It took a little more than an hour to reach Canyonlands National Park. We actually stopped a little short of the actual park. A few years back, we found some dispersed camping just outside the park boundaries that is very nice, with great views and few other people around. Sure, we have to drive 8 miles or so to get to any of the hiking, but the solitude at this spot, combined with the view is unsurpassed for a campground.New this year, when we arrived we discovered the park service (or one of the other agencies), had built a new campground, called “Hamburger Rocks”, just down the road from our dispersed site. There is also another new one a bit earlier on the way to the park. We took a walk later to check the campground out and found it to be very nice. Sites not too close together, many with nice views, picnic tables, good flat sites set around the formation with plenty of room for most class C’s. There is also an open air pit toilet. For six bucks regular price, not bad, but free is better at our site.We made plans to meet our friend Janet here at our site for dinner. She lives in the tiny town of La Sal, about 60 miles away and we love to get together whenever we come through. Janet brought with here chips and salsa, beer and tomatoes. All of the grocery stores (2) in Blanding and Monticello were closed on Sunday, so Mary was short that item for our planned fajitas dinner. We’d hoped Janet could join us for a hike, but she hurt a toe during a canyoneering class a few days earlier and was still limping around a bit. We had a nice evening including a beautiful sunset and moonrise.
Chesler Park Hike
This morning we are walking our favorite hike in our favorite National park. It’s the Chesler Park trail that leaves from Elephant Hill. We decided to hike just to Chesler and back. It will be about 7 miles round trip, but in order to make a loop out of it, we’d have to hike 10 miles total. Mary wasn’t up to it, so we just did the “there and back” trip. Even though we’ve done this trail many times before, and I know it’s my favorite trail, I still think I won’t be surprised and that it couldn’t possibly as good as I remember. It nearly always is better than I remember. I am always surprised by new things, I never get tired of walking this trail. We got an early enough start and were soon rising up to the first of 4 canyon rims. Along this first part of the trail are a number of places I always stop to photograph. Familiar rock groups greet us along the way. Different lighting conditions create new photographic possibilities. This day, we had intermittent clouds that began to increase as the morning went on. The trail winds around the sandstone edges of each canyon before dropping into, then out of, the canyon bottom. Each new canyon offers new views and terrain. Slowly, the spires of the Needles begin to reveal themselves. At first, just short peeks is all you get, but as you move on, closer views become common. The vistas were not the only thing to see along the way. Large sandy stretches of trail between canyons had wildflowers and blooming cactus. Clouds had been increasing all morning and we began to realize that a shower or two was probably on the way. We hiked through a narrow sandstone crevice that led to an incredible set of dry waterfalls. Coming out the other end of this sandstone chute, we saw an especially large dark cloud coming over. Rain drops were soon to follow. We stopped for lunch a litter before the rain started and decided to cut it short and find a little better shelter to wait it out. We couldn’t find a great spot, but the rain was pretty light and we had our rain gear with us. We just hiked in the rain till it stopped. Once reaching Chesler, we felt good enough to continue on for a while. Mary was looking for the place we 4-wheeled to with friends Janet and Don on an earlier trip, then hiked into Chesler, but she couldn’t find that spot. We hiked as far as the backpackers campground area, played around the sandstone monoliths, then started back. I was especially intrigued with some of the juniper trees here.We had to suit up again from time to time to avoid the rain, but it was never particularly cold and we enjoyed walking in it. The trail was every bit as wonderful as always. My only sour note was how many people we encountered. But I guess it depends on your perspective. We met a couple from Portland who commented on how lovely and uncrowded the trail was. Go figure. We were again worn out by the end of this hike. Lots of in and out of canyons means lots of up and down elevations changes, but the variety of terrain makes it well worth it.
Pothole Point & Slickrock Trail
May 5The forecast for today was mostly cloudy with rain much of the day. That was OK with us since we had no plans for big hikes today. Instead, we had a restful morning catching up on these blog posts and reading. No guilt for not getting out. By the afternoon, the rain mostly stopped and it began to clear. We were now ready to venture out again. We went out with the intention of finding a good sunset vantage. First stop was Pothole Point the park. The rain, we hoped, would have filled the thousands of potholes that were formed in this large flat stretch of yellow sandstone cap rock. While there was water in most every hole, there wasn’t as much as I would have expected after a day of rain. Either the rain rarely reached this area, or it was just really really dry here before. We were looking for nice sky reflections in the potholes, but there was still too much cloud cover to get what we wanted. We wandered around for awhile – there are nice sandstone rocks and a few trees to explore. We were waiting for the sun to make an appearance, but it was actually getting worse,so it was time to try elsewhere. So it was over to the Slickrock trail just a couple of miles from us. This trail does a 3.5 mile loop over mostly cap rock sandstone. There are many vista’s and a few side trail trips you can explore. We only wanted to do a mile or so of this trail because it was still looking like it could start raining again and we didn’t really want to be on a trail named Slickrock when it’s raining. We walked along for awhile making pictures here and there. The sky was constantly changing and it was a challenge to compose and shoot an image fast enough before the light changed again. Lots of light beams highlighted some of the distant buttes. We stopped to rest at one point and began noticing a rain shower approaching us. It seemed a good time to turn back, but not before a few dozen more pictures.It was getting to be about 6PM by now. I’d been hoping to stay out till sunset at 8 PM, but the clouds were telling me there might not be much of a sunset to wait for. I convinced Mary it would be a good idea to find a nice viewpoint and just wait to see what happens with the light. We both bring books and coffee and goodies to get us through long waits like this. Sometimes it’s one or the other of us captivated by something outside, while the other stays in the car to read. Works pretty well.I remembered the Needles viewpoint we stopped at after yesterdays hike and thought that might be a good place to hang. The viewpoint is about half-way to the Elephant Hill trailhead. This may be a new addition, or it could have been here before but I never noticed it before. It’s just a big gravel turnout with an information sign really, but from here we had a grand view all around Needles. I would have liked to be closer to some of the formations, or just a little higher but as we found out, great light sometimes makes great photographs.
