Sunday, May 8, 2011

Big Day in Canyonlands National Park May 8, 2011

My high hopes for today were exceeded way beyond what I imagined!  

Adventurer Designer was to pick me up at 4:25am.  I went out at 4:20am only to find her already sitting there waiting for me!  There was no needing an hour or so to wake up and get with it, we were in ready-to-go-right-now mode.  From doing our homework, we knew we needed to arrive at Mesa Arch very early to get one of the very few spots for the perfect sunrise photo.   We were fourth and fifth to arrive and set up our spot right at the front.  I knew other photographers would be there but never imagined they would be professional photographers from all over the world.  It surprised me they were interested in chatting with me, someone without a tripod and aiming with a point and shoot.  When the sunrise started, it was all business for the next 15 minutes or so.  This is my perfect shot of "The Mesa Arch Sunrise"!  I never imagined I could get such a shot with my camera.
Our big hike planned for the day after the Famous Sunrise, was to complete the full Murphy Hogback loop.  We had breakfast, geared up then hit the trail.  Our adventure began on this sandy, flat, straight trail that went on for about two kilometers.   It was a nice trail to get into a hiking groove on.
We reached where our descent would begin and heard folks chatting.  As it turned out, they were packing up the little white tent sitting on the edge in the middle of the photo below.  Lucky them, they got the one and only site for the night.  We admired the basin below, our first destination!
It was a long steep descent with a few switchbacks. The trail went along ledges, over boulders, on top of slickrock, even across a wooden bridge covering a rock slide.  While descending, I was already thinking of the ascent up this at day's end.
When we reached the bottom, I realized that no matter how much work we did, we would not be reaching a summit today.  Today's hard work would be getting us to a bottom which was also a part of our destination.  I had to have my shot,  no summit shot, but here is my "bottom shot"!
This trail is up there for being one of the most unique places I have ever been.  A portion of our trail was along the White Rim Road.  After seeing this, I now know why it is called that! The view ahead of us here was unreal, we were surrounded in unrealness.  I just made up that word!  We made a plan to reach the spot where the trail met the road before we took a longer break.
We found one of the very, very, very, very few sheltered spots to have lunch.  The buzzing, far off noise we thought possibly a plane, turned out being this jeep.  It just came out of no where over a hill.  It sure looked like fun!  We wondered what they thought of us sitting there, in the heat of the desert, out in the middle of no where.
There was a shirt in Moab with a saying on it "this girl gets dirty but cleans up nice"!  
Well, I got dirty but wasn't cleaning up nice!  
But you do know that I do clean up nice, right!
The trail conditions took a toll on my boots, feet and legs.  At this point, we are only at the half way mark.  
I took care of the situation with another layer of sunscreen, clean pair of socks and duct tape on my boot!
It was a long slow climb along the couple of kilometers of White Rim Road but well worth the efford.   The road led us out of the basin and up onto Murphy Hogback where there were two tiny campgrounds.  These camp sites had out-of-this-world views. 
We stopped on top of the Hogback for snacks, to rest our feet and to enjoy the amazing view before our eyes.  We were thankful it wasn't sweltering hot like yesterday's +38C.  We had a few kilometers to go before we reached where our ascent would begin.  This Island in the Sky part of Canyonlands is simply amazing.  We tried to make some time on this portion of the trail because we knew hiking out of the wash would be challenging.
Before starting the ascent, we took one last longer rest.  The wind was picking up and clouds were rolling in.  I'm O.K. with clouds but wasn't happy with the wind especially when it gusted while we were on the narrow ledges.   In the few years that I have been hiking, I have been the one to need guidance, my hand held at times while receiving supportive advice.  After these few years, it suddenly, out of the blue, came time to pay it back!  For me what happened next I consider an added bonus.   We all have our phobias and things that scare the sh__ out of us and it's not snakes for me.  As I stepped foot to pass a large rock, a 4 to 5 foot, green snake was about to slither in front of me but slithered away in the opposite direction.  We found out later that seeing a Western Racer is a rare thing!  We walked back a number of meters and gathered composure.  I gave the support needed and then we carried on.  For a short section, we ran, threw rocks and yelled loud!  I'm sure we were quite the sight!  We then quickly finished the last couple of kilometers back to the car.

If Mesa Arch and Murphy Hogback were all we got to experience today, I would be thoroughly overjoyed but that wasn't the end of our day.  We cleaned up, I tried to as much as I could, then went to see more sights in the area.  Have you seen the movie "Thelma & Louise"?  This is Shaffer Trail, the road at the end of the movie.  We had an outstanding view of forever!
Adventure Designer comes by her name for a reason, she choose to drive a portion of that Shaffer Road.  The warning sign at the beginning of the road brought out the chicken in me, I got out and walked and let her go on, praying she came back from around that corner soon.  It was a relief when I saw the little silver car backing up around the corner!
We stopped by the main lookout at Dead Horse Point State Park. I had been here a few days ago but it was morning time.  Now it was sunset time!  We started the day with a sunrise and wanted to end it with a sunset.  We took a few photos of the amazing Island in the Sky scenery while waiting.  One of the professional photographers from the Mesa Arch Sunrise was here too waiting for the sunset.  It was like we were long lost friends, the way we were greeted by him!
Two many clouds rolled in and we didn't get the sunset shot we hoped for but this kind of scene isn't shabby at all to end a day!  
What ever feeling is greater then feeling pleasantly depleted then I felt that at this day's end and I know I wasn't the only one feeling it!

I will never forget today!  
I felt like I was "on top of the world" from sunrise to sunset and every second in between!





1 comment:

  1. Wow, wow, wow!! Forget our 'local' summits; this day is what I believe to be my #1 hiking day ever. Not to mention that we were greeted by Canyonlands with the darkest night sky and display of the Big Dipper and Milky Way. simply unbelievable. And yes, I did feel pleasantly depleted ... very, very pleasantly depleted.

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