ESCAPADES IN SOUTHERN UTAH, Part 1

ESCAPADES IN SOUTHERN UTAH

Part 1

 

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12, 2019 – ON THE SALT CREEK TRAIL, CANYONLANDS NP, UT

In all honesty, the rangers had warned us that the unusually high rainfall that spring had resulted in a corresponding increase in the insect population in the Utah desert. As we sat there at the end of our first day on the Salt Creek Trail, swatting at gnats and wondering when the mosquitoes would show up, we wondered why they hadn’t also mentioned the flourishing plant life, undergrowth so high and thick that it obscured the already faint trail and turned what should have been an easy four mile hike into a seven mile ordeal.

But I get ahead of myself. This little adventure had actually begun three days earlier. In Salt Lake City.

 

MONDAY, JUNE 10, 2019 – SALT LAKE CITY

My flight from Charlotte to Salt Lake City was uneventful and on time. I deboarded and called John on my cellphone. He had arrived the day before from his home in Coeur d’Alene the day before.  By 10:30, I had collected the duffel bag with my gear and was waiting curbside for John.

Vergil and I had met John two years earlier on the Timberline Trail around Mount Hood and had hit it off. He joined Vergil and Stuart on a trip to Utah the following year, a trip I was unable to make because of an unexpected death in the family. This year, because of challenges settling on an agenda, backcountry permit availability, and other scheduling challenges, Stuart would not be joining us. This year it would be Vergil, John, and me.

John picked me up and we headed to the service plaza to shoot the breeze and wait for Vergil’s 11:07 arrival from Gulfport via Dallas-Fort Worth.

An hour later my phone rang, it was Vergil. John and I headed back to the airport, and as soon as we got there, I hopped out and headed for baggage claim. It had been a year since I had seen my oldest friend. We embraced and waited patiently as the carousel went around and around, disgorging surprisingly few bags. And then it stopped. None of the bags were Vergil’s. We joined the line at the service desk and learned that a number of bags had not made the transfer at DFW but would be on the next flight due to arrive at 3:00.

Frustrated but resigned – there’s always at least one glitch per trip – we hopped into the car with John and headed out to lunch. Enroute, my phone rang.

“It’s Hike Moab, our shuttle company,” I said. “Must be calling to confirm our pickup on Wednesday.”

Well, it was indeed our Hike Moab, but they were calling, not to confirm, but to inform me that their high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle was in the shop and would not be out until Thursday.

“Will that work?” they asked.

Now, Canyonlands requires backcountry permits, specifying which campsite you will be in on which night. We had to get to the Cathedral Butte trailhead on Wednesday, not Thursday.

“Afraid not,” I replied with a sick felling growing in the pit of my stomach. Scheduling a last-minute shuttle would be tough.

With profuse apologies, the guy at Hike Moab initiated a refund of our advance.

I hung up and looked at my friends: no gear for Vergil and now no shuttle service. What next?

The guys had eaten at the Red Iguana the year before, so we headed there for lunch. As John drove, I Googled shuttle services and began calling each one I found, Coyote Shuttle, Canyonlands Shuttle, Raven Shuttle, all of them. While waiting for our table at the Red Iguana, an appropriately garish establishment specializing in Mexican fare, I paced up and down the sidewalk in the dry, oven-like heat, continuing to dial number after number.

One of the communication challenges in southeastern Utah is cellphone reception. In Canyonlands National Park, it is nonexistent, likewise in most of the backcountry and along many stretches of highway. Around cities and towns, it is better, but most of the shuttle drivers are usually in areas with no service, hence call-backs are when you can get them. I left messages when I got no answer or hung up disappointed when informed that they were booked up.

Finally, there was nothing to do but wait and hope someone returned one of my calls with some good news. At the Red Iguana, we worked on our way through our cervezas, burritos, and chili rellenos, praying that the phone would ring. I had very little appetite. Must have been that sinking feeling in my gut, because no one was calling back.

We settled our bill and decided to hit the grocery store for tortillas, pre-cooked bacon, cheese, coffee, and such. We would pick up fuel and some freeze-dried meals later in Moab. While headed to Smith’s, my phone finally rang. It was a young woman from Raven Shuttles. They were unable to help us, but she recommended Big Iron Tours, a relatively new shuttle/tour company that might be able to shuttle us. With the number she gave me, I made the call and left a message with Micah, detailing when and where we needed shuttling.

