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111 Days In The Sierra

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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:53 am

An interesting read, and great pictures as usual. It is always interesting to see the choices people make and impressions found in places you have been to.
"As I made my way out of the area I heard that familiar deep sounding call. As I came around the corned I finally caught my first view of the culprit. I was completely amazed to find that it was a Grouse! A STUPID GROUSE! For the last four years I had been hearing that call and never knew what it was. "
When me and two others were doing the JMT long ago, we heard that sound. Dave and I knew what it was, but Kevin did not. When he asked what it was, we told him it was his water bottle. After several futile attempts to silence his water bottle, we let him in on our little joke.
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http://www.doylewdonehoo.com" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;



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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby oleander » Thu Feb 21, 2013 3:02 pm

Beautiful photos, and very helpful as the x-country route you took from Nine Lakes back to Pear Lake has been on my bucket list.

It's true, there is a short section about halfway between Table Meadows and Pear Lake that is frustrating and slow, all the more so because Tablelands are universally characterized as "very easy travel" and you are expecting "easy."

How is the camping at Lonely Lake?
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby maverick » Thu Feb 21, 2013 3:58 pm

PM sent Oleander
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby SweetSierra » Sat Feb 23, 2013 1:08 pm

Thanks Rogue for another interesting write-up and for all of your photos! How far along the headwall of Cloud Canyon did you go before you decided to ascend to the ridgetop? Did you have to hike far along the ridge before hitting the Miner's Trail at Copper Mine Pass? That's no small feat! I looked at that ridgeline and I wouldn't have wanted to thread it.

Last year, our group's leader hit the Miner's Trail at the headwall almost directly above the huge granite feature as you're crossing that vast Cloud Canyon headwall area about a mile and half after leaving the tarn under Lion Lake Pass (you can see it in your photo as just a blip in the distance but when you're there, it's very prominent.) We found a switchback at this spot (it took a while, though, but our group's leader guessed at the right spot after seeing a portion of the Miner's Trail way in the distance from our camp at Glacier Lake) which was the main trail leading up to Copper Mine Pass. Where did you leave the trail to descend into Deadman Canyon? Just after your peak climb? It looked pretty steep in that area. What was that like? We followed the trail to its end at the saddle at Deadman's Canyon's head and then descended to the Elizabeth Pass Trail on the way to Big Bird Lake.

The tablelands are unusual and I've liked our hikes there. But I like vast open areas. We had to race through about a three-mile section to Moose Lake because of a thunderstorm. The streambeds and tarns were all dry until we reached the outlet of Moose Lake.
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sat Feb 23, 2013 5:10 pm

I went to the ridge beyond where the last cliffs are and it's smooth to the ridge. It's also a low point. It wasn't that far from there to reach the trail and Peak 12,345. You just have to deal with all that sharp rock.

I dropped into Deadman Canyon at the low saddle down the West ridge. It's pretty much where the trail ends along the ridge.

I need to spend more time on this whole report! If I don't speed it up I will end up back in the Sierra and have two reports to work on!
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby SweetSierra » Sat Feb 23, 2013 5:24 pm

Thanks. You dropped off the trail where we did, then. It's good that it was smooth to the ridge. That sharp rock did look difficult, what litle I saw from the vantage point on the pass. Your journey across all the snow to get there sounded like no fun at all. Postholing thigh deep is very hard.
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Wed Feb 27, 2013 6:17 pm

WEEK 5

MAP

The three of us after a late night parted ways late from camp. As I made my way through Sugarloaf Valley I was reminded how horrible of a trail it is. Just sandy and hot with almost no views. At least I was not choking on smoke like I had been in 2010 when wild fires were raging near by. Slowly I slogged along taking note of all the bear tracks in the sand and by the time I reached the Roaring River Ranger Station I was beat. I was happy to learn from other Rangers that Cindy was supposed to be arriving on this day but when I got there the cabin was still shut down for the season.

