Into the Darkness – Dark Canyon, Utah

For my birthday I wanted to give myself the gift of time. A gift where I’d execute my plans and be solo exploring the backcountry.

Just time for myself.

No parties.

No plans where I had to coordinate with others.

Just what I wanted to do.

Time for myself immersed in the wilderness.

The weather patterns forced a change of my plans.

I would exchange the high alpine environment of the New Mexico Sangres for the high desert and red rock of Utah.

A bit of a longer drive, but I needed my outdoor time.

A place where I could hike and backpack. Without any excess red tape, permits or crowds.

I used my usual methods of finding a place that fit this criterion.

I’d explore Utah. I’d go to a place I have not gone before.

I’d go to Dark Canyon.

It would be a loop logistically easy and near the main road. And conveniently located near a national monument for the second part of my trip.

The after-work drive went late into the evening.  And I made more distance than I originally intended. But I was at the trailhead early enough the following day for a good start.

The descent into the canyon was beautiful.

The walk was pleasant.

Warm but not hot.

I walked along the canyon bottom and soon spotted an Ancestral Pueblo dwelling above the canyon.

I clambered above and made my way to the dwelling.

An amazingly well-preserved one. The wood looked to be original. The structure was sound. I was reaching almost a millennia into the past.

I looked over the canyon back to where I was. The feeling? Contentment.

I continued to make my way along the canyon bottom.

The stress of the work week was purged. Step by step, I was again myself.

The grandeur was not all bold and striking.  Much of it was subtle.

But the allure of the striking red rock and the starkness of the terrain can’t be denied.

The day was winding down.

I found a seep. And obtained adequate water for my camp.

I’d be camping below the red rock and in the sage.  The evening was approaching.

I prepared a “deluxe” birthday dinner of Mac n’ cheese with green chile peppers was perhaps not the best meal I’ve ever eaten…


…but the post-dinner light show was a perfect birthday present.

Darkness came, and I soon fell asleep under the night sky.

The following day I continued to make my way up the canyon.

The canyon widened and joined a jeep track.

The canyon narrowed, and single track was met up with again.

I gained elevation. Red rock was exchanged for aspen trees.

I decided to push on. The trip was ended in the evening rather than the following morning as initially intended.

I made it back to my vehicle at 8 PM.

I made a quick truck bivy and camped under the stars above.

A remote trip in a scenic area.

I was content. Happy. And satisfied.

And I still had more to see…

All the photos…

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Nick Gatel
Nick Gatel
8 years ago

Perfect. In so many ways.

Happy Birthday!