Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Druid Arch in The Pink Cadillac- Episode 7

yellow flowers
The beauty of spring in the desert

Indian Creek is in full blossom: tiny desert flowers, cacti, and green bushes everywhere. It's been raining and thunderstorms threaten the entire West from Chihuahua to Wyoming. I did bring a Goretex parka in the very unlikely event I ever encountered a desert shower.

Spring 2009 Road Trip 259
Camping at Indian Creek

So, I end up cooking breakfast in a parka...when it should be 85 degrees. Looking at Indian Creek through the mist, it appears to be more than ankle-deep. What a surprise! Gazing at the massive cliffs of Canyonlands is like looking 'through a glass darkly' in the distance. Cool!

Spring 2009 Road Trip 260
Indian Creek, rain in the distance

To the south, the North and South Six shooters rise out of the mist and rain, beckoning, but not for today.
Spring 2009 Road Trip 262
North Six Shooter - through the mist

We decide to spend the day hiking in Canyonlands National Park, which route we don't know, but a hike, nevertheless. It will be a nice respite from the heavy climbing schedule we've been on. And, it is incredibly beautiful. A quick trip to the visitor center at the park entrance finds a young ranger who looks like she might have personal information on the hikes, so I ask her what her favorite hike is. She tells us a loop trail she likes, but we have perused the literature and finally decide on Druid Arch, and 11-mile round trip through the Needles. A short drive down a winding dirt road in 'The Desert Rose' scraping bottom a couple of times brings us to Elephant Hill parking Area where we leave the Caddy, grab a lunch and water, and start up the trail. The sandstone trail is classic; the path is cut into the rock, large cairns mark the way, and it's a pleasure to walk on.

North Six Shooter
A mile or so in we see a sign, pointing the wrong way!

I know where we are headed, so in spite of the goofy signs (Why doesn't my old agency fix this kind of nonsense????) we continue in the right direction, up over the the hardscrabble and rocks. Looking down at my feet I can see a fossil from time to time: ripple marks from ancient wave action, little accretions, and concretions, and an animal or two.

Chris hiking
Chris hiking up through the Needles

The scenery is spectacular, and my little point-and-shoot, in spite of its Leitz lens, just can't do it justice. Red and white layered sandstone, laminated and weathered into slender pillars, form a crenellated fence around the canyons.

Hiking up the creek bed, into the heart of the Needles

A smooth rock floor forms the canyon floor. Blue racer lizards sun on the rocks, and a variety of hard-to-see warblers sang from the trees. At one point the trail narrowed and passed through a "Joint", a cleft in the sandstone. This is not the same as a slot canyon, eroded by a stream, but rather by the rock splitting apart through faulting.

The Joint
The Joint

A few hours of hiking brought us to Druid arch. I had wondered why, in the middle of Ute Indian country, an arch would have a Celtic name, but after seeing it, I understood. It was huge, much bigger than I had imagined. If it were near Stonehenge, the Druids would have had a field day.

Druid Arch
Druid Arch

We had hardly seen a soul the whole hike, but at the arch two groups of young women hiked in behind us. We took photos of each other and had lunch with the arch in the background.

New friends at Druid Arch

The hike out was wet; pools formed in the otherwise dry wash. The sandstone absorbed the water like a sponge. This was great for the ecosystem, but for climbers, it meant that the rock would not be climbable for the next 24 hours, at least.

A pool forms in the canyon

The beauty of Canyonlands National Park

Back in camp we watched the creek rise as the night fell. What was normally a very shallow trickle became a red-mud torrent. As the night went on we worried about flash flooding, because even in the afternoon, portions of the road were covered in a foot of mud. Now, when we could hear the roar of the creek, we thought we might be too close. Huge cottonwood trees tumbled by, roots, stumps, anything near the water was washed into the Colorado River.

Flooding creek
Indian Creek looks like nasty mud!

In the morning we ate breakfast in the rain, packed the tent wet, and loaded the 'Desert Rose' for a trip to a dryer climate. How could you get more arid than the Utah desert? We drove to Moab to find out.
Caddy in the rain
The Caddy in the rain - time to move on!

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