Before we reached Smith’s, my phone rang again. It was Mike Ballard, owner of Big Iron tours and yes, he could shuttle us. Yeah! I told him we needed to be picked at the Cave Spring Trailhead at 9:00 AM on Wednesday and dropped off at the Cathedral Butte Trailhead.

“No problem,” Mike replied.

We were all three elated. What we did not realize was that Mike was driving at the time and unable to make notes. This would not work to our advantage.

On to Smith’s we went with lighter hearts and a bounce in our steps. Soon we were mired in our usual discussion about how much food, Vergil opting for less, John neutral, and me pushing for more. I have run out of food on the trail in the past and do not care to ever do that again.

Food purchases complete, we returned to that airport, dropped Vergil off and John and I began circling. Eventually, about 3:30 we got Vergil’s call. He had his luggage. We swung through and picked him up. By now the back of our Kia Sportage was crammed with daypacks, luggage, and groceries, but we were content. Two major hurdles had been cleared, and we headed out of town south on I-15, then on to highway 6 to Highway 191 which is contiguous with I-70 for a short stretch.

Four hours later we reached Moab in the southeast corner of Utah and started looking fo the Expedition Lodge. I had booked it especially because it had rooms with three queen-size beds, and two of them were bunkbeds. How can you pass something like that up?

The Expedition Lodge was right on Main Street and had a decidedly, chrome and Formica, multi-colored brick, stacked-stone hearth late 1950’s feel to it, with a pool, waterslide, and an awesome sign out front. We loved it. We checked in and quickly hauled our gear to our second-floor room, dumped it, then headed out for dinner.

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Expedition Lodge

Moab is known for its backpacking, hiking, off-road four-wheeling, and cycling, both road and mountain. Main Street, Highway 191, is one continuous stretch of motels, restaurants, fast food places, outfitters, and shops: cycle shops, outdoor gear shops, souvenir shops. We tooled down Main Street looking for the Moab Brewery. The guys had eaten there last year and really enjoyed it. Sounded good to me. It was time for a good cheeseburger and microbrew.

The Moab Brewery was as advertised: lively and bustling. The service was fast and friendly, the food was good, and the beer was ice-cold. On the way back to the Expedition Lodge, we spotted Gearheads, our stop tomorrow for stove fuel and trail food.

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Sorting Gear

Back in our room after dinner, we did a little gear repacking, unloading backpacks and stuffing sleeping bags and pads in them, repackaging groceries, and such. We settled in early. It was Monday night and would be our last night in a bed until Sunday. Vergil took the top bunk, and I took the lower. John plugged in his CPAP, and we all crashed.

 

TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 2019 – MOAB, UT

We rolled out of bed Tuesday morning and went downstairs for our complimentary breakfast, which was surprisingly heavy on carbohydrate options and light on protein. Breakfast completed, we headed to Gearheads, one of the premier camping stores I have ever seen, walls covered in gear from floor to ceiling, aisle after narrow aisle crammed with anything you might need in the backcountry.

We picked up the iso-butane fuel cannisters for our stoves and the rest of the freeze-dried meals we would need. John and I had brought our BearVaults, 2.2 pounds of polycarbonate that the National Park Service requires for storing food in the backcountry. Vergil, not having one, bought one. I picked up a Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad because I suspected mine had a small leak. We were sleeping on the ground that night at Needles Outpost. If my pad deflated, I had a backup. If not, I would return the new pad.

Purchases made, we headed back to the Expedition Lodge, loaded our gear and checked out. We needed to head out to the park to pick up our backcountry permit, but first we did a little souvenir shopping. I found a lapis lazuli pendant for Sherrie and some barrettes and headbands for my granddaughters but couldn’t find a thing for my grandsons.

After a fast food lunch, we headed south on Highway 191 for the hour-and-a-half drive to the Needles District Visitor Center in Canyonlands which included the Ranger Station and Backcountry Office. Actually, it turned out to be a two-hour drive because they were repaving Highway 191 close to the Highway 211 turnoff to the park.

We passed Needles Outpost, our home for tonight, on the way into the park. We entered the park using our Senior Passes and drove to the Visitor Center, a low stucco and stone building. There were a handful of cars and RV’s in the parking lot and a good number of people inside checking out gift shop, the relief map of the park, and the various exhibits.

We made our way through the Visitor Center to the Backcountry Office which was deserted except for a friendly ranger standing behind a counter with sheets of clear Lucite covering maps of the park. The shelves behind him were stacked with food cannisters that the Park Service provides the unequipped for a small deposit.

