Trachyte Creek via Woodruff Canyon, April 2023

Oct 6, 2021
Folks, I returned to Trachyte Creek in late April of 2023. This trip was quite a contrast from a couple years ago — instead of just me there was seven (7) of us. Also the median age was 23. o_O

I don’t mind going back to the same places, and it was fun to share a canyon system that I was becoming somewhat familiar with new folks. This time around we went in via Woodruff Canyon.

We had intended to go to No Man’s Canyon off the Dirty Devil River, but snowpack in Utah was enormous this spring and flow levels on the Dirty Devil were concerning. We didn’t want to get stuck on the wrong side of the river.

It was a four-day trip and I’ll do each day in a separate post in this thread.

Day 1

L–R: Dan Quayle, former Vice President of the United States; Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway; Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, former President of Iceland; Spiro Agnew, former Vice President of the United States; Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State of the United States; Rod “Blago” Blagojevich, former governor of Illinois, and myself.

Unfortunately the view from the trailhead was pretty worthless. (Just the Henry Mountains in this case.)

Woodruff starts out as a wide, dry wash with a decent trail and no scenery whatsoever.

The Henry Mountains from a little ways down Woodruff Canyon. Unclear to me why we even bothered.

Before long, we found ourselves at the same small side canyon where Mr. Nixon and I had had lunch the year before. Of course, we stopped for lunch.

Mr. Quayle exploring the side canyon. Foreshadowing: what had been a dry side canyon a year before now contained a large, muddy puddle that required barefoot navigation.

Mr. Quayle flees as Mr. Agnew destroys the runway.

We continued down Woodruff through the swampy/forested area. It turned out that the zoomers were more or less a flock of birds: one of them would randomly state some catchphrase (e.g. “sleigh queen girl boss”), and then the others would start saying it, and they would continue over and over until myself and Blago lost our minds. This happened a lot.

We rounded a corner and suddenly there was a calf staring at us from the middle of the wash. How cute! But it didn’t move as we approached. Well it turned out the calf was standing over mama cow lying dead and rotting in the stream. :cry::cry::cry: (The calf was gone when we returned a few days later. We told ourselves it must have found its own way out, or something.)

Well then.

P.M. Brundtland making her way along the Woodruff Canyon stream. It was flowing pretty substantially from the swamp/forest all the way to Trachyte.

President Finnbogadóttir overlooking the blocking fall in lower Woodruff Canyon. The bypass route is to the left.

The end of the bypass route a quarter mile above Trachyte. I was shocked to discover that the bottom of the downclimb was not a waist-deep pool like last year but rather a small sandbank, with a jump-over to the next beach. This sure made things a lot easier. We did lower packs on a rope. It was a fun time.

Before long, it was time to change into water shoes. We waded a bit and then changed back into dry shoes for the next bypass, after which the difficulties were over, of course.

lol jk. Trachyte was up quite a bit and thick with gray mud. It was possible to get across with dry feet, sort of, barely. I got in a lot of trouble for saying camp was right around the corner (which it was!).

I believe it was half a dozen or so crossings to get to our campsite ¼ mile up Trachyte. We did arrive successfully though, with no injuries, and morale seemed high. It was a good day.
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[Number of participants corrected in Day 1, which is a pretty funny error given the number of times I counted us to make sure no one was missing.]

Day 2

The original plan had been to go upstream or downstream along Trachyte and check out various side canyons. However, with the high water, this seemed prohibitively difficult.

With seven people, there were diverse opinions on what to do. Blago, V.P. Agnew, and myself decided to climb up on the bench above camp and see if we could dry-foot into the side canyon that was about ¼ mile upstream.

Looking upstream on said bench.

Blago and Mr. Agnew on a side trip to check out a cool looking alcove.

Rocks in said alcove.

The bench started out broad and grassy but quickly narrowed into a rocky talus slope.

I thought we’d have to climb up and over on the right side of this boulder, but it turned out we could slip past safely on the underside.

Gov. Blagojevich starting the crux downclimb of the traverse.

In a spectacular “lol jk” by nature, we were able to reach the side canyon just fine ... twelve feet above the canyon floor at the top of a sheer cliff. Some searching revealed a nearby place where FVPOTUS could get down to the bottom, but with inferior climbing skills, Blago and myself could not do so safely. So we returned to camp.

Mme Prime Minister, Mme President, Mme Secretary, and Mr. Quayle playing cards on the beach, as seen from the overlook above. Despite the time (11:30am), the zoomers had not only started but finished a bottle of “Fireball”, which is a cinnamon whiskey favored by kids these days.

