Spring Break Scout Hike: Grand Gulch in So. Utah

Troop/Crew 100 started the 2009 hiking season with a great 5 day backpack in southern Utah, in Grand Gulch.

We had 4 groups of participants, who started at 2 different trailheads, and camped at different campsites over a 5 day period.  Two groups started at Kane Gulch, and two started at Collins Springs.  The shortest route was 30 miles, and the longest was 50+ miles.  The route went through Kane Gulch and Grand Gulch, and for most parties their route included Bullet Canyon as an exit point.

Grand Gulch and Bullet Canyon are lined on both sides by high cliff walls, with almost every south facing alcove hosting small Indian ruins and some rock art.  We visited Split Level Ruin, Turkey Pen Ruin, Jailhouse Ruin, and Perfect Kiva, and numerous smaller unmarked and unnamed ruins.   Many ruins were small food storage sites, built up with rocks and mortar, with a small door which could be sealed shut with a square stone door.  If the door was sealed up with a square rock and mud, the granary would be deer proof, mouse proof, and insect proof.

The ruins were abandoned in 1300 AD en masse, as the inhabitants migrated to other areas.  Judging by the present availability of water, climate change must have been a reason for the migration.  The inhabitants are called Anazasi, and their descendents are the modern Zuni, Hopi, and Pueblo Indians.  The Navahos and Apaches appeared in the area around 1000 AD, and appear to have traded with the Anazasi, and sometimes conflicted with the Anazasi.  The Anazasi farmed corn, squash, and beans, and cooked in clay pots.  Corn cobs and stone flour grinders are present at many of the ruins.  In 200 BC beans were introduced to the area, which added a much needed protein source.  In 200 AD the technology of clay pots replaced the pitch coated woven baskets that were used to heat water.  The earlier culture was called the Basketmaker Culture, and their baskets and art was superior to the later Anazasi culture. The combination of beans and clay pots allowed the Anazasi’s food to be utilized more efficiently, which could have led to an increase in health and a population growth.

During our trip, water was present in shallow pools, often 6 inches deep, 2 feet wide, and 6 feet long.  These were located about every 5 miles on average.  Compared to the clear mountain streams we are used to in Idaho, we would call these springs “mud holes,” but when there is no other water they looked pretty good.

Our hike was in late March, and it was cool or cold in the shade, and the morning sun on our camp was always welcome warmth. My group was the younger scouts, and ours was a 30 mile route.  Nancy Baskin and Terry Heslin were with our group, and we all felt fortunate to have such fine company in such nice country.

This was an unnamed ruins that required crossing the canyon from the trail, getting through thick brambles, and climbing up a steep sandstone slope.  the boys climbed to the upper levels, and I felt a lot better when they were down on terra firma.

This was a rebuilt kiva that can be visited at one of the ruins.  Inside is a dark dusty meeting room, and topside were dozens of sandstone corn grinders.  With every pound of corn meal the Indians consumed, I think they got an ounce of sand.  After 5 days in this canyon, we all felt that we were wearing, eating and carrying sand in everything.

Our last day was a climb up the rocks of Bullit Canyon, in which we reunited with some of our group that had been hiking a 50 mile route.  It was cold and windy that day, with a bit of spitting snow and cold breeze and we were in the shade most of the hike out.