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Four years prior to this trip I had finished the 1000 foot (or so) ascent up to Cathedral Butte trailhead after finishing a four-day backpacking trip in Salt Creek. I knew I'd be back to the area in which I was completely floored - as a spectacular desert oasis. In 2010, I spent four days inside the drainage stretching between Cathedral Butte and Angel Arch. Despite that I had seen much, I left with a hunger for more. Full of water, numerous sandstone arches, hoodoos, ancient Puebloan ruins and pictographs, wildlife and those classic Needles District views, Salt Creek is a desert backpacking must.
Fortunately or unfortunately, much has been documented about this area. I may have not been interested in the place had I not seen the trip described in a guide-book four years ago. Prior to my trip this year I googled Salt Creek. I came across a blog which lended a map with pinpoints where archeological artifacts could be found. That was prior to the NPS finding it. There are stories that the Park Service has threatened fines for those who post photos and/or coordinates of some of the more delicate (and little known) archeological sites in Salt Creek. I found it disappointing that the area had been so exposed. The park ranger at the station confirmed my suspicion that this place is becoming more and more popular.
I of course say this all tongue in cheek; I'm about to post a trip report about this fragile area after all. I will just aim to report on the same content which are all already well documented and open to the public. This also means that I'll be leaving out a lot of sites we got to see.
Back in the 1980's you could drive a Jeep nearly the entire way to Angel Arch from Peekaboo trailhead. I can only imagine the type of artifacts that disappeared from that area back then. Back in 2010 I met a team of archeologists that were studying the Salt Creek canyons. I knew from then on that there is much more to see beyond the trail. Part of my mission for my second trip was to explore the small folds of the canyon and pick up on the things that I had missed, this time with three sets of eyes as opposed to just one.
Our first day hiking plans vanished by that of a completely blown out tire on our drive to the trailhead on the lengthy Beef Basin road. We drove a long drive back to Moab on a donut to buy a new set of four. No need to go into anymore detail on that downer. We began hiking around 5:00 pm later that night. A short hike to our campsite, but a way too early end on our first day of exploring canyon pockets.
The Canyonlands Park Service only allows for four primitive campsites which sit along an eight mile stretch between the Park boundary and the turn-off for Angel Arch to the north. We had reserved SC-2 and SC-4 for two separate nights.
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