We sat for awhile as another rain shower approached. But there were also several breaks in the clouds with light coming through. Soon a rainbow began to form. Very faint at first, it soon grew both larger and more intense. Now light beams were approaching a distant butte and soon were on it. Together with the rainbow, it was quite a sight to see. Thinking we were done, we headed back to camp. Back on the main road, nearly out of the park, we had to stop again. The last gasp rays of the setting sun came out for a few minutes. We weren’t at the greatest of spots, but it was a lovely scene.
Tomorrow we hike a portion of the Confluence Trail.
A further note about the images above. When we got back to camp, I downloaded the photo sd card to the laptop and had a quick look at all the images to be sure everything was ok with them. I put it to sleep for the night, then reformatted the card and put it back in the camera, Mary used it for her downloading in the morning. When she was done, I got back on and discovered to my horror all my images gone. All 160 that I shot. Not in the trash, not downloaded to an unknown location, just gone. Mary swears she didn’t delete anything so I must have somehow done it myself.
I knew the files were still on the card. While reformatting appears to erase it, really, it just rebuild the directory. The files are just invisible to the computer. The recovery software I have only really works on hard drives. It can see the sd camera card, but can’t see any of the deleted files on it. I tried recovering them from the hard drive – I knew I had downloaded them, but by then, Mary had downloaded hers so most of mine were probably overwritten. Indeed, the scan found 30 uncorrupted files. Happily, there seemed to be one good shot of most of my compositions. I could still recover them from the card, I just needed to download software that could do it.
I had to wait 2 days until we were in internet range again. Fortunately I could try out different softwares to see which one would do the job. Even though companies tout their products as being able to find images on reformatted cards, many do not. The third package I tried found them all. Whew!
To our surprise, we woke to much the same weather as yesterday morning – heavy cloud cover and rain. Again, we just hung out till late morning. When it started clearing up, our hike was on. The trail to the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers is a 5 mile one way path that leaves from Big Spring Canyon at the end of the scenic drive.We arrived at the trailhead and started getting stuff together. A raven almost immediately showed up. A very brave, er aggressive raven. First it perched on our rear hatch door. I could have probably touched it. Then it pretty much tried to get in the car through the side door. They are intimidating birds, but do have a strange beauty. I thought the back of it’s head looked like a DA haircut. Fitting for this thug of a bird. I consider this trail on the difficult side because it starts off with a steep rocky descent into the canyon, then almost immediately goes back up another rocky accent to the rim on the other side. It does this, or something like it, 4 more times before eventually turning into a jeep road and sandy trail to the confluence. The first canyon is the steepest, which means the last canyon on the way back is also the steepest.There are plenty of nice things to see along this trail. All the up and downs also mean lots of changing scenery. I am always entranced by the colorful sandstone layers here. Gold mixed with white, red and black. Some of the formations are crazy, and of course the views are different from each canyon top. Eventually you get to the confluence, but we didn’t want to do it again by foot. It is an amazing view there. The two rivers combining into one in what I’d guess is a 1000’ deep and wide canyon. Worth doing at least once.A frustrating thing about this trail is that after about 45 minutes of hiking up, then down, then up again, we stop for a rest, look behind us, and see the parking lot at what seem like way too close. Sometimes you can still hear people talking.But for us today, we planned on maybe 2 miles out and back. As it turned out, that was 2 1/2 canyons. We went slow of course, stopping often to photograph as we do. We stopped for layered sandstone abstracts, weird formations and tress in various states of dying. After about a mile and a half, we stopped for lunch. We had a late start and were going slow. The weather was changing for the worse again, getting very windy. We found a good shelter rock and had lunch. I turned around at one point and saw a distant storm that wasn’t so distant anymore. We sat and watched, then photographed it’s approach. It was a bit difficult to judge just what direction it was moving. It was kind of moving across our view, but also towards us. There were a few tense moments when we thought we’d get stuck in it – lighting and all, but turned out to be a near miss. We got a few drops, but didn’t get wet. There wasn’t much to put in the foreground of the images, so I used what there was – sandstone. Ultimately the image was about the sky anyway. I tried several different compositions using one nicely rounded sandstone hump, but can’t decide which I like best. We finished lunch and continued on for another mile, but the cloud cover and the though of another canyon accent changed our minds and we started back. It’s been a terrific stay here in Canyonlands. One of the best. On to Durango and the opening of my show at Open Shutter Gallery.