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Willow Gulch/40-Mile Backpack, Day 2
Monday, September 30
We hadn't had a very long hike the day before (only about 4 miles / 6.5 km), and we had a similarly short distance to go to complete the loop (see, I told you this was an easy backpack), so we didn't feel the rush to get up or get going that early. It was a beautiful morning, mild and still. We discussed the remainder of our loop over breakfast.

40-mile Gulch has some slightly more difficult (and possibly deeper) watery obstacles than had Willow Gulch, and during our morning chat, we agreed that it would be best if we at the very least put on our lower wetwear (neoprene, etc). We held off on whether or not to wet-proof our packs, though, until we saw what we were up against.
Morning pack-up
Morning Pack-up
Breakfast, 40-mile Gulch
The initial bit of walking upstream from our campsite was rather bushy, and not all that much to write home about. But soon after that, we encountered an amazingly beautiful stretch of canyon walking. Maybe it was just the ideal angle with respect to the morning sun that made it feel so nice (the sun was shining directly up the canyon from behind us), I don't know. All I know is that the combination - lush green riverside rushes and cattails, a line of hanging-garden seeps, graceful curves of orange slickrock above, a clear, murmuring creek (complete with a little school of fish), it all combined to make it a particularly sublime spot. The perfect combo of dry desert scenery up high and this narrow strip of watery life down low. And there was no deadfall or debris anywhere to mar the purity of the scene. Really nice stretch, that.
courtesy BConnell
Heading off
Reed-y
Bushy waterway
courtesy JInnes
Chipper Connell
Glistening Reflections
Hairy Evening Primrose, 40-mile Gulch
courtesy JInnes
Cattails, 40-mile Gulch
Beautiful Morning in 40-mile Gulch
Delicate flower in morning light
courtesy BConnell
Beautiful Morning Wade
Soon after what I'll call the "beautiful stretch" came a stretch of cool, shadowy slot, varying from about 5 to 10 feet wide and bordered on either side by vertical or subway-tube like walls. The water was flowing more slowly through here, still extremely clear, but also now deeper. Gino went ahead to do his human-dipstick-ing.
courtesy JInnes
The Goyls
Narrowing up again
Narrowing up again
courtesy JInnes
Chockstone Passage
Deepening Narrows
Exploring the deeps
Little Cascade
Gino discovers that the deepest of the water is no more than waist deep, so we once again elect to keep our packs on and not get out any dry bags or other water protection. We begin to encounter a series of small steps, cascades and waterfalls, some flowing over smoothed bedrock, and some over chockstones wedged in the canyon bottom. None are more than four or five feet high, and none with water more than waist deep. For one or two of the most difficult, we do decide to ferry the packs (to ease the climbing difficulty).
courtesy JInnes
Little Cascade
Little Cascade
Clear Water and Small Waterfall
courtesy BConnell
courtesy BConnell
courtesy JInnes
Easy Wading
Waiting to climb
Ferrying Packs
Overall, this section of water narrows is just the right level of interesting and difficulty for us to enjoy ourselves. This is fun. The only downside is that the combination of water temperature and the cool shade of the narrows means some of us tip over into a bit of shivering. Thoughts soon turn to finding the next curve in the canyon that is aligned with the sun so we can have a nice warm-up break.
courtesy BConnell
Finished with waterfalls
Approaching final fall
Approaching final waterfall
Not more than ten minutes after climbing the last mini-waterfall, we encounter just such a spot - a widening of the canyon and a sandy bench with a big old cottonwood that has fallen across the creek. It's in the full view of the morning sun and we stop for a nice long snack and warm-up break.
courtesy JInnes
Seeking the sun
Morning sun break
Morning sun break
Above our rest break spot, the canyon narrows up again, but now we can see that the flow of water is starting to diminish. We still have to wade in the creek bed, but now it's not any more than shin deep, and often only ankle deep. The canyon walls are still pretty high here, though, and there are more beautiful overhanging alcove curves.

Then, abruptly, we reach the bottom of a high dropoff in the canyon floor, maybe thirty to forty feet high, with a narrow cave-like slot through which the now-diminished flow of the creek is sprinkling and falling down from above. We quickly locate a vegetated ramp adjacent to this dropoff that has a distinct footpath leading up it. This allows us to climb up and around to the top of the dropoff.
Sparkling Water
Placid stretch
Pausing in the sun
courtesy JInnes
"Chock"branches
Really mini-slot
Water is thinning out
Textured Narrows
Creek Drop-off Cave
Dropoff from above
Above the dropoff, it's like someone has flipped a switch. Then canyon immediately starts to widen out, and the creekside terrain becomes much more arid.

There's much less hiking in the creek bed above the dropoff, too - and a distinct footpath often leads across benches above the creekbed. We stop at one final spot where the water is still flowing reliably so that we may clean off our water shoes and put them away, as it is clear that we can stream-hop the water from here on up.
Becoming more open, drier
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