Responsibility is finally getting the best of me, and it’s time to find a real job again. (although “real” is fairly subjective…) I’ll be making the drive back to Alaska in a few days, which means I had exactly one last trip to wrap up my spring canyoneering season.

And what a sweet trip it was. Wyoming Dave and Penny invited a handful of folks out for a week of classic Cedar Mesa canyons, and a couple “explorations.” The weather was on and off, in typical Utah spring fashion, but we made the necessary adjustments and got in a handful of really excellent days.

Day 1 – Duckett Canyon & Short Canyon

You know a canyon is pretty good when you do it twice in 6 days. It is that good. Takes about 4 hours, car to car, which leaves just enough time in the day to lounge around camp, take a little siesta, and then bag another short canyon in the afternoon.

Short was a fantastic little slot as well, except that little surprise at the end. The description we had said the slot was only 125 meters long. Not exactly. I think it is substantially longer than that. It also mentioned a 25 meter swim that necessitated wetsuits. I wet my finger on my tongue, stuck it up in the air, got a rather scientific measurement on the ambient temperature, and decided a wetsuit was totaly ridiculous.

Turns out, the 25 meter swim isn’t always a swim, but it is probably always a deep wade. And it’s spring fed. And it’s REALLY cold. Like, my legs were numb in 15 seconds kind of cold. There were at least a handful of lady-like screams, and they weren’t coming from the ladies. Oh well, we were fine without wetsuits, but only because the canyon is so short.

But don’t be fooled by how short it is, it’s a great slot, and the petroglyphs are a nice way to top off the afternoon.

Oh yeah, what about the surprise? I’ll let Lisa’s writing tell the story; you’ll feel like you were actually there…

“Where’s the Beef?”
Lisa Jennings

Short Canyon is good. It’s a highly hedonistic minislot which serves up plenty of pleasure with little effort. This, I can deal with.

Short Canyon is packed with nice narrows, challenging downclimbs and deep wades. Toward the end of the canyon, we rounded a corner and came upon a surprisingly pungent discovery. A skinny wading pool wiggled downcanyon in front of us. The water glowed with a beautiful shade of kelly green, which is an unusual color for a canyon pool. We sniffed at a strange smell in the air. Is that a big rock in the middle of the pool? NO. It’s a big, puffy dead cow. The poor creature must have wandered upcanyon and then was unable to turn around.

Although our pungent find was undeniably nasty, on some level we found it grotesquely delightful. Cameras clicked wildly. We began to plan a safe passage around the bloated beast. A ledge traverse around the pool seemed to be the surest method of avoidance. Four-paw traction should be employed. Plunging suddenly into the fertile green goo would be a grave (and embarrassing) consequence! Surely if anyone took the plunge they would become the subject of many fireside stories during the coming season. Additionally, until the soiled wetsuit could be properly sterilized the “plunger” may be excluded from vehicle shuttles during the upcoming week, too. We mulled over the consequences, and then we got to it.

John skillfully traversed around the putrid water. He waited at the end of the pool, now unfortunately downwind. He appeared to be suppressing dry heaves as he took pictures of my “tentative traverse”. Dan’s musical laughter echoed behind me and his camera busily clicked as I clung to the ledge, employing maximum friction as I made my way around the pool. The “tentative traverse” served us well that day. No one took the plunge.

We enjoyed a nice arch and pictographs before taking the climbers exit on right. Hopefully a flood will wash that stinky beast downcanyon soon!

Day 2 – Cowboy

I have mixed feelings about Cowboy. On one hand, there is some very beautiful spots in there. On the other, it is a lot of walking, most of it rather uninteresting. Regardless, it was worth the day, and the chamber rappel is certainly worth seeing. It probably won’t be a canyon I go back for again anytime soon.

Day 3 – North Wash Mini-Slots

With bad weather threatening, we decided it was time to bail off Cedar Mesa and head to the more protected environs of North Wash. It looked like rain was imminent, so a short noncommittal canyon was the logical choice. Most of us had never done Morocco, so it was a quick and easy choice.

Come noon, rain was still threatening, but it hadn’t actually hit yet. So we quickly ran up Hogwarts, did a few rappels, and beat the rain back to camp.

Day 4 – Benign Canyon

Day 4 dawned sunny and breezy, despite the rain fall throughout the evening. It was good enough for us, so we rallied for another short canyon that Dave and I had scouted a few weeks earlier. We knew from scouting there was some decent meat in the canyon, including one pothole that would present some challenges to defeat.

As it turns out, the canyon was better than I had even imagined during the scouting trip, and was full of a variety of different features. The pothole, though it looks malignant, is in fact, benign. Potshots wouldn’t hold, but partner assists did the trick.

Day 5 – Black Hole

It’s a classic. What more needs to be said? We had a beautiful day, great light, warm weather, and still got cold. But man, that’s a good ol’ romp.

Day 6 – Duckett, again

By day 6, we had acquired a new group of partners, which hadn’t been around for the first descent of Duckett. The plan called for us to do a middle gravel, but the weather was not going to cooperate. A quick rally, and we were left with a deja-vu duckett. Not that I minded, it’s a lot of play for very little pay.

That night, the wind picked up, the clouds got darker, and we were nearly blown off the plateau. So on that note, we wrapped it up and headed home. Not a bad way to end the season.

Hat tip to Wyoming Dave, Penny, Eric & Lisa, John, and Carol for putting up with me all week, making great food, and rallying when the weather suggested otherwise.