We broke for a comfortable lunch in camp.

Afterwards, Mr. Agnew and I put on wading shoes and headed upstream for a second attempt at the side canyon, while everyone else took a nap. Bizarrely, I did not apparently take any photos, because it turned out to be a remarkable narrow side canyon with beautiful clear water, culminating shortly in what we called “Al G. Poole”. On the way back, we did identify a way to get up to the bench (on the opposite side from where we’d been stopped earlier) but didn’t pursue it.

Camp (under the cottonwoods) and our bend in the river as the sun got lower.

A lump of basalt on the slickrock above camp.

Indian paintbrush.

P.M. Brundtland writing giant obscene words in the beach.

P.M. Brundtland plotting something or other in our kitchen area.

I’ve forgotten what supper was or who cooked it, but it was good. Overall it was a fun, mostly lazy day in the canyons.
Woodruff starts out as a wide, dry wash with a decent trail and no scenery whatsoever.
A nice illustrative and international crew. I think the Utah Tourism Council or whatever they're called should hire you to do their marketing. It would slow down the tourism, as long as you weren't allowed to post photos. Glad to see Dan came along, and he could accomplish the cout d'etat on the tourism thing if you hired him as your spell checker. And I guess no harm done as long as Brundtland was writing the obscene words in Norse.

Day 3

Today we split into a lazy group and a foolish group. The latter — myself, Mr. Agnew, and Blago — were headed for Maidenwater Canyon a few miles upstream, the former to explore the immediate area, including Al G. Poole.

As we left camp, Mme. Secretary was missing. Unrelated, there was a large amount of giggling coming from this pile of sand.

No giggling from this sand, though.

Wading shoes were required for several miles. I forgot to count the crossings, but there were dozens and dozens. We decided to count the crossings on the way back.

Another plan for the way back was a ziplock bag of assorted trash and revolting-smelling water. We poured out the water and built a monumental tower of logs to mark the location for picking it up on the way back. This will become important later.

The governor entering the “Big Undercut” near the top of the Kayenta.

At Big Horn Sheep Canyon, we were able to get out of the stream bed on river and proceed dry footed.

Navajo cliffs looking upstream between Big Horn and Trail Canyon.

Maidenwater contained an exceptionally clear, steady flow of water.

Sand bank in Maidenwater.

We got maybe 30–40 minutes up Maidenwater before turning around in some tunnel narrows.

More Maidenwater waterfall.

As we neared Big Horn, we decided to ... take a shortcut. :eek: We would go up and over the pass into Woodruff Canyon and return to camp that way. (In our defense, I had used this route four times within the past couple of years.)

Worthless view back down into Trachyte from the rim.

Seriously, what is the point even.

General route down into Woodruff. It’s there, I promise.

It was pretty nice that the exhausting end-of-day slog back to camp was downhill.

The lazy crew didn’t even notice we’d come from the opposite direction expected. We had to deliberately point out that we’d taken a shortcut before they were properly horrified.

Dinner was my famous enchiladas. I’m pretty proud that I made them both gluten-free (corn tortillas) and vegan (fake cheese, pea-based “meat” crumbles) and they came out really well.

Day 4

Last day, sad day. We got up impossibly early (according to the zoomers) (IIRC it was 6:00am), packed up, and hit the trail.

V.P. Agnew, Gov. Blagojevich, and Sec. Albright on “Sleigh Queen Traverse” in lower Woodruff.

Sec. Albright, Blago, and P.M. Brundtland starting the bypass climb around the blocking fall. Everyone just ... did it, no pack passing necessary. I was impressed with the crew.

Looking over the downclimb in lower Woodruff.

V.P. Agnew, Mme Secretary, and Blago :rolleyes: approaching the top of the Navajo on the final stretch before the vehicles.

It was a good trip! Everybody had a good time, no one got hurt, the food was good, and I kept up with the kids these days. I was proud of the crew.

There is no “after” photo at the trailhead because by the time someone thought to take a photo, there was too much nudity happening anywhere anyone could find a plausible-deniability amount of privacy to change into street clothing.
I really enjoy your TRs, and the B&W photos really add to the sense of timelessness (it's amazing how good some of your crew gets around since they're supposedly dead, as well as how good the others have - or haven't - aged). It's kind of mind-boggling to see how well politicians can get along when they need to, but a lack of good scenary can do that to you.
Wonderful indeed and some quite spry cohorts to handle the bypasses. I appreciate the trip report and the worthless views as well as the not-so-worthless ones.
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