Since it was later on in the afternoon, I knew I had a limited amount of time to work with before sunset. I planned on trying to find a rumored waterfall as well as make a loop to a distant cabin, far into the canyon.
There were a few high clouds when I set out, but plenty of blue sky as well. The trail head is southwest of Fruita and I had passed it previously when hiking into Flume Creek Canyon. It exists within the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area as well as the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness.
I was surprised and happy to see muddy water in the bottom of the wash. I'm always looking forward to the possibility of waterfalls and water can be so rare in the desert.
Blue sky on sandstone.
Not far into the hike, the lower canyon began to take shape and tighten. The stream carved a tight notch into the layers of rock in the lower canyon and the spaced flora made the area appear as maintained rock garden.
Eventually, the lower canyon opened a bit as I approached the towering gates to the upper canyon (not pictured).
Eventually, I came across the "end" of the lower canyon. A weak waterfall merely trickled out of a V-shaped narrowing of the canyon. While I probably could have climbed up the rocky wall, my previous experience had me a little gun-shy. Honestly, it becomes a little difficult to climb with all of one's camera gear. I set up for a few shots here and contemplated how I would continue.
I knew that the trail continued from here somehow and actually split making a loop with one side following each canyon wall. I decided to back track to see if I could find that trail. Luckily, I was soon on the west trail and working my way up the escarpment.
After a relatively steep climb, the trail levels out on the flat benches of the upper canyon. The canyon, in similar appearance to others in the area, exists as a wide but steep sandstone walled canyon with a narrow inner canyon, carved into the, from what I understand to be, Precambrian rocks. On either side is a relatively flat bench which is where the trail lies.
When I reached the top, I was greeted with an unique sight. It appeared as if one of the Moai or Easter Island Statues was guarding the entire canyon. It was quite the sight!
The trail stayed on the bench but occasionally cut down into the drainage of a tributary. The air temperature was warm, in the 60s if I recall correctly and for the first time upon arriving on the Western Slope, I witnessed a couple of small lizards skittering between plants.
I wasn't exactly sure how far it was to the cabin, which marks the apex of the loop, so I was going full-speed and not stopping to linger much. I didn't want to be caught in this area after dark.
Finally as my turn-around time approached, I saw the cabin in the distance and felt comfortable continuing on to it.
The cabin was deserted and closed as I arrived but based on other hikers' accounts, I decided to go inside and have a look.
It was filled with interesting keepsakes and other items and I paused for a moment to sign a notebook before continuing on my way.
After the cabin, the trail crosses the milky stream and then heads north along the eastern bench of the canyon. My Moai friend watched closely as I made tracks for the trail head, munching on some tropical trail mix while I lumbered on.
I made good progress on the less-winding eastern bench and as I approached the escarpment, several people on the other side of the canyon caught my attention. They were yelling and whistling inconsistently and I was unsure whether they were trying to get my attention. They turned and headed back down on the other side of the canyon and I lost them, so I continued on.
I caught sight of them again moving farther downstream and seemingly not interested in contact, so I just continued on. I found a nice overlook of the end of the lower canyon, where it narrows to the small waterfall. I started mimicking a bird for whatever reason and soon realized that I had accidentally captured the attention of a woman down on the canyon bottom. She was just standing there, staring up at me. Oops.
She turned and left, probably frightened by the weird man standing on a rock overlooking the canyon making odd bird noises. Not that I could blame her. It was a good vantage point, however, and I took several photos here of the lower canyon and beyond, where the evening light was gracing the agricultural fields near Fruita and along the Colorado River.
Back down in the lower canyon, I realized I was doing okay on light and slowed a little to take pictures along the way.
The light was low enough that I could do some longer exposures with the water flowing through the rock garden area, though I wasn't necessarily satisfied with the results.
As I exited the canyon, the last sunlight put some color on the clouds, which was nice.
And then as it went down, it made the horizon seem consumed with fire.
All in all, it was one of my favorite hikes that I had been on so far in western Colorado. I did tire myself out quite a bit with the pace that I took to complete the loop before dark, but it was a good tired.
Here is a map of the hike:
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