Friday, April 5, 2013

Back in the canyon

It was March 31 and Hells Canyon was simmering, hovering close to eighty degrees. I
I barreled through last year's vegetation near Saddle Creek, praying none of it was dormant poison ivy. Scratches blossomed on my legs from blackberry thorns. I had hoped to reach the Snake River, but in an unusual burst of common sense, had turned around two miles shy, realizing that I had already gained and lost several thousand feet in elevation and it was a long way back to my camp on the grassy knoll.

The canyon, as always, is deceiving. Just a little farther, you think, and soon you realize you have a long way to get back. You have to work for everything here, but that is what keeps it wild.

There are three rules in the canyon and it is easy to forget all of them over the winter:

1. Wear pants.
2. You will always run out of water.
3. "Just eleven miles" takes way more time than you think it should.

The upper canyon is still healing from a wildfire several years ago.

At about seven miles you start to get back into scattered ponderosa pine. The snowy canyon rim ahead is Idaho, across the Snake River.

My camp was located on the Grassy Knoll at about 4500'.  I didn't see anyone for the whole trip.

In the canyon, you have to fill up your water bottles when you can. As summer marches on, many of the small streams will dry up, leaving you a bit desperate. I got a chance to use my new Sawyer Squeeze water filter. It is the little black item on top of the bag. All you do is collect water in the bag and attach the filter, then squeeze the bag, The other end of the filter is attached to a clean water container. It works well, except the bag can be hard to fill up in low water. Most people have graduated to another small water bottle instead.

Happiness is a running skirt and a T-shirt in March.

A half moon hung in the sky the next morning as I packed up for the slog back over the saddle. It was a quick trip, barely twenty-four hours, but much needed. As I write this the snow level threatens to descend to 4,500 feet, the height of my campsite. As the canyon flirts with summer, that is how it goes.


  1. Woohoo to the summertime! Turns out Matt got a promotion here so we won't be going to Idaho after all. :)

  2. Just to know that it was 80 degrees SOMEWHERE on the northern rim and SOMEONE is trekking along in hiking skirt and T-shirt, gives us a glimmer of hope here in the snow. Hike on!

  3. Is the Hatpoint road open already? Seems awfully early.

    R calls this the season of false hope. He didn't grow up in the intermountain region and thinks that sprng should arrive and stay, getting progressively warmer (he grew up in Texas). I kind of enjoy a snow squall in May, but I grew up with it.

  4. Beautiful. Spring has really sprung!

  5. I'm not sure about Hat Point. I bet you can't get very far up that road yet. And as I write this it is snowing up there I am sure.


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