Monday, April 28, 2008

Canyonlands National Park - Needles District, Utah - Backpacking

Jake and I took Friday off from work to spend the weekend backpacking in Canyonlands National Park near Moab. We arrived at the Needles District ranger station early enough to secure a backcountry permit for Friday night. Pickings were slim for Saturday night so we decided to deal with that issue later. I knew there were some BLM camping sites at Indian Creek outside the park so I figured we could stay there if nothing was available in the park. The weather was perfect for a backpacking trip - warm and sunny - meaning everyone else on the planet decided to spend the weekend in Moab as well. We knew backcountry permits and camping spots would be in high demand so we were thankful to have at least Friday night.

We headed off to Big Spring Canyon and reached our designated camping spot after a few miles. We dropped off our heavy packs and took some lighter gear to do more hiking. We ended up covering quite a few miles as we passed through Squaw Canyon and Elephant Canyon on our way to Chesler Park.

me near the Squaw Flat trailhead

the view near Squaw Flat trailhead

oh good we can dump the heavy water

pretty cactus flowers

Jake with the Needles in the background. Elderly are especially susceptible to heat stroke

me climbing down to Elephant Canyon

Jake points out lovely Chesler Park

We returned to our campsite that evening to find we had been robbed. By ravens! Those sneaky birds actually unzipped Jake's backpack and helped themselves to all of his dehydrated backpacking food. The ranger mentioned a serious raven problem, but she made no mention of their ability to unzip bags! They were particularly fond of ham and eggs but turned their beaks up at the curry lentil meal Jake brought for me. Jake had to settle for a sad, dry bagel. We felt horribly violated. With a significant amount of food gone, we realized we'd have to return to Moab on Saturday to get more supplies and probably just camp there Saturday night.

We hiked out to the Confluence on Saturday - the place where the Green and Colorado Rivers join forces before heading toward the Grand Canyon (sadly, they end up in that giant toilet bowl called Lake Powell first). The hike was about 11 miles round trip and took us over some open range into a few canyons before coming to an incredible overlook. It was interesting to see how the rivers merged - the Green River gets pushed to the side by the more forceful Colorado. The waters are distinctly separate for quite some distance.

me at the Confluence - Green River on the left and the Colorado River on the right

Jake at the Confluence

We got back to Moab late in the day and of course there was no camping available anywhere. We finally gave up looking and headed to the place that would make everything OK - Moab Brewery. Our beer of choice that evening, the Raven Stout.