Sunday, May 08, 2011

2011 - March 8th - Echo/No Thoroughfare Canyons, Colorado National Monument

With a few days of wet weather preceding my days off, I figured it was worth taking another trip into both Echo and No Thoroughfare Canyons. (Previous trips: Echo (1)(2), No Thoroughfare). So, I headed out mid-morning and was at the trail head before 10AM.

I figured I could quickly make it to the end of the box in Echo and be well on my way into No Thoroughfare by noon. Clouds were still low from the previous day's rains, which obscured the tops of No Thoroughfare Canyon as I traversed its wash on the way to Echo.

As the Old Gordon Trail climbed out of the washes, it offered stunning views of fresh snow on the Book Cliffs.

I made quick time through Echo Canyon and was soon at its end. To my dismay, I found the "falls" to be completely dry, but there was a decent sized pool at the bottom. It was larger than my previous two trips to the area, a testament to the rain that had fallen.

As I relaxed near the pool, I noticed how calm the water was and how well the surroundings reflected on its surface. I got the idea to climb along the far wall and see what I would see. I was very satisfied with the result.

Eventually, I realized it was time to get going if I wanted to realize my goals for the day. On my way back down canyon, I stopped at "Half Lemon Falls" and found it dripping and again, with a pool at the bottom.

Here, I realized that unfortunately I had left my tripod back at the end of the canyon. I retrieved it and continued on my way.

When I passed the "Half-Lemon" area, I saw that a large raptor had made its nest on the canyon wall. It can be seen in the photo below near the "D" in my name on the watermark.

The sun would occasionally peek through and the clouds went from strato-cumulus to more convective-type cumulus.

As I was making haste back down the canyon, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in both my feet. Bewildered, I quickly realized that I had kicked some prickly pear cactus which was sticking out from underneath a shrub. As my right foot was already forward, kicking it with my left foot brought it into the back of my right.

I quickly pulled a spine out of thin-skin that covers my right Achilles tendon and wiped away a bit of blood. My left food was in worse shape, however.

I felt a sharp pain in my big toe but there wasn't a spine sticking out of my shoe. It had broken off. I painfully removed the shoe, though the spine was embedded in it, so any movement dug and jarred the spine which much to my horror, I realized was sticking straight through my big toe nail and into the flesh below.

Standing there on one foot, I knew I couldn't leave it like that, so I pulled the spine out. Blood gushed out of the perforation, quickly dripping down onto the sandy soil before. There was really nothing to sit on aside from more cactus, so I just stood there for a while, trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Let's forget the fact that I howled when I pulled it out. I'm pretty sure it was still echoing off the canyon walls at this point. How appropriate.

After a while, I poured some water over it and put my sock and shoe back on. I decided that I would head back toward the trail head; I would need to do that anyway to head into No Thoroughfare.

Much to my surprise, it didn't really hurt anymore even as I climbed back up the slick rock portion of the trail near the junction with the Old Gordon Trail. I was distracted anyway by the amazing views of the Book Cliffs and the newly forming showers in the area.

In no pain, I decided to head into No Thoroughfare Canyon. If my foot started to hurt, I resolved, I would simply turn around and head back.

I'll skip the explicit detail of my trip along the dry, sandy wash as it doesn't differ at all from previous accounts. I soon realized, however, that there were several pools of water in low areas where there were none before. The farther I walked, the more water, it seemed, sat in the canyon.

Eventually, it was actually flowing and the flow increased all the way until the point where I reached the First Pool, where I found the previously iced over waterfall, flowing and falling. I stopped here for pictures. It's a very pleasant little place.

With water flowing in the canyon, my ambition was renewed. I made double-time as I pushed forward, head down up-canyon toward the Lower Falls. This time, snow nor ice hindered my progress, much to my relief. Again, the sun would occasionally peek through the clouds and that's how I found the Lower Falls, bathed in sunshine and still partially iced over.

As I got closer, however, I found that it was flowing, though not necessarily earnestly. Again, I paused for pictures.

The water seemed to spout out of a hole in the ice near the top of the falls. I found that pretty interesting.

With no ice to stop me and plenty of time before sunset, I decided to hike to the Upper Falls. My foot was feeling fine and I was feeling fairly excited about continuing on. The ascent up the side of the cliff is definitely a scramble, but the views are worth it.

Back down-canyon.

At the top of the falls, the canyon widens a bit with gentle meadows connected by bends. I made good time through these areas before it tightens down a bit again. There are several areas that require the use of hands to climb over boulders or through areas where the water drops a bit.

After a half hour or so, I finally found myself at the Upper Falls. It resembled a throne room of sorts.

There appeared to be flat area half-way up that I decided I wanted to try and reach. It began to snow, mostly small, soft grauple at this point and this made the rock wet. I ditched most of my gear, hanging my camera around my neck. I tried to resolve a reasonable ascent but was unable to come up with anything nearby. Finally, I simply started crawling up the rock to the right (in the picture) of the falls. This turned out to be a bad idea.

About half-way up the lower portion, I lost my grip with both my hands and feet and slid with my belly facing the rock down to the bottom, where I tumbled backward into the water.

I jumped up quickly and did the "Am I still alive? Is anything broken?" pat-down. Somehow, I escaped injury altogether, only suffering a saturated behind. I stood there for a moment, realizing how idiotic it was of me to try and climb a slippery waterfall with tennis shoes while it was snowing without any other person with me. I took an "I'm still alive" photo and decided it was time to head back, my body still shaking with adrenaline.

The next several shots are all of scenery on the way out of the canyon.

Top of the lower falls.

View from the top. Note my shadow.

More scenery on the way out, from the Lower Falls to the First Pool to the trail head area.

I finally made it back to my vehicle by the mid afternoon. I was honestly a bit shaken from the fall and tired from the journey. It was gorgeous out, though, and I stopped once on the way out of the Monument to take a picture of one of the nearby houses.

I felt, at that point, that I had earned a nice meal, so I headed on to Smashburger where I had a burger, fries and a chocolate malt before relaxing for the rest of the evening.
To this day, I still feel pretty stupid for attempting to climb that waterfall and I like to think I've learned from it. And, well... I haven't fallen since, at least not while climbing a waterfall.

Next Post: Devils Canyon, McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area/Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness

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