She never did make it as I made my way up Cloud Canyon the following morning. Like I had remembered the hike through Cloud is mostly uneventful. It's major beauty is isolated into primary locations such as Big Wet Meadow. I was just glad that the mosquitoes were not bad and I could enjoy myself more as I had to make a couple typical ford locations. When I was getting closer to where I planned to leave the trail I was keeping an eye out for Shorty's Cabin. My GPS map showed a waypoint for it but it was not accurate. Ultimately I never did see it and just went on my way. As I began off trail it wasn't so easy right away. I had to find my way through some wet marshes and then climb through some mild brush mixed with talus. Although my goal had been to try and reach Glacier Lake I knew it was futile. My energy had fizzled out and I was ready to stop for the night. I found a giant flat rock that was about 7 feet above the ground and only had one access point to get on it which was a small rock bridge. I decided this would be a good place to lay out for the night. Ever since I had left Wales Lake my filters seal was broken where the pump handle was. I had left it out in the sun while I climbed Mt. Russell. I decided to try and use my lighter to heat the glue in an effort to seal it again since every time I pumped water it would shoot water 15 feet. This back fired on me though and the whole area warped and the filter was dead ending any further water treatment for the rest of the hike.

That night I decided to make a fire on the rock since it was unlikely that any black stain on it's top would be seen by any other hiker going through here. I danced around on the rock under the stars listening to music wondering about my physical condition. It was day 30 on the trail and I did not seem to be getting into shape like other years. Maybe I am just getting old I thought but after this day it was like a switch was flipped and I found my energy. An energy that would continue to grow for the rest of this hike.

The rest of the way up Cloud Canyon was easy and scenic. As I reached an old mining area I began searching around for mine relics. Drums, glass jars, a bed frame and a strong piece of aluminum that I first though was foil but it was hard to bend. It had letters on it but all I could make out for sure was OWD. When I had seen all I wanted to see I started making my way up hill towards a low point on the Whaleback. It had a brown mess of rocks on it which was what Yogi at Junction Meadow had told me about. I assumed this was his location for crossing so I began up. The views of Cloud Canyon where wonderful from this prospective. As I reached the brown rocks it was a nearly vertical section of class 3. The rocks where loose and demanded allot of caution because there was plenty enough exposure to kill you. After a couple difficult moves I reached the last ramp to the top.

Beginning down there was a bit of nearly vertical class 3 but it was all solid rock this time which made things allot easier. After lunch on the hill side I made my way down to the basin below and on down to the small lakes. When I reached the area where the terrain gets much steeper I began angling to my right in an effort to not lose too much altitude while I pick up the trail again. This was not the easiest task as I walked across steep faces of granite slabs. At one point I made a difficult jump around a corner and my pack hit the rock face nearly throwing me down to my demise.

When I picked up the trail I immediately ran into 4 people which startled me. I had an odd exchange with them since they didn't seem to understand what I was doing out here. I made quick work the rest of the way to Colby Lake and did some fishing for the first time on this trip. I had picked up a roll of line and a couple lures at Lodgepole and was doing some bootleg fishing using my trekking pole. It was a bit difficult to get the hang of this type of fishing but it worked just as well.

Moving North it was a fairly easy task to cut around into the drainage of Talus Lake. Although plenty rocky the travel continued to be easy as I passed a small unnamed lake and then on up to Talus Lake. I continued around the Northern shore and up the talus to near the pass. After passing by the the small tarn I sat on the pass looking at the terrain below. From way up here I spotted what looked like a nice camp site so I pulled out my monocular to examine it and other locations more closely. Continuing down this pass was a bit more challenging in terms of planning your way. A great deal of slabs had to be navigated and zig zagging down narrow grass slopes proved to be the key. Once I had reached the bottom I found the campsite I had seen from above and it seemed like a nice place to stay for the night so I got set up and went for a swim in the beautiful tiny lake near by. I then began exploring down along the larger meadow some. The North side was a particularly wonderful place to be and the familiar feeling of being in a place you belong came over me. If anywhere in the Sierra was worth coming back to Table Creek was certainly one of them.

