A Walk in Paradise
Coyote Gulch, Day 2
Tuesday, May 3
The string of perfect weather continued on day two of our Coyote Gulch backpack, dawning clear and calm. It was a bit cool down in the shady confines of our deep desert alcove, and the sun would not be making an appearance here before noon at the least. An incentive to get packed up and on our feet!
By 8:30 a.m., we were on the move. Just around the corner we re-encountered the wonderful opening of Jacob Hamblin Arch (remember, we had been camped in the bend that forms the fin that the arch is in). In addition to the arch, some crafty person had carved a little miniature city in the soft sediments near one of the canyon's walls. We stopped, admiring the craftsmanship for a few moments.
Hiking away from the Arch
A few seconds further down the wash, we came across a sign pointing to some new toilet facilities. These were new since we had last come through here in 2006, and so we wandered up to what was a very fancy two-stall solar / chemical outhouse. Very modern and clean, and thoroughly worth a visit. Such a facility will definitely help minimize the human impact on this beautiful section of the canyon.
Hiking Amidst the Cottonwoods
We were soon in the warm sun, splashing along in the gentle flow of Coyote Gulch's creekbed. Very easy, pleasant, scenic walking, with soaring walls and leafy trees all around us.
Sunny, beautiful open benches
About half an hour later, we came to the first spot where the stream runs over a slightly steeper spot, creating a pleasant bit of cascading water. At this point, we also encountered a very pretty bird - a white-faced Ibis - fishing about in the water.
Presently, we encountered another irregularity in the water's flow - a small waterfall, step, and notch where the water had cut out a meander on the right-hand side. The meander, long ago left high and dry (and as a result, now known as a rincon), was where our path went, up a sandy slope and around a sandstone tower that marked the inside bend of the ancestral curve. At the apex of the bend, one is presented with a nice view of the grassy floor of the rincon - in our case, complete with a herd of mule deer! Once around, the path dropped steeply back down to the 'active' floor of Coyote Gulch and its flowing water.
Not far below the rincon, we arrived at the next scenic wonder of the canyon - Coyote Natural Bridge. Formed as a result of the watercourse directly cutting through a sandstone fin (unlike an arch, which is not formed via an active flow of water), Coyote Natural Bridge is not high up on a wall, but rather right down at stream level, and the hiking route goes right through it. On the sunny downstream side of the bridge, we took a nice long morning snack break.
Break at Coyote Natural Bridge
Not far below the bridge, we encountered a group of hikers who happened to mention that they had just visited an ancient cliff dwelling site just around the next bend. Our curiosity piqued, we decided to see if we ourselves could find it.
It wasn't immediately obvious, but a bit of careful looking revealed what appeared to be a narrow bench high up on the left-hand wall, directly underneath a big alcove - just the kind of spot you might expect to find the ruins of a dwelling. To top it off, we could see the faint line of a beaten path leading up to the bench. That was likely it.
We parked our packs at the base of the path, and started up, leaving the leafy shadiness of the watercourse for the much drier, desert environment on the slopes above. The path was well-trodden and easy to follow, and in a few minutes we had climbed up a couple of hundred feet to the shady alcove.
This was definitely the site of some sort of dwelling in the far past, but there wasn't much in the way of structure left. One could see where a few of the buildings might have been, but everything was mostly a jumble of sandstone rocks and slabs. There were, however, several little piles of potsherds (pottery shards), the husks of corn and other vegetables, etc.
Pictographs in Coyote
Although the ruins were pretty far gone, the view of Coyote Gulch from this mid-height vantage point was quite nice. We could see a nice swath up and down-canyon.
While scanning the canyon below, I noticed something that had escaped us on a section of the alcove's wall: a very striking set of pictographs. Very likely they were the primary reason there was such a good path leading up here.
Measuring the depth
We descended back down to the stream, returned to our packs, and continued on downstream.
Forty minutes later, we arrived at a section of canyon where a relatively fresh rock fall (relative in the sense that it happened probably less than a thousand years ago) had blocked the streamcourse, forcing it to wind amongst huge blocks and boulders. This required a bit of climbing and scrambling to get through. On the other side was a nice series of small cascades and waterfalls. It was noon and it was a pretty spot, so we stopped here for lunch.
Scrambling through rockfall