Sheiks and Bullet Canyons

Jackson

I like to go outside.
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Joined
May 31, 2015
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2,467
March 18-20, 2018

There was a huge difference in weather between my spring break this year and my spring break last year. Last year was sunny and a bit warmer than normal. So you likely can imagine what this year's was like.

My wife, @Jessica, and I headed down to Cedar Mesa Sunday March 18 to start our 2-night backpacking trip. We backpacked in Slickhorn Canyon last May with some friends, and I ended up losing all my photos from that one. I wasn't going to let that happen this time.

There was snow in the forecast for several of the places we would be driving through, so we got an early start to ensure that we would reach the ranger station before noon.

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Bags ready to go


The roads were a bit worse than anticipated, in more places than we expected. Spanish Fork to a bit below Soldier Summit, Wellington to I-70, and around Hog Springs all the way to Kane Gulch were sketchy, with fairly deep snow in places. We were happy we had put new tires on the Outback the weekend before.

We got to the ranger station around 11:30 and picked up our permits. There was a pretty good snow storm blowing around up there, and we were uncertain about starting that day. The forecast from the ranger station said it would snow until the early evening. The people working at the ranger station were surprisingly encouraging in spite of the less than ideal conditions. Far different from my experiences with very cautious staff in national parks.

We decided we'd head to the trailhead and see what things were like over there. Of course they were going to be the same as at the ranger station, but we had just a shred of hope that things would clear up by the time we got there. They didn't clear up. We sat and deliberated, and we decided that a descent into Bullet or Sheiks in the snow could be treacherous and possibly injurious. This would also be Jessica's first backpacking trip since last May, and first one with just me since 2015, and I really didn't want to make it an unpleasant experience for her (that way she'll continue to agree to go with me later on). So we headed to Blanding to get a hotel room for the night.

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Nice day at the trailhead.


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Our neat hotel room in Blanding. The town was mostly shut down since it was Sunday. One of the few places open was their gas station/restaurant/bowling alley combo. Very interesting place!


We got up early the next morning and got to the trailhead. There were some clouds in the sky, but the day was supposed to be free of precipitation. And it was.

Our plan was to pack our same trip into an overnighter instead of taking two nights, as we had originally planned. We accepted that we'd have to put down some decent mileage the first day and maybe skip a point of interest or two.

We parked our car the the Bullet TH and walked up the road to Sheiks.


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Still a bit snowy

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Pretty soon, we were headed down Sheiks. We arrived at Yellow House shortly.

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We continued on, and we saw a granary.

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This rock looked like Jessica's thumb.

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There was plenty of water in Sheiks Canyon.

We neared the series of descents toward the middle and end of the canyon. As we descended each one, we repeatedly remarked how happy we were that we didn't have to do it in the snow.

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One of the trickier spots. Plenty of sand and loose rock to keep things interesting.


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The views are awesome once you get to the lower parts.


Pretty soon, we reached Green Mask Spring and Ruins. The pictographs there were fantastic. We had a snack and looked around. Many of the pictographs were up high, and my shots of them turned out poorly. Jessica found the small green mask pictograph, and that was awesome. I remember reading about Sheiks canyon on BCP a few years ago, and I had really wanted to go ever since. It was awesome to finally see all of this.

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We ran into some people who had come up to the ruin from Bullet Canyon. They said they had started in the middle of the snowstorm the day before. They probably looked down us when we told them we stayed in a hotel the night before instead of starting. They said it was a pretty tricky descent with the snow and ice, and that the night was very cold. I have no regrets.

We got going again and headed down Grand Gulch. What a neat canyon. Probably looks a lot more alive in April and May.

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Little pockets of water left over from the snow the previous day. It warmed up to 50 or 55 that day, so most of the snow in the canyons melted.


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Heading down the canyon.


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Quite jungle-like.

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Ruin up high. Wall Ruin, maybe.


We got to the mouth of Bullet Canyon and headed up. We got some water at Jailhouse Spring. It didn't look like great water, so we just used it for cooking that evening.

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Jailhouse Ruin. We were getting pretty tired at this point, and we made the difficult decision not to go up to it so we could go to see the Perfect Kiva ruins and have time to relax a bit at camp.

