My watch alarm beeps in the darkness of 4AM. I lean outside the tent flap and release the shutter cable. The night is warm and quiet. Andra and I step out of the tent into the warm night Ė the warmest so far- and survey the view of the galaxy that is presented above through the moonless night. So many stars to admire, so little time. After sequential side trips to the bushes, we hop back in the tent and sleep the wee hours of the morning away.
Later, the sun rises and wakes us up at 8:30. Breakfast is only a Clif bar each, to save time, and we are packed and on the trail by 9:15. The hike back on this day is perfect. We go slowly, pausing to enjoy these wonderful places neither of us may see again. We stop on both sides of Coyote Bridge for photos, both sides of Hamblin Arch for food, and the magnificent 60 meter overhang between those two sides. On the west side of the arch we sit in the warm sun and have PBJs. The sunís shadow cruises across the ground at an almost noticeable pace, covering about 20 feet in the 15 minutes we are stopped. The high canyon walls magnify the sunís movements, acting as a sort of lever that propels the shadow along.
Near the confluence with Hurricane Wash we stop at an alcove located on the north bank between Hurricane and an unnamed side creek. This place is wonderful. The curve of the canyon has created an air current that has carved out a giant hole in the rock in the shape of a wedge: a classic alcove 60í deep, 100í wide and 50í tall. Inside, 3 levels of soft sand provide us with the perfect napping spot. Andra unrolls her thermarest and I lean against my pack for a snooze. We loiter for an hour in the cool shade, watching the gentle shimmer of cottonwood leaves in the wash outside. If I ever return, Iíll camp near here.
Reluctantly, we shoulder packs and continue upstream through the willows and shallow current. Near the site of Mondayís camp, we stop just outside of the shadow of an overhang for camp. Andra reads and dozes, still not feeling energetic. I move off to filter water, and find a deep pool near the confluence with Coyote where I sit in the warm sun on a grassy bank and employ all my arm strength in pumping the clogged filter. I pump slowly, out of necessity, and watch tiny fish glide along just inches below the surface. I swing by camp and drop off the water, then I find access to the slickrock jungle above the rim and stroll around, sweating. It is 5 PM, and though the sun is low, the air is very warm. The afternoon air is still and quiet, with a sense of waiting for evening. Even the bugs are silent.
After a satisfying walk, I return to camp. Andra is awake and reading. I leave again, this time to explore the side canyon from which we got our clear drinking water days before. Though choked with vegetation, I plow into the canyon, and use a downed Fremont cottonwood as a bridge over the deep stream to the east side, where there is more room to maneuver. I bushwhack through a trackless jungle of brome grass, mountain mahogany and Gambel oak for ¼ mile, cross back to the west side and climb up to an oak-covered bench that provides difficult access to a sandstone ledge, 75í above the water. I follow this wide and downward-sloping ledge (about 50í wide) for another ¼ mile. Free of vegetation, I can finally see the architecture of the canyon. A dry fork enters nearby but access is denied courtesy of a 20í dryfall. The main canyon, continuously choked with vegetation, continues out of sight around a bend. I follow the ledge around a gentle corner where it abruptly falls off to the canyon floor. I see no footprints, and leave none until I get back to the canyon floor where it canít be helped. As in coming, my exit from this side-canyon of a side-canyon of a side-canyon of Glen Canyon is marked by brutal scratches on legs and arms from unyielding shrub limbs. Shouldíve worn pants, or perhaps kevlar. Despite that, the trip is a success. I can rest assured I wonít daydream about what the canyon was like that I didnít explore, as Iíve done for others. This on lies safely out of the way and canít haunt me with an opportunity lost.
Back in camp after an hour of strenuous hiking, I find that Andra has
pitched the tent on a hill 20í above us and even unrolled air mattresses
and bags. We quickly commence with dinner, the time being about 7 and the
sun getting low. We prepare an official backpacking dinner pouch (rare
for us) of vegetable pasta parmesan. It is quite tasty. I supplement this
with beef jerky and M&Ms. After dinner we take a short walk, post-sunset,
to admire the canyon curves from above in the calm twilight. The moon is
bright as we zip up the tent for bed. I set up my camera just outside the
tent flap, pointing north, to trigger a long exposure, but hold off because
of the bright moon. I set my alarm for 10 oíclock and wake up long enough
to trigger the exposure on the camera outside. The night is warm, and I
sleep the best night of the trip.