|Salt Creek - Canyonlands NP|
We embarked on our first major modification to the trail. Instead of heading through the Grabens and Butler Wash, we decided to route our journey through Salt Creek in the eastern section of the Needles, reconnecting with the trail in Beef Basin.
|Salt Creek ruins|
Salt Creek was absolutely incredible. The canyon cut through bands of stacked salmon and creme Cedar Mesa sandstone, carving out towering walls and recessed alcoves. Charcoal stained tears seemed to drip down the sheer cliff faces. Pillars, spires, and sculpted arches abound. We hiked through thick reeds, stands of willow, and forests of naked cottonwoods. Sagebrush and prickly pear grow on the banks of the free-flowing creek. Every bend brought new views and vistas. We hiked along small falls into cool green pools, ideal swimming holes in summertime. Giant pink pastries and golden bagettes sat atop balanced pedestals of stone. We walked among stone gardens shaped like spaceships and frigates, whales and witches hats. I spent one morning exploring the trail up to Angel Arch, following fresh mountain lion prints up the frozen wash. Fine needles of ice spread like feathers in the sand. Every feeder canyon into the main channel tempted exploration and discovery. We had to keep on moving.
We hiked out the head of the canyon, following an abandoned pack trail up a scree slope. Not much was left of it, but it was a logical exit point to continue our trek overland. We climbed high along the slopes below Elk Ridge, and easily found our first winter cache just outside Beef Basin. The view from the cache was spectacular. We could see the Roan Cliffs and Sierra La Sals to the north and east, and all the way to the Henrys and Boulder Mountain to the west. And everything in between. We could see a quarter of the state of Utah from our vantage point.
And this is where things changed. Ben had been keeping a close watch on his ankle, since it had begun acting up. But his right knee had begun bothering him, and had been getting progressively worse the last several days. He thought with a little rest, we might get through it. But from there, we were headed even deeper into the backcountry - into Youngs Canyon and Dark Canyon. These canyons are deep crevasses with no way out if something were to go wrong. We decided to play it safe and hike out.
We repacked the cache and routed ourselves through Beef Basin. We hiked among grazing cows and fields of cheatgrass. Lizards scurried in the dust beneath our feet. And the dirt roads were choked with traffic jams of thorny tumbleweeds. Ah, the open range. We hiked back into the park through Chestler Park and the Needles, and eventually got to the pavement and a trailhead. A friendly hiker offered us a ride, and thus we hitched back into Moab and retrieved Ben's truck.
|La Sals above the Needles District|