Cheesebox Canyon, Oct. 2022

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Oct 6, 2021
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Hi folks, this is a trip report from Cheesebox Canyon last fall, October 27–30, 2022. I’ll be posting each day separately in this thread.


Day 1

We parked not far of Highway 95, immediately across from the canyon mouth. From here, there is a social trail that ledge-hops down to the White Canyon wash, then crosses to pick up a ledge that one can follow into Cheesebox Canyon. (Access directly into Cheesebox from White Canyon is blocked by falls.) The plan was to follow this, then go a few miles up Cheesebox to a spectacular and unique campsite I’ve used before.

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Trip participants, L–R: Madeleine Albright, Richard Milhous Nixon, Spiro Agnew, and myself. It was windy and cold as hell at the trailhead. Also, please note how eligible Mr. Agnew is.

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Wind-blown boulders on the ledge in White Canyon that we followed to Cheesebox.

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Our footprints above one of the falls that prevent access to the Cheesebox canyon floor from White Canyon.

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A trickle of water was flowing down the canyon throughout the part we visited.

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Sand patterns in lower Cheesebox.

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Mr. Agnew and Ms. Albright taking a break. Both of these individuals were firmly Gen Z, which made for a large quantity of amusement on my part.

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Mini-delta in the sand.

After reaching camp, I spotted a trickle of water on the canyon wall across from camp. I went to check it out, in hopes of obtaining some clear water, since the pools in Cheesebox were quite muddy.

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Cottonwood tree near camp.

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Looking up-canyon towards camp while ascending towards the possible spring.

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Indian paintbrush, I think.

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Greenery at a seep in the canyon wall.

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There was, in fact, a modest spring happening. This pool was about half empty after I filled my water bags.

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Brush growing out of moist cracks in the rock.

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Camp. It’s a pretty amazing place to stay, IMO. Access is from the right.
 
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Day 2

The plan for today was to hike up Cheesebox and check out the narrows, which are pretty amazing IMO.

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Cottonwood in the wash just above camp.

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Another mini-delta.

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Top of the canyon reflected in the bottom of the canyon?

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Cheesebox main drainage through the sandstone.

After a little while we came to some narrows that I walked through trivially the last time I’d been here, but this time they were completely flooded. There was a cairned bypass on river right.

20221028-1414.jpg
Crack greenery along the bypass.

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Mr. Nixon, Mr. Agnew, and Ms. Albright above a second set of narrows that we rim-walked past. Note how eligible Mr. Agnew is.

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These narrows were narrow enough to step across.

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Erosional features in the sand.

20221028-1423.jpg
We crossed through and under a very cool zone of house-size boulders. One thing I observed about the zoomers is that any time you point a camera at one, they immediately strike a pose.

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Drip marks and flow patterns.

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Entrance to the first big narrows. There is just one or two climbing moves to get to the next ledge and continue, but we didn’t feel quite skilled enough to try it.

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Ms. Albright and Mr. Agnew hanging out in an alcove near the narrows. Note how thoughtfully eligible Mr. Agnew looks.

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Cactus along the bypass.

These narrows have a rather airy bypass on river left. Returning to the canyon bottom requires some tricky route-finding and one short butt-slide that looked pretty difficult to reverse. As we did this, I reassured the group that “I’ve been here before, and I remember climbing back up this, so there’s nothing to worry about.”

Once we got to the bottom, FPOTUS (former President of the United States, who had been with me the last time) pointed out “you know, we didn’t actually reverse that — we swam through the water on the way back”.

20221028-1434.jpg
I thought this was going to be the “end of the line”. Last time, this was dry and we just walked through, but now it was flooded all the way across.

I took off my shoes, dropped my pack, and waded in, thinking that maybe I’d get a photo or two from in the water. But it was only thigh deep, and before I knew it, I was all the way across. Then I heard more splashing, and ...

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I guess we’re continuing after all.

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Side canyon immediately above the “blocking” pool.

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Mr. Agnew beginning the barefoot portion of our hike.

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Tunnel under some boulders.

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Cottonwood tree. This section of the canyon really is quite spectacular, though painful to walk barefoot.

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Actual end of the line. Last time we weren’t able to climb past this boulder, and this time it seemed the odds of success were way too low to try a swimming start in cold water.

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Leaves at the turn-around point.

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I like taking pictures of cottonwoods, OK?

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This is the flattest spider I’ve ever seen. Maybe 3" across.

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Mr. Agnew and Mr. Nixon returning down-canyon, hoping nothing has happened to our packs and shoes.

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Another two cottonwoods.

