Back in 2016, I went to Dark Canyon as part of my birthday celebration.
Though I enjoyed the trip, the portion of Dark Canyon where I hiked is noted more for subtle beauty and Ancestral Puebloan sites rather than jaw-dropping grandeur.
The portion of Dark Canyon accessed by another trailhead? Ah, well that’s another ball of wax.
Throughout four days, I explored a portion of Dark Canyon I have not seen before.
Unlike the last excursion to Dark Canyon, I’d be hiking with a companion. On the trip, I’d be joined by “Larry Boy.” We’ve corresponded quite a bit over the years and knew of each other through a podcast I’ve done in the past as well as corresponding on various ideas, thoughts, and unhinged rants I’ve inflicted upon any readers of this blog. 😉
LB is a resident of Utah and knows the area well through many hikes including section hiking the Hayduke route. Additionally, he finished a CDT thru-hike this past year and is in the middle of his vagabonding journey.
LB stayed the night at The Homestead and entertained Joan and me with stories of his recent travels. We all enjoyed a night of abundant food, good beer, and even better conversation.
The following morning, LB and I headed out to the trailhead for Dark Canyon.
A steep 1500′ descent over a mile is not only knee jarring but rapidly brings you to the world that is one of the most magical places in the Lower 48.
Red rock cliffs tower above and meet the blue sky. Cottonwoods blaze yellow with splashes of lush green vegetation dotting the flowing creek.
The mountains are rugged and awe-inspiring and the forests full of a particular enchantment and mystique.
But canyon country draws you in deep. Not just deeper into the canyon itself. But deeper into a realm that seems so isolated from the everyday experience. We can debate what wilderness is. But canyon country always feels wild.
The four days we spent in Dark Canyon did not seem to be that long at all. The time in the canyon took on that surreal quality that comes with the best wilderness journeys. Meaning time expands. Only backpacked four days. But four days full of exploration, new sights, and enjoying more time in a wild setting.
We briefly saw an Outward-bound type group on the first day for a brief moment of time. And after that? Only two solitary hikers.
But what did we see? A majestic bull elk with an antler display beyond impressive. And looking rather PO’d!
The elk started at us across up to the ledge where we ate our lunch. Through my camera viewfinder, I could see the elk’s nostrils flaring. The elk did not like us in his territory. And he stood his ground. He never left. We had to take a long route around him! (And, of course, we followed the LNT rule of thumb for wildlife.)
The days continued all in the same vein: Red rocks, ledges, streams, and starry nights with the Milky Way always present.
We eventually hiked out the same steep way we entered the canyon.
A cold beer, some leftover macaroni from a dinner a few days ago, and the desert landscape greeting us at the car proved to be the perfect ending to another memorable trip on the Colorado Plateau.