Salt Creek, Utah

LoriB

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Jan 1, 2013
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Hiking in Salt Creek Canyon, Utah the FIRST time and what WE learned...
September 14, 2013 at 11:26pm
Before I tell our story I have to give a HUGE shout out to Nick....I found his blog on Salt Creek on New Year's Day 2013 and after years of dreaming in general of doing something like this he gave me a direction and a path! You started me on the road to this fantastic adventure Nick that I in turn shared with my best friend and we Michigan girls are now forever hooked!!! THANK YOU!!
After spending 8 months researching and purchasing supplies the time to go FINALLY arrived!!! The entire week before was spent dehydrating and prepping meals, getting all the supplies together, last minute purchases, and learning to pack a backpack...through online videos...splitting medicine for Kaytlin and many other Kaytlin related preparations (Kaytlin is my handicapped daughter)...the day before we left I finally put everything into the backpacks....50 pounds!!! OMG!! Trimming down the weight....trying the pack on...all stuff that should have been done much sooner but for Kaytlin's hospitalization and Luther Days...trying the pack on I discovered that...it was TOO BIG!!! With actual weight in it the hip belt did not fall on my hips, but down on my butt leaving my shoulders to carry ALL of the weight...well...what are you gonna do but go for it? I'd waited way too long to let a pack that was a little too big stop me now!! I did trim out some weight...got them down to between 42 and 45 pounds...still heavy, but at the time I believed everything I had packed was ESSENTIAL. Made ground bologna & pickles to take on the road and a pineapple upside down cake...of sorts...LOL Though I have undoubtedly made a hundred or more of those cakes my lack of concentration messed me up...I forgot to put the pineapple onto the butter and brown sugar....rather than scrap the whole cake I simple pushed the pineapple down into the cake batter and surprisingly it turned out still edible!!
Finally the morning of the 17th arrived....time to GO!! Off to Luther with everything to load Dorothy's car and leave my truck for her hubby to work on while we were gone..(turn signals had ceased to work the day before)...car was finally loaded and we were OFF...driving down main street Luther honking and waving as we left town....a few miles down the road I realized that I had forgotten the hiking poles...that sparked a debate...do we swing by my house and get them or just not have them? We opted for stopping to get them and later we commented numerous times that it was the smartest thing we did...they turned out to be invaluable!!
The miles quickly rolled by and before we knew it we were in Indiana and HUNGRY!! A quick stop at a rest area where we had sandwiches and cake and Dorothy got the first of her French Vanilla Coffees and we were back on the road...throughout the day we periodically stopped at rest areas for breaks, food and coffee...by dark we were almost through Iowa! Sometime after dark I fell asleep and Dorothy with the benefit of a nap the previous day and several coffees drove on through the night and when I awakened we were almost through Nebraska too!! We switched drivers again and with a quick stop for gas where I found cherry zots candies we were headed into Colorado!! By the time we reached Denver it was about 7:30 a.m. since we had gained 2 hours going west and we were hungry, but didn't want cake and sandwiches for breakfast so we found a Denny's and stopped...calling home to let everyone know where we were too before we headed into the mountains.
Heading out of Denver we were immediately in the mountains and it was GORGEOUS!! We stopped many times for pics and did a little hiking by a river somewhere near Eagle or Eagle River then we got back in the car and headed into Utah...many miles later we saw a sign for Canyonlands National Park and turned in...17 miles later we actually arrived in the park to find out that in our excitement we were actually in Island in the Sky part of the park and we still had about 2 1/2 hours to get to the Needles ( the part of the park where we were hiking)....so a few quick pics and many miles later we saw the correct sign and turned in...about a mile down the road there was a sign...34 miles to the park....looking at the sky that was losing daylight fast and the gas gauge that was a little below 1/2 and knowing that we had to drive back out of the park some distance to get to our trailhead we decided we might better go to the next town and get a room and a good night's sleep before heading out on our hike so we turned around and drove on down the road another 17 miles to Monticello where we gassed up the car and found a nice, clean motel where we showered, ate and finally went to sleep even though we thought we were too excited to sleep. We woke up early the next morning...checked out the "continental breakfast" laughable and went to the restaurant next door and had breakfast, filled up our water bags and jumped in the car and headed back to the park.
