Thursday, October 25, 2018

Dead Horse, Arches and Canyonlands Part 2 of 4

During the night a cold front moved in and brought wind, rain and cold temperatures in the high 30s. The guys were all sleeping in tents and were pelted by the wind and rain throughout the night yet were able to stay dry. I was sleeping in my hammock under the campground shelter. Fortunately I was protected. The guys woke up to tents surrounded by little pools of water. A challenging way to begin the day.

We started our day slowly. Coffee. Breakfast. Drive.

On this day we would head into The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. The Needles District forms the southeastern portion of Canyonlands National Park. Its signature features are colorful sandstone spires. There are also entrenched canyons, natural arches and sheer-walled cliffs throughout the district. The tributes stepped forward.
Our hike began by ascending this staircase through a naturally carved alley. The erect alley walls were formed by a fissure in the side of the mountain and thousands of years of erosion. 
Follow the cairns to follow the trail
Although sometimes the cairns are not easy to spot. Can you see the next one?
As we hiked further into The Needles we sank deeper into the canyon and we discovered that the surface on which we were walking was really the top of a mountain. Over centuries the softer sandstone walls eroded into the canyon. The harder sandstone surface on top remained. We nicknamed these sandstone formations muffin tops.

Eventually even the muffin tops erode and create the massive spires or needles.


Here's a closer view of The Needles. 


Sometimes the mountains split in into vertical schisms and form "fins". The fins are long tall formations that separate from the mountains. Between these "fins" there are sometimes passageways which we passed through called "joints".


Our destination for the day was EC1 or the Elephant Canyon 1 campsite. In some parts of The Needles there are designated campsites to reduce dispersed camping and to protect ground coverage. In other parts of The Needles there are camping zones in which you simply set up your campsite in a general area.


Our view from our campsite was amazing. We had a view of The Needles on one side and tall mountain bluffs on the other. Through the middle of the canyon there was a babbling creek. 


We had arrived at our campsite early, set up camp and thus we had time to explore the creek bed. 


Some parts of the creek were running with water and other parts of the creek were nearly dry.

The Park Ranger told us that it had been raining each day for the past week, so there might be water near our campsite. Lucky for us there was water and I was able to filter water using my water filter. In the high desert water is often scarce. So when there is water it is advisable to utilize it and filter it for drinking water. I filled up a few liters of water for the next couple of days.


The guys found some level ground and set up their tents around the campsite. I explored the nearby area and found something else.


A little way up the mountain, I discovered this rock overhang with a flat surface below it. I thought that it looked like the perfect liar for a mountain lion or as a crevice for a snake or as hideout for a scorpion.


Or as the perfect natural shelter for me. So I laid out my poncho tarp on the ground, placed my sleeping pad on top and spread out my sleeping bag. The roof of the stone shelter was only about two feet above the ground, but there was enough room for me to squeeze underneath.

At night the weather was cold and there were scattered rain showers, but I stayed completely warm and dry under my little nook. I slept like a rock.


The next day we arose early, cooked breakfast and headed out for a hike. The views were spectacular. 


We passed by this rock structure and speculated that this was the Elephant Rock which inspired the naming of Elephant Canyon.


Everywhere we hiked we were surrounded by red sand, rock formations and needles.


At one point we could see the needles in the distance and the trail leading us toward a crack in the mountain.


We walked through the crack known simply as "The Joint". It had steep walls over one hundred feet tall and only about two to three feet wide. The Joint went on for about a quarter mile. It was as if we were walking through a long tall hallway with no end in sight... kinda of spooky and kinda cool at the same time.


There were certainly amazing rock formations around every corner. But we also found that even in the harsh desert conditions there were other forms of life. Such as these Barrel Cacti.


Narrow leaf yucca plants


Dormant yucca plants


Fishhook Cacti


Mounds from Western Thatching Ants


Lichen


Creekside sand formations


And these natural potholes which often contained a microcosm world all within a radius of three feet.

Go to the Start (Part 1) or to the Next Chapter (Part 3)




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