The following morning I began making my way up towards Thunder Ridge Pass admiring all the beauty around me. This was another easy stretch of terrain to travel. As I got closer to the pass a small cut trench was on my left and I made the mistake of not entering it. Instead I stayed higher up and got stuck on a plateau of micro cliffs. Fortunately as I was almost to Thunder Ridge Pass I was able to drop down and begin up the pass. Although the pass itself was easy grass ramps the rest of the area was an aggressive looking mess of moraine. I had on my mind the fact that somewhere in this general area a WW2 fighter plane had never been found. Where are you hiding yourself I thought as I jumped up over the pass and began down the other side. Looking down I was happy that although this pass was solid talus you have the advantage that no route find is necessary but after only 15 feet down a rock rolled on me and sent me smashing down bashing and cutting my knee. I also took some cuts to my wrists and slightly sprained my ankle. I sat down to fight off the pain and gathered myself again. The more I continued down the more I realized how bad this pass really is. The talus was hauntingly unstable/stable. I touched a 3000 pound boulder and it took violently off smashing down the hill in a thunderous crash. Every step down I never knew which rocks were going to hold and which ones would take me out.

When I reached the level talus field below I saw a familiar sight again. A pile of animal droppings that looked like Horse. I had seen this so many times in these crazy locations. What the hell and how is a horse wandering around up here? Later I would finally come to the conclusion that this is bear scat. Their early season diet of mostly vegetation produces scat that looks allot like a horse. Even so it was an odd place for a bear to be wandering.

As I approached the cliff sides looking down on the 3 lakes below I hooked hard right and picked up a talus slope that took me down to the shore line. After I made it across the first lake I found a large rock to hide half my body under and eat lunch. As I laid here the Marmots were letting out their scared chirps. After about a minute I realized that they sounded too upset to just be scared of me. I began looking around until I spotted the culprit. A coyote was making it's way along the lake and up the hill to where ever it was going.

As I dropped to the final lake I had a hard time getting through a large talus field over grown with willows but finally I was down and rounded the lake to enjoy the final look at these three beautiful unnamed lakes.

Crossing plenty of small talus over to Cunningham Creek what did I find? Well what else but more beauty? Now it was time for the final push so hooking up grass and granite slabs I closed in on South Guard Lake passing more horse looking bear scat. When I arrived I first began searched the South West shore for a place to camp but had no luck so I moved over to the East shore. Here I found a few spots that didn't offer much for me. I decided it was time to bring one of these patches up to a livable standard so I started clearing all the rocks out of a dirt patch until it was big enough to set up my tent.

I set out to do some fishing but had no luck at all and concluded that this lake had no fish. A few drops of rain fell marking the first rain since the Big Arroyo 19 days ago.

Even though my ankle still hurt from the day before I set out to climb Mt. Brewer. I went around the South East shore and came to a snow field running into the lake. I joked that I bet this damn thing is hard as a rock. I stuck my foot out and pressed on it. My foot immediately slipped out and I almost fell to the ground. Not only was it hard but it was solid ice! I was forced up hill on some difficult rock faces but after some trouble I made it past it and continued up some drainage ways to the East. Up top I began moving more towards Brewer but hard packed snow made it difficult. Once I had topped off my water at the tarns below Brewer I began scrambling up the talus like a monkey using all four limbs. I enjoyed being so nimble and feeling so good as I made quick work up to the ridge. At one point I found myself in front of a nasty bit of rock that required a vertical class 4 climb. When I had finally reached the top it was difficult to pick out which block was the summit. The one a bit more to the East looked higher so I began working out across this difficult ridge. I dropped onto the North side of the slope and had to shimmy slightly inverted along a cliff face. When I reached the furthest East side of the ridge I found orange peels all over and searched for any sort of summit marker or register without luck. I decided to give this summit block a try so I set up my camera to record a video and climbed on top of it. The rock was only a few inches wide and I thought about standing up on top of it but decided it was probably best not to so I just sat on it. From here I still could not tell if this was the high point so I made my way back across to the high spot on the West side of the ridge. Once I had climbed on top of it I could tell for sure the other block was the summit. Climbing back down this rock however was intense since the hand holds were almost non existent and my boots did not help me much.