The drive into the park took several hours (most of the day) because we stopped constantly and took pictures, stopped and climbed around on some rocks and just generally took our time because it was just so beautiful. We finally got to the ranger station about 3:30 p.m. and found a ranger to help us with info about Salt Creek...our thought was to drive out to the trailhead and take a look before we bought a permit, in case it was more than we bargained for, but with the late hour and the fact that the trailhead was 18 miles up a dirt road that was 18 miles outside the park we instead decided to just get the permit. The ranger kindly showed us a side view of the elevation of the mountain/butte we would be descending and ascending...gotta say that really gave me second thoughts, but Dorothy seemed totally unfazed so we went ahead...we then had to listen to all the rules and regulations and they nicely told us where the most reliable water source would be and told us that very few had been through there so we should watch the trail carefully so we didn't get lost. He also told us that no rain was expected so we should be just fine going through the marsh and drainage....yeah right!
So, finally about 5 we left the ranger station and headed out to the road that would take us to the trailhead...getting onto the road we had a short debate over whether we were on the right road because there really isn't any clear signage out there and then we started up....now on the maps and the website this road is rated for 2 wheel passenger vehicles...we can tell you after our 2 1/2 hour drive up and down that it should say HIGH CLEARANCE as well!! Using every single bit of wisdom I had learned from driving on two-tracks I weaved from one side to the other, dodging rocks, straddling washouts and ever climbing at a snails pace so I didn't hurt the car...when we were nearing the correct mileage on the odometer we started looking for a sign to point us to the trailhead...there were none....finally, seeing a little two- track we pulled in to get a bearing on the map and access how close we had to be....VOILA...we had somehow out of all the two-tracks we had passed lucked onto the correct one!! This was our trailhead!! There was a large, flat rock amongst all of the clay and I pulled the car right up onto it, thinking if it did rain at least the car couldn't sink. We jumped out and walked right over to the trail and followed it out to where it began to go down the mountain...I told Dorothy, "if we're gonna back out, now is the time" We made the decision right then that there was no backing out, but we couldn't get caught on that trail in the dark and it was 7:30 by then and night was rapidly approaching so we would have to camp there that night and go in the morning. Within a 1/2 hour we had our tent set up, weighted down with rocks because the wind had picked up and we were eating one final meal of ground bologna and pickle sandwiches and cake...though we did save enough cake for breakfast the next morning. We thought about having a small fire to relax by before bed since there was a fire ring there, but decided against it with the wind increasing and then as darkness started to fall the bats began to fly and dive at our flashlight so we decided it was bedtime!! That night we had the air mattresses that I had bought to take and already decided to cut from our packs because of the added weight, opting for egg shell foam to sleep on instead...much lighter...we weren't in the tent 20 minutes and we heard the first patter of rain on the tent to be followed by some thunder and lightening...so much for no rain!! Still, we slept dry and comfortably and when we woke up at daylight the sky was bright and blue and everything was dry. We made the decision then to spread everything out on a tarp and leave more stuff behind....that look down the mountain had made that seem necessary and we did leave much behind in the car...then, loading up our packs we headed down the mountain...only 3 1/2 miles to our camp the map said, so should be fairly easy....that was about 9:30 a.m. the morning of August 20....
Not 20 steps down that mountain we began to be thankful for stopping and getting those poles!! We were climbing over roots, rocks and boulders...winding back and forth through thick trees as we headed ever downward. When we would get to spots where we could see ahead the marsh NEVER seemed to get any closer!! At first when we needed to rest which was often we found boulders to sit on that would also take the weight of our pack off our shoulders...suddenly we were in different terrain with small rocks, cactus and brush, but no more boulders so we had to start bending over and putting our hands on our knees to take the weight off...the cry of "REST" from one or the other of us brought that immediate response and we began to joke about never hearing that word again without performing that same maneuver automatically...LOL....Finally we came to the marsh...stepped off high ground into more clay, but clay that had obviously been wet....it was dry, but definitely softer that what we had been walking on....there was also much more brush...dense, overhanging brush that slapped at us and pulled at our packs as we wound our way through it...up and down we went, through wash after wash as the sky began to darken overhead and the thunder began to roll in the distance. Suddenly on the trail in front of us was a Canyonlands National Park sign!! OMG!!! This had to be the actual boundary to the park...then the wondering began about the mileage on the map to the first camp since it was a Canyonlands map we were following...but no, the dot shows outside the boundary where the trail begins...the mileage had to be accurate...right? About 1/2 way through it began to rain...not really hard, but it didn't take much for the clay underfoot to get very greasy and not long after first I went down trying to go down a wash and then Dorothy went down in the very same spot...we had a good laugh and kept on going...not long after that it began to POUR and there were no boulders left to put our packs on so, not wanting to set them in the mud we simply put our rain coats on backward and it helped. Finally we broke out of the wet brush into a stand of pines with some boulders again and we put our packs down and got into our coats the right way....we were hearing some rushing water so we left the packs and walked down the trail a bit to find that we were temporarily trapped! Our trail was now a raging river...the red water running fast and deep right where we had to go...we decided we needed to rest anyway....
