Three Canyon

Drill hole near Green RiverI’m at the end of a very lazy three-day weekend, but last weekend I had Friday and Monday off and crammed a lot into the four-day weekend. I was invited by Nick to do Three Canyon, which was a relatively easy hike with a bit of technical canyoneering at the beginning. Nick and Tim, who I’d never met, were planning on arriving late in the day Friday (and their friend Jake would meet us on Saturday morning), but I had the entire day off and spent it tooling around the Green River area. There are a number of carbon dioxide-powered geysers around Green River that were originally drilled while exploring for oil. When the drill holes intersected the water table and a CO2 aquifer, they either turned into geysers or bubbling mineral springs. I visited four of them on Friday, starting with one just off the eastern I-70 interchange. This one had been capped, but still a small trickle of water bubbled out of it and there was a small amount of mineral buildup from the heavily-mineralized water. The small amount of water was enough to support a small army of mosquitoes, but luckily I didn’t encounter any more the rest of the weekend.
Crystal GeyserMy next destination was Crystal Geyser, which I’d been to several times previously. On the way I stopped to see a natural oil seep that I’d seen a photo of in Google Earth. I had never smelled crude oil before, but it smelled a lot like asphalt. At Crystal Geyser, I met a couple of guys who were spending seven days rafting from Green River to Lake Powell. They had a small motor on the raft to facilitate the 20-miles of still water to get to their takeout on Lake Powell, which is normally not such an issue, but with the big water year it was necessary. It was only noon and they were already a few beers into their trip–I have got to get a canoe! 🙂 We all took note of the odor coming from the geyser, which smelled a lot like the oil seep I had just been to–perhaps some gas from the oil reserve is seeping into the drill hole. Here is a short video I shot showing the visible fumes of the gas bubbling up with the geyser water.
Abandoned building at Green River missile baseI checked out a few buildings on the abandoned missile base while I was in the area. I had never dared to enter them before, but I’ve become more comfortable in such places lately. There are many more buildings that I haven’t been into, and I’ll save them for the next time I’m there. I stopped at another drill hole near the Green River airport, and this one was constantly bubbling. The minerals had built up a mound that must have been 10 or 12 feet above the surrounding ground, and there was a lot of tamarisk and other plants thriving on the small flow of water. After hitting the gravel road heading south into the San Rafael Desert, I also stopped at Chaffin Geyser. There was no flow at all when I arrived, but after walking around for about five minutes, the geyser erupted quickly. I snapped a few photos of the eruption, then headed farther south into the desert to the spot where I had planned on meeting up with Nick.
Labyrinth Canyon after sunsetOn my way down I took a short detour to look at the exit for Three Canyon that we’d be climbing out the next day. From what I could see from there, there was plenty of water in the canyon (ruh-roh!). I arrived at our planned campsite at around 5:00PM, and before doing anything else I hiked a short distance to the rim of Labyrinth Canyon to check out the incredible view. Wow! I set up my tent and had a few beers before Nick and Tim arrived. When they pulled up, PBRs in hand, I immediately felt like I was hanging out with old friends. We spent some time on the canyon rim enjoying the amazing light after sunset, then they set up their camp and we had a great (and late) evening around the fire.
Nick at the first Three Canyon rappelSaturday morning, it was time to get down to business. We all took down camp, then drove to the Three Canyon exit to fix a rope at the difficult climb out. From the top it didn’t look terribly difficult, but I would find out otherwise later. We left Nick’s truck at the exit and piled into my truck and met up with Jake at the trailhead at the Saucer Basin turnoff. I’d done the hike to the first rappel with my sons earlier in the year, and it went just as quickly this time. Nick set up his rope on the anchors that were already in place at the top, and we all donned our harnesses and took turns rappelling the drop. We did the rappel in two stages. The first was pretty easy, and the second a little awkward. There was a water-filled pothole near the bottom of the second drop, and we all tried to get around it on-rope without getting muddy. After completing the rappels, we were done with the technical part. We stowed our rappelling gear and started the easy hike down the canyon.
Three CanyonI was taking up the rear as we hiked down the canyon–as usual. I could hardly put away my camera, ’cause each time I did I’d soon see something else worth getting it back out for. After a little more than half a mile, water began to flow in the bottom of the canyon, but that disappeared after another mile or so, only to reappear again later. The canyon was very pretty, but not as much so as most technical canyons. It was only relatively narrow early on, then widened up considerably lower down. We stopped for lunch at a small water hole where everybody but me dived in–I was wishing I hadn’t worn cotton shorts and a leather belt, but that was better than the pants I’d planned on wearing before I learned how much water would be in the canyon. We found another, much larger water hole farther down the canyon, and the guys played in that while I rested in the shade, still recovering from the effects of the night before.
Three Canyon exit crackOnly three and a half hours after reaching the first rappel, we were at the northwest fork of Three Canyon where we needed to hike out of the main canyon and begin working our way toward the exit crack. A short distance up the northwest fork, we reached a large pool and dryfall above. We couldn’t climb up the dryfall (actually, Jake could and did–he’s got some mad climbing skills). The rest of us backtracked down the canyon and found a way to get above the dryfall, and that put us at the bottom of the exit crack. It wasn’t too difficult a scramble up most of the crack, but at the steepest spot we had to use the rope to handline up. I was the last one up, and it was much more difficult than I imagined. Once up, however, we completed the scramble to the canyon’s rim, then had a flat walk back to Nick’s truck. Some cold beverages were passed around, then we drove back to the trailhead where I said my goodbyes and headed for home, wrapping up the first half of what would be a pretty epic weekend.

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GPS Tracklog and Photo Waypoints (Google Earth .KMZ Format)

GPS Tracklog and Photo Waypoints (Google Maps)

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