After my last camping trip two months earlier didn’t pan out like I’d hoped, the weather finally cooled off enough in the desert for me to head out once again for another long trip. This time the high temperatures were supposed to be in the upper 60s or low 70s. I left home with the dogs on Wednesday after work and arrived at Sagebrush Bench to find my desired camp spot vacant. The sunset that evening was excellent, with orange light silhouetting the Wickiup and some spires near Horseshoe Bend.
I took Thursday off work so I could hike into the head of Ernie Canyon. I’ve been to lower Ernie Canyon several times but never the upper end, and I was hoping it was as pretty as the head of Iron Wash around the Five Miles of Hell trail where I’d hiked in 2011. The doggos and I dropped into the head of the canyon and very soon it turned from nondescript shale and soil into bare sandstone in tan and red.
There was a fair amount of water in the canyon and only once did I need to give the dogs a drink from what I carried in my pack. There were several easy dryfalls to climb down but having the dogs on a tandem leash may not have been the best way to negotiate them. Often one would drag the other unwillingly down a small drop, and once Delta even wrapped her end of the leash around my legs and I almost fell off a six foot ledge.
I had intended to hike as far as the second major fork that joined the canyon, but once I got to the first fork I decided that was far enough. The canyon wasn’t as scenic as I’d hoped and it didn’t show signs of getting any better. We turned around and followed our footsteps back to the truck, but at least this time the lighting was better than the harsh, low-angle morning light I’d seen during the hike down. In all I’d hiked 5.3 miles, which the old me wouldn’t have thought was a lot, but the new old me thought was plenty.
I returned to the camp trailer and my wife and her mother had arrived. Her mom has a sprinter van all set up for camping in, so she can have her own space but it also gives my wife some company when I’m off hiking and she stays at camp. I worked on Friday and that evening we just played card and board games into the night. On Saturday (today) we took a drive to find a geocache and eat a picnic lunch nearby. The spot was on Limestone Bench, overlooking Oil Well Draw, and there were nice views all around from there. To the north was Window Blind Peak and the cliffs towering over the San Rafael River, to the east was Mexican Mountain, and to the south was the Wickiup closer to where we were camped.
My wife and her mom headed back home this afternoon, but I’m staying here for another week or so. Tonight there was another killer sunset, as there has been every evening since I got here. I took this next photo just 30 minutes before I wrote this line. I hope the next week holds more great sunsets and hiking opportunities.
Photo Gallery: Upper Ernie Canyon