortcuts, but this is just one of the many side canyons.  We still had a long way to go.

For location of Photo: CLICK HERE.  
If you put the coordinates into Google Earth, you get the view shown in the photo when you switch to "Ground View".

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After a while the following amphitheater massif comes into view - It would take a long time to get past it.
The trail is sometimes in the wash and then it will climb up on the banks as we go around loops and bends.

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A close up view of the Amphitheater. Very Scenic, but strange that it doesn't have a name.

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Joel's photo of some Cryptobiotic Soil along the way.  You're not supposed to walk on this as it destroy's the colony.

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Another shot.

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This little guy was laying astride the trail when we came by.  He scurried into this snug hiding place, where he was shaking his rattle very vigorously.

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Little rattle snake seen along the trail - this is the first one I have seen in my many years of hiking and growing up in Penna.

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Right next to the rattlesnake was this birdnest - sorry for the focus.

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We finally reached the big bend loop that the trail short circuits by going actoss the headland between the loop.  You can see Nick and Joel already down in the wash - as you can see we've climbed a fair amount above the wash.  The trail switchbacks down through the trees an re-enters the wash.

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For location of the Photo: CLICK HERE.

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View from the headland we crossed over, looking back up the loop we were shortcutting.

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Joel got this shot of Nick at night at our campfire in our camp.  It was a long, long day and I was too tired to take any pictures.  The spring fed water in the wash was really a welcome sight.

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For location of our camp CLICK HERE.

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Day 4: In the morning Joel and Nick climbed up to this point near our camp. Actually, the point is on the finger of land that the wash loops around.  We found that there was a trail across the headland that we missed as we were coming down the canyon.

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Joel about to roll a rock over the edge.
For location of this point CLICK HERE.

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Heading back up canyon (retracing our Day 3 hike) we see these landmarks as the trail switches in and out of the wash.

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It was a much brighter and sunnier day as we climbed back over the headland shortcutting the big loop in the wash.

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Fred on the trail over the headland.

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Hiking along the bank of the wash with this headland as a backdrop.

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Even closer as the wash loops around.

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Back in the wash.  Hiking in the wash was more difficult due to the loose sand - you can see the trail on the bank in the background.

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Nick and Joel find another Horned Toad.

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Close up - He doesn't appear to be amused.

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Nick with toad.

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These cactus flowers are comint into bloom.  If I were to hazard a guess, I would guess that it is one of THESE or closely related.

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Fred - almost to Poison Canyon.

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Fred - the trail goes through these pines.

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Fred Looking for the trail - we lost it crossing the wash, so we just kept heading up canyon. Unfortunately we were heading up Poison Canyon rather than turning into Dark Canyon.  It looked like it was the main canyon.  I did see this puny little wash coming in from the right but it didn't look like a major canyon so we just kept going.  When we couldn't find any trail or footprints we headed back.  I think that hooodoo above is just Poison Canyon giving us the finger.

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After bushwhacking around in the sage brush trying to find the trail, we found this old fencepost - at last a clue that humans had once come this way. All in all we pissed away about an hour.

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Finally we found the right trail - Here Fred takes a self portrait.

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If you look on the Google Satellite map you can see two circles at the mouth of rig canyon - These are corrals of some long gone cattle operation.
For location CLICK HERE.

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Fred took this video of the Corrals.

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Joel got this shot of me as I came up the backpacker trail to meet the ATV road at the mouth of Rig Canyon.
The sign says "Wilderness Boundary - No vehicles beyond this point. Violators will be prosecuted."

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Taking a break at Rig Canyon. Joel and Nick were wondering where the hell we had gotten to.

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Nick, Joel, and Bill.

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Heading back towards Peavine Canyon.

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We camped about a hundred yards up Peavine Canyon in a nice developed camp, located HERE.

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Sign at the mouth of Peavine Canyon.  Our starting point was at Big Notch on Rd #378.

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After we settled in, Joel and Nick took off to see if they could hike up to Peavine Arch, seen here.

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View of the arch.

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Another view.

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Extreme telephoto (as much as my camera allows) of arch.

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The following photos are from Joel and Nick's day hike up to the arch - Here is an old ruin they found along the way.

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Nick playing hide and seek.

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Another ruin - Steamboat Point across the valley.

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Getting closer to the arch.

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Nick looking for a route.