Finally it was time to go so I began angling down the South East slope towards Brewer Pass. When I had reached one notch that I thought might be the pass it was a class 5 chimney climb so I figured the real pass was further South. The rest of the way down the sand slopes was easy enough and on back to the tarns while talus hoping. This time I decided to go around the North shore of South Guard Lake so I passed the small lake below Cinder Col and on down. This idea proved to be a bit more difficult though since I immediately was faced with steep granite slabs that were not that easy to cross. Then when I reached the West shore a large snow field in front of a cliff face blocked my way so I was forced way up the hill and back down again. Finally I crossed the outlet and wandered back into my camp victorious over another peak.

Leaving South Guard Lake I angled out towards Longely Pass in an effort to not lose much altitude which put more obstacles in my way yet worked out well enough. The initial climb was a steep slope of rock and sand which was tiring but once you fight your way beyond this you have an easy stroll to the top. When I got there I looked up at South Guard and debated climbing it. I wanted to bag the peak and it was an easy climb to the top but in the end I was simply too lazy. The top of the pass had a cornice all the way across. The North side extended all the way to the cliff faces and the snow looked too steep if it was very hard packed. I made my way to the Southern end and was able to climb down below it. I began traversing across the pass under the cornice which was mostly easy but could have been uncomfortable for others due to the fact that some of the slopes were loose sand and were close to vertical cliffs. If you fell you would mostly likely go over the cliff to your death.

Once I had gotten to the North side I began down the sand slopes which were a breeze to just ride down to the bottom. After passing by the small lake below I reached some slopes that could be taken down to the primary lake. I debated on them but from here I could not see the North shore of the lake and I had no idea if it could be taken so I decided to stay up higher until I was about half way around the lake where I found some grass ramps down to the shore line. After admiring this beautiful lake I began making my way to the outlet. Before I got there however I reached a slot of terrain that headed down which I decided to take. This proved to be a pleasant way to go as I picked up a couple areas that seemed to have constructed switchbacks. Most of the way down was easy although I made use of hoping along the creek to avoid some snow and major talus which would not have been possible in higher water levels. After plenty of micro route finding choices and small bush whacking I found myself standing on the shore of Lake Reflection. As I stood there for some reason I felt so incredibly peaceful and found the lake so beautiful. A wonderful feeling breeze was hitting me and the sound of the waves splashed on the shore. I felt like just laying down and soaking up the sun without a care in the world but I had a camp to find. Moving along the North shore it had plenty of cairns to follow which was a bit pointless in my opinion because the choices were few where one could climb along the granite faces. When I reached the outlet there was one camp with no one home. I got set up near by as a couple came walking across the log jam. Talking to them a bit they were out for about two weeks and already had climbed every single peak in the whole area including further South to Midway Mountain. Apparently they also had a second camp set up at East Lake to climb peaks down there. Certainly they had way more stamina than I ever will!

I spent the rest of the night fishing but could not catch any fish worth eating.

