Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vacation Day 4: Canyoneering

Today was another early start.  We showed up at the Moab Adventure Center at 7 am for our next adventure ... canyoneering.  We piled into a big Suburban along with a couple ladies from New Jersey and another young couple from another part of New Jersey.  Our guides on the trip were JC and Chris of Moab Cliffs & Canyons.

We drove just a few miles out of town and parked at the top of a rise.  We were given daypacks that included water bottle, climbing helmet, harness, and the rappelling hardware, a locking carabinier and brake device.  We started hiking out across the slickrock then began our descent into the politically correct named Negro Bill Canyon.  We learned about cyptobiotic soil and the Navajo sandstone, the main cliff-forming rock unit here and a rock formed from blowing sand dunes.  There is a narrow band of limestone within the Navajo sandstone that represents an incursion of a shallow sea.  The limestone unit forms an aquitard where springs issue from the overlying sandstone.

We only had about a mile to hike before our first rappel.  On the way we had to make a short hop across a shallow cleft in the sandstone.  Normally this would have been routine hop for me.  I launched from my right leg and landed on my left but it didn't turn out too graceful.  As my left leg planted I lurched forward and felt instant pain in my upper left calf muscle.  Yep, I pulled a muscle and probably tore more than a few muscle fibers in the process.  I knew I could make the rest of the trip as long as I was careful.  There was a certain movement that would induce instant pain and I took great care not to make that movement.  The guides were naturally concerned and asked me all sorts of questions about where it hurt and the nature of the pain.  Again, I knew I could make it the rest of the way.  I also knew it would hurt a lot more tomorrow (I was right).

We reached our first rappel station and Chris had moved ahead of the group and had it already set up.  I went first in our family so I could get pictures from the bottom.  The first rappel was 90 feet.  Although I had rock climbed and rappelled before it was still a little scary.  It had been more than 20 years since I had done this.  Once I was underway, I got more comfortable.  Next came older son, then younger son, and finally my wife.  It took some coaxing to get the boys to commit and get underway but once they did it and completed it they were ecstatic.

The next rappel was just a little further down.  This second rappel was 120 feet of which more than half was over an overhang leaving you freely hanging in space with no rock to touch.  This rappel was also right next to Morning Glory Natural Bridge, the seventh largest natural bridge in the world.  At the bottom there was a spring and the beginning of a creek that flows along the bottom of Negro Bill Canyon.

Our hike out was two and half miles following the creek and crossing it several times.  I brought up the rear for a good ways along with the two Jersey women who, being about the same age as me, were not very sure-footed.  However, they didn't pull any muscles like me.  I was careful and made good time, the leg not bothering me too much as long as I didn't do that one movement

Hiking along the canyon bottom was spectacular.  High sandstone walls, a clear running creek, and cool shady places among the canyon bottom trees.  A small gopher snake made an appearance.  We eventually made it to the parking lot where Negro Bill Canyon joins the Colorado River and then drove back to Moab Adventure Center.

We hit Subway for sandwiches and went back to the hotel room.  We napped for a few hours before our next adventure that day, the sunset Hummer tour.

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