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Desolate Divine: Back To The Needles

Friday – Monday, January 18-21, 2019

I spent a lot of time exploring the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park last year, but I guess I couldn’t stay away very long since I found myself back there again for my first camping trip of 2019 over the long holiday weekend! With the government shutdown I was not quite sure what to expect in The Needles, but since this district of Canyonlands is usually not fully staffed in the winter I was hoping it would be business-as-usual, and it pretty much was. The only difference I could tell between a normal winter weekend and during the government shutdown was that the bathrooms in the Visitor Center were closed and the current weather forecast was not posted on the door.

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Reef Madness: Cave Canyon & Arch Tower

The San Rafael Reef
Saturday, January 12, 2019

Since Diane took an extra shift at work today I decided to drive over into Utah so I could do a little hiking on the northern San Rafael Reef since I hadn’t been back out that way since last January. I just hoped I wouldn’t lose a wheel on my Jeep this time since I’d be driving down that same road again! When I woke up this morning there was a fresh layer of snow on the ground at my house, so I checked the weather forecast and it looked like the snow ended near the state line, so I continued on with my plans for the day. After leaving home I drove through some very dense fog on I-70 from Grand Junction all the way to the Westwater exit and then through more patchy fog until the Cisco exit. This slowed down the drive considerably, so it’s probably a good thing I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere this morning. After passing the Cisco exit it was clear blue skies as far as I could see and it would stay that way for the rest of the day.

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Lower Salt Wash Canyon

Friday – Saturday, December 14-15, 2018

Salt Wash begins its journey near Thompson Springs at the southern end of the Book Cliffs just east of Sego Canyon. From there it meanders generally south across Yellow Cat Flat and joins up with Lost Spring Canyon inside the boundary of Arches National Park. This desert wash eventually passes by the Wolfe Ranch near the popular trailhead for Delicate Arch as it enters Cache Valley and then carves a deep canyon through Dry Mesa just east of The Windows before finally reaching the Colorado River. I have studied this particular canyon on maps over the years and thought about hiking it a number of times before, but I always seem to find somewhere else I’m more interested in going instead. I haven’t found much information about hiking this canyon and wasn’t sure what to expect, but I guess that is what intrigued me about this location in the first place.

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End of Trails in The Needles

Big Spring Canyon – Elephant Canyon Loop
Friday – Sunday, November 30 – December 2, 2018

After looking over the official map for the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park earlier this year, I noticed that I had hiked just about every single trail on it, so I figured it would be a good goal to try and finish hiking them all this year. After hiking a few of those remaining trails earlier in the year, I only had a few segments of trails in the Big Spring Canyon area left, so Diane and I headed down to The Needles this weekend so I could finish them up in one big loop on Saturday.

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Horsin’ Around: The Return to Horse Canyon

Friday – Sunday, November 16-18, 2018

It’s been over six years since the last time I drove into Horse Canyon which is located in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. The road washed out again shortly after that trip and I don’t think it’s been open much, if at all, since then. When I noticed at the end of October that the road was actually open again, I quickly put together a last minute weekend trip with my friends Dave and Jared since I’m not sure how long it will stay open this time! Jared came along on my last trip here but this would be Dave’s first time in Horse Canyon and he was looking forward to it. I reserved a campsite for us at Peekaboo in Salt Creek Canyon on Saturday night so we could spend two full days in the canyon and not have to deal with getting day-use permits. I left work on Friday afternoon and met up with them outside of the Park along the Lockhart Basin Road where we spent the first night since we were able to have a fire here to keep warm on the cold night. On Saturday morning we got a late start since we had to wait until the Visitor Center opened at 9:00am to get the combination to the gate which wasted a couple hours of daylight on these short days. Once we had the combination we headed through the gate and spent the rest of the weekend searching for arches, ruins and rock art. We found plenty of all of them! Enjoy these photos from our weekend trip!

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