He printed out our permit, made sure we had BearVaults, warned us of the swarms of gnats and mosquitoes to expect, and informed us that right after turning off the pavement onto the unpaved road to Cathedral Butte, we would have to cross a stream running 2-3 feet deep from snow melt and the attendant runoff. He even had recent pictures. Well, that was Mike Ballard’s problem. We assumed that he knew the conditions and was prepared. We were wrong on the first count but right on the second.

We headed back to Needles Outpost, checked in, and selected Site 19 for its rock walls to the east, a couple of cottonwoods for shade, a picnic table, and a great view to the west where the sun would be setting. Life was looking good.

It had been a least 25 years since I had been to Needles Outpost, and a change in ownership had brought a reduction in services. The first thing we learned was that they no longer served meals. So, after some more gear sorting and repacking, we set of in search of dinner. We thought we would try Monticello, about an hour’s drive away, not counting repaving delays. On the way out we stopped at Newspaper Rock, a near-vertical 200 square foot rock covered with hundreds of ancient Indian petroglyphs, for a few pictures.

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Newspaper Rock

 

There weren’t many options in Monticello, so we went on to Blanding which had even less. Heading back to Monticello, we decided to try the Granary Bar & Grill. In keeping with the name, the Granary was built of repurposed grain silos. We opened the door to a blast of near arctic air, a welcoming bar, and a décor a la Cracker Barrel replete with cable spools for tables. After selecting a table and ordering drinks, we returned to the car for long-sleeved shirts.

Our margaritas on the rocks were served in frosty Mason jars. The drinks were strong, and the rims were salty. Perfect. For some reason, we all settled on a large salad, maybe because green veggies are rare on the trail. After a second round of margaritas, Vergil and I ordered the apple crisp for dessert. Overflowing with apples, crisp, and vanilla ice cream, they proved to be more than either of us could eat.

It was still daylight when we got back to Needles Outpost. A last shower before heading into the backcountry seemed like a good idea, but the showers required a token, available at the office which was now unfortunately closed. Bummer. We returned to our site and watched a glorious sunset.

Our plans to sleep under the stars were thwarted by the rampant insect life. We quickly pulled out our tents. John pitched his spiffy little Tarptent Rainbow 1, which used a single fiberglass pole. Very cool. Very light. Vergil and I shared his MSR Hubba Hubba but decided to leave the fly off for ventilation. We all climbed in early

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Sunset at Needles Outpost

 

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12, 2019 – DAY 1, SHUTTLE & JUMP OFF, SALT CREEK TRAIL

Hit the trail day. I am always a little antsy, excited and sometimes a bit anxious, on trail day. No particular reason, I’ve walked hundreds, if not thousands of trails, but there is always some degree of the unknown no matter how many trail guides you read. That’s one of the best things about backpacking: What unexpected thing will the trail provide this time, and will we be able to handle it?

We got up at 6:30, dressed for the trail, and finalized our packing before grabbing a quick bite and heading to the park. We watered up at the Visitors’ Center and were at the Cave Spring Trailhead well before our agreed upon rendezvous time of 9:00 AM. We parked and chilled. We looked up at the sound of every car engine, but it was invariably a group of dayhikers. At 9:15, no Mike. At 9:30, still no Mike. At 10:00, we left a note for Mike and headed back to the Ranger Station, cursing the lack of cellphone service.

Ten minutes later, we walked into the Visitor’s Center, and I asked the ranger on duty if she had seen a shuttle looking for us?

“Yeah,” she said. “A guy in a big black jeep with Lt. Dan on the side has been through here twice looking for three backpackers.”

“That’s’ us,” I said, glad that Mike had shown up but disappointed that we had missed him. What the heck would we do now?

We went back outside and sat in the shade where we decided that Vergil and I would wait at the Visitor Center while John took the car and headed out to Squaw Flats looking for Mike. Verg went to the head and I sat in the shade and prayed that Mike would make one last pass by the Visitor Center, when lo and behold, he did, in the largest, blackest Jeep I’ve ever seen, replete with powerlifts and 39” wheels. I sprang up and flagged him down.

“Where the heck have you guys been?” an intense, bearded, sunglassed, and not particularly happy face asked. “I’ve been all over Squaw Flats looking for you.”

“We were at the Cave Spring Trailhead like we said,” I replied.

“Dadgumit,” Mike said. “I got the wrong info from Micah.”

That’s when I remembered that Mike had been driving when we had spoken on Monday. By this time, Verg had joined us.

“Where’s the other guy?” Mike asked.

