Wednesday, April 8, 2015
One of the benefits of being stationary in one place for 1-2 weeks is you get a chance to really explore and come to know the place. We haven't done any extensive hiking since we were in the Cottonwood area so I checked online (the Verizon broadband here at Goosenecks is amazing, by the way....4 bars of 3G) and found there was a hiking trail to the bottom of the canyon and the San Juan River called the 'Honaker Trail'. According to the description it is 2.5 miles each way with an elevation loss (going down) of 1,185 feet, and the same (obviously) returning. According to the description you could get within .25 miles of the trailhead via car on a well maintained dirt road.
We were ready for some adventure so we left the coach about 9:15 am to drive the 7 miles over to the trailhead....1/2 of that being on paved roads, and the balance on dirt. As it turned out we had to park about 1 mile short of the trailhead as there was a brief downhill section that was not passable by the low slung VW Beetle.....a regular car, or truck would have been fine, but the protruding rock formations would have caused us to 'high center' in the Beetle. It's all good though, right? We were there to hike, so we just parked at the top of the hill and began the 1 mile walk over to the trailhead arriving there in 20 minutes.
The online description advised there was a large rock cairn to mark the entrance to the trail, and I would have to agree.....it is quite large (see picture below).....the entrance to the trail is just to the left.
This trail was rated as 'strenuous' and I would have to call that accurate....I would rate it 'black diamond'.....a snow skiing reference for a very advanced ski trail. TLE saw the entrance to the trail and almost called it a day right then and there, but I convinced her she could do it, and we began our hike.
Typical of the trail condition
About half way down we began to see the elevation (in meters) above the river spray painted by someone in the past....here we are still 119 meters above the river.....looked further than that to me....
As you hike along it is rarely obvious where the trail will go, and you really have to pay attention. We were both very impressed with some of the trail construction......the picture below of one section is a great example of how the builder 'dry stacked' rock to make it possible to get through this section.
Below you can see one long, long traverse as it travels along the base of this massive rock formation.....we are about 2/3's the way down at this point.
Only 70 meters to go
This is the entrance to the trail that I took as we were exiting the trail
It took us exactly 2 hours to cover what turned out to be 2.9 miles to the bottom, not 2.5 as the website had indicated. Frankly, we were both surprised it only took two hours....this is probably one of the most difficult trails we have ever hiked.
We reached the river by 11:45, just two hours after we started. We took our shoes off and soaked them in the icy cold San Juan for a few minutes. There was another couple already there (Mike and Romelle) who had started their hike about 15 minutes before us. For some reason I completely forgot to take any pictures down at the river, but rest assured, we were there! Mike and Romelle are from Tehachapi, CA and informed us that they have spent the past 10 years hiking the top 50 trails of the Colorado Plateau, and that this hike was their 50th hike! Quite an accomplishment to say the least.
We left around 12:15 to begin the return trip to the top of the canyon thinking it might take us as much as 3 hours to climb out due to the difficulty of the trail, but in reality we reached the top in 1 hour 50 minutes.....we must be in better shape than we thought! Of course, we still had the 1 mile walk back to the car, but after the difficulty of the trail walking along a mostly flat dirt road was a cake walk. We arrived back at the car after just 4.5 hour of elapsed time, and were home by 3. Total hiking mileage for the day was 7.8 miles, and over 3300 feet of elevation gain/loss. Personally I was very impressed with TLE's performance......she never complained, and we rarely stopped for more than 2, or 3 minutes to rest.....she just plugged along at a pace she could sustain. There were 3, or 4 sections of the trail that made my stomach turn over once, or twice. This is not a trail for the faint of heart, the frail, or small children. We used our Leki hiking poles and were so thankful we had them with us, and on more than one occasion found ourselves sitting on our butts to get down some of the more difficult sections.
TLE suggested this was an occasion for a few ice cold brews so we each selected 2 each from my craft beer reserve and settled down to drink them......nothing much better than ice cold beer after a hard day of hiking!
An update on our solar system......our second day here (Sunday) we got back to 98%, and the last two days back to 96 percent. We're only losing 4-5% overnight. This morning I got up and we were only down to 92%.......our lowest overnight loss to date.
The wind continued to blow for the 3rd day in a row, but by Thursday things will be calm again. Fortunately the wind was not a factor down in the canyon on Tuesday.
Thanks for stopping by!