Island in the Sky

After setting up at Horsethief, we ventured into the park again to see what the possibilities for hiking were. We waited until mid-afternoon hoping to take advantage of nicer light. Because of the computer problems, we had missed all the wonderful clouds that have been passing over the area the past few days, so we have to shoot for late, late afternoon light. Sunset is around 8:00 PM, so there is plenty of time to find a nice spot. We had thought we would do the Aztec Butte hike. This is a really nice, fairly easy hike up the butte. What is cool about it are the ancient granaries that cling under the top rim of the butte. They are small, but the view from the top of the butte is panoramic and a great place to watch the sunset. However, after talking to the ranger at the visitor center, we discovered the trail to the top is closed due to a collapse of the overhang above the granaries last spring. It is deemed too dangerous to hike now until it can be stabilized by the park service. No telling when that will happen.

We then asked about another hike some friends had told us about (Thanks Jim and Gayle C). It is called False Kiva – so called because it is thought not to be a true kiva. That is, a space used for religious purposes. I had seen pictures of this place several times before, but never knew where it was. I didn’t even know it was in Canyonlands. The park doesn’t advertise it at all. It is considered a sensitive historical site and you need to talk to the rangers to get directions on where to park, pick up the trail and get a general description of trail conditions. At only 3 miles round trip, it is not long, but it is difficult because of steep, rocky and intentionally not well maintained conditions. We decided it would be best to do this hike today, as everyday after today was supposed to be hotter by 10˚ each day.

We had no problem finding the correct turnoff and trailhead. We started off around 5:00 PM and got there by about 6:00. It was steep and rocky. Towards the end, much of the trail was on a narrow slickrock ledge that turned back on itself and rose up to the alcove where the ruin was situated. We were hot and really sweaty and really sucking for air by the time we reached the end. There was a young couple already there, so I set up my camera right next to them and began snapping away. There was still sun streaming into the alcove, but shadows were encroaching quickly. We welcomed the coolness the shadows brought, and were especially happy we got there before they crept over the ruin. The alcove looks over the Green River and has a wonderful view of the area. Some clouds would have made it a more interesting photograph, but you get what you get.

We stayed for about half an hour, then began the climb back. By this time, shadows have covered a big section on the return, so it was quite a bit cooler on the way out. We were out by 7:30 and met another ranger once we hit the road. He was asking us about the car that was parked off the road right next to the trail. They really take exception to illegal parking here and where this guy was parked was right on a sensitive soil area. He asked if we thought the people who the car belonged to were staying in the alcove for sunset.I said I thought they probably were as they hadn’t moved the entire time we were there. He said, “Looks like I’m going to have to hike in then”. I think someone has a bit of a fine in their futures.

On Saturday, we decided to hike the 5.8 mile Neck Spring trail. We’ve done this one before. It is pretty easy overall, with only a 300 ft. elevation change. The trail drops down from The Neck – so called because it is a very narrow portion of roadway that connects two portions of the Mesa. When we first started coming here, The Neck was unpaved and really kind of scary to cross. Not so now. The trail crosses several springs coming from the steep sandstone cliffs. Not much water in them this year, but the hike is a nice walk through a number of canyons. Once out, it is a bit of a trudge back to the cars. As advertised, it was at least 10˚ hotter today – around 88˚. Sunday is supposed to be in the 90’s and hotter still Monday and Tuesday. I think our hiking is done for a little while. Maybe some drives and early morning photographing while it is so hot. We returned to our camp for showers and cocktails. Nice end to a great day.

View of Shafer Trail 4-wheel drive trail from The Neck.

We moved into the Willow Flat campground on Sunday. The crowds have moved out and we got one of the 12 nice campsites in the campground. It is situated a short walk from the spectacular Green River Overlook. We are here for two days, then back to Moab for another day or two.

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