Landscape: Canyonlands and Salt Creek

I returned at the end of last week from five days of Canyonlands bliss. A true desert fix. My Boulderite gal-pal Cathy (at right) joined me for three days in Canyonlands National Park’s Needles area along the Upper Salt Creek trail. Instead of sticking with the normal route—a 22.5-mile trek along the creek wash—we decided to go adventuring and leave the main Salk Creek Trail at Big Pocket to link up with the Lavender Canyon Loop. But…due to lack of water in that area, we backtracked to Cathedral Butte (below), the namesake of the remote trailhead where we started. We drove nearly 20 miles of washboard-dirt road to arrive there on Day One.

From Cathedral Butte, we hiked down a steep, technical section before reaching the Salt Creek wash, a big sandy opening in the surrounding landscape.

The sand gave way to reeds as we passed through a marshy area. I’m not sure our boots will recover from the red-sand-grime we mucked though.

Despite the lack of water we’d encounter on Day Two of our proposed hike, we found this area to be lush. Pretty green for a desert, eh?

A fantastic watering hole with cascading pools explained the amazing greenery we encountered along this portion of the trail near Kirk Cabin.

Soon enough, we reached Big Pocket, where we left the main trail. This is what I come to the desert for: Big. Wide. Open. Space.

We set up camp in an at-large camping area at the border of Big Pocket and Lavender Canyon.

It gets cold quickly in the desert at night, so we piled on the layers and cooked in the wind. All food in the desert gets tainted with sand. No coyote howls this eve—instead it was so windy that sand got forced through the tent netting, and we woke up to sand gusts all night long.


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