Fortunately, we were in fact able to reverse the butt-slide and get back off the canyon floor onto the bypass.

It was at this point I suggested we take a shortcut back to camp, by ascending to the rim and rim-walking back to camp. I knew that it was possible to down-climb from the rim right across from camp. “Smooth sailing”, as Mr. Nixon put it many times over the next few hours. If I recall correctly, it was about 4:00 pm.

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The ascent to the rim was considerably more difficult than I expected. It didn’t help that the rest of us were quite a bit taller than Mme. Secretary, so everything was that much harder for her. This was also the last photo of the day before I became preoccupied with other things.

We got sick of ascending and didn’t go all the way to the rim, which was another mistake on my part, as the ledge we were on kept shrinking into boulders or brushy forests, then finally cliffed out. It was very slow going and extremely tiring. At one point when the President and I had gotten a little ahead of the others, he turned to me and said, “I’ve done the math. There’s no way in hell we’re getting back before dark.” He was right.

Around sunset we arrived at the bay above camp and started to descend. None of it was familiar to either Mr. Nixon or myself; i.e., we knew it could be done and we were in the right general area, but we were running out of light fast. Twice we sent Mr. Nixon ahead at a run to scout a way down. The first time he returned with “Good news! I found a way to the pool you were at yesterday!” Turned out that it was not, in fact, the same pool, but rather a different one on a much higher ledge. Shortly after that we gave in and donned headlamps. Guess who left theirs in camp? Both Mr. Agnew (rank n00b) and Mr. Nixon (very experienced). Fortunately I had a spare in my survival kit.

We finally reached the canyon bottom about 7:45, 90 minutes after sunset (6:25 pm) and an hour after civil twilight ended (6:52 pm). Apparently Mme. Secretary kept herself sane by plotting the gruesome murders of the rest of us.

“I know a shortcut.”
 
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Day 3

The goal for today was to ascend out of Cheesebox using roughly the descent route from yesterday, then hike up the bluff east of the canyon to see what we could see, and turn around when we got tired.

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FVPOTUS looking very eligible on our ascent out of the canyon.

The ascent was much easier when it was light, and we found a better way up.

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Mr. Agnew leading the scramble up one of the layers.

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Some modest plants underneath a piñon.

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View of middle Cheesebox Canyon from the mining road we caught to ascend the bluff.

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Mme. Secretary walking up the mining road.

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Jacob’s Chair and the Henry Mountains beyond.

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Before long, the mining road reached a pass into the Hideout Canyon drainage (pictured).

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Mr. Nixon photographing the scenicness.

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Lower Cheesebox Canyon and the Henry Mountains.

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Deceased juniper on the pass.


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FPOTUS checking his TikTok in a meadow on the walk back to camp.

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Cloudy sky as the sun got lower (but with plenty of buffer this time!!!).

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Cheesebox Canyon immediately upstream from camp.

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I’m not sure I wish to know what these two are thinking about.

We arrived back in camp with more than ample light remaining!
 

Day 4

This was the going-home day, and per usual I was pretty sad about leaving.

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Mr. Agnew, Mme. Secretary, and Mr. Nixon leaving camp.

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Tree clinging to the rocks in lower Cheesebox Canyon.

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Ascent out of White Canyon.

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Victory! L–R: Richard Milhous Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Madeleine Albright, and myself.

I hope you all have enjoyed my trip report! I certainly enjoyed the trip. And, both Mr. Nixon and Ms. Albright asked to come along on another trip (this was their second and first backpacking trips, respectively), so I guess down-climbing into a canyon in the dark wasn’t too horrible.
 
Zoomers get married? who'd a thought
 
is that excursion up on Lone Butte? I actually have a pin in google earth saying it looks like a great day hike
 
I'm wondering why Dan Quayle didn't join you guys. :)
He’s coming on the next one, actually.
is that excursion up on Lone Butte? I actually have a pin in google earth saying it looks like a great day hike
According to google maps, we got to the saddle between Lone Butte East and Lone Butte West. I’d like to check out the mines on Lone Butte West next time, and maybe ascend directly up the butte rather than going around to the mining road. There’s still quite a lot to explore in the area and I’d like to go back soon.
 

Day 2

The plan for today was to hike up Cheesebox and check out the narrows, which are pretty amazing IMO.

View attachment 119603
Cottonwood in the wash just above camp.

View attachment 119604
Another mini-delta.

View attachment 119605
Top of the canyon reflected in the bottom of the canyon?

View attachment 119606
Cheesebox main drainage through the sandstone.

After a little while we came to some narrows that I walked through trivially the last time I’d been here, but this time they were completely flooded. There was a cairned bypass on river right.

