Needles Exploring - March 2022

TrailScot

Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2019
Messages
78
On the western fringes of the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park in Utah are a series of high mesas which tower some 1,000 feet above the surrounding canyons.

Whilst exploring some remote areas of the park in March this year, I wandered up to the end of a fairly nondescript box canyon. I then scrambled up a couple of loose slopes in order to get a better view of a small (unnamed ?) arch which sat atop the steep surrounding cliffs. I was pleasantly surprised to find a small rock-art panel directly under the arch. Presumably the arch was of great significance to the petroglyph artist.

I realized that I could work my way round the higher levels of the box canyon, above the main pour-off of the drainage, which I hoped would give me a great view directly down the canyon. After scrambling up some more steep sandstone benches, I found myself only 20 feet from the rim above. However, this was just about as far as I'd be able to reach, since I was faced with a sheer rock face between myself and the mesa top. I wasn't overly disappointed, since I'd really just headed up here for the magnificent surrounding views.

Instead of retracing my steps to return, I wound my way further round the upper reaches of the end of the canyon, to look for another route down. Working my way round the cliff face, I was then amazed to find that there was actually a narrow gap ('joint') in the rock. This natural feature was completely invisible from any position more than 6 feet away. Even more incredibly, the sandy surface of the 2 feet wide gap sloped gently upwards all the way to the top of the mesa. What a stroke of luck !

I spent a couple of hours exploring the beautiful mesa and wandering along the rim in every direction. The views across the Needles area were superb, of course. There didn't appear to be other boot prints in the soil, and I didn't see any signs of the Ancient Ones, or of 20th century cowboys. Intriguingly, I saw no obvious evidence of game trails across the mesa either, although I did find a single elk antler, so there likely aren't too many accessible routes to this area from the surrounding canyons.

My delight at my fun day of exploring was cut short on my way back down from the mesa top. I exited the 'joint' without any issues, but then I literally couldn't find my route back down the high benches of the box canyon. Despite using my GPS device for the entire day, the route displayed on the screen from this morning was just a jumble of overlapping purple lines ... oh, for some 3D technology :). I eventually made it, but I did have a small panic during those 20 minutes of really not having a clue where to descend (note to self: leave some small cairns when ascending a complicated slope, since it looks entirely different on the way down !)

I'm sure the National Park Backcountry Rangers have their own name for this mesa, but for now, I'll call it Paradise Mesa :)
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Exploring a box canyon
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A distant arch
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Scrambling up to the arch
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Petroglyphs
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The 'joint'
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View towards Salt Creek
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View towards nearby mesa
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View towards Butler Wash
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View towards Beef Basin
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View towards Salt Creek
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View towards Butler Wash
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View towards Salt Creek
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View towards Salt Creek
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Gaia GPS 3D perspective
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Titans

Member
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Joined
Aug 18, 2018
Messages
1,480
Love your Needles adventures. There’s so much to explore in the area. Nice petroglyph find!
Thanks for sharing the gps tracking experience too. Its great for so many things, but we experienced similar stuff in less challenging conditions and now I try to frequently look back down at the route, but placing small cairns is a good idea!
 
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