“Cruising around Squaw Flats in our rental, looking for you,” I replied. “Let’s see if we can find him.”

“Sure. Hope in,” Mike said. “I got another shuttle later today.”

In a few minutes, we spotted John and flagged him down. We followed him to the Cave Spring trailhead and transferred our backpacks into Mike’s jeep. Soon we were back on Highway 211 and past Newspaper Rock, headed out of the park. By this time, it was nearly 11:00.

“I’ve never been to Cathedral Butte before,” Mike noted.

I was sitting in the front passenger seat and shooting the breeze with him. “You know how to get there, right?” I asked. “And about the creek crossing.”

“Got directions here.” He held up a couple of printed pages, navigation systems being dependent on having the map downloaded. “And yeah, this baby’ll handle the creek.” His pride was evident.

At the intersection with Highway 191, we turned right and headed south through the repaving area. Along the way we learned about Mike’s service to our country. He was a Marine and had served three tours in Iraq, breaking both ankles and his back tumbling from a Humvee with a full load of gear and a 17-pound SAW machine gun. He had flown helicopters for a while, then returned home to Moab and started his tour/shuttle service. He was gregarious and sociable. We liked him immediately.

Soon we were nearing Monticello and convinced we had missed our turnoff. We stopped for gas which Vergil paid for as it was obvious that Mike had lost his next client looking for us. Then we went by the Bureau of Land Management Field Office to find out where we had gotten off course. Apparently, it had been very near the beginning.  Just a few miles from the Visitors’ Center, before even reaching Newspaper Rock, we should have turned off on Beef Basin Road. We needed to backtrack 40 miles. It was nearly 1:00 now.

Back up 191 and through the repaving work we went, then took a left onto 211. Past Newspaper Rock we spotted Beef Basin Road and took a left. In a quarter mile we reached the creek, forty feet of churning brown water at least two feet deep. Mike’s eyes lit up.

“This’ll be fun,” he said, then eased down into the water.

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Creek Crossing

 

He dropped the Jeep into 4-wheel drive and chugged slowly across, feeling his way in and out of the deepest channel. Clear the other side, he stopped.

“Let’s do that again,” he said. “And take pictures. You guys don’t mind being on Facebook, do you?”

We said no. Mike handed his DSLR to John who got out and stood on the bank. Mike put the Jeep in reverse and backed across the stream. Then he set up his GoPro to take video from the cab. This time, knowing what to expect, he powered right through the water.

John rejoined us, and we started the last 17 and most challenging miles of our shuttle. The unpaved road was steep and rutted, uneven and corrugated. At one point, Mike stopped and let air out the tires to smooth out the ride. We hadn’t had lunch, but Mike had bought some spicy beef sticks at the filling station which he shared around.

It was slow going switchbacking up the dirt road higher and higher, but we finally reached the trailhead around 3:00. It would mean a late start, but we only had four miles to do. The three of us reached into our wallets and tipped Mike for the ride and the good company. He noted that many of his clients never uttered a word and how much he enjoyed having people to talk to.

Finally, we stood at the trailhead at over 7,000 feet, looking down into the wide, relatively lush valley for which we were headed. But first, we had to get down there, and the first mile of the trail was a steep, thousand-foot drop, a real knee-buster, especially since we were carrying a gallon of water each, eight pounds. I snapped a picture of Verg and John, and we started down

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John sans trekking poles & Vergil at the Salt Creek Trailhead

 

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From the Rim
The small distant, flat, green patch on the left is the valley floor.

 

That was when John discovered that he had left his trekking poles in the car. I’ll tell you the truth, I was glad I had mine because that first mile included more than its fair share of long steps down and awkward foot placements. We went slowly and carefully, descending on the twisty, rocky trail through stunted, wind-twisted pines. As we neared the bottom, the we began crossing the occasional stretch of rock shelves, the trail marked by cairns. These were welcome relief from the steep descent. After an hour, we reached the wide canyon floor.

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The Descent

 

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Looking Back

 

Tiered rock walls of red and ocher well off to our left east and west bracketed a sea of brown and green grasses. The path of Salt Creek was clearly marked by a lush strip of massive cottonwoods off to our left, their leaves fluttering like so many green and white hankies.

At the two-mile mark we crossed into the national park. It was about then that we learned about the other effect the heavy snowfall in the winter and rains in the spring had had on the desert. The vegetation, mostly sage and cheatgrass, was thick and high. We looked out over a vast expanse of grass 3-4 feet high, waving gently in the faint desert breeze. There was nothing to indicate where the trail was except the hint of a faint footpath visible only when right on top of it. We continued plodding along, with the thick growth grasping at our feet and legs, hindering every step.

