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Thread: Bull Valley Gorge

  1. #1

    Bull Valley Gorge

    On October 13th, 2015, I finally got to do a lap through Bull Valley Gorge.

    Some backstory:

    The first time I saw this canyon was in 1998, while driving through the Grand Staircase. I saw it out of the corner of my eye as I zoomed across a narrow bridge, hit the brakes, backed up, then gawked in amazement. I got out of my car. Is that 400 feet deep? Why the hell is there a car lodged underneath this bridge? Should I even park on this bridge??

    Back in 1998 the internet sucked, and my maps of Utah sucked too. I could not find a map that showed the name of that drainage. I actually made a special trip to the Maps Department of the University of Utah library to figure it out.

    I looked and looked for beta on the canyon, but none existed (however, I did find the history of the truck under the bridge). So, I visited The Gorge again in 2001, determined to downclimb it. But I had no skills and no rope, so I was stopped by the 10 foot drop near the head of the canyon.

    Years went by and the occasional photo of The Gorge surfaced on the internet. I visited The Gorge again in 2011, driving towards Page, but had no time to descend it. It continued to call to me.

    Then, a couple of months ago, I read about an easy exit. *gasp!* Time to go back. Again.

    Bull Valley Gorge was even better than I had imagined, very scenic. Worth keeping on my to-do list for the past seventeen years. A fun journey, finally complete.

    Easy downclimb when dry. Easy rappel when muddy.
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    Steph is up on the bridge, but you can't really see her in this photo. Can you see the car that creates the foundation for this bridge? It has been there since 1954. Three men were in the truck when they drove into Bull Valley Gorge, killing all three.
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    -Bob

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  4. #2
    No beta in 1998? I'm quite sure it was in Kelsey's non-technical books before that time. I think it was in my second edition I bought in the early nineties. I visited it myself in 98 as I recall. Only went down to under the bridge to see the wreck as I didn't have time to do Kelsey's exit up sheep creek I think it was.

  5. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by phatch View Post
    No beta in 1998? I'm quite sure it was in Kelsey's non-technical books before that time. I think it was in my second edition I bought in the early nineties. I visited it myself in 98 as I recall. Only went down to under the bridge to see the wreck as I didn't have time to do Kelsey's exit up sheep creek I think it was.
    None that I was aware of. Where did you get your hands on a Kelsey book back in 1998?

    It's too bad I didn't stumble across a copy. It would have changed my life, because I had no idea canyons other than Antelope even existed.

    So while you were hiking with Kelsey, I was hiking with the world's crappiest guide book, Falcon's Hiking the Grand Staircase. Helped me zero. I'll kick that author in the balls if I ever get the chance. Found a copy in a motel recently, now that I know what I'm looking at (and for), I'm really mad that I wasted so much time with that terrible book.

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  7. #4
    Where did you get your hands on a Kelsey book back in 1998?
    Kelsey books were extremely popular in the 80's and 90's. Even much more so in the past then now. Every book store and library had them, as well as many gas stations. All of the outdoor stores as well. Even places such as the Boy Scout Headquarters and grocery stores had them.

    By 1998, Bull Valley Gorge was in at least six Kelsey books or editions. As far as I know, the first Kesley book that had Bull Valley Gorge was the 1st edition of the Hiking and Exploring the Paria River book written in 1987.
    Utah is a very special and unique place. There is no where else like it on earth. Please take care of it and keep the remaining wild areas in pristine condition. The world will be a better place if you do.

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  9. #5
    My friend's mom was employed at Kirkham's and got the Kelsey books early on, late '80s I think for the first edition? That's how I discovered Kelsey guide books. I did Buckskin Gulch in 1992 based on his books and that was my first hike from Kelsey beta. I bought those books at REI at the top of 33rd south here in SLC.

    Kirkhams is an outdoors store here in SLC and has a great brand of in-house tent, Springbar.

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  11. #6
    I think I have all editions of all Kelsey's books, many of them signed. At one time they were the must have item for anyone into serious outdoor recreation and exploration. Kelsey would release a new book or edition every spring and the release was always eagerly awaited.

    I believe age has finally caught up with Kelsey and I doubt you will ever see another ground breaking guidebook out of him. The internet put a serious dent in his sales and a guidebook these days without GPS waypoints is hard to sell.

    But for many years Kelsey was the undisputed king of beta.

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  13. #7
    This is the first Kelsey book that I ever bought. I bought it with birthday money I got from my Grandmother on my 9th birthday back in 1983. I did get a lot of use out of it.

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    Back to the original topic though, nice pics of Bull Valley Gorge.
    Utah is a very special and unique place. There is no where else like it on earth. Please take care of it and keep the remaining wild areas in pristine condition. The world will be a better place if you do.

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  15. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott P View Post
    Kelsey books were extremely popular in the 80's and 90's. Even much more so in the past then now. Every book store and library had them, as well as many gas stations. All of the outdoor stores as well. Even places such as the Boy Scout Headquarters and grocery stores had them.
    By 1998, Bull Valley Gorge was in at least six Kelsey books or editions. As far as I know, the first Kesley book that had Bull Valley Gorge was the 1st edition of the Hiking and Exploring the Paria River book written in 1987.
    Quote Originally Posted by phatch View Post
    My friend's mom was employed at Kirkham's and got the Kelsey books early on, late '80s I think for the first edition? That's how I discovered Kelsey guide books. I did Buckskin Gulch in 1992 based on his books and that was my first hike from Kelsey beta. I bought those books at REI at the top of 33rd south here in SLC.
    Quote Originally Posted by Iceaxe View Post
    I think I have all editions of all Kelsey's books, many of them signed. At one time they were the must have item for anyone into serious outdoor recreation and exploration. Kelsey would release a new book or edition every spring and the release was always eagerly awaited.
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott P View Post
    This is the first Kelsey book that I ever bought. I bought it with birthday money I got from my Grandmother on my 9th birthday back in 1983. I did get a lot of use out of it.
    ^ ALL of this amazes me ^ Thanks for the history lesson.