About a half hour later the rain stopped and the sun came back out....quickly it warmed right back up to 90 or better, about an hour after that the water had finally receded enough that we could continue on, albeit through the mud now....we trekked on through the mud and water, very aware that the sun had gone over the yardarm a long time ago and we needed to push to get to camp. Onward we went, through mud and water, following very sparsely spaced tape in the trees and bushes...sometimes losing them altogether because they had fallen in the mud, but from my reading I knew we needed to be on the East side of the canyon so we kept going that way...then we came to a wash that had not receded...the water was to our knees and there were rocks under the water...slow going it was...feeling for every step and using our poles for balance the entire time...and the unthinkable happened...Dorothy went down...in the water...landing on her pack and soaking it...still we went on....then we came to a hole....about 4 feet deep and 10 feet long....we couldn't see any way to get through it except to take our packs off, climb into the waist or deeper water and ford it...we decided we had to find another way so we backtracked until we found a place to try to go around it, but we kept hitting dead ends so finally we took the packs off and set off unencumbered, with nothing but our poles and our bear spray to find a way around...no go...we HAD to go through...we went back to the hole and figured out a way to grab the middle of a bunch of scrub trees and swing around and over the hole...walk down the bank 10 feet or so and cross in much shallower water and then up onto dryer trail that went right by the canyon wall...we couldn't resist and so we went on up the trail a bit to get an idea how much more water we had to go through...we didn't...not long after we came out of the trees and there in front of us was the spring-fed river the ranger had told us about, but it was not tame looking...it was red and boiling and very large!!
Now we had to go BACK for the packs!! By now we were absolutely exhausted....wet, muddy and yet hot! Back we went...it seemed like forever, but really it was probably about 1/2 mile...we put them back on and went back...going through the water and the mud again...swinging over the hole again, this time with wet, heavy packs...when we broke out of the trees this time at the river we didn't even pause...we simply trudged on...back onto higher, drier ground...praying we reached our camp before our strength ran out...knowing from my reading that we needed to see Kirk's Cabin (a cabin built there by a rancher about a hundred years ago) and that camp was not far from there...I thought....it had been a long time since we got the map out and my brain was fuzzy from exhaustion so I was no longer sure of anything...sure enough a few more steps and we could see the cabin...


we paused very briefly and actually discussed stopping there to camp, but it didn't feel like any sort of protection and we had already stepped over several piles of bear scat in the last 1/2 mile or so...we moved on....still within sight of the cabin the post marking the trail to SC1 & SC2 appeared....with no hesitation I simply turned down the trail....much winding and climbing up and down through washes later I looked up and saw BEAR BOXES!!! FINALLY!!! We had arrived!!! The time was 7:00 p.m. and we had been on the trail for 9 1/2 hours...our packs were wet, we didn't know how wet because we hadn't wanted to open them and the sun was steadily sinking toward the canyon wall....quickly we began to pull things out of our packs...my pack was more damp than wet...probably from bending over in the rain and allowing the water to run under the lid, but Dorothy's pack was WET from falling in the water....her sleeping quilt was soaked and everything else was wet too....I hurriedly got out the paracord I'd brought and strung a line and we began hanging stuff up to dry...we pitched our tent and just kept flipping bedding around to dry as much as possible as the light began to leave us...when the sun went below the canyon wall we simply grabbed the still wet bedding and threw it into the tent..so tired that we just didn't care that it was still damp, didn't care that we hadn't eaten we just wanted to lie down and the bats were flying again! We laid our egg crate foam stuff down, our quilt bags on them and crawled in....5 minutes or less and we both knew we couldn't sleep like that....the ground was like concrete! We had picked a high spot..seemed smart since we'd just seen the power of flash floods and all, but in doing so we'd also picked the hardest spot and it wasn't working....quickly and almost without talking we changed it....we overlapped the foam into the size of a twin bed and laid both of our bedding bags on it...we put all of our clothes we'd brought next to us and simply put them on as it grew cooler...lastly, at about 2 in the morning when we got cold we reached outside and grabbed the extra tarp I had brought as an emergency sun/rain shelter and covered up with that too...in that way we slept until about 4:30 a.m. when the sky began to lighten...then we just sat up and waited for the sunrise over the canyon wall.
