Day 173 – Utah Byways, May 19, 2011
I began an early morning in Canyonlands National Park in a light sprinkle. The map showed four short hikes that I wanted to cover before lunch as I wanted to reach Moab in time to find a campsite. In addition, if the sun came out, I wanted Petey to be comfortable in VANilla since dogs aren’t allowed on the trails.
Before starting my hikes, I made a quick stop at the Wooden Shoe Overlook. As usual, the weather played a part in shaping the sandstone into the current condition after thousands of years. Sorry, but I feel like I will be repeating this information for the next ten days while I tour Utah, thus the short description.
I generally pick the longest trail to complete first which was a 2.4 mile loop called Slickrock Foot Trail. The trail, marked by cairns, basically follows a bare rock surface to four viewpoints. I couldn’t help but think if someone were to knock the cairns down or add additional ones in random places, I’d be in a world of hurt, as without the rock markers, I would have been wandering around a mesa overlooking Little Spring Canyon and Big Spring Canyon.
The grey rock of the canyon used to be beneath the ocean. Fossilized remains of crinoids and brachiopods can be found in the limestone. The red and white rock of the Needles District is predominately sandstone. The contrasting colors along with the snow capped La Sal Mountains that stand in the background provide a lovely setting, even in the drizzle.
After my hour stroll along Slickrock Foot Trail, I moved on to Pothole Point. I probably could have skipped this half mile loop along the rock mesa as it was basically a short version of the hike I just finished. The walk provided a nice view of the Needles that were slowly being overshadowed by fog and led me past several potholes filled with water. The potholes, which could also be found on the last walk, are home to a variety of creatures including the fairy shrimp; tadpoles; mosquito, beetle, and gnat larvae; snail; clam shrimp; and tadpole shrimp. I had hoped to see a shrimp in the canyon…that would have been interesting. The pamphlet claimed that eggs hatch within hours of rain coming to the desert in early spring and late summer. No hatches and it isn’t early spring or late summer so why is it raining?!?
My next hike was at Cave Spring, one I really enjoyed. It was only about a half mile as well. The path led me to caverns where cowboys camped on the open range caring for 7,000 to 10,000 head of cattle that ranged over 1.8M acres. The Cave Spring campground was used by cowboys from the late 1800’s until 1975 when cattle ranching was discontinued within the park. The camp was established at Cave Spring due to the reliable water source that seeps between layers of sandstone.
In addition to the cowboy camp, a short distance away, hand prints as well as other painted figures courtesy of Puebloan Indian can be found on the cavern walls. The Puebloans used the area seasonally for growing crops of corns and beans.
After passing beneath the rock overhangs the path turned to the left where it brought me to a wooden ladder bolted to a boulder. As soon as I climbed the ladder, I came across an additional one that delivered me to the next portion of the trail that guided me across the rocks that overlooked the grass valley; proof that grass does grow in southern Utah.
My final walk of the day was just over a quarter mile loop to Roadside Ruin. The ruin is a Puebloan granary used to store the corn, bean, and squash seeds. Several of the ruins exist throughout the park, but few dwelling structures have been found, suggesting the area was only used for farming.
Shortly after I exited the park, the rain turned into a drizzle and the landscape looked as if it was covered in a light snow. I thought, no, perhaps it was just reflections from the wet rocks. I continued slightly further when I ran into sleet and a slick road. I believe the countryside was sprinkled with sleet!
VANilla pushed on and we arrived in Moab in early afternoon, but not soon enough to find a campsite in Arches National Park. The sun poked out from behind the clouds as I took a few minutes to familiarize myself with the lay of the land. As I prepared to find a few short walks and a campground, I noticed Petey’s urinary tract infection was back…bummer. After $425 at the vet in San Francisco and a $12 prescription, I found myself looking up vets in Moab. Fortunately, I found Moab Veterinary Clinic. They appeared to be a small and large animal vet. After showing them all my paper work, the vet said, “Maybe I ought to raise my prices”. He prescribed another medicine for Petey to be taken for 21 days. The grand total of my vet visit was $3.50…cheapest ever!
Now that it was close after 3 pm, I decided to just look for a nearby campground on BLM property. I found one for $12 a night…no water, pit toilets. As I was paying for my site, a fellow camper, Jim, paid for his. He mentioned he had been on the road for six months and of course I responded likewise. He has spent his six months in the west and has had time for return visits. It was his third time to Moab. We ended up taking a 4.5 mile hike through Negro Bill Canyon located across the highway from our campground to the six largest natural bridge in the USA. The sandy path to the bridge passed by lovely patches of wildflowers, bushes and trees and required several creek crossings where I finally succumbed to getting my feet wet. While the trail allowed dogs, Petey was struggling to get around, so I left him to rest in VANilla.
After our walk, I blogged for a bit (but couldn’t post – no reception at the campground) and then met Jim for dinner in town. He is originally from Kentucky. He spent 15 years in Lexington and 15 years in Louisville. He graduated with a BS in forestry, but ended up going into construction and working as an auto mechanic. He has been retired since 2002 and spent a few years in Washington and four in New Mexico before he began his road trip in a Volvo in November. Having been on his third visit to Moab, he knew where to find free water and showers. Think I will be checking out those places tomorrow. ETB