Posted by: athike2011 | July 23, 2011

Day 11–Canyon Lands

I set my alarm for 6am hoping to beat as much of the heat as possible today. Somehow after making my lunch, feeding Sierra, packing stuff up and driving to the trailhead, it ended up being 9am. Still not bad, it limited what I was doing to just the one hike instead of adding the short second hike to cave spring as well. We did make one stop on the way at a place called newspaper rock, I figured I should see some petroglyphs while I was here.

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We set out on the trail and I was very quickly taken back by the scenery. Though I have been in Utah and in the national parks for a few days now, exploring canyons, and cliffs, this was bar far the coolest place I have been yet. Straight away we had to go up a small stone staircase through a very short slot canyon, then climb a little higher to be confronted with some breathtaking views.

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Sadly within ten minutes I managed to snap my trekking pole just below the grip. This was completely out of no where, it hadn’t gotten wedged in something or taken a large amount of pressure from a fall… Anyways, as they are collapsing poles, the middle section slides up into the handle, so by retracting that section most of the way, and making up for the length with the lower section, I was back in business, at least until I make it to the REI in Grand Junction.


Shortly after my repairs we came on to our first and only slot canyon of the day. This area isn’t really known for it’s slot canyons, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to experience. The walls were barely wide enough from my shoulders and they towered a solid 30 feet over my head. You could feel the temperature drop thirty degrees instantly. In total we hiked a mile and a half before reaching the first junction. The “trail”, which barely exists at all, is marked by stacked rocks, only confirmed by the occasional NPS signed junction. There were nine junctions in total on the nine mile loop I made up for the morning, other than that we were trusting the rocks and instinct to get us where we wanted to go.

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As we continued on following the rocks became more of a task. When you’re walking through the desert and everything is about the same color, with rocks everywhere, it can be difficult to discern the unnaturally stacked rocks from the ones that just happen to be as they are. After our fifth junction, just past the half way point of the day, I got to a section where I was no longer sure I was on the right path. I continued on until I cam to stacked rocks. Unfortunately they continued in two separate directions. This is not what I wanted to see. I checked the compass on my watch, and looked at my map. Northeast was the general direction I needed to be heading in, and as one pile was heading east and the other west, I picked the obvious one. I knew I would be hitting a junction shortly. I gave myself fifteen minutes to get there, which was more than enough time, if in fifteen minutes I didn’t find the junction, I would have to turn around and work my way back the way I came.

Within five minutes I found the junction I was looking for and was able to relax and enjoy my hike again. I rounded a few bends in the canyon and came across the first people I had seen all day. Two middle aged men who were heading to druid arch from the Squaw Flat campground. I stopped and chatted with them for a short while. One of the first questions was, “where in the bay area are you from?” I was slightly taken back as I had just randomly ran into these strangers in the middle of the Utah desert. It quickly hit me that the bright turquoise and white San Jose Sharks cap on my head was probably a dead give away. It turned out they were from Marin and out here for the weekend exploring the desert. We talked for a while longer, they asked about Sierra’s cooling vest and were very impressed with how well she was doing. When it was time to part ways she hopped up and went sprinting down the canyon as if she weren’t half Siberian Husky in the 100 degree heat.

We looped back around and met our initial 2.1 mile line that took us to the loop. Both of us downed a significant amount of water as we knew we were in the home stretch of the hike. As we approached the slot canyon again, I knew it would be a while before I had the opportunity to play in one of these again, so I put my trekking poles down and took advantage. I braced my arms on the walls and hopped up, smearing my shoes on the canyon walls, I would push on three limbs while lifting the other, slowly working my way up the slot. I got about twenty feet up before I decided I had probably gone far enough as I was on my own and had only seen two other people all day. I snapped some pictures and slid my way down.

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We finished our hike around 12:30 as the temperature kept creeping up. Surprisingly we saw 6-7 more people within a mile of the car, just then starting out on their hikes. What would convince someone to head out at that time is beyond me, but as they said on the Appalachian Trail, “hike your own hike”.

Back in Moab I spent the rest of the day restocking ice, working on my blog, and taking Sierra to the park. I found a lack of free camp sites around the area, so I planned on killing time until around nine or ten when I can go park either at the grocery store or a local park. I plan on waking up at 7am again to get an early start for Arches, so it really shouldn’t be an issue. I ended up a the library for a while to kill some time. I got my new replacement kindle, which allowed me to keep reading the book I am almost done with, Between A Rock and A Hard Place by Aaron Ralston. He is the guy who was hiking/climbing in Horseshoe Canyon, just a little west of where I was today, when his arm got pinned by a boulder. Long story short, he cut his arm off after 5 days, lived to tell the tale. It was even more interesting to be reading the book after being in the areas he describes and visited just before setting of on his hike.

Tomorrow I will be going to Arches, and after that I am heading to Colorado to climb my first two fourteeners (any mountain with a peak over 14,000 feet), Grays and Torreys. I took a brief look at the weather there this evening. Currently 54 degrees. I’m going to sleep well tomorrow. I can’t wait.



  1. Your pictures are just amazing.
    This is an area I’ve always wanted to see. You’ve made that possible.

    Please come down from the ledge 😉

  2. Happy to hear you didn’t have to saw off any of your limbs with a dull knife! 😀

  3. When you get a chance can you put your photos on Flickr so I can comment 🙂

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