August 21: When the sun peeked out we went outside...as it warmed up we began taking everything out and laying it on bushes and hanging everything we could on the line...mind you we did all of this slowly and with great pain for a while because EVERYTHING was sore!! Our shoulders hurt, our legs and our feet from walking miles in soaking wet shoes...we knew we had to dry everything before we could even think of exploring so we decided there would only be the hike back to the river for water that day and that could wait until the afternoon since we still had water....when we had everything drying we finally sat down on some rocks and cooked our first meal....Unstuffed Peppers....absolutely the best food either of us had ever tasted...we were starved!!! Then we simply wandered around camp a little...flipping bedding and packs and shoes around in the sun to dry and sitting in the shade since it was now very hot...as we sat and marvelled at our surroundings and the fact that we were there I heard a voice....Dorothy didn't hear it, until we both heard it much louder the 2nd time...Hello!! I jumped up and walked to the edge of camp to meet the visitor...a guy walked out of the brush and asked if we had lost a leatherman tool the day before....YES....it belonged to Dorothy's husband and she had lost it somewhere on the way in! This nice guy, Steven from New Mexico had walked an extra mile and a half to find us to return it to us!! That was both very nice and a bit creepy...we were creeped out for the rest of the day until we saw his tracks going back the other way when we went for water that afternoon. During that day we did hike around camp a little bit...going up the rocks and to a wash that was behind our camp...in the afternoon with our water running low we got the bags together and packed up the hydration packs we brought and headed back to the river, hoping it had receded since we first saw it the day before.


Reaching the river again...it Had receded, but the water still ran VERY RED....we set about figuring out the water filtration kit that I'd only put together enough to run some bleach water through the night before we left....in no time we had it figured out and we watched in amazement as our red water in the "dirty" bag was filtered and turned into clear cold water that we couldn't get enough of! We drank our fill and then began to fill our water bags...at that time we discovered that the clean bag that came with the filtration kit, that we planned to use for camp water, had no cap!! We improvised a cap and put them in our bags and headed back to camp...with each step it soon became obvious that the improvised cap wasn't holding and the bag was soaking my daypack and the back of my pants....all we could do was laugh and keep going...reaching camp we unpacked all of the water, drank some more and when I set the leaking bag on a rock, amazed that it was still 3/4 full it immediately tipped over...losing 1/2!! A little cussing...a lot of laughing and I had to again hang my pack and my pants up to dry...thankfully there was time before dark for them to dry when I had to again sleep in them on our improvised bed again....by 8:30 we had eaten, cleaned up, put all of the stuff into the bear boxes and we were in the tent, ready for bed....by 9 I think we were both asleep...dreaming of hiking and exploring the next day....
August 22: Waking at our usual 4:30 a.m. we began discussing the day while we waited for the bats to retire to their holes in the canyon wall...when they finally did we got up..still a bit stiff and sore and went about getting breakfast...hot chocolate and some trail mix, packed our day packs with water and snacks and our constant companion Bear Spray...picked up our poles and left camp heading north up the main trail. Less than a mile from camp I spied our first ruin!! We followed a trail toward it and eventually got right to it...well, below it because it sat on a ledge above us...we must have just stood there in awe for at least 5 minutes...taking in the construction...the overall good condition and imagining the people who had lived here over 800 years before...then we began to scour the ground for pottery shards...it wasn't long and we were finding them...examining them and reverently placing them on a large boulder that already held a few when we got there...it held many more when we moved on about an hour later...we debated climbing up onto the ledge because we really wanted to look inside, but decided that it wasn't worth the possible injuries we could sustain.





A little further down the trail we decided to climb up on some rocks next to the trail and look around and take a break...getting out the trail mix....that decision led to arguably our best find yet....an ancient fire site and some antlers up under a ledge....first we found the antlers....bleached perfectly white and lying up under the rock ledge....that find led to looking around more because we realized what a vantage point we had on the entire valley and what wonderful protection that ledge would make...sure enough in small opening between the boulders was the remains of an ancient fire...a very small fire, so as not to alert anyone that it was there, but bits of petrified wood, charcoal and small shards of pottery still remained in that small protected spot...we sat there for at least a half hour speculating on the sentry that probably sat right where we were now surveying his home valley and protecting his family...





