Sorry for the delay in getting something written up. Busy time here.
Anyway, we left Omaha, Nebraska on the 5th of April, amidst blizzard warnings and closed interstates all of the way to Denver. We were lucky, and the worst of the weather was the first 5 miles, and the roads opened up before us as if we were actually meant to get away for the week. I was accompanied by my lovely daughters, Kate and Maddie, ages 15 and 11.
It was jeep week in Moab. If you ever get a chance to visit Moab between Palm Sunday and Easter for jeep week...don't. We couldn't get out of town fast enough. Jeeps with fat tires. Jeeps with tall tires. Jeeps with fat, tall tires. Jeeps with flames. You get the picture.
We made a premature right turn from the highway from Moab and ended up at the Needles District Outlook, which is a couple thousand feet about the actual Needles District. It did give a great panoramic view of the Colorado/Green River canyon system.
Anyway, the ranger in the visitor station assured us when getting us our backcountry pass that the creek wasn't flowing, but there were good pools of water up and down the canyon. This was the coolest day, with the temperature around 50 when we hit the trail in the afternoon.
We left from Squaw Creek campground and made the 5 mile trek over sand and slickrock to finally drop down a ladder into Salt Creek Canyon at Peekaboo Springs. The hike was beautiful, with incredible vistas of the Needles and the La Sal mountains to the northeast. The trail climbs into beautiful sandstone amphitheaters and winds from one to the next, each more impressive than the last. There is some minor scrambling and a couple of ladders, but an easy 5 mile hike. There is no water other than collection pools in the slickrock on this portion of the hike. Not wanting to scar the rock any more than has already been done, my daughter and I stowed our trekking poles for this part of the hike.
We found a nice spot for our tarp above the dry stream bed and against the west wall of the canyon and crashed for the night.
On Day 2, we woke to a beautiful morning. The temp at sunrise was 38 with a beautiful, cloudless sky. We quickly ate, broke camp, and climbed down into the dry creek bed. Our first priority was to find water, and did so within the first mile. In fact, we found the spot where the creek disappears into the sand. Upstream of this spot, uninterrupted water was running in the creek.
The Salt Creek disappears!
Although beautiful, the canyon and desert above is still pulling out of the grasp of winter. There still wasn't much color in the flora, but the occasional burst of color foreshadowed the coming of spring.
The walk from Peekaboo to the Angel Arch trailhead is 8.5 miles on the park service map, and winds endlessly through the canyon. This part of the district is called "the zone," and allows at-large camping. We had permits our first 2 nights in the zone, so our destination for the day was the southern border of the zone. Our next night was to be spent at campsite SC4, a couple of miles on up the canyon from the Angel Arch trailhead.
While resting for lunch, we were overtaken by a very nice woman who has spent a great deal of time exploring this canyon and had recommendations for destinations that we might find interesting in the upper end of the canyon, including the "All-American Man," an image in the upper end of the canyon. My thanks to her, as she pointed us in the direction of some beautiful and interesting destinations that would have missed otherwise.
For the most part, the trail follows the old jeep trail up the canyon. Where it becomes obscured by brush, it is regularly marked by cairns. It was great to see how the desert is slowly reclaiming the jeep trail, but saddening to see slickrock riverbed still scarred.
We reached the Angel Arch trailhead in the late afternoon, and after setting up camp, resting and eating a bit, decided to make the short 1.5 mile hike up to see Angel Arch.
This canyon, a dry side canyon running south and east of the Salt Creek canyon, revealed a most inspiring place. Angel Arch and the canyon below is remarkably beautiful. The arch sits high atop the west wall of the canyon. Looking across the canyon, to the east, what appeared to me to be two eyes stare from the rock up to the arch and beyond. For me, this was one of those spots...one of those moments with my daughters that will stay with me forever.
My girls...had to throw this in!
We reluctantly left this place and headed back to camp. While turning in for the night, we watched a full moon rise over a sandstone spire. An amazing day.
On day 3 we headed out of the zone and into the upper portions of the canyon. We quickly came to our campsite for the day, SC4, set up camp, packed lunches in my pack and headed on up the trail. While stopped for a break next to the creek, we spotted our first ruin...a granary high above the canyon floor.
In fact, all of the ruins we saw were above the Angel Arch trail junction and SC4. This day was spent finding and exploring ruins.
The canyon itself takes on a different personality. It opens up dramatically. We no longer feel as if we're walking through a maze, but exploring a much more open landscape. We quickly reach the Upper Jump, a lovely waterfall at a bend in the creek. We stop, eat, and relax before heading further up the canyon.
Beyond Upper Jump we passed campsite SC3, another lovely waterfall beyond, and then the trail climbs to an outcropping on the east side of the canyon. Exploring this area reveals yet more ruins, pottery shards, and the "All-American Man" image.
We spent our 3rd night back at campsite SC4. This site is very sheltered with late morning sun, and this was by far our coldest night, with temps dropping well below 30 degrees. We reluctantly crawled out of our bags to frozen socks and platys, ate a quick breakfast, and headed back down the canyon. Our last night was spent near Peekaboo Springs, making for a 5 mile hike back to the trailhead the following morning.
My only gear regret on this trip was trekking poles. I'm a confirmed user, and had some brand new BPL Stix to use for the first time. With all of the walking on slickrock, though, I think next time I'll consider leaving them at home.
Contrary to what we were told at the ranger station, water was plentiful in all but the first mile or so above Peekaboo Springs. With the frequent pools of water throughout the canyon, I can see how mosquitoes could be an issue at some point, but we spent the week bug-free.
I regret that we didn't have the time to explore the upper end of the canyon. That will be the plan for our next visit.