WEEK 6

MAP

After taking one last look at Lake Reflection I began out on the log jam that the other two hikers had crossed the day before. I did not make it far though before I said "the hell with this!" It was just a bit too sketchy for my liking so I began down and around the outlet lake where the crossing was much easier. I continued down the valley making an attempt to follow the use trail that was here but I ended up losing it. A bit further down I must have made some wrong choices because before I knew it I was climbing through thick willows. And man do I mean thick! They were over my head and I began getting pissed as I fought my way through with a horrible amount of effort. At times I could not tell if I was even on the ground but finally I punched out and continued on easier terrain. After one or two large talus fields I finally picked up a decent enough trail that took me to East Lake. Another delightful lake to enjoy but now it was time to trudge down to Bubbs Creek. About half a mile before the river crossing I spotted a decent size black bear across the creek. It did not see me as it wandered along. I wanted to test how wild it was so I called out to it "hello Mr. Bear!". It looked up at me without a care in the world and just went on with scratching it's neck and rubbing it's butt on a tree. Clearly a bear used to seeing allot of people.

After dropping down the last bit to the crossing I got there just as a man was getting his shoes back on. We sat and talked for 30 minutes and he told me how this was his first time in the Sierra and that when he began to cross the creek, not knowing what to do he tossed his shoes across to the other side and one bounced back into the water. When I told him that I just tie my laces together and sling the shoes over me he could only say - "I didn't think of that". Resuming the trail it was time for the long slog down canyon as the temperature got much hotter. Before I got there however a man came hiking up the trail. "Don't I know you I asked?" After a brief moment we remembered. "Oh yeah! your the man that gave me your tent stakes at Franklin Lakes!" 36 days later and they were still serving me well.

After the 14 mile trek I came wandering out at Roads End. Although I would have loved to get a ride to Cedar Grove for the night I decided to bootleg camp in the same location I had the year before.

Come morning I made the 5 mile walk to the resort. To my dismay the bridge was still out! What!? Still!? Damn! I had one advantage though and that was that the river was low enough already that fords could be made easily. Sadly when I asked about using the electrical outlets under the counter they said nope I cannot use it. After a couple bad dealings with some people the manager decided to get rid of all liability and not allow anyone to charge anymore. I knew that I could use the visitor center in the Sentinel campground but again because of that magic word of liability the Rangers will not allow you to leave your stuff over night.

After doing laundry and getting a shower it was time to call my family. Like the year before my uncle owed me plenty of money before I left so it worked out again to have them bring me a resupply and the money. I was going to make the call when I was informed that all communications in the valley were down and since it was Friday they would not be back up until Monday. So I was just stuck! I spent the next couple of days hanging out with the Rangers and just reading while spending way more money then I wanted to. Finally on Monday the phones came up and when I picked up the phone about 12 dollars of change came pouring out of it from all the people who wasted their money trying to call. I ended up giving it all to a young girl who said she had 5 dollars to last her the rest of the week. After arranging the package for the next day I could only keep waiting.

After getting my package my aunt said how my dad wanted me to call him and that he wanted to do a hike. We had already discussed the fact that since he only has the weekend off that it would be impossible for him to do much with me and she could offer no more relevant information so with dread I made the call. My dad always had a tendency to ramble on about nothing at all with no regard to the fact that I am feeding change into the phone and need to communicate information quickly. This is exactly what happened as any time I would try to tell him about anything interesting that had happened out here he would cut me off on some random bit and after less than 10 minutes I ran out of change listening to him going on about how he is way better than me in any kind of route finding or wilderness travel. We never did manage to get much information communicated about him wanting to hike other then he has the weekend which of course I already knew. It may have been less than 10 minutes of communication but the exchange left me irritated every time I thought about it for the next month on the trail. That would be the last non business phone call home on this trip...

Come Wednesday it was time to get away from this place and all the chaos. So with the largest load I had carried of 15 days I set out back up the trail to Roads End. While there I took a break and went to the Ranger booth. Remember me? I said to the cute young girl working the station. "Yes... If you keep at this your not going to have anywhere left to explore!" she said. We talked for an hour or more and then it was time for me to get going again.

By the time I reached the bridge crossing the South Fork it was burning hot out so I jumped into the river to soak myself for climbing the switch backs which worked beautifully. Some where close to Charlotte Creek I set up for the night.

