By the time breakfast was being served, it was raining lightly. <sigh> The group huddled in the camper and listened to the radio reports that they were able to pick up (which wasn't much). The Four Corners region was under a winter storm warning. It was already snowing in Sedona, Az, at this point. In the area Indy and Crew were it was supposed to be windy and snowing above 5000 feet, windy and raining below 5000 feet. Indy estimated from the topo map that Leland had that they were about 4800 feet. <sigh!> Going to be another wet day...
Leland announced, "Well, it's time for Plan B."
(Plan A was to do a photo shoot into White Canyon near Powell Lake, then maybe look for a rappel area into Fry Canyon).
"What's plan B?" asked Mrs Howard.
"Damned if I know!" he replied.
Leland decided to go back and take a nap for a while. Prueheart and Baby Girl decided to fade away and do Prueheart and Baby Girl things (away they went, giggling). Indy decided to take a short walk up to a nearby bluff and just look at the surroundings (option 2: return to somewhat cramped tent and sit there, option 3: sit in the rain by the fire). No one had any real definite plans to do anything, so Indy figured a walk would be good to do.
Indy made his way up to the bluff, and to his surprise, Tempest followed him! Pretty much all the way. The rain had stopped, but the skies were still ominous and overcast. While up on the bluff Indy spied Jacob's Chair again, at first enshrouded in clouds. As he watched, the clouds dissipated, and Jacob's Chair stood out plainly. Looks like interesting climbing potential there. No real idea how large it was - probably fair-sized, though. Taller than Seneca, undoubtedly.
Indy noticed that Tempest had returned to camp, and saw movement down by the campers. Then he heard a noise, and watched as Prueheart and Baby Girl dash off westward on one of the 4-wheelers. Indy sighed. He figured they went to go check out the top of the natural bridge, and he sorta wanted to do that, too, but didn't feel right about taking one of the bikes up there (plus there was that eroded section of 'road' to navigate). By the time he got back to camp he figured Prueheart Sub-Expedition would be long gone. One last look around told him there really wasn't much else to see from his vantage point, anyway, so he returned to camp, wondering what alternate plans he could do until the Sub-Expedition returned.
Upon his entering camp Mrs Howard indicated that if Indy were quick, he could jump on one of the bikes and catch the girls. Indy blinked. Wow, cool! Indy grabbed a helmet (the muddy dirt roads were undoubtedly very slippery, and crash potential was higher), fired up the bike, and zzzZZZZZOOOOoommmmm! Away he went!
Indy zipped out the dirt road, his body reacquiring its motorbike balance and feel. He started out slightly tentative, but quickly 'got better'. Next thing he knew, he had zipped through the entire section they had explored a few days prior, and had negotiated through the eroded section with nary an eyeblink (he did slow down some, but never really paused much), plus a couple other sections that were just about as bad. In short a time he spied the top of the natural bridge from the road (all it looked like was a slight fissure in the ground from the road). He couldn't see Prueheart or Baby Girl, but he did in the next minute or so find a nice pull-off, with the 4-wheeler parked there. Indy parked the bike and scouted around, going into Ranger Mode. Ah-hah! Footprints...
Indy followed the footprints down (still not having caught sight of the two girls), and eventually caught up with the Prueheart Sub-Expedition just before they entered a gully/wash. They together followed the wash down and soon found the (now somewhat larger-looking) fissure in the ground.
They had arrived atop the Natural Bridge.
The requisite jumping of the fissure onto the natural bridge then followed, along with the required photo-shoots. Prueheart and Baby Girl took great delight in testing how far down it was to the ground below (drop times of about 4 seconds was the average concensus - it is left as an exercise to the reader to determine the distance down, remembering that things fall at 32 feet per second squared ;-).
During this time the clouds began breaking a little. Peeks of sunlight filtered through the clouds. Maybe it would clear up??? Only time would tell...
The trio made their way back to the vehicles. Along the way they discovered several more items of interest: another, very nice piece of petrified wood (which it was decided to leave behind for other explorers to find and marvel at) and an old mine claim form tucked in an old tin. Prue decided to bring this latter back for further, more in-depth examination back at camp.
Since the day was still young, the group decided to continue along this mine road, to see where it would ultimately go (Indy hoped that perhaps it would get close to Jacob's Chair, which was now barely a mile away as the crow flies). Along the way the group encountered a mine entrance. They stopped to investigate. Not being fully equiped with Underground Exploration Gear (UEG; the motorcycle helmets doubled as hardhats), they intended on only going in a short distance. As it turned out, this mine entrance only went back 15 feet. There it died. So they exited and proceeded on.
