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Backpacking in the needles with newbies
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Ted E
(Mtn_nut) - MLife

Locale: Morrison, CO
Backpacking in the needles with newbies on 03/25/2012 02:38:33 MDT Print View

So, this spring my girlfriend Steph and I decided that for my last spring break before we both graduate college and have to find real jobs, we wanted to go for a backpacking trip. My birthday was also during spring break, so it would also be a treat to be on a trip for my birthday. She had never been on a true backpacking trip before, and I had already been getting her ready for a trip by getting her an osprey pack for Christmas, and letting her inherit my old pad and sleeping bag since she didn't own a pad and her sleeping bag was an old rectangular synthetic bag with no hood

To add to this, we invited her best friend Tamara and her fiancé Jeremy to come too, neither of which had ever been backpacking before, and had mostly car camping equipment and very little backpacking equipment, so my work was cut out for me.

Prior to the trip, we went through what they actually needed, and what they were allowed to bring, and I gave them a simple list of things for them to pack. Luckily, they had enough basic gear, along with some of my old gear and borrow stuff from family to make it work pretty well.

After doing a lot of searching for a fun trip, I decided that the needles section of canyonlands should be in prime season, and that the Salt Creek trail would give everyone a trip to remember without having to worry about water sources or other technical difficulties that may arise from desert hiking.

The only hiccup was that we would have to start kind of late on the first day because we had passed the deadline to get reserved permits, so I had to be at the visitor center at 8am, and we would need to shuttle one of the cars to the end trail head at Cathedral Butte. We ended up doing that the night prior, however we were so exhaust from driving all night to get there and shuttling the car, everyone ended up sleeping in till noon while I got the permit and packed all the backpacks up.

The morning of the first day gave us the views that we were all hoping for, a clear sky and a beautiful landscape!

Me and the girlfriend at the trailhead

To get to the peekaboo trailhead, the start of the actual hiking trail, we would have to follow a 4WD road that goes through Salt Creek. The road literally goes through the middle of the creek, and so within a half mile, we found ourselves wading through the ankle deep water. Here there was no trail to follow, just the flowing water. When I do this trip again, I will probably start out from the Squaw Flat trailhead, i think it would be a little more scenic and drier.

A nice sheet of ice left over from the winter snow :-)

Finally spotting the peekaboo double arch, where we also spotted out first Indian ruins

These ruins were just the beginning with many more spotted along the route

After traveling past the peekaboo arches, the canyon began to wind through the desert landscape and dig itself a narrower path with huge walls on either side.

All sorts of new rock formations started to show up, and the sky began to turn colors as the sun set on our first day, setting up camp just after spotting crescent arch.

i'll make two more posts with day 2 and day 3

Also, all of these photos can be viewed full size by right clicking on "open image in new tab" or something like it depending on what browser you're using.

Edited by Mtn_nut on 03/30/2012 22:24:01 MDT.

Ted E
(Mtn_nut) - MLife

Locale: Morrison, CO
Re: Backpacking in the needles with newbies on 03/25/2012 03:03:40 MDT Print View

Day 2

We woke up in the morning, quickly boiled some water for breakfast, and set out on the trail just as the sun was rising. Because we had gotten such a late start the day before, we needed to cover almost 20 miles today to get to the campsite, and seeing as how we were averaging just less than 2 mph yesterday, that meant a long day. We were greeted by another day of fantastic weather, and we headed off to our main objective, angel arch.

First, we got to see some better views of crescent arch with the sun just about to peak out behind it.

Another natural arch

Ah ha, we're at least in the right spot

Finally around mid-morning, we reached the culmination of our trip, angel arch, the largest arch in canyonlands! However, they found a shelf with a hollowed out hole that was much more entertaining :)

My favorite -

After leaving the arch and getting back to the canyon the landscape began to change a bit. The canyon widens out again, and larger trees became visible. There was also a lot of blow down damage from storms last fall, giving the creek a different look.

I have to throw this one in here. We thought it looked like Jay Leno kissing Rosie O'Donnell, lol

After a little longer, we came to a spot marked as "upper jump" on the map, however didn't indicate what it was. When we found it, it made perfect sense. It was one of the prettiest places along the trip, and if I had an extra day, I would have probably spent the rest of the day here and camped at SC3 just down the trail afterwards. Alas, we had to leave, but not until I took a quick (and cold) shower under the falls, and we refilled our water and took a nice break.