then we moved on....as we went on other trails branched off of ours and we debated taking one of them, but in the end decided to keep going north...on the main trail...in short order we again spotted ruins, only this time at ground level that we could get right up to...what a fascinating find that was!! We again found pottery shards and again added to the gallery of shards that we found there for everyone to enjoy....a bit further up the trail we found a creek/wash/trail that was full of water that we had to cross...someone had been kind enough to throw down some sticks over it but the bank leading to it was wet and muddy, undoubtedly from the short rain we'd had the night before after we'd gone to bed...that was incredibly tricky to maneuver, but we did manage...again making full use of our poles. Not long after we found a well-used trail that branched off and decided to take it...looking for Big Ruin...instead we found Squash Ruin and that simply made the entire trip for me!! Touching squash plants that had reseeded themselves for over 800 years was the high point of my day...I looked in vain for remains of the previous year's squash but only found a couple of bits of shell.




The ruins/granaries still had a corn cob and other remains of corn stalks lying inside!! What an amazing find!! We went on up the trail and a bit further on Dorothy spotted some ruins high up on a ledge and across the wash/creek we had crossed...we tried to get to them, but the wash was far too big and wet at that point and we decided not to try any harder for that one. We went on up the trail a bit further and then we simply stopped and looked at each other, knowing it was time to turn back...we'd been on the trail for hours and we knew we had to go get water again when we got back to camp...as we stood there discussing the trip back to camp, drinking water and generally taking a break I caught something black moving out of the corner of my eye...as I watched a small black animal and then a second one came out of the brush onto a rock quite a distance away...as I called Dorothy's attention to it, the mama came out of the brush onto the rock too...sure enough it was a mama bear and two cubs...too far away to pull in through my camera lens we could see them clearly with the binoculars and we quickly decided that there probably wasn't enough bear spray in the world to deal with a mama who thought we posed any sort of threat to her babies so we cut our break short and vacated the area!! We'd brought the water filter with us, but the creek we'd crossed was pretty murky so we decided we would rather go back to the river that was much less silty and probably much colder so we headed back, constantly scouring the cliffs for ruins as we went and spotting a few down side canyons that we knew we didn't have the daylight left to explore and of course being constantly vigilant for any more bears..but we never saw any. Walking right on by the turn off to camp we went and got water, stopped at the cabin to look around a little more and finally went back to camp and made our dinner. After eating and cleaning up we went for another short hike in our canyon, this time going further past the wash and nearly over to the other wall before daylight began to fade and the clouds again began to look like rain...in our tent again by 8:30 and asleep soon after with the sound of the rain on the tent overhead....
August 23: Awake again at 4:30 a.m., but this time to a sky that looked a little darker, clouds that took longer to dissipate....as we sat there talking like we did every morning I mentioned that I had again dreamed about Kaytlin, as I had every night...my sub-conscious worrying I'm sure...but this time Dorothy said she had also dreamed about her. We discussed the fact that it had rained every night since we'd got into the canyon and what would happen if we got a real downpour...we knew we would be trapped by the flood waters and it might take days for it to subside enough for us to get across the marsh again and hike out, by that time everyone at home who never thought we would make it anyway would be worried sick and calling the rangers to send out a search party...we in no way wanted our adventure to end that way when we were just fine so we decided to pack up that morning and head out of the canyon...agreeing that we would come back next summer and stay longer...much longer, because hopefully Kaytlin would be doing better and everyone would understand that we are capable of surviving the adventure...so we packed up and by 8:30 a.m. with a meal of potatoes and bacon bits in us...and after MacGuyvering our packs (we duct taped every spare piece of clothing we carried to the straps on our packs to hopefully lift them a little more off our shoulders) we said goodbye to our camp and headed back toward the river to top off our water for the trail out....we meandered all around the cabin again on the way and we spent some time at the river once our water was filled and as we got ready to go I turned and looked across the wash from the river and there sat a ruin! We had been there every day and never saw it until we were leaving...next time we will get to that one too!!