The next morning I began up the West side of Charlotte. I didn't get far as I saw a couple on the other side going up also. I yelled over to them "I didn't think I would see anyone else going up here!" After I was able to make them hear me it turned out they had no desire to go up Charlotte Creek but were Rae Lake Loop hikers that had just seen me hiking and followed me like sheep.

Right away the steepness of the slope was kicking my butt. The high heat was also killing me. Further up the slopes were so steep and mixed with light vegetation I could barely stay on the side of the hill. Then the walls began to close and I found myself back in the middle of a nightmare bushwhack! I fought through getting more angry and slowly losing my sanity. I was out of water and although the creek was not that far below me it was impossible to reach. Finally after more misery then I care to remember I got to the creek and was able to get water again. Good times ahead right? WRONG! The slope from here was so steep and so over grown that I had to use the branches to pull myself up the hill while trying to get myself through the nightmare. WHY DO WE DO IT!!!! WHY!!!! I yelled. CAN ANYONE HEAR ME!!! NOPE!!! Because no one is stupid enough to come up this damn creek but me!!! ARRRRRGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!

By the time I got through a 30 foot section leaving the creek I was all cut up and the scab on my knee was ripped open. Looking over at the East side of the creek it looked like it had better options for getting through but not much. I began angling higher up the hill in an effort to get away from the brush which slowly worked and the slope gave way to annoying yet manageable Manzanita. After crossing the creek coming down from below Gardiner Pass I popped my head over the steep banks to see a tarp stretched out. Once again the sight of people caught me off guard. As I was making the last steep push I heard a loud rumbling sound and I thought it was thunder finally since I had not heard any yet but it did not stop. I looked over across the valley to see dust clouds all the way down a slope from a good sized landslide. When this area leveled out I found a nice camp site to the end day as a mild rain washed over the area.
Last edited by RoguePhotonic on Thu Feb 28, 2013 1:44 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby millertime » Thu Feb 28, 2013 12:58 pm

Good stuff Rogue as always
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby SweetSierra » Thu Feb 28, 2013 5:21 pm

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your narrative on your trip. It was enthralling to read. I'm glad you weren't hurt badly when you took that fall, and that your ankle was okay as well. Falls happen so suddenly and you only have a moment to react. I loved when you said that you entered that basin and suddenly felt at home. I've had that experience. What a beautiful area. I've never been there but would like to go. When you came to Reflection lake, I thought you would start to hike up Lucy's Foot Pass :) . Loved the photos of the bear. That must be one of the Bubbs Creek bears saying ho hum, it's only a human and where's the food?
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby sekihiker » Thu Feb 28, 2013 8:31 pm

What inspired you to cross the Whaleback?
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby oldranger » Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:42 pm

Rogue

Glad you enjoyed Table Creek. You may have camped at exactly my favorite site certainly very close. The tippy talus of Thunder Ridge Pass was always a terrifying experience to me but I guess I was lucky.
The tarns you passed going down to Cunningham Creek were also favorites. I once watched about about 2 dozen dippers swimming around the really tiny tarn near the bottom of the side canyon. That missing plane was always on my mind as I patrolled the area. If you climbed up the slope to the w from the outlet of S. Guard Lake all the way to the peak and looked down into the little side canyon you would be looking down on the site of the wreckage of one of the 3 P-40s that went down over the Roaring River Country. I think most of the wreckage was flown out in the early 90s.

Again you have made me homesick!

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: 111 Days In The Sierra

Postby RoguePhotonic » Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:49 pm

Considering I dropped out of school in 7th grade and never went back. Also was not home schooled your all lucky I can write this thing as well as I do. It could be allot worse.

What inspired you to cross the Whaleback?


Umm :-k because it's there?

I think I had planned to cross it because I was going to move back East over Copper Mine Pass and then the Whaleback to move towards Talus Pass. After deciding not to go back across Copper Mine because of the snow I thought I would explore more of Cloud Canyon by going up it and then back onto my planned route. Although difficult to cross it was beautiful.
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