Savage Gulf III – the Gulfening.

The Universe is fickle. You get a great day of weather, then you get badly injured on the trail. It happens. Happened to me, in fact. Clearly, I survived, but a little worse for the wear.

So, it was the Collins Gulf section of Savage Gulf. The is the centermost section of the SNA; you’ll recall I did the Greeter Falls/Stone Door section 2 weeks ago, and the Savage Falls/South Rim section last winter. The reason I hadn’t done this one yet was I hadn’t been able to find out much about it – there is lots of discussion about Greeter Falls, Savage Falls and the Stone Door, and I made the assumption that because there was limited discussion about Collins Gulf – despite there being two waterfalls labeled on the official trail map – this trail must not be that special. How wrong I was.

Suter Falls - click for larger

Suter Falls – click for larger


The first stop was Suter Falls, and it was completely unexpected. Coming around the trail, which leads through a natural amphitheater, there’s a small-ish waterfall, which I thought was Suter Falls. It wasn’t. Winding around the inside of the amphitheater, suddenly, there it was. A high waterfall, a swinging bridge across the river, real grandeur. Of course, I scampered around on the rocks and ledges, and really explored the area.

Horsepound Falls - click for larger

Horsepound Falls – click for larger

A few miles up the trail, Horsepound Falls. Completely different than the previous waterfall. For starters, the approach was from above, versus below. Additionally, there was far more water pouring over, and not quite the same height. Surprising, since they are both on the same river, just a couple of miles apart. Still, a spectacular waterfall.

Then, things kinda went off the rails, as they usually do for me. Climbing further down into the gorge, I took a tumble. It was early, so the trail was still slippery, and sure enough, I went down. And wrecked my knee. You know how your knee joint goes mostly backwards, and maybe a little forwards? Mine went sideways. About 45 degrees. It was gruesome. And painful. I thought I had broken it at first, and just sat there – an isolated trail, no cell signal, no other hikers, just me and the ‘aina. So, I broke out my first aid – a disposable chemical ice pack and an Ace bandage and mended myself. As you might expect, I decided to press on – I was about 4 miles in, and I expected the whole hike to be 10ish miles, so going forward wasn’t that much farther than going backwards.

Wrong move, dummy.

click for larger, or Endomondo data or Movescount data

click for larger, or wonky Endomondo data or Movescount data

I won’t keep you in suspense. 17 miles. The whole trek was 17 miles, meaning I hiked – with a 40 pound pack – almost 13 miles on a busted knee from down in a gorge, to the upper rim of the same gorge, across several creeks, a 2-mile boulder field, blah, blah. Now, it was totally worth it, but I woefully underestimated the distance. Still, I’m glad I persevered. It’s a character thing. Quit and turn back, or push on? I’m not a quitter.

There was plenty of other cool and interesting stuff. Schwoon Spring was quite a surprise – just a little sign that pointed to the Spring about a mile off-trail (up the side of the Gorge, natch). Now, I’ve seen springs before. Generally, no big thing, but since I was there, I decided to go check it out. I’m so glad I did. The spring itself is huge – hundreds of gallons of water a second. And it’s inside a massive cave.

...and of course, I had to go in. click for larger

…and of course, I had to go in. click for lager

Following Schwoon Spring (hobbling?), there was the largest swinging bridge across the river at Sawmill Campground, and just past that, the turnaround point to head back south along the rim. This was mostly uneventful, but some nice overlooks. Towards the end, another huge suspension bridge, then 2 miles of boulders to get back near the trailhead.

click for larger

click for larger

Now, there are still two significant sections of Savage Gulf that I intend to explore. The North Rim, which will overlap part of the Day Loop trail I did last winter, and the Connector trail from the Stone Door back to the Sawmill Campground, which will be an “out and back”. Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be able to explore these trails, and then I can move on to the next area. I think I even know where I’m going to go. Did you know there’s a herd of wild elk located in the south? I’m going to go find them.

Link:
Savage Gulf III Photo Album on Facebook