They then came upon a second mine entrance, complete with wooden bracings and everything. They stopped to investigate and quickly determined that this one went back quite a long ways - farther than they could safely go without light sources. So they left, discussing the possibilities of returning to camp and grabbing flashlights. But instead they continued up the road and encountered a third mine entrance! This was the largest of the three, and also went back further than they could safely explore. This only strengthened the resolve of returning later in the day. The group returned to their vehicles, and continued on.
Eventually the terrain became exceedingly impassable for Indy and the motorbike, and Prueheart found it necessary to negotiate much of it without Baby Girl riding along (and this went slowly). Indy decided that he would just hang out and wait while the two girls went ahead (at first they hadn't even realized Indy wasn't with them; when they did, they understood why). And as Indy waited, it began to drizzle. "Grrreeat...," muttered Indy. He decided to head back along the road and wait out this in one of the mineshafts. As he started the bike, the drizzle turned to snow...
In short order Indy got to the large mine entrance, parked the bike, and squirrelled himself into the entrance. Two minutes later Prueheart and Baby Girl arrived. A few minutes after this the snow/drizzle stopped, and the group decided to explore a spur bluff which led to a neighboring mesa. They got over there with little difficulty until the trail petered out. It became a footpath on the edge of a rather steep cliff (and a long-ass ways down!). Parking the vehicles the trio took to walking around the entire mesa. They found loads of petrified wood chips, odd and interesting looking stones, and even some fossils (crinoids mainly, with a few leaf impressions here and there).
As they walked around they witnessed scattered snow/rain showers all throughout the entire White Canyon region. The sun was out in spots, but it never really cleared up. One scattered storm passed close to the mesa (brushed it, actually), but our heroes never really got wet. They double-timed it back to the vehicles, discovered a couple more mine entrances along the way - but didn't stop to explore long with the funky weather - and the sun came out when they arrived at the vehicles. They snacked on a brief lunch, then negotiated their way back to the main mine road. As the group arrived to the mine road, Indy noted a particular bunching of clouds (dumping appropriate amounts of percipitation for the bunching) heading straight for them! They hesitated no longer, and flew off down the road, the storm hot on their heels.
The group managed to get off of the mesa/bluff and back down to the plains again without getting really much wet (a sprinkle caught them, but that was all). As they headed back to camp, Indy noted that this latest storm that was chasing them totally and thoroughly encompassed the entire Jacob's Chair area. Good thing they got out when they did.
Upon returning to camp it was discovered that Leland had taken off to go exploring another canyon down the road, so they had lunch and discussed the potential of going back to explore the mine shafts. Soon Leland returned and announced that he had found a small slot canyon he wanted to shoot, plus some Anasazi ruins nearby. All thoughts of the mine entrances vanished like smoke in the wind. The trip piled into Leland's truck and the four took off to do another reconnoiter of the area he found.
Just down the road a piece was a side 'road' (dirt ;-) for the regional airport (well, really, just an airstrip for small planes). Continuing down this dirt road (be rough for your everyday average car) the group came to a canyon. Fry Canyon, a spur canyon that empties into White Canyon. Everyone piled out of the truck. Indy grabbed his High Resolution Gear (camera w/telephoto lens and binoculars).
The group scouted the canyon rim, peering into the depths below. First find was the slot that Leland found. Interesting looking thing. It appeared that the canyon had suddenly developed a fissure with teeth in the middle of it. It teethlinke walls looked remarkably interlocking, kinda like a zipper. Then Indy noticed just down the canyon, partway up a wall, there was a shelf. And on this shelf were jumbles of flat rocks. Peering closer some of these piles were not piles, but actual buildings. They had found the Anasazi ruins. (insert soundtrack from Indiana Jones as he finds the fabled ark here)
Indy moved around the canyon lip to gain a better view of the buildings. He counted four or five of them, tucked away under the overhanging wall. They really weren't very impressive-looking (Indy compared these to what he saw a couple years previous in Canyon de Chelly). In fact, they were, to his untrained, unpracticed eye, fairly delapidated.
Leland had already looked everything over earlier, so he hung back while the rest of the group did their own scouting of the situation, and waited to hear what they had to say about everything. It was a general consensus that the group wanted to go down and investigate the ruins close up, and maybe even make a push to explore the short slot canyon, but it would have to wait until the morrow; it was already late in the day. But Indy's practiced eye picked out two or three potential lines into the canyon which the group could rappel and later maybe climb back out. One line was a definite climb up a right-facing corner, and probably would be of moderate difficulty. The other lines were less-well defined, and it was questionable whether or not these would be easier than the direct line Indy first spied. He looked them over for a while, then it was time go. The group piled in the truck and headed back to camp.
