Canyonlands

October 22

We have been without internet access for about a week, so I have gotten a bit behind on my posts. This may be the last post before we return home. We are currently in Zion National Park and will be leaving for San Francisco tomorrow. We expect to be home by mid-week or so.

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Pothole Point. Canyonlands, UT ©David Gardner

We arrived in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park a bit too late to find an available campground so we ended up at the Canyonlands Outpost, a privately owned campground just outside the park itself. It is actually quite nice here, but it is still outside the place I really want to be. The owners are a quirky couple of middle aged hippy types whom we really enjoy visiting. Fortunately the next morning, we did manage to find a great camp site inside the park. We drove in at 9 am and trolled the grounds until we found a couple packing up. We put out our chairs and returned to the Outpost to retrieve the motorhome. It’s a shame really, that we have to resort to these kinds of shenanigans to get a space. There was a time we could be nearly the only campers in the campground. Over the thirty years or so we have been coming here, the park has grown immensely in popularity. When we first came here, the road was a thirty mile gravel trek, the visitor center was a trailer and the biggest luxury were the pit toilets. Water was gotten from a tanker truck. Today, the road is paved, there is a very nice visitor center and water and flush toilets are available. The campgrounds seem always full and encounters with noisy hikers on the various trails are much more common. My personal enjoyment of this place stems from it’s remoteness and especially it’s quietness. Sound carries miles here so that one group of loud talking people can be heard for long distances. To the park’s credit though, they have managed to keep the expansion of the facilities to a minimum. Mountain bikes are not allowed on any of the trails, except the 4 wheel drive roads, and they have not expanded the campgrounds, which keeps the visitation to a somewhat limited number. It’s the best I can hope for and I am grateful for this at least.

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Needles View from Slickrock Trail. Canyonlands, UT. ©David Gardner

We timed our arrival just right. The snowstorm we had in Durango the day before, was a heavy rainstorm here in Canyonlands. The Outpost, where we stayed, was partially flooded in fact. It was the largest rainfall in this, another drought year, according to Tracy, one of the owners of the place. The rain served to clean up the air and, we hoped, to thin out the crowd in the park. We ventured out to Pothole Point to investigate the many replenished bowls of water in the sandstone slickrock. Afterwards, we hiked the 2.5 mile slickrock trail in preparation of our planed 11.5 mile hike to Peekaboo springs.

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Grasses. Slickrock Trail. Canyonlands, UT. ©David Gardner

Sunset. Slickrock Trail. Canyonlands, UT ©David Gardner

Sunset. Slickrock Trail. Canyonlands, UT ©David Gardner

There are some very appealing pictographs out at the end of the Peekaboo Springs hike that I really wanted to see again. Our friends, Don and Janet first brought us here in their jeep, but I wanted to return and really focus on the indian art. There are turtle glyphs, strange figures, and handprints in one area, and across the valley nearby, are more handprints, snakes and a few other pictographs of unidentifiable figures or objects. I think this is the allure of rock art to me. It just leaves the mind to conjure up so many possibilities. The images are at least a thousand years old. Some are layered upon others, where one group painted or pecked over an earlier groups markings.

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Sandstone knobs. Canyonlands, UT ©David Gardner

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Pine Tree. Peekaboo Springs Trail. Canyonlands, UT ©David Gardner

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Turtle Pictographs. Peekaboo Springs Trail. Canyonlands, UT. ©David Gardner

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Large Hand Prints. Canyonlands, UT. ©David Gardner

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Hand Prints. Canyonlands, UT. ©David Gardner

I thought the hike wouldn’t be too strenuous, but I was wrong. The combination of hiking up and over 5 slickrock traverses and 4 canyons, took a toll on both of us. Slickrock is layered sandstone, and gets it name for how slippery it can be when wet or with just a bit of grit on it. It is also very uneven and when walking on it, one’s feet and ankles are almost never flat. This is hard on the knees and feet. There were stretches of soft flat sandy areas to recoup a bit, but overall, it was harder than hoped for. By mile 8 we were both pretty spent. But we had all day. We started at dawn and got back a bit before sunset. We were tired, but happy. A beer and a sitdown was now in order.

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Cottonwood Leaves. Canyonlands, UT. ©David Gardner

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Sandstone Slickrock. Canyonlands, UT. ©David Gardner

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Oak Leaves. Canyonlands, UT. ©David Gardner

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