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Bears Ears National Monument


On March 22, I entered the old boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument with my dad. He agreed to a Moab trip with me despite having some back problems. At the end of the trip, he went home and left me for my exploration of the monument.


My dad gamely hiked with me in Moab despite a recent back injury.

We drove to a few overlooks in an area where driving made more sense than hiking and my plan didn't include enough time for me to explore by foot. I intended to start up near one of the overlooks, but a forecasted storm caused me to change my plans.


Standing at one of the overlooks. This is probably the heaviest I would be for the rest of the year.

The storm rolled in and destroyed our campsite in Indian Creek, which I originally meant to hike to. Dad left in the morning hesitantly because he wanted to make sure I would be fine. I spent the day after the storm walking the road near my campsite as I had a permit date for the next day of hiking.


Even road hiking is beautiful in Indian Creek.

In the evening, I ended up meeting a group of rock climbers (Indian Creek is a well known rock climbing place). They told me about how they all met on various rock climbing trips at Indian Creek in previous years and decided to have a rock climbing trip together. As one explained, "Out here, even strangers aren't strangers!"

Travelling from Indian Creek to the next area of Bears Ears I wanted to explore made the most sense to go through Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. This allowed me to meet a couple hiking the Hayduke Trail and I got to see Angel Arch.


Angel Arch

Leaving Canyonlands, I saw a trail on my map that would take me to Fable Valley. However, the trail did not exist. Instead, I had a wash that went the right direction for a little while. Occasionally, I saw some footprints and I ended up scrambling up loose rock to reach what I hoped was a plateau I could easily navigate to road I needed to take to Fable Valley. Instead, it was more like a butte I had to drop down the other side of so I could climb up another heinous loose rock scramble. This repeated a couple more times before I finally hit the road exhausted and relieved that I made it to a known location.


A cairn marked my "trail". This was one of a very few signs I received that I was going the right direction.

Even after catching the road, I still ended up going to sleep that night unsure if I was on the right track. The next morning, I saw a sign for Fable Valley at the trailhead where I saw I was the 4th person to enter at that trailhead. On the way down, I saw an incredible canyon that I thought I would drop into, but instead veered into an uninteresting valley. On the valley floor, the trail turned into a bunch of trails from cattle and somehow I either missed all the Anasazi Ruins or saw that the ruins were destroyed. In one case, I know I couldn't have missed the ruins, but I didn't see any.

Coming out of the valley became a nightmare of bushwhacking that drew blood, left scars that still exist today, and turned me around more than once. I tried two different exits before I saw that I made a mistake map reading and found my way out of the valley. I hiked about 25 miles that day to travel 17 miles. In addition to getting lost, my right knee stiffened up to the point to where I had to stretch it out every hour and shake it out every 15 minutes. The trailhead I exited, I was the first to use in 2018.

The next morning, I woke up to frozen water bottles and my first water sources (puddles) were covered in ice. I skipped those early water sources to get down to the bottom of Dark Canyon (I was the 5th person to use that trailhead in 2018). Then I had to sweat out if I would find water before running out. It was close, but I found water.


Hiking in Dark Canyon. The bear canister at the top of my pack I have a hate-hate relationship with.

Exiting Dark Canyon caused a little strife as I had more navigational problems and I had to do some dicey scrambling to get past a patch of snow. I was the first person to use that trailhead for the year.

Setting up my tent that night, I broke two tent stakes and I only carry one spare. With the knowledge that I may not be able to set up my tent again and I previously broke my sunglasses, I decided to hike dirt roads to lower elevation where I could hopefully hitch a ride to town. That would also help my body heal. In the morning, my hip belt buckle broke, so I limped down until I could get a ride to town so I could fix some gear and rest my aching body.

I zeroed in Monticello meeting a couple guys on a bike tour and waiting for my bosses Jeanette Hackney and Dave Valentich to come hike with me.


These two decided to explore this area by bike rather than foot.

After a day of rest, I hiked South Fork of Mule Canyon with J and Dave to see some ruins. For the first time, I actually saw ruins.


J and I in South Fork of Mule Canyon.


Ruins up near the top of the cliff.

Relaxing with my bosses helped me heal and then, a friend, Lloyd, came to meet me for some more hiking. He brought his dog Newton and we entered Hammond Canyon together on an overnight backpacking trip.


Lloyd and Newton in Hammond Canyon.

Hammond Canyon proved to be the most scenic and interesting part of my exploration of Bears Ears. We saw a lot of desert towers shown on my map as pinnacles, and a set of ruins in better shape than any others I've seen. However, Lloyd had to do things like work and Newton kept stepping in cactus so his paws didn't feel that good, so they left.


Pinnacles in Hammond Canyon.


Ruins in Hammond Canyon. They are hard to find and hard to get to.

Left to my own devices, I explored Arch Canyon, went to see Bears Ears, and made my way to Grand Gulch where I had another permit.

In Grand Gulch, I saw a bunch more ruins, got the chance to hike with a group, and generally had an enjoyable experience. The only problem was I had to rush it to finish in two days instead of three which would have opened up more exploration opportunities.


Ruins in Grand Gulch.

Leaving Grand Gulch, I managed to hitch a ride to Lake Powell ending my time in Bears Ears.

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