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They made it - Nick on the other side of the arch.

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Note that Nick and Joel are also mountain climbers.
For location of the arch CLICK HERE

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Slot along the way - These Ponderosa pines have found a home.

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Looking out another slot.

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Nick on the edge of another precipice.

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Walking along the edge - For location, CLICK HERE

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Another shot.

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Getting close to the monolith.

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Joel on top.  Looking back up Dark Canyon.

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Another view.

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Joel (why are his shorts pulled up?) from the same spot looking back to the monolith seen in previous photos.

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Nick looking over the edge - Steamboat Point is opposite.

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Another view.

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Nick on the Edge.

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View of the Cliff - that's quite a drop.

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Joel at the same spot.

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Joel - I think that this is where he is sitting: CLICK HERE

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Working their way back down.

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Now that looks scary to me.

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Looking back through the slot over to Steamboat Point.

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View from Slot - I think that this slot is located HERE.
The slot leads back to the Arch.

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Nick having a little fun.

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Doing a little bridging.

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DAY 5: Getting ready to leave camp.

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Fred squeezing the air out of his Thermarest.  Enlarge photo to see the elaborate fireplace.

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Nick and Joel pumping water for the day.

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We met John, a Doctor for the Hopi, who was doing the Woodenshoe-Peavine Loop.  He gave Nick and Joel, two 16 ounch cans of Coors, which made them fans for life.

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Heading up Peavine.

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Along the way we met several AWD convoys headed out for the weekend - The road appears to be fairly heavilly travelled.  If you're not the first vehicle in the convoy, you're eating a lot of dust.

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Lower Peavine is a wide open valley.  We passed several grassy meadows, such as those to the left.

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We found these bones along the way.

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Joel having a little fun.

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No, Joel did not carry these out.

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This looks like some kind of Dragonbone armor from Skyrim.

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Fred Taking a Break.

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Hiking up the road.

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Joel relaxing with a book.
We stopped for lunch where the backpacker trail up Peavine split off from the ATV road, which leaves Peavine Canyon and goes up Kigala Canyon to Little Notch.

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Nick - (When you're young and fit you can take a 500 page hardcover book along).  Note the Bearcans - we used them to keep the food organized and as camp chairs.

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Trail marker for the Junction - we were heading up the Peavine Trail.
The Junction is located HERE

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Fred heading up the Peavine trail.

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Fred crossing a sage brush meadow - It looks like the canyon is closing in a bit.

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Fred - Leaving the open sage we enter an aspen forest.  Very pleasant hiking.

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Very pretty along this stretch.

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Joel and Nick waiting for Fred and I at the water trough.

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Fred inspecting the water trough.

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We were going to camp here but there weren't any really good spots to camp so we decided to keep going.

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There isn't much flow here!

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Fred going up the trail.

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Fred heading up the trail - it almost seems that we are somewhere in the Pasayten.

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Joel & Nick - after giving up on camping at the water trough, we hoped to find a camp in upper Peavine where the creek would provide water.  We got there and it was very pleasant, but there were no camp spots.  We decided to hike out to the car and spend the night in Blanding.

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The guys headed out and soon left me behind.  This is the boundary of the Dark Canyon Wilderness.

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Some Lupine meadows.

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Joel's photo of the Sun through the trees.

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Another artistic shot.

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Fred hiking through the aspens - the last 1/2 mile was really steep gaining 500-600 feet.

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The sun is setting - we've had a long day.

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The trail marker near the trailhead.

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I'm finally in sight of the car - Joel came down and got my pack.  Even with the pack, he could go about three times as fast as I could.

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Going down the trail.

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The Sign at the trailhead.

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Another view.

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Bill and the "Silver Bullet" aka "The Gray Ghost" (1985 Camry).  This was the third trip to Utah for it.  On the way in we put all our stuff in Fred's truck and left my car here.  All we had to do was drive to the Big Notch trailhead.  On the way out, we had to drive to Big Notch and return with Fred's Truck.  
When we got back to the Peavine trailhead it was almost dark.  After packing everything up, we headed back through the Bear's Ears, chasing steers down the road.  Unfortunately, we got to Blanding just as the last restaurant was closing.  We had to settle for a Quik Mart sandwich.
The next morning we said our goodbyes to Fred and started on our two day trip back to Lynnwood.

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