Most of the friends I usually go camping with have never been to Nine Mile Canyon. We’d discussed planning a trip there over the years but there’s no public land in the canyon open to camping. It wasn’t until my unplanned trip there a month earlier that I realized there was a perfect place to camp in Gate Canyon, and if that was unavailable we could simply go a little farther to Big Wash. So I planned this trip without much notice, and though most of my friends couldn’t make it we still had 12 people show up for the weekend. I went up alone on Wednesday after work in the hopes of getting the best camp spot, and I arrived to find it open. It rained all evening and into the night, like it would do almost every day of the trip.
I worked on Thursday, and my wife and her mom drove up later in the day. After work I hiked from camp down into Gate Canyon and went upstream for a bit. Along the way I followed the old wagon road, which at times followed the watercourse and others it climbed out to bypass narrow or bouldery spots. One such bypass had a fairly mature juniper tree growing in the middle of the road, suggesting it had been many, many decades since it was last used. I also saw a few axle grease inscriptions, one of which I found quite humorous.
That evening my brother-in-law Mark arrived with his family. I took half of Friday off work so Mark and I could go for a hike. We parked in Cottonwood Canyon and hiked up a constructed stock trail into a canyon that leads up to Flat Iron Mesa. At the top of the constructed trail I found a corn cob, then began looking for a granary in the cliffs but didn’t see one. We hiked about two miles up the canyon until I could see the place where I’d left off on a previous hike from above. I still couldn’t see what I was looking for, so we stopped to eat a snack and then headed back down the canyon and back to camp.
The rest of the group arrived on Friday and we spent the evening playing card and board games. On Saturday morning I took some of the group on a tour of my favorite rock art in the area–mostly stuff that required hiking up steep slopes or some scrambling. I’d been to most of these sites more than once already so I didn’t take many photos.
We returned to camp for lunch, then everyone joined in for another tour, this time to some easy roadside rock art. I took even fewer photos on this part of the tour, since I’d been to many of these spots several times. We stopped at a few places and I set up a spotting scope on a tripod so everyone could see some high up or far away rock art and ruins that are rarely seen. We all went back to camp and spent another night huddled up in the trailer playing games while it poured rain outside. Everyone went home on Sunday. I really enjoyed showing everyone some of my favorite sites in the area, and maybe this will become another annual tradition.
Photo Gallery: Nine Mile Tour