We just returned from Second Expedition in the canyons of Utah. It was a 17 day excursion into the depths of the canyons of Cedar Mesa and the vast mesas Jacob’s Chair. We went to Cedar Mesa first, it was the most expansive and incredible landscape we had ever been to in our lives. Massive canyons cut into the landscape in the flat, seemingly endless mesa. We began by descending into these canyons and seeing Native American ruins dating back over thousands of years ago. The Citadel is one of these ruins, perched atop a massive rock and sandstone structure at the confluence of three canyons. The site is incredibly beautiful, sitting around six hundred feet above the canyon floor with the Abajo Mountains lying straight ahead. In the canyons, there are many elements that require ingenuity, problem solving, and a willingness to get dirty. Reading topographic maps to navigate through these deep canyons is a crucial task for getting around. During hiking days, one can expect to run into quicksand, waist deep water, and tall sandstone shelves. Once we emerged out of the depths of the Cedar Mesa canyons, we made our way to the incredible Jacob’s Chair. Jacob’s Chair is a large rock shelf atop a mountain just Northwest of Cedar Mesa. In this area, we went across vast mesas, dove back into canyons and climbed down into very narrow slot canyons. One day, we even found ourselves walking through waist deep, muddy water in a slot canyon! Upon our return, we were happy to be back, but our experience in Utah was an incredible one and one that we all here will never forget.
We spent the first ration, nine days, in Jacob’s Chair where went in and out of canyons and learning how to navigate our way through the tricky canyon terrain. We waded through slot canyons, worked our way through massive boulder sections in the bottom of canyons, and spent time outside of the canyons enjoying the vast views that the landscape had to offer. The second part of our expedition was spent in the San Rafael Swell, a much different area than Jacob’s Chair. The Swell has the San Rafael River flowing through it making it a wider and deeper canyon. For this reason, we spent most of our time in the canyon, not getting out of the canyon often. While we were in the Swell, the Cottonwood trees were changing color into a vibrant yellow that made the landscape even more beautiful. Overall, the trip was a great experience and way to experience the canyons of Utah.
For first ration, we went around Jacob’s Chair and dropped into a few slot canyons. Stemming and climbing on day hikes in the slot canyons was a highlight of the expedition. We experienced some strong wind and rain one night, which almost blew our tarps and tarpmates away. The rain water in potholes was delicious, but made wading through canyons more difficult. On second ration, we drove three hours to San Rafael Swell and began new adventures through slippery mud and bushwhacking. We had about four days of Independent Student Travel (IST) on a shortened route, although we managed to rack up quite a bit of mileage by getting lost every day. On our first day of IST, we had no watches or perception of time (we had taken our watches off the night before), ended up deliberating about navigation for two-and-a-half hours, and arrived to camp by crawling (sometimes on hands and knees) through mud and trees in the dark and singing songs. We slipped, struggled, and joyfully persevered through it all. On a layover day, we took a short walk to see some amazing Anasazi petroglyphs of perfect circles and many sheep. We had a strong finish on IST getting very lost and seeing Howie’s red umbrella very. far. away. Oops! We ended our last day walking together as a whole group on a dirt road toward the van that would take us home to our family at HMI. All in all we had fun building a whole lot of character (We say that in Group C, C is for character!) and learned to thrive in the canyons.
On the second expedition of Semester 41, we started our Utah expedition hiking around Jacob’s Chair and tiptoeing around all of the cryptobiotic soil as we made our way up and over the mesa. During our first half, we woke up one morning to a delicious pumpkin pie that Dante crafted for the majority of the night, and we, along with all of our gear, got soaked by torrential downpour before re-ration. On the second half of our trip we moved about an hour away from where we started and hiked through Lime and Road Canyon. Starting our trip in Lime Canyon we saw our first Anasazi ruins and then began our Independent Student Travel portion of the trip. After electing Xander as our Student Expedition Leader, we started our first IST-training day by going around the mesa we were on and giving ourselves a better view at Valley of the Gods. Our destination for that day was Road Canyon and then in the days to follow we explored The Citadel, a well known site of Anasazi ruins. We expanded our culinary skills by making cinnamon rolls, baked mac-n-cheese, and fried dough on the last night. Also, we had our fastest hiking day of the trip when we hiked six miles in only three hours. We were motivated by something that pushed us to go two miles an hour: it’s possible that we were ready to feel the warmth of our bus…or we were just super psyched to go hiking for one last day. Even though we were familiar with one another before the expedition, we all got to know each other in a different way and through that we shared awesome memories about the canyons of southeastern Utah.