Saturday, February 10, 2018
Since I already have plans and permits to spend time in The Needles and The Maze districts of Canyonlands National Park this spring, I thought it would be nice to spend a little quality time on the Island In The Sky, too. I recently realized that I haven’t done very much hiking in this part of the park yet and I really want to start changing that. This time I was not looking to hike all the way down to the White Rim and then climb back up, so I decided to start with the Neck Spring Trail and a few other shorter trails. I’ll definitely be coming back for some longer hikes later this year!
I left work on Friday afternoon and headed to Moab where I grabbed some dinner and topped off my fuel tank before heading up to the Island In The Sky. I found a campsite outside of the park and went to bed early so I could get up for sunrise on Saturday morning. The temperature this evening was very mild and stayed that way all night. I slept very well. On Saturday morning I woke up about an hour before the sunrise and drove into the park. I didn’t have any specific location planned for this morning aside from knowing that I didn’t want to revisit Mesa Arch since it would be too busy of a place for me. As I was driving into the park I decided to head over to the White Rim Overlook and take my chances there. I left the trailhead just as the early dawn light was beginning to show and hiked across the slender peninsula to the very end where I waited for the sun to rise. The temperature was still very mild this morning but the sky was filled with clouds as a cold front was moving into the area. There was a very small gap on the eastern horizon that the sun did break through, but it was only for a very brief time. It quickly disappeared and would remain overcast for much of the remainder of the day.
The sun is just about to make a very brief appearance over the horizon from the White Rim Overlook.
Sunlight strikes the cliffs of the Island In The Sky with Junction Butte off to the left.
Warm morning light on sandstone near the White Rim Overlook.
Warm tones on the red cliffs and cool blue clouds above. A beautiful sight!
Overlooking Gooseberry Canyon after the sun disappeared behind the cloud bank.
Looking down on the White Rim Road and Monument Basin from the overlook before hiking back to the trailhead.
After returning to my Jeep at the trailhead, I drove back towards the entrance of the park and stopped at the Neck Spring Trail near the Shafer Canyon Overlook. I crossed the road and then followed the loop as it passed by a couple of springs, frozen waterfalls and some old troughs. I even followed a few deer along the trail for a little bit. Though the sky was overcast the entire time, the temperature out was still nice for much of the hike. However, as I returned to the trailhead the wind began to pick up and the temperature finally started to drop.
Crossing the road at the beginning of the trail.
The first old trough that I passed which is located just below The Neck.
A small frozen waterfall just below an unnamed spring.
After climbing back up onto the top of the mesa I passed another trough and wondered how they got the water up here?
My question was soon answered after hiking a little further and coming across the remains of a structure that was used to pump water from Cabin Spring below. There were some cable grooves in the sandstone above the structure.
After crossing the paved road a second time I stopped to admire the view of the Shafer Trail switchbacks below which I’ve driven down many times.
After finishing the hike I headed over to the Buck Canyon Overlook as darker storm clouds started moving into the area.
Then I headed down the road toward Upheaval Dome and hiked the short trail to the top of Whale Rock, a large outcropping of sandstone.
The view from the summit! As I was coming back down from the top it finally started to snow a little.
On my way over to the Green River Overlook the sky finally let loose and I was in a full-blown snowstorm.
I parked at the Green River Overlook parking lot and read a book for a while until the storm started to die down a little. Then I returned to the Buck Canyon Overlook to catch the end of the snowstorm.
This raven kept and eye on me as I walked over to the overlook and then returned to my Jeep.
With the storm now over I returned to the Green River Overlook one more time and saw that all the snow was on the top of the mesa and never reached the White Rim level below.
At this point it looked like the overcast skies were going to stick around until after sunset and I considered leaving the park and heading back to town for dinner. However, on my way out I stopped again at the Shafer Canyon Overlook and the Visitor Center and saw some signs that there might just be a sunset afterall…
The Shafer Trail in the clouds.
I was able to see the La Sal Mountains again.
Since it was looking like there might be a chance for a sunset, I turned around again and headed out to Grand View Point so I could hike to the very end. I’m glad I stuck around and didn’t leave because there turned out to be a pretty awesome sunset!
A view of Junction Butte from the very end of Grand View Point.
Here comes the sun again…
A beautiful view over Murphy Hogback to Candlestick Tower as the sun came back out and the clouds started to clear up.
Light on the needles in the distance.
Beautiful scenes unfolded in front of me as I hiked along the rim.
Much of the snow had already melted by now, but it was still holding on to the vegetation.
The melting snow filled up all the potholes nicely.
Following the Grand View Point Trail back to the trailhead as the sun continued to set.
The red cliffs of Hatch Point were glowing in the distance.
Sunset over Monument Basin
Canyonlands In Pink
One last view of Candlestick Tower at dusk as I was leaving the Island In The Sky. It had been a great day and I think I experienced just about every season within a matter of hours!