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We got near Perfect Kiva and dropped our packs before heading up. The ruins were wonderful. I got some pictures inside the kiva, but they were not good, so I didn't put them in here.

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We left the ruins, picked up our packs, and headed out to find a camp site. We found a nice one nestled in some junipers.

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There was a nice field out in front of it.

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Jessica doing some reading in the early evening.


I sat out that evening and read from Wind in the Rock by Ann Zwinger. It was interesting to look out on the open part of the canyon and envision its inhabitants living their lives in it hundreds of years ago. It seems like such an inhospitable place, but they were there for quite some time. Truly impressive.

We got up early the next morning and headed out. It was pretty cold, and there was some ice on the slickrock.

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I really enjoyed ascending this slickrock section.
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Before we knew it, we were headed up out of the canyon, and we could soon see the cars parked at the trailhead.
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Although the walk felt rushed at times, we were happy that we were still able to do the full-distance trip and see most of the sights. And we were happy that we didn't start in the snow. And I was especially happy that we didn't have to drive through any snow on the way home.

Cedar Mesa is a magical place!
 

Bob

Trailmaster
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Mar 3, 2013
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2,734
Nice report.

Had a interesting g descent into shieks in a foot of snow one year. ..
 

LarryBoy

Hiker Trash
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Cool! I need to check out sheiks at some point. Glad you had a good time in spite of the weather.

Re the rangers at Kane Gulch - they're volunteers, and are there because they want to be there. I've had nothing but good experiences with them. One even let me skip the "bury your poop and don't trample the crypto" video when the real ranger on duty wasn't looking :)

Course I met a few guys this wk in Zion who needed to watch that video twice, but that's a whole nother story.
 

Jackson

I like to go outside.
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Joined
May 31, 2015
Messages
2,467
Nice report.

Had a interesting g descent into shieks in a foot of snow one year. ..
Wow! Sounds spicy. Hopefully you didn't slip and fall, although that seems nearly inevitable.
 

Miya

Because I am able.
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Joined
Dec 31, 2017
Messages
1,231
Thanks for the share! Hope your plan for @Jessica to have fun and want to do more backpacking worked! :)
I love all the pictographs that are shared on this site! I have never seen any, nor did I ever think of them. I wonder if it is just hard to make an accurate looking pictograph or are they showing us monsters and aliens?! So curious...
 

LarryBoy

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Joined
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Thanks for the share! Hope your plan for @Jessica to have fun and want to do more backpacking worked! :)
I love all the pictographs that are shared on this site! I have never seen any, nor did I ever think of them. I wonder if it is just hard to make an accurate looking pictograph or are they showing us monsters and aliens?! So curious...
Just wait and see what later civilizations do with your photographs of Lego Man...(Woman? Unsure of Lego's gender)
 
Last edited:

Vegan.Hiker

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Sweet way to spend a Spring break! What a wonderous landscape. Great report.

One of the few places open was their gas station/restaurant/bowling alley combo. Very interesting place!

I stopped here on my way to CNP and it was somewhat of a culture shock for me that stuff like that actually exists. I took a video on my cell phone walking around inside and sent it to my family back home and showed it to @Chuck the Mauler when I picked him up from the airport. Interesting place indeed.
 

Miya

Because I am able.
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Joined
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Just wait and see what later civilizations do with your photographs of Lego Man...(Woman? Unsure of Lego's gender)

Girl (but I am looking for a new hair do for her). Lego photos are like their own thing now and days, I wonder if future humans think we are idiotic or wonder if the Legos actually had some sort of important purpose for humans? LOL Interesting thought...
 

BryanG

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Jul 22, 2016
Messages
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I remember last year I was getting a permit for Moonhouse Ruin and the BLM ranger was giving us the little talk and says "...make sure to take a look at the pictographs which mean whatever you want them to mean." I thought that was pretty fitting as well as entertaining.

@Jackson I was out there a week before you and needed the snow! Water was so scarce. Cedar Mesa is such a special place its so hard to leave. Thanks for the excellent report.
 

gnwatts

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I enjoyed reading your report and the pics of course.
When we were camped at Green Mask one time, we also had a copy of Wind in the Rock, and we took turns reading passages. She described the figures in the second photo panel in your photographs, it is called the Breech-Birth panel. You can clearly see the little figure in a breech-birth position. It makes a universal connection to modern times, at least for me.
It is a special place.
 