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The canyon floor. Where’s the trail?

 

At places the trail veered near the creek. Here on softer, reed-choked ground, the trail would be a groove 6-8 inches deep and about eight inches wide, beaten down by the tread of countless backpackers. You had to place one foot in front of the other like you were taking a Highway Patrol sobriety test, only sober, tired, laden with a backpack, and with undergrowth tugging at you. Eventually, at nearly three miles in, we completely lost the trail.

The ground here by the stream was mucky. We backtracked looking for where the trail must have veered off. Nothing. We began cutting back and forth perpendicular to the trail and running down numerous false avenues. Finally, after a short discussion in which our frayed nerves began to show, we struck back down to where we had lost the trail in the first place.

This time, we found our mistake. A series of deadfalls near Salt Creek had obscured the trail which we eventually picked up on the far side. The sun was getting low, and we picked up our pace. Soon the trail dropped out onto a series of rock ledges. We followed the cairns and soon heard the blessed sound of running water. By now it was nearly 8:00 PM.

We crossed a spring that tumbled over a wide series of small ledges and into a swift running channel before disappearing into a cottonwood thicket. We dropped our packs on a convenient ledge and began purifying water. Vergil and I used SteriPens, which kill bacteria with ultraviolet light, and John used his Sawyer gravity feed filter system.

Replenished, we saddled up and kept walking, passing Kirk’s Cabin, dim in the fading light, it was a lovely old log cabin built in 1890 and still standing. A short distance after that we saw the sign for SC1, our home for our first night on the trail. We turned right and found our campsite tucked back in a protected cove.

We quickly pitched our tents,, then pulled out our camp chairs and chilled. I looked at my socks. They were covered with little stickers, many of which I could feel through my socks.

They were from the cheatgrass. John was familiar with the invasive stuff. Vergil had recently heard about it on NPR but never seen it. I had never even heard of it.

“Yeah,” John said. “We have it in Idaho too. Have to be sure to get pull them out of our dogs’ ears or they get infected.”

Vergil had worn long pants, so his socks weren’t in bad shape. John had worn shorts but had remembered his low gaiters which saved his socks. I had worn shorts too but had left my OR Sparkplug gaiters in the car. Big mistake. I began plucking and eventually pulled off my socks to finish the task.

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Camp at SC1

 

I pulled out my stove to start boiling water for dinner. John wasn’t feeling too well and had no interest in eating. I was mildly concerned but not too much. Until he threw up. We were all more thirsty than hungry anyway. I sweat so profusely that staying hydrated is always a challenge for me. I can easily out-sweat a performance or wool T-shirt even in the desert. Vergil and I managed to get down a beef stroganoff dinner, but I had to wash down each mouthful with a swallow of water.

With the setting sun and cooler air, we welcomed first wave of the gnats and then mosquitoes. Vergil and I grew up in Mississippi, and Vergil still lives there. We thought we knew mosquitoes, but we were unprepared the swarms that descended on us. We all put on our mosquito headnets, and I even borrowed some of John’s Cutters. That wasn’t enough, so we piled into our tents as quickly as possible letting in as few mosquitoes as we could. With a finite number inside the mesh of the tent, we proceeded to eliminate them all, one by one.

It had been a long day. We were tired and needed a good rest, and once we were recumbent, we drifted off to sleep, in John’s case with his portable, rechargeable C-PAP.

 

THURSDAY, JUNE 13, 2019 – DAY 2, SALT CREEK TRAIL

Even though Thursday would be a short day, only four miles, we were up by 6:30. We had coffee and freeze-dried biscuits and gravy which was surprisingly good. John managed to eat a little. After a leisurely morning, we headed back to the spring to water up for the day.

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The First Spring

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Watering Up

 

We backtracked to Kirk’s Cabin and dropped our packs, taking only water filters, bottles, and bags to the spring. We filtered up enough so that again each of us had at least a gallon of water. Back at the cabin, we took pictures of the structure. It was built of hand-hewn cottonwoods, enormous timbers at least 12” X 12”. They were fitted and joined with pegs driven through drilled holes. Built in 1890, all it need was a new roof and some chinking in the open joints to be livable again. Very impressive.

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Kirk’s Cabin

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Verg in front of the fireplace

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Shadows

 

John had a solar panel which he used to recharge batteries for his C-PAP. He adjusted it across the back of his pack, and at 10:15 we were on the trail.

