view of sagebrush forest and a deep canyon in the distance

Tuckup Canyon Head Flora and Fauna

I topped out at Kanab Point, a very quiet and lonely place. I did consider introducing myself to the people truck-camped there, but got a definite vibe that it wasn’t the right time. It’s weird to have feelings like that, but I always listen to my gut. Probably a great idea when one is that remote, and without any rescue beacon. But it was good to know someone was there in case my tonsil decided to explode. And as I went through those thoughts in my head, the truck fired up and drove off, without so much as a backward glance.

People can be so weird in the desert. I know if I had flagged them down they probably would have helped, but it just seems like a desert courtesy to howdy do and ask if water is required. Must have been Oregonians or something. Anyway, good riddance. I had the view to myself:

A view down into the grand canyon from Kanab point. Mostly shows Esplanade benches.

From Kanab Point, I followed well-trafficked dirt roads for a moment, then abandoned 4×4 track toward the northeastern reaches of Tuckup Canyon, hoping to be able to drop in there and descend to the petroglyphs. I wasn’t sure about any of it working out, but I was having a nice walk. Eventually the ancient narrow tracks faded (although they did keep picking up again, practically everywhere) and I was walking through this nice mixed forest. Unsurprisingly, or surprisingly since it’s National Park, most of this land is fenced off and sectioned for grazing, with watering holes. I did sense wildlife, but only saw birds. Here two crows harass a hawk:

two crows chase hawk above pinyon juniper forest with sage, blue sky with whispy clouds

My plan was to drop into the northeastern head of Tuckup Canyon. I had scouted a couple decent routes by satellite, however, when I arrived the first one was an absolute hard no go. A 75′ dryfall blocked my way down the first option after having already descended a canyon’s less severe pour-overs for a while. Fun though – I found what must have been an ancient “coral reef” down there. A record of seabed life near the rim of the Grand Canyon. It reminded me how just a year or so prior I had been up the lower end of Tuckup Canyon a way to visit the Great Unconformity of Powell, where gazillions of years of time are represented in one thin sandwich of dirt layer. Or something. Archeology and history are not my strong suits, but I was and remain duly impressed by whatever all that means.

fossilized sea bed remains in tuckup canyon rock - grand canyon NP
Photo of person's hand holding a broken chunk of bryozoan fossil.A fossil of Lacy Bryozoan, or “lacy coral,” which wasn’t actually ever a coral, technically.
Bryozoan fossile in grey rock from tuckup canyonMore Bryzoan and another unknown at left.
A fossil (shell?) impression in yellow/orange cream colored stone, with some black lichenFossil impression in the stone at the upper Eastern reaches of Tuckup CaƱon. Do you know what this is?
Some yellowed cholla cactus buds on a cactus plant.Cholla cactus buds are an edible delicacy for the locals, high in calcium and flavor.
picture of wet sage brush with blurry pinyon forest in backgroundI will never get tired of the smell of wet sage, or these colors.

When I’m hiking I sometimes chew sage and leave it in my gum to soothe toothache, because I know it is antimicrobial. For my tonsils, I boiled sage in my cook pot and gargled that decoction.

plains prickly pear flowers with mormon teaPlains prickly pear (Opuntia polyacantha) has a beautiful flower and delicious fruit. Its blooms are almost always a welcome sight. I suppose some people fall on cacti but I haven’t yet. Knock on wood. It has very shallow roots since not much water has time to penetrate the soil in hot desert climates.

I still have never eaten prickly pear cactus, but would like to. It is a bit intimidating to prepare, seems like! I did eat the fruit (called tuna) on my last Hayduke hike, and that was exquisitely yummy on a late September day in upper Kanab Creek. Still it took some work scraping off the tiny tiny needles first. The fruits are also a wonderful cerise color.

Tiny yellow-centered daisy-looking white flowers native to the Utah/Arizona desert.Native perennial “chaparral fleabane” is a small Aster flower.

I got to walk through a forest of cliffrose shrubbery, some of which was around 10 feet tall! Heaven. The air smelled so sweet this day, with all its flowers.

massive cliffrose shrubs on the north rim of grand canyon national park
Cliffrose Purshia mexicana seed hairs on shrubThe beautiful Seuss-iful hairy seeds of Cliffrose, a favorite desert flowering shrub. The air smelled so sweet this day.

Colorado four o’clock (Mirabilis multiflora) is a native perennial flower that is naturally found in dry, stony desert areas.

It produces a profusion of deep rose-pink trumpet-shaped flowers for several months, which are only open from dusk to dawn — or on very cloudy days. This plant has an enormous taproot, which is allows it to grow in unwatered areas once it is established.

Some plants are just very ready for low water conditions, and gosh they are every bit as exquisite as the thirsty ones.

Fushia-purple flowers growing on a low shrubColorado four o’clock… at 12:39pm on a very cloudy day.

These photos were taken over the course of 28 hours, which was spent moving from Kanab Point down into Tuckup Canyon via the usual Tuckup trail. My attempt at dropping in the northeast corner was thwarted by extreme winds and rain. It was a steep descent on bizarre surface, and something just didn’t feel right about it. I felt certain I would slip. As I mentioned at the start, I try to follow my gut, even if it means traveling another 11 miles out of my way. Those 11 miles were tedious and did stress me somewhat, but I definitely don’t regret the decision. It took me over land that nobody has traveled in a lonnnnnnnng time, and I like that feeling. Granted, my tonsils might have been nervous about that, especially the part where I walked through yet another snowstorm on my way to the trailhead.

Self portrait of a dirty sunburned female hiker with sunhat and rain jacketMe, finally heading off the rim and into Tuckup Canyon, after having rounded half its enormous, branching East side.