A START TO 2022 – Dark Canyon

This year I have made it a goal to make a post for all the trips we go on! So many trips and photos fell through the cracks the last 2 years. They never got the good story told! So here’s to it!

With winter a bust at almost no snow in 6 weeks, Briana and I decided that it was time to kick off backpacking season! A bit early (February 12th), but conditions looked to provide some prime pre-spring desert enjoyment.

After scouring the web and lists I have to find a warm, dry, desert hike; we decided on Dark Canyon in Southeastern Utah. This isn’t the first time we have ventured to Dark Canyon. 2 years ago we did the full loop higher up in Bears Ears. It wasn’t my favorite. Way too hot, no water, and really, not that pretty. This time we opted for Sundance trailhead, providing us access to a much more narrow section of canyon with water flowing! A long drive for a quick overnighter as you can see, but figured it would be worth the escape!

Surprised by the superb dirt road, we arrived at the trailhead in record time. The trail starts by following a road around the main canyon till entering a talus field with a 1500′ descent over a quarter to half mile. In the heat of the sun, this could be brutal. Luckily for us it was February!

Briana eyeing our descent
Perfect model
Making friends along the way

Once we hit the canyon floor, the beauty begin to emerge. Colors, water, ice, all making up for the lake of life in the winter.

An infant colorful slot canyon
Expect nothing less than ice in the winter in the desert

The canyon quickly begin to narrow into some stunning slots! However, as it did, we were left to choose the left, or the right side of the narrows. We chose poorly.

Another bend ahead is where to properly cross to avoid the up and down climbs
So happy to see the colors of the desert

The real issue with being on the wrong side was the climbing up down the ledges and layers. Was it just Briana and I, we would have had no issue, it’s a little more adventure! But with moose, it was a lot of hauling him up and down, which he did NOT appreciate. But, it did give us some ideal sights, like this frozen waterfall with subway-esque ledges.

Dare you to take a dip

Here you can see the layers on both sides and how it was oh so easy to get cliffed out. We did a lot of U-turns to find a better down climb or up climb.

The narrows, don’t be on the right side

With the shorter days, sunset approaching quickly, we decided we better scout for a camp. We saw the perfect site, on the other side of the narrows. So after a 20 minute U-turn we arrived! We had goals to reach the waterfall at Youngs canyon, about 10 miles in from the car. However with all the ups and downs and route finding, we barely got to 7 miles.

Home for the night
Right on the ledge

Had to snag a few beer photos of course.

Cuddle puddle

With it getting dark at 6:15, we made dinner, cozied up, and binged netflix! The Tinder Swindler and The Good Place both provided ample entertainment.

The next morning we slept in a bit to avoid the coldest temps of the trip. We stayed quite toasty through the night and really only chilled off packing up! The sun was a welcome relief once we hit it hiking. Switched from thermals and jackets to shorts rather quickly.

My favorite photo of the trip

After a much faster hike on the way back, knowing to pick the proper side, we reached our last ascent back out.

The last of the water

Even though it was February, we were dripping. The lack of trail, the big steps, and not knowing if each step would hold or slide added to experience.

I waited at the top for Briana and we finished the last 3 miles back to the car, thinking about what we were going to eat!

Its a bummer that winter seems to have ended back in January with the lack of snow and warm temps. But I am excited to be back in my favorite place, the desert! Already planning the next trip.

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