One of the many things that drew us to Salt Creek was the presence of pictographs, petroglyphs, stacked-stone granaries, and pottery shards left by ancient peoples. The Salt Creek basin is wide and reasonably flat with a more dependable water supply than most of the surrounding area. Archeologists estimate that the area was inhabited from around 200 BC up until 1500 AD.

None of these sites are marked on a map. Accounts by previous hikers are helpful, but one must keep a sharp eye out along the canyon walls for artifacts as well as natural arches. We strolled along, veering off-trail to investigate whatever caught our eye. Yesterday had been hot, and today was hotter.

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Distant Arch

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Granary

We took a break under a copse of scrubby, fragrant pines and later found a nice shady spot for lunch. A formation of four massive rocks had tipped over into each other creating two intersecting passages. Light filtered down creating a luminous cross on the sandy floor, and the air was refreshingly cool. We sat in this cool spot and looked out over the baking canyon floor. Unfortunately, John continued to throw up.

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Cruciform Rocks

 

As we continued in a northerly down the canyon, it began to slowly narrow and take increasingly sharp twists and turns. The trail would follow the canyon wall, then veer around in a long, seeping curve where a rock formation jutted out into the canyon. At one point, rather than swing around the jutting rocks, our path led us on a steep climb up a crevasse with logs jammed into the bottom for better footing. This soon turned into a rock-filled scramble up through a notch in the rock wall. The descent on the other side was down a series of rock slabs.

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The Notch

 

We reached another spring around 4:00 PM. The westering sun created a glittering, golden cascade as the waters tumbled over the ochre rock ledges before plunging into a deep, still pool ten feet below us. Green algae gathered in the eddies and covered the pool.

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The Second Spring

 

We washed our faces and heads, then drank our fill of cool, filtered water. A few years back, Vergil purchased green and back keffiyehs for himself, Stuart, and me. The fabric is a cotton and wool blend, and the large scarves are widely used in the Middle East as head and neck wraps. Vergil and I have worn ours in the desert on every subsequent trip. I soaked mine in the water as Mike had said the Marines did in Iraq, then wrapped it around my head and neck for instant, evaporative air conditioning.

Near this spring was maybe the most fascinating archeological site that we saw: large granaries, multi-colored red, white, and pale blue pictographs, and black and white pottery shards. We wandered about taking pictures until it was time to locate our campsite.

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Another Granary

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Closer View

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Pictographs

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Pottery Shards

Unfortunately, we missed both Big Ruins on the west side of the canyon and the All-American Man petroglyph on the east side. We were especially bummed because the All-American Man is very large with vivid red, white, and blues dyes. No one was ready to go back and look for it though.

Our U.S. Geological Survey map indicated that our campsite CS3 was just north of the spring. He headed that way but found no campsite. Both John and I checked our GPS’s; we were well north of where the campsite was marked on the map. We walked a little further up the trail and still no campsite. We backtracked to see if the sign was down and we had missed the turnoff. No, we hadn’t. We headed back north further than we had gone the first time. Still, no CS3 even though both GPS’s showed we were even further north of the marked location.

Finally, we headed back towards the spring and found a smooth, sandy spot up against a large rock formation and camped there. Vergil and I again pitched his tent without the fly as it didn’t look like rain. As we reclined in our camp chairs to prepare dinner, I took a look at my lower legs and socks. My legs were scratched from the brush, and my socks were so covered with cheatgrass seeds that they looked more like a pair of hedgehogs than a pair of socks.

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Cheatgrass Seeds

 

I started plucking but soon gave up. I hated the thought of tossing a pair of Darn Tough socks but decided that’s what I would have to do. I also decided to wear long pants the next days.

Vergil and I ate dinner, but again John ate very little. He was still nauseous and taking some anti-nausea meds that he brought as well as some Pepto-Bismol I had with me. Neither seemed to be helping much.

As it had the evening before, high, thin clouds spread across the darkening sky. I had brought my Sony α6000 Mirrorless camera, telephoto lens, and small tripod. John had brought his too. We were particularly excited because Jupiter would be in opposition and very close to the Earth and being deep into the desert with no artificial light, we hoped to get some good nighttime photos. It was not to be.

A spattering of rain blew up in the night, but the rock formation provided enough protection that we didn’t bother to add the fly.

Next Week – Part 2

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Filed under America, Backpacking, Canyon, Canyonlands, Hiking, Uncategorized, Utah

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