Just south of the upper jump, the canyons winding ceased, and the canyon opened up even more. There we came upon even more Indian ruins, and a climb up to a scenic highpoint

As we left the last of the ruins, the sun began to set. We actually covered almost 16 miles; however we needed to do another 4 to get to SC1 for our camp that night, so we hiked for two hours after dusk with the stars. Surprisingly, I think we made faster time at night than during the day, probably because we didn't have anything except the stars to look at.

i'll write up day three next

Edited by Mtn_nut on 03/27/2012 00:34:50 MDT.

Ted E
(Mtn_nut) - MLife

Locale: Morrison, CO
Re: Backpacking in the needles with newbies on 03/25/2012 03:04:34 MDT Print View

Day three was a pretty short day; however it was the most elevation gain of the entire trip. We had actually been hiking upstream the entire trip, but it had very little elevation difference since the river only gains 800 feet or so during the hike which starts out at just less than 5000'. However, the final trailhead sits at 7000', with those final 1000+ feet of elevation gain in the last mile or so.

We did get to see some more Indian ruins before finally hiking out of the creek, and we also got to explore Kirks cabin, an old ranch that use to be located on the south side of canyonlands with a cabin that was built in the 1890's.

Looking out the window of Kirk's cabin

Finally, our destination in sight, Cathedral butte!

At the canyonlands border. Now the uphill part begins

Since the hike up to Cathedral Butte is all northfacing, we ran into some significant snow near the top.

Finally, at the top, we reached the trailhead where we had shuttled one of the cars to three days earlier. Exausted and happy!

I plan on coming back out to Salt creek again. If I could do it differently, I would have changed a few things. I would have hiked it south to north. Not only is it downhill, but I think it would have navigated a little easier. staying night 1 just outside the south boundary of the park, spending day two exploring all the Indian ruins south of SC3, spending the evening of day 2 at upper jump swimming, and staying night 2 at SC3. Then staying night 3 at peekaboo camp, and hiking out to the squaw flat campground. I would also like to come back and hike all the way down horse canyon and see Castle and Fortress arch. Also spending an extra day or two between SC1&2 and peekaboo to explore the side canyons would be really nice and a good way to really be in a pristine isolated area of the Colorado Plateau. However, hiking off trail is not advised in a lot of canyonlands due to the biological soil crust, so staying in the river washes would the best plan for exploring off trail.

Edited by Mtn_nut on 03/30/2012 22:05:23 MDT.

Steve Martell
(Steve) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Washington
Re: BP in the Needles... on 03/25/2012 10:01:57 MDT Print View

Wow--I'm jealous! Keep us posted with updates.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
All pics broken on 03/26/2012 11:48:34 MDT Print View

I can't see any pictures...

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: All pics broken - For Some, But Not All... on 03/26/2012 11:50:45 MDT Print View

I see them just fine.

Ted E
(Mtn_nut) - MLife

Locale: Morrison, CO
Re: Re: All pics broken - For Some, But Not All... on 03/27/2012 00:38:40 MDT Print View

the photos are all uploaded to photobucket, and they are all public, so something must be wrong with your computer/browser. they work perfect with google chrome.

i just added day 2. day 3 will be added soon.

Joseph Regallis
(backpackandgear) - F
Backpacking in the needles with newbies on 03/27/2012 09:49:17 MDT Print View

I have been to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks but I have never hiked at Canyonlands. After seeing your pictures, I would love to hike there! Hopefully one day I'll get back there. Just wanted to let you know that when my friend Harry and I were there last, we both got a wicked sun burn, even with hats and sunglasses. We are from South Florida and don't have the dry heat that you guys have in Utah. We had to go up into the mountain (Lasal?) nearby to get cooled off!

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Re: Re: Re: All pics broken - For Some, But Not All... on 03/27/2012 11:47:30 MDT Print View

So you didn't upload them to BPL? That's it, then. I'm at work and the security filter is killing them.

Tim Drescher
(timdcy) - M

Locale: Gore Range
Re: Backpacking in the needles with newbies on 03/27/2012 15:23:52 MDT Print View

Congratulations on completing this trip! I did Salt Creek about 3 years ago and it still remains to be one of my favorite areas of the Canyonlands. The upsides here are endless.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: needles with newbies on 03/30/2012 08:20:59 MDT Print View

Great trip report. That's such a good hike, and a good choice for breaking in new folks. Going over from Squaw Flat is more scenic (if a bit more strenuous).

Ted E
(Mtn_nut) - MLife

Locale: Morrison, CO
day 3 on 03/30/2012 22:07:19 MDT Print View

Just added day three.

thanks guys for the positive comments

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Backpacking in the needles with newbies on 04/10/2012 19:19:43 MDT Print View

Yeah, my filter is also blocking the photos. Anyway to see them separately?