    It's a shame that I didn't burn the extra few calories that would have put one of those books in my hands. But you can't know that you should pursue something when you don't even know it exists. Right?

    Back then I didn't know any serious hikers and didn't know that Kirkham's even existed. I didn't have the foggiest idea where the Paria River was, so, if I did happen to pick up that Paria book, I would have set it right back down. Same with his Swell book. Which countries are they in? Those books would have been more foreign than reading a French menu.

    In 1998, all I knew of southern Utah was Arches and Zion, and I could count the number of days I had camped during my life on one hand. My parents still have never been to Arches or Zion, and I couldn't stand being a scout, so I didn't have anyone to nudge me in the right direction.

    So for me, back then, getting into Bull Valley Gorge was as exotic as flying to the moon. It would have been like me dating the head cheerleader when I was 15, had acne, and weighed 110 lbs.

    Fast forward 17 years. I run into that cheerleader today. I'm doing well. She's past her prime. But I still want to hit that, just to say I hit that...

    And it was pretty damn fun to do so.

  16. #9
    The Gorge was even better than I had imagined, very scenic. Worth keeping on my to-do list for the past seventeen years. A fun journey, finally complete.



    Or maybe not complete . . . next time do the gorge as a loop with Willis and Sheep creeks. Kelsey has a route description. Probably others on-line.


    I wouldn't kick Ron Adkison in the balls. I thought his route description of getting to Cobra Arch was clearer than Kelsey's. The more beta the better.

  17. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by erial View Post
    Or maybe not complete . . . next time do the gorge as a loop with Willis and Sheep creeks. Kelsey has a route description. Probably others on-line.

    I wouldn't kick Ron Adkison in the balls. I thought his route description of getting to Cobra Arch was clearer than Kelsey's. The more beta the better.
    My wife and I talked about doing the loop, it doesn't look bad. We'll probably do it later when our kids are older. We did the top mile of Willis Creek on Tuesday. Very fun with the kids. Maybe I'll post those pictures up too.

    From what I remember about the Adkinson book, about 50% of the hikes were garbage, the maps were garbage, and there were no GPS points (my copy has been in a landfill for a long time, so I might be mistaken). Steve Allen's books about the same routes are a million times better.

    I like Kelsey's stuff, but you have to know how he writes, and who he is (like any beta writer). There are many gems in his books. But it takes time to sort the good from the bad.

  18. #11
    Bogley BigShot
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    Great photos. Love that canyon!

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  20. #12
    Interesting to hear your stories and that even you guys in Utah started from "small" beginnings. (incidentally Kelsey is planning updated improved versions of his books still. Have you read his volcanoes of the world - his level of exploration of hundreds of obscure remote mountains in every country is quite incredible, I can't believe anyone in the world has hiked anywhere near as much ).

    As a Brit, I thought all the great stuff was confined to National Parks until I saw an unnamed postcard in Page of "Corkscrew" canyon which was Antelope and I was the only one in there when the Navajo guide took me. Another unnamed postcard was The Wave which was easy to get a permit for on my next visit. At the trailhead one local said to another have you been to Whitepocket, it's even better. A lovely guy Terry Alderman who has a photography shop in Kanab took me to Whitepocket and in his store were photos of Bull Valley Gorge and Willis Creek, so having seen Antelope and not knowing so many slots existed they went straight on my to-do list (hopefully will do Bull Valley this October 13 years later). Willis is easy to reach and do. Terry was full of great stories and in the days before digital he told us tourists on the Grand Canyon south rim - distraught when their cameras broke down - would make a round trip of hundreds of miles to him to get them repaired so that they'd get their "once in a lifetime visit" photos. His other great tip for me was that Point Sublime was his favourite Grand Canyon viewpoint - and it is certainly special

    I'd also been to Zion several times before I realised it had explorable canyons outside the trails!

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  22. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by kaniukr View Post
    Interesting to hear your stories and that even you guys in Utah started from "small" beginnings. (incidentally Kelsey is planning updated improved versions of his books still. Have you read his volcanoes of the world - his level of exploration of hundreds of obscure remote mountains in every country is quite incredible, I can't believe anyone in the world has hiked anywhere near as much ).

    As a Brit, I thought all the great stuff was confined to National Parks until I saw an unnamed postcard in Page of "Corkscrew" canyon which was Antelope and I was the only one in there when the Navajo guide took me. Another unnamed postcard was The Wave which was easy to get a permit for on my next visit. At the trailhead one local said to another have you been to Whitepocket, it's even better. A lovely guy Terry Alderman who has a photography shop in Kanab took me to Whitepocket and in his store were photos of Bull Valley Gorge and Willis Creek, so having seen Antelope and not knowing so many slots existed they went straight on my to-do list (hopefully will do Bull Valley this October 13 years later). Willis is easy to reach and do. Terry was full of great stories and in the days before digital he told us tourists on the Grand Canyon south rim - distraught when their cameras broke down - would make a round trip of hundreds of miles to him to get them repaired so that they'd get their "once in a lifetime visit" photos. His other great tip for me was that Point Sublime was his favourite Grand Canyon viewpoint - and it is certainly special

    I'd also been to Zion several times before I realised it had explorable canyons outside the trails!
    Cool story. That is a lot of trips across the pond. Way to get after it!

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