2011 Easter Hike

Easter was being hosted near Logan this year. I have a dozen cave related things up there I have been meaning to do for quite a while now, and it seemed like I should check something off the list finally. Most of the items I have in wait are not compatible with anytime earlier than about July, but I thought of one that might work.

A couple years ago on my way home from another trip, I had stopped and wandered off the road a ways looking at cliffs and canyons for future trips. In the deep shade of some trees there was a darker patch than even the regular shadows. With a 10x zoom it was still just a darker spot. But the nearby cliffs had “cavey” looking signs on them. So I made a mental note that it should be checked out on a later day. Easter was now looking like my potential day!

The approach to my target was up a south facing slope and along a ridgeline for a ways to bypass the worst of the cliffs. It is still early enough in the season that there is plenty of snow on the north slopes, but the southern exposures seemed likely to be clear. I convinced Steph that she was interested in getting out in the sun for a few hours, and we headed out on the condition that we be back for dinner with everyone on time.

Once up the canyon I explained our goal to Steph in highly technical terms, from the best vantage point we could find along the roads. “We’re going to start walking from wherever we can park along the road back down there, and end up somewhere over there, by the cliffs and trees.”  Steph chose to roll with the vague description and wild pointing in the interest of simplicity. For those who haven’t been in Logan Canyon, I could have randomly spun in a circle and pointed, and hit something that could be described as “cliffs and trees” almost anywhere the length of the canyon.

We started out from the car with a lung numbing ascent up a steep hillside. For some reason most of my trips start out this way. I would take advantage of frequent “photo breaks” to try and pick out interesting items in the cliffs across the canyon with my camera fully zoomed. After we had successfully survived the trip and were driving home later, Steph pointed out that starting hikes like that has made her realize how close the words hill and hell really are to each other. Luckily I was able to bait her along by pointing out that once we hit the ridgeline it was relatively level the rest of the way. She doesn’t really believe comments like that anymore, but she humors me by continuing to grind up the hill anyway.

We did eventually reach the ridgeline, after a few more Gatorade stops. And were even rewarded with some spectacular views off the cliffs as we worked our way around. Unfortunately, there was considerable snow still drifted on the northern slopes around us. My potential lead was down in a steep ravine on a north slope, so I was fairly certain we weren’t going to get in it. But with all the hard work of the climb behind us, it seemed worthwhile to walk over and at least see if we could check off whether we would ever need to return up that hill again.

We started working our way along the “level” ridgeline toward the ravine in question. I use the term level loosely. Overall we were going to end up at the same elevation, but there were several short climbs and descents as we tried to pick our way around occasional snow fields. Eventually we hit a snowfield that was conveniently on a flat section, but 100′ across with no bypass. It looked mostly melted and shallow, and wouldn’t be a showstopper. But we knew it wouldn’t take much more than that to end our journey. We headed across the snow, and found it was crusty under the top half inch of slush. Unfortunately just crusty enough that you would walk a few steps, get confident, and the next step plunge through ankle or calf deep. Luckily it was a short patch, and we could see the clear ground ahead of us again.

On our clear patch it was smooth sailing until we were within a few hundred feet of the edge of our target ravine. Suddenly we were confronted with a new snow patch caused by drifting in a depression area and some trees. This was no longer ankle deep, it was knee deep and occasionally more. Steph surprised me by being the one to point out our socks were already cold and wet from the last stretch, and we were so close it wouldn’t make sense to back out now. (I had already spent considerable time muttering to myself about the extra 30 seconds it would have taken to grab the gators from the house and carry them along, as I should this early in the season.) Since Steph was game, we postholed our way across to where we could see down into the ravine. This was deeper snow, and Steph found herself knee deep and beyond a few times. Its hard to convince your wife that you care deeply about her cold pants and wet feet when you can’t wipe the grin off your face as she staggers in front of you.  Video evidence of snow on the hike was her suggestion, and she even edited it into a short clip for your viewing pleasure. It was a great view back down toward the canyon across the cliffs, and we took a break along with some pictures.

The moment of truth had arrived! We wandered around a bit on the short cliff above the ravine, and determined there was no way we could get into it. Drifts as much as 6-10 feet high on the edges, and not enough manuvering room to see the exact spot I wanted. So no definite confirm or deny on the trip. However, from our different vantage point on the edge of the ravine, we could see the far side of the ravine that was hidden from further away. There was one very obvious suspect hole at the base of cliff. Only 5 or 6 feet high, with a lot of rocks and dirt in the entrance, but it looked very likely that it went at least a short distance. Above it in the cliff was another hole that looked very suspect, but not quite enough room to get out and see it without an ability to hover.

We called it a day at that point, and had a relatively uneventful journey back down the mountainside. Steph would have to occasionally ask me why I was wandering the wrong way, and I would point the small rock outcrop that should be checked out since we were there, had time, and weren’t certain when we would be back. As I put it, “Because I’m defective like that.” We found a few treasures of interest, including what appeared to be an old deer skull.

To sum up our findings: The cliff bottom hole looks interesting enough on its own to come back at a later date and poke around a little. The ravine would be trivially easy to enter from above without the snow, and a few hours with a couple people would check off most of the area around it to determine if I had really seen a larger entrance. We could hear flowing water below us somewhere in the ravine, but it wasn’t clear if it was simply runoff splashing off a cliff or something more. It isn’t the highest priority on my follow-up list, but certainly worth climbing that hill at least once more on a cool autumn day. I again encounter the active explorer’s curse: so many projects, so little time.

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