Jackson

I like to go outside.
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Joined
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@Jackson I was out there a week before you and needed the snow! Water was so scarce. Cedar Mesa is such a special place its so hard to leave. Thanks for the excellent report.
Hearing the pre-storm water report made me a bit nervous about water, but yeah, there was no shortage. I'd imagine much of it dried up shortly after our trip though. What canyons did you visit on your trip?

I enjoyed reading your report and the pics of course.
When we were camped at Green Mask one time, we also had a copy of Wind in the Rock, and we took turns reading passages. She described the figures in the second photo panel in your photographs, it is called the Breech-Birth panel. You can clearly see the little figure in a breech-birth position. It makes a universal connection to modern times, at least for me.
It is a special place.
It's such a great book. I'm pretty sure I bought it after seeing you mention it on here, actually, so thank you for that. Also very interesting about the breech birth. The relative irregularity of the event must be what got it memorialized on the wall there. That collection of ruins and pictographs is impressive.
 

BryanG

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@Jackson we day hiked down Sheiks one day then backpacked from Gov. TH into Grand Gulch and camped for 2 nights at the mouth of Polly's canyon. From there we day hiked up to cow tank springs and down to just before Deer canyon. I should write up a trip report but school is just killing me right now and I have no time....
 

Jackson

I like to go outside.
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@Jackson we day hiked down Sheiks one day then backpacked from Gov. TH into Grand Gulch and camped for 2 nights at the mouth of Polly's canyon. From there we day hiked up to cow tank springs and down to just before Deer canyon.
Sounds awesome! So many places I have yet to see down there.

I should write up a trip report but school is just killing me right now and I have no time....
I put this one off for a while for the same reasons. Only a few more weeks and the semester is over, thank goodness. Hope yours is over soon too.
 

Reef&Ruins

Colorado Plateau is calling...
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Great TR. I've gone down to the green mask and down to jailhouse from their respective trailheads but not the loop.
How was the crazy boulder field right before the green mask?
How was the "chute" heading back up near the top of bullet? That had to have some crazy spots in it with all the snowmelt.
Time to go back... perhaps this fall.
Oh and +1 for Wind in the Rock. Great book.
 

Jackson

I like to go outside.
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Joined
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Great TR. I've gone down to the green mask and down to jailhouse from their respective trailheads but not the loop.
How was the crazy boulder field right before the green mask?
How was the "chute" heading back up near the top of bullet? That had to have some crazy spots in it with all the snowmelt.
Time to go back... perhaps this fall.
Oh and +1 for Wind in the Rock. Great book.
The boulder field was a pain, of course, but not too difficult. We bypassed it up high wherever we could. There wasn't much snow or ice on it when we got there.
And the chute was fine for the most part. Most of the water on it was frozen, though, so we had to be careful, especially if there was ice near the small scrambles you have to do.
 

Dave

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That first photo at the trailhead is great. I thought you were going to launch in and I was getting nervous.

Did the loops a few years ago as a day hike. Big mileage but it was nice not having the heavy pack. Sure would like to spend more time in there as you did.
 

Jackson

I like to go outside.
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Joined
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That first photo at the trailhead is great. I thought you were going to launch in and I was getting nervous.

Did the loops a few years ago as a day hike. Big mileage but it was nice not having the heavy pack. Sure would like to spend more time in there as you did.
Haha I'm no @Bob.

I would've been beat doing that in one day. I'd like to go back and spend more time there too, so hopefully it doesn't snow next time.
 

WasatchWill

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Glad it worked out, weather and all. I think I would have taken that room over the snow as well. Good stuff!
 

DrNed

The mountains are calling and I must go
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Good stuff Jackson!

I'm impressed by your wife willing to go in
the cold and snow. The older I get the less
I like to be cold. My wife even more so:
"I've got a house, why would I want to sleep in the snow?"
 

ramblinman

Member
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Aug 26, 2014
Messages
102
Awesome trip. I was in the Maze when that same storm system hit. Luckily had climbed down from the Overlook the day before.
 
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