Day 9: Fable Valley Trail to Dark Canyon

Saturday April 29, 19.7mi/31.7km

Beef Basin (115.8/6040ft) to Dark Canyon (132.1/4700ft) (UT) +3.4mi many wrong turns

It must have been a very cold night because I woke to a tiny bit of frost on my tent. But by the time I had packed up and started hiking, it was already 50F in the sun. After a couple miles, I came to the fable Valley trailhead.

It was hilarious seeing an official sign and registration book in the middle of nowhere. It was a beautiful trail though.

Gradually I got used to hiking on a trail again, so far it has been mostly walking in washes and on roads.

The trail stayed at the same elevation, while the valley below me started dropping rapidly…

… Until it was deep canyon. I’ll never get bored of the scenery here with the red rocks and green trees.

The trail even passed by this little arch, which was not on any map or sign. Secret arch?!

The trail turned away from the main deep Canyon and into a side canyon, and there was water there! Clear, cold water!

I think that is the point that the official trail ended, because after that I was mostly hiking on cattle trails up the valley. The hiking became steeper and rockier, until eventually I came face to face with a chimney. Hmmm…not climbing that!

I spent another hour climbing up that canyon, finding detours around the steep bits, and eventually coming out on top of Dark Canyon Plateau. I think those snowy mountains to the West are the Henry mountains.

I had lunch at a junction of dirt 4wd roads. Before I started my descent into Young’s Canyon and Dark Canyon, I thought I would stock up on water. After seeing the cow-polluted pond I decided to skip it.

The descent down Young’s Canyon started off familiar enough, in a shallow wash.

When there were giant pour-offs, I had to find a way around them through the cliffs on the side. Looking back at a big 50 foot pouroff that I detoured around:

That first these detours were like a fun puzzle I had to figure out the best way through the terrain. But after like 8 or 10 of such detours I started to find them annoying. The biggest one was a full-on climb out of the valley and back up to the rim, only to descend all the way back down to the canyon floor again. Blah.

The 1000-foot descent down the steep scree field was interesting.

Looking back up at what I had just descended from:

Eventually I got to actually walk on the canyon floor, and when I did it was pretty easy and fun walking. I even found this weird little cairn with a survey marker in it.

It’s easy walking on slickrock!

There were two bonus (surprise) challenges for the day. The first was the gauntlet of poison ivy, which I think I successfully dodged it all in the 1/4-mile section where it grew.

The other bonus challenge was actually leaving Young’s Canyon. The trail kind of ended at a waterfall, so once again I had to scramble up onto a ledge to be able to hike around it and get down into Dark Canyon. Finally I was in Dark Canyon! (And out of Young’s Canyon). By now it was after 7pm, so I decided to set up camp as soon as I found a spot. It took me another 30 minutes to find a flat spot, that was also safely above the stream. Crossing the stream was not trivial, and it seemed to be running higher than normal.

Tomorrow, the Hayduke route follows this stream downstream for 7 miles, which means constant crossings of the stream as it meanders back and forth within the canyon. I hope it remains cross-able for all 7 miles, otherwise I will have to turn around and go back up that terrible Young’s Canyon again….

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