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Month: December 2016

Upheaval Dome, Canyonlands National Park, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 29

Upheaval Dome, Canyonlands National Park, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 29

When deciding which hikes to do with our limited time at Canyonlands National Park, we couldn’t pass up a quick walk out to the rim of the Upheaval Dome. Scientists and geologists debate what actually caused this geologic anomaly in the relatively stable area and it became my Hike 29.

The Upheaval Dome

The showstopper feature that is this hike’s namesake is a 3-mile diameter dome that you can overlook from various viewpoints. This geologic feature has an interesting greenish-white tint which contrasts against the orange-red soil all around.

The Theories

There are two main theories for what caused this strange dome in the high desert. One theory is also the source of the feature’s name. This theory states that salt layers left behind by evaporating seas become fluid under immense pressure from rocks above. This liquid salt “bubbles” to the surface in an “upheaval”. The second theory that seems to have a bit more (yet still inconclusive) support is that this is actually the top of an impact crater, made visible by erosion.

The Hike

It was a very hot day and we had quite a few hikes planned (along with a side trip to Zion that same day), so we chose to do the short Upheaval Dome Trail (although we did go almost to the second, further viewpoint when we missed a sign!). The hike is well-groomed trail and marked. There is little to no shade so sunscreen is a must, as is water. This hike only has about 100 feet of elevation change, but I found that it felt like much more given the heat, sand, sun, etc. However, if you prepare appropriately this hike is a can’t miss simply because of the awe-inspiring and, frankly, weird scenery.

Have you hiked to the Upheaval Dome? What do you think caused this geologic feature? Tell me in the comments!

Grand View Point, Canyonlands National Park, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 28

Grand View Point, Canyonlands National Park, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 28

If the Grand View Point Trail doesn’t knock your socks off, I believe you’re bound to be bored with everything else on earth. This was Hike 27 of my 52 Hike Challenge, and what a great way to kick off the second half of this project. The day started with an incredible sunrise that I enjoyed from my comfy tent.

Sunrise from inside my tent at Horsethief Campground
Sunrise from inside my tent at Horsethief Campground

Canyonlands National Park – Island in the Sky District

The previous day we had hiked a bit in Canyonlands, but far away in the Needles District. Due to the Green River flowing through the park, there’s no quick way to drive from one district to the other. After a very long night of driving we set up camp at Horsethief Campground, then headed into Island in the Sky for more hiking. Upon our arrival at the Grand View Point trailhead it was clear how this area got its name. The hike follows a mesa that sits high above the carved out canyons, just like an island in the sky, providing jaw dropping views of the landscape.

Grand View Point Trail

The trail is quick and easy and impossible to lose. You just follow the thin strip of land out to a viewpoint and back. I wouldn’t call this hike particularly exposed, but you can walk right up to (or off of) the edge of the steep, sheer drop off edges of the mesa. Don’t expect a rail to protect you – there isn’t one. Upon reaching the view point there are some rocks to scramble if you like which also provide some nice shady spots to sit and take a break. Since we hiked in August it was quite hot on a cloudless day, so finding a shady spot to drink some water and rest was pretty exciting. Don’t forget to always carry water when you hike, but especially in an environment like Canyonlands where water is not available.

Overall I’d recommend this easy hike to anyone. It’s pretty flat and impossible to lose the trail. Just remember sunscreen and water and you’re set! Have you hiked the Island in the Sky? Tell me about it in the comments!

Campfire Hair

Campfire Hair

OK, I need the internet to solve my internal conflict for me. Upon return from a recent camping trip, I took my ponytail down before getting into the shower and was overwhelmed by the smell of campfire that had soaked into my hair. I have conflicting feelings about this. First I think “Ahhhh…what a great smell”, and then I think “Oh man, that’s kinda gross”, and then I flip flop between the two until I’ve washed out any remaining whisp of smoky scent. So which is it, fellow long-haired campers?

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Roadside Ruin & Cave Spring Trails, Canyonlands National Park, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 27

Roadside Ruin & Cave Spring Trails, Canyonlands National Park, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 27

These Canyonlands hikes were both pretty short, so I’m combining them into Hike 26 of my 52 Hike Challenge – the halfway point!!

Roadside Ruin

We arrived in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park and since the Visitor’s Center was closed and the closest town was an hour away, we hit the trails right away! First, we did the short Roadside Ruin Trail. This simple, flat path leads to an ancient granary, where grains and other foods were stored by Native Americans who lived here hundreds of years ago. This granary was built sometime in the late 1200s. Incredible that it has lasted so long for us to view and study.

This hike really hammered home that we were in the desolate Canyonlands. There is truly nothing around for miles but chaparral and an occasional lizard.

Cave Spring

Next up was the Cave Spring Trail. For such a short trail, this really has a wide variety of interesting things to offer. The first part of the loop (heading clockwise) passes by an abandoned cowboy camp. Because of the presence of year-round water (this trail’s namesake) in such a remote spot, cowboys set up camp here while tending to their grazing livestock. The abandoned camp has been preserved for passersby to get a glimpse of the hard, rugged living conditions of the late 1800s-early 1900s ranchers.

A little further along the trail you reach the spring and the location of various ancient pictographs.

