Monday, September 24: Day 5 - Upper Cabin Bottom --> Deadhorse Canyon
Weather: mid-60sF (hot) last night, warming to high 80sF by afternoon, light intermittent breezes all day with strong winds beginning at about 13:30
Route: follow the river to just upriver from Turks Head Ledge -> walk around base and lower ledges of Turks Head to ruins -> follow the river to Deadhorse Canyon
- The bats were still out until the sun's rays peaked over the cliff at 8:30 this morning. There was another hike on our itinerary today so we planned to only paddle 5 miles. Being half-way finished our trip we have developed more efficient breakfast, cleanup and canoe-loading routines. We were on the river by 9:30.
- On the 4-mile paddle to Turks Head we saw Ducks, Canada Geese and a Mule Deer drinking at the shore.
- The haul-out for the Turks Head trail was not obvious. Even when our map co-ordinates and our young friend's GPS confirmed that we had arrived we could not believe it. Securing the canoes to willows on the steep bank took some time. Willow saplings served as hand-holds to help us scramble up the dusty bank to a narrow ledge. It was 11:00 and hot. The trail squeezed through a narrow, pleasantly cool, rock tumble and followed the base of the cliff north to 2 Ancient Puebloan ruins tucked under cliff overhangs. About 2000 years ago these hunter/gatherer natives began learning farming techniques. They grew maize, beans and squash and domesticated turkeys and dogs. Although they still hunted and gathered wild foods, they established a base settlement to which they always returned. Their homes and granaries seem primitive to us but consider how well they fit into the cliff alcoves and how long they have lasted. The builders knew the first rule of home-building: location, location, location! A few cairns marked the continuation of the trail over boulders up to higher ledges where we found 4 more dwellings. Our lady friend and I wandered around on the ledges for a while, inspecting various types of small rocks and enjoying the great views. The rock shards were not sandstone. They did not seem to belong in this landscape at all. Were they flint cutting tools brought by the Puebloans? Kelsey wrote that he saw a lot of chert (flint) in this area. Eventually we thought we should find the fellows. Taking a more adventurous boulder route off the ledge we met them again on the lower trail but dawdled behind to admire the hardiness of delicate-looking desert flowers we passed.
- As we were pushing away from the bank, a group of 3 canoes arrived. Good timing!
- At 13:00 the strong wind gusts made us work a little harder to paddle the final mile to tonight's campsite. Our lady friend warned us that we might have strong winds to paddle into. The wind wasn't as brutal as what she had every day 30 years ago and not as treacherous as what we experienced on the French Broad River this Spring but we were glad to be done for the day. Planning for a short day paid off with a bit of luck.
- Deadhorse Canyon had a large gravel put-in area extending out of a red dust wash with minimal mud. We liked it already! We didn't like that the campsite access was into the wash 100' then up steep sand ledges for another 300' but we ended up in a huge canyon bowl with great views. Definitely worth it!
- Before unloading we ate cheese-nut butter sandwiches, figs and snacks and rehydrated. By now the notorious river wind was blowing upriver hard enough to form waves.
- After a hot hour of hauling gear and food to the campsite, Hubby and I took advantage of the clear water and gravel bed to wash the trail dust out of our shirts and pants with soap (biodegradable) and rinse them in the current, washing ourselves next and finally putting the wet clothes back on to dry them. Cool! In a few minutes we were dry enough to change from boat shoes to hiking boots for the rest of the night.
- We didn't try to find the petroglyphs Kelsey marked as being 300-400 meters up the Deadhorse Canyon trail from our campsite. We had time but just forgot to check the map for points of interest. Darn!
- By 16:30 the wind had died, the water was glassy calm and the oblique evening light was highlighting the Turks Head and Candlestick Tower formations. When we first saw Turks Head this morning it didn't look very much like a Sultan's headdress but from our campsite we could now see the resemblance.
- The kitchen rock was in the shade by 17:00 -- time to cook. Dinner tonight was Kaipur Spinach Curry, pre-cooked brown rice and green beans. We only used 1 package of rice instead of 2 and all agreed that this was a better amount of food.
- Our young friend announced that we would have an hour after dark before the full moon rose. Using his Sky Guide app we learned where to look for the Cygnus constellation and watched for satellites moving across the sky. Despite our perceived isolation the quiet was interrupted several times by plane noise.
- By 8:30 we were all heading for our tents, first dusting out the fine silt that had blown in this afternoon. We are becoming accustomed to fine silt/mud sticking to everything. We all wished we could stay at this site for 2 more days, the best one so far.
- Deadhorse Canyon marks where the cliffs of Stillwater Canyon begin to close in. It is the end of the "bottoms" -- where animals could be grazed and crops grown -- until Spanish Bottom.