View attachment 119607
Crack greenery along the bypass.

View attachment 119608
Mr. Nixon, Mr. Agnew, and Ms. Albright above a second set of narrows that we rim-walked past. Note how eligible Mr. Agnew is.

View attachment 119609
These narrows were narrow enough to step across.

View attachment 119610
Erosional features in the sand.

View attachment 119611
We crossed through and under a very cool zone of house-size boulders. One thing I observed about the zoomers is that any time you point a camera at one, they immediately strike a pose.

View attachment 119612
Drip marks and flow patterns.

View attachment 119613
Entrance to the first big narrows. There is just one or two climbing moves to get to the next ledge and continue, but we didn’t feel quite skilled enough to try it.

View attachment 119614
Ms. Albright and Mr. Agnew hanging out in an alcove near the narrows. Note how thoughtfully eligible Mr. Agnew looks.

View attachment 119620
Cactus along the bypass.

These narrows have a rather airy bypass on river left. Returning to the canyon bottom requires some tricky route-finding and one short butt-slide that looked pretty difficult to reverse. As we did this, I reassured the group that “I’ve been here before, and I remember climbing back up this, so there’s nothing to worry about.”

Once we got to the bottom, FPOTUS (former President of the United States, who had been with me the last time) pointed out “you know, we didn’t actually reverse that — we swam through the water on the way back”.

View attachment 119615
I thought this was going to be the “end of the line”. Last time, this was dry and we just walked through, but now it was flooded all the way across.

I took off my shoes, dropped my pack, and waded in, thinking that maybe I’d get a photo or two from in the water. But it was only thigh deep, and before I knew it, I was all the way across. Then I heard more splashing, and ...

View attachment 119616
I guess we’re continuing after all.

View attachment 119617
Side canyon immediately above the “blocking” pool.

View attachment 119618
Mr. Agnew beginning the barefoot portion of our hike.

View attachment 119619
Tunnel under some boulders.

View attachment 119621
Cottonwood tree. This section of the canyon really is quite spectacular, though painful to walk barefoot.

View attachment 119622
Actual end of the line. Last time we weren’t able to climb past this boulder, and this time it seemed the odds of success were way too low to try a swimming start in cold water.

View attachment 119623
Leaves at the turn-around point.

View attachment 119624
I like taking pictures of cottonwoods, OK?

View attachment 119625
This is the flattest spider I’ve ever seen. Maybe 3" across.

View attachment 119626
Mr. Agnew and Mr. Nixon returning down-canyon, hoping nothing has happened to our packs and shoes.

View attachment 119628
Another two cottonwoods.

Fortunately, we were in fact able to reverse the butt-slide and get back off the canyon floor onto the bypass.

It was at this point I suggested we take a shortcut back to camp, by ascending to the rim and rim-walking back to camp. I knew that it was possible to down-climb from the rim right across from camp. “Smooth sailing”, as Mr. Nixon put it many times over the next few hours. If I recall correctly, it was about 4:00 pm.

View attachment 119629
The ascent to the rim was considerably more difficult than I expected. It didn’t help that the rest of us were quite a bit taller than Mme. Secretary, so everything was that much harder for her. This was also the last photo of the day before I became preoccupied with other things.

We got sick of ascending and didn’t go all the way to the rim, which was another mistake on my part, as the ledge we were on kept shrinking into boulders or brushy forests, then finally cliffed out. It was very slow going and extremely tiring. At one point when the President and I had gotten a little ahead of the others, he turned to me and said, “I’ve done the math. There’s no way in hell we’re getting back before dark.” He was right.

Around sunset we arrived at the bay above camp and started to descend. None of it was familiar to either Mr. Nixon or myself; i.e., we knew it could be done and we were in the right general area, but we were running out of light fast. Twice we sent Mr. Nixon ahead at a run to scout a way down. The first time he returned with “Good news! I found a way to the pool you were at yesterday!” Turned out that it was not, in fact, the same pool, but rather a different one on a much higher ledge. Shortly after that we gave in and donned headlamps. Guess who left theirs in camp? Both Mr. Agnew (rank n00b) and Mr. Nixon (very experienced). Fortunately I had a spare in my survival kit.

We finally reached the canyon bottom about 7:45, 90 minutes after sunset (6:25 pm) and an hour after civil twilight ended (6:52 pm). Apparently Mme. Secretary kept herself sane by plotting the gruesome murders of the rest of us.

“I know a shortcut.”
I don't remember Mr. Agnew looking that good in the 60s. He's aged reallllllly well.
 
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