After passing through the spring, it’s like you’re on a completely new trail. Two wooden ladders take you to the top of the rock formation where the trail continues via cairns. From the top of the rock formation you can see practically forever, and the late afternoon light made the mountains and desert glow beautifully. The surface of the top of the rock was full of eroded depressions that made me think of craters on the moon.

Although the super remote Needles District of Canyonlands National Park might be off the beaten path and difficult to reach, it is so, so worth it. We only spent one day here but saw so many interesting things. After our hikes in this district we headed to the Island in the Sky District for even more jaw-dropping scenery.

Lake Mary Trail, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 26

Lake Mary Trail, Utah | 52 Hike Challenge – Hike 26

Oh, Lake Mary. I suppose it’s only fair that right around the halfway point of the 52 Hike Challenge (Hike 26) I get slapped with a big dose of hiking reality. Consider this my midway contemplative hike of the Adventure Series, because boy did it make me think.

So here’s the deal. I used to pick hikes that had a big pay off at the turn-around or midway. Apparently I felt the need to reward myself. This hike changed all of that.

The Trail

I was looking for something in Big Cottonwood Canyon that was short but had some elevation. Since I was going to hike alone I also wanted something fairly heavily trafficked. I settled on the Lake Mary Trail, with the expectation of spending a bit of time at the reportedly spectacular lake before returning down the mountain. Easy enough, right?

The Hike

Pretty straightforward. Follow the trail. It goes up. Despite having spent a couple weeks in Utah I still wasn’t acclimated to hiking at this kind of elevation so I did need a couple breaks just to keep my lungs from exploding. A little scrambly at the end, otherwise this really was a very nicely maintained trail and easy to follow. I lugged my poor little lungs up the side of this mountain, telling myself all the way that I had to keep going in order to see the magnificent Lake Mary, despite the feeling that I might actually be dying.

The “Lake”

So here’s where things get interesting. There is no lake. I didn’t know until I arrived back at our Airbnb and could do some investigation that THE LAKE HAD BEEN DRAINED. This lake that I had read so much about and had pushed myself through a kind of miserable hike to reach was simply not there. Ok, there was a puddle and some rocks, but certainly NOT what I had been promised. So, like, now what?

The A-Ha Moment

I was frustrated and wheezy and sweaty, making my glasses fall off of my face and my temperament generally homicidal. For a minute I let my brain rage about what a colossal waste of time and effort this was. Luckily for me and my brain, something else took over, and I started to question why I was so angry. Why was I out here, anyway? Only to see the payoff at the top? Why wasn’t the hike itself enough of a reward? Why wasn’t the ability to get outside and use my own two feet to propel me up into the sky via a massive rock not enough?

Calming My Brain and My Attitude

As I hiked down (quickly, as I saw the extremely fresh scat of what appeared to be the world’s largest moose on the edge of the trail), I realized that being on the trail really is enough. I had sort of missed the point of hiking in that it’s nothing more than a way to connect with nature, quiet, yourself, friends and possibly a killer moose. All you have to do is go outside and put one foot in front of the other. If a massive payoff is necessary, you’re going to grow tired of hiking pretty quickly.

The Takeaway

This hike totally transformed how I think about and plan my hiking adventures now. Sure, I want to see cool stuff when I hit the trail, but that’s not the singular focus anymore. Nature is unpredictable and part of the fun of going outside is learning the flexibility and adaptability required to spend time in nature. So, I challenge you on your next hike to forget about the big payoff or destination and try and enjoy the little things on the trail along the way. If you have a cool experience doing this, let me know.

Happy Trails!

Capitol Reef National Park Grand Wash Scenic Drive

Capitol Reef National Park Grand Wash Scenic Drive

Capitol Reef National Park is an impressive park that really doesn’t get enough air time. I suppose when you’re competing with Zion that will happen. However, I think that Capitol Reef is a can’t-miss southern Utah destination that offers some similar attractions as Zion but without the crowds.

About the Park

Capitol Reef’s headlining attraction is the 100 mile Waterpocket Fold – basically a wrinkle on the surface of the earth. A really, really big rock wrinkle. There seems to be a little bit of everything in this park from mountains to creeks to still-functioning orchards that were planted when a group of Mormons settled inside what is now the park boundary in 1880. If you’re lucky, some trees will be available for harvest during your visit and you can pick your own fruit!

Hiking and backpacking is very popular in the park, despite the desolate and harsh summer conditions and lack of water sources along the trails.

The Scenic Drive

About that harsh weather… We visited in August. It was hot. While we did take a hike, we had limited time in the park and chose to cover as much ground as possible via car by taking in a driving tour. We went with the Great Wash, an unpaved road back into the park’s canyons. A wash is basically the bed of a dried up stream that only flows occasionally (essentially a flash flood zone), so we were warned that at any sight of rain we needed to hightail it out of the wash and up to higher, paved ground.

The drive is short, but does take a while due to the unpaved, rocky, bouncy road and the need to take in all of the jaw-dropping scenery. The drive is full of interesting geology, even some canyon walls that look just like underwater reefs. These are actually pockets of rock and minerals that have been eroded over time, but they certainly help you understand how the park got its name!

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