On the drive back Indy pulled out the topo map to the region. He didn't think getting into and out of the canyon (at least to the ruins; to the canyon floor was another story entirely) over by where the ruins were would be much of a factor. However.....the ruins were on the *far* side of the canyon from where they were parked - how would they get over there to begin with?? By the map it looked like a near-1 mile trek through not-very-extra-friendly desert terrain to the nearest road on that side of the canyon. And that was a mile away from where the group had parked to begin with, making it a 2-mile one-way trip. Granted, there were the ATVs back at the main camp, but would they be allowed to use them to get to the other side?
Returning to camp the group was greeted with another miraculous dinner from the Wilderness Cafe. The staticky weather report was calling for 4 inches of snow above 5000 feet. Indy shook his head, making a mental note that they were still at 4800 feet. It was going to be another cold and wet night. But since it cleared up finally at the end of the afternoon, Indy stayed up a while after everyone else retired to view the stars, and watch the waxing gibbous moon rise. Scattered clouds obscured the sky, and, prior to moonrise, were only notable when they occulted the stars. Indy enjoyed just how dark it was out there! Then the moon rose, and Indy turned in.
April 19. The night was a mix of clear and cloud, dry and wet. For a while it was clear, the moon illuminated the desertscape in a ghostly fashion (plus the inside of Indy's tent was pretty bright, too). Then Indy awoke to rain and darkness. Then Indy awoke to downpouring rain. He waited to see if his tent would collapse, if the stakes would pull from the mud. He later awoke to moonlight (it was clear again). He later awoke again to rain. Then as morning drew nigh, it was clear....and very cold. Fortunately Mrs Howard had loaned Indy an extra quilt (thick) that they had in storage for the night, and it helped keep him warm. Brrrrrr!! Did Indy ever tell you he's a cold-wimp?
Morning came with scattered clouds and bright sun, and a heaping warm breakfast. And scattered ice crystals about the countryside. After breakfast the group broke camp (Indy found ice crystals all along the side of his tent opposite where the sun was shining). The air temperature quickly warmed to the 50s or 60s, and the group headed out, intent on making camp where Leland had parked during the previous afternoon's scouting mission. Some tricky manuevering and the group was on the road, heading down to the airfield access road, and ultimately, the canyon rim overlooking the slot and ruins.
They all arrived without incident, and camp was made. Indy quickly pitched his tent and went back to the rim to have another looksee at the possible routes down in and back out of the canyon. In the late-morning light the direct route he first found still looked feasible, but non-trivial to climb back out from. He figured that Prueheart could do it, but wasn't sure whether or not anyone else would be able to get back up that way. Of the other options available, the nearer one looked mostly feasible. And, if worse came to worse, anyone else who went in would be able to climb up the bulk of it, with maybe having some difficulties at the very start and at the very end. But if those were the only two places (and the start looked as if there were maybe some potential ways to get through it - for a climber) where it would be difficult, this would probably be the best option for the exit for all (Indy would be doing the direct climb out). Indy would have to do the direct exit as that is where he was going to set the rap station for the group to go in. Indy returned to camp and had lunch; Leland had taken off on one of the dirtbikes to have a gander at the terrain on the far side.
Leland returned a while later and reported that the terrain on the far side was passable to a point, but not very far. Anyone going to the other side to go into the canyon would be doing a lot of walking (about 3/4 mile over rough desert terrain). At this point it was decided that Leland was going to stay on this side of the canyon to take photos of the intrepid explorers (which would be Indy, Prueheart, and Baby Girl) who would be going into the canyon. With these final decisions made, the Canyon Trip packed up their gear (climbing equipment, camera equipment, snack equipment, etc), and headed out: Prueheart and Baby Girl on one of the 4-wheelers, Indy on the other 4-wheeler (Indy quickly learned that he prefers motorbikes to 4-wheelers, but twas too late to change vehicles for this exploration run at this point).
The trip out to and down the road was fairly uneventful. Going from on-road to off-road proved to be an interesting problem of negotiating through the unruly terrain. Finally they were stopped by a expansive gully. Indy and Prueheart parked the 4-wheelers, stowed their helmets gloves, and then proceeded to hike in, Baby Girl following along excitedly.