Once we left the river we moved right along...trying to cover ground and get back through that marsh because we could see more dark clouds beginning to gather on the horizon...part way through the marsh we walked onto FRESH bear tracks....BIG, FRESH bear tracks!!! We didn't pause to take a picture...we didn't pause at all...instead we began to make some noise...talking loudly, hitting brush with our poles...just making noise in general...1/2 way through the marsh we began to hear someone talking...two men by the sound of it coming in as we were going out...sure enough in almost the exact spot where we had been stranded a few days before two guys were resting and eating a snack...one was from Durango and one from Florida...nice guys and headed for the camp we had just vacated so we gave them some tips and told them where a couple of the ruins were that we'd found then we headed out again....we were making pretty good time until we hit the base of the mountain...by then our shoulders were very tired again and we were stopping to rest quite often again, but we kept continuing on, talking about getting into the car and heading for a motel so we could have a shower..something that was sounding better with every step now that we knew we were headed back to civilization. Approximately 1/2 way up the mountain we looked back when we heard thunder rumbling and we could see sheets of rain falling in the marsh and heading our way...quickly....we stopped and got our rain coats on, covered our packs and kept going...soon enough it hit, but it wasn't rain when it got to us...nope, we got hail...quarter sized hail and cold wind...according to my gps the temperature had been 94 and now 5 minutes later it was 44! Dorothy's hoodie had already come loose from her strap where it had been taped and she managed to get it on under her rain coat...I wasn't so lucky...my hoodie was still taped tightly to my strap and my rain coat was not providing me any real protection from the cold...in a matter of minutes I could see my fingers turning blue and Dorothy said I was scaring her....I was scaring me too...I started shaking from the cold and couldn't stop....dropping the packs we quickly pulled the tarps out and I wrapped up in one and covered the packs with the other, still I couldn't get warm...when the hail/rain let up Dorothy finally managed to get my hoodie off my strap and I got it on and put my rain coat back on over it...that immediately began to help, but the damage was already done...what had remained of my energy had been completely sapped out of me by fighting with the cold and the altitude...it was all I could do to keep going. We began to count our steps....40 steps and rest, 30 steps and rest....we could see the ridge line above us and it seemed so close, but we never seemed to reach it. Finally Dorothy began to go ahead, trying to see if we were almost out...I would wait and listen, only to hear her cuss as each turn of the trail was only that...another turn of the trail...finally as I waited a few steps behind her I heard her say "I think we are on the wrong trail...we didn't come through trees to get down here..." That was it, I was up and I passed her on the trail...I knew we HAD come through trees to get to the trail and I KNEW the car was right around the corner!! Sure enough, there it was, we were OUT!!! We quickly threw the tarps on the back seat and threw our damp packs in...sliding into the driver's seat I started the car and we started the 2 1/2 hour drive back down the mountain...trying to beat the big storm that we could see coming....the road was much worse in spots than it had been when we came up, more wash outs and as we drove the last mile or so out the lightening began to flash and the thunder boomed, but we made it just before the rain began....our instincts had proven correct...if we hadn't left the canyon when we did we would have been trapped for at least a couple of days! We drove on past Monticello and down to the next town, Blanding where we stopped at the first motel we came to and got a room...we went to the only food place still open at 9 p.m. an A & W in a gas station/bowling alley and took food back to the room where we ate like we'd never eaten food before and then took long, hot showers...we left the maid a big tip since the bathroom was all red clay when we were done, then we had to turn on the air conditioner just to be able to sleep because those 4 days without the presence of mankind in our world made the whole world seem so much more harsh and noisy.

The next morning when we hit the road again, headed to the Four Corners Monument we were already discussing the trip for next year....the things we'd taken that we never used, ways we could save weight....getting packs that fit...definitely spending the money on decent sleeping pads and NEVER, EVER going in from that way again...although we did muse that anyone who goes next time should have to do what we did...LOL

What we learned:
To say that we had a great time is such an UNDERSTATEMENT!! Did it go as we planned? Of course NOT...LOL...but we learned MANY things! We learned that we are far more tough than even we thought we were (and we thought we were pretty tough) we learned to ALWAYS trust our first instinct...we learned that our appetites are greatly reduced....we learned that a REALLY GOOD sleeping pad is a NECESSITY because the ground is like lying on concrete...we learned that weighing and measuring out EVERYTHING we are taking with us is also a NECESSITY...we learned that we NEED a backpack that fits us correctly (even though I requested sizes when I bought these I discovered they are size LARGE and that doesn't fit either of us...we learned that our hiking poles (even the cheapo ones I bought) ARE our BEST investment...we learned that there are MANY obstacles to conquer that nobody tells you about...we learned that all of the hours I spent reading and researching REALLY paid off...we learned that all of the navigational skills my Grandpa and Dad taught me REALLY paid off (since we didn't really figure out the gps until the 3rd day...LOL)...we learned to ALWAYS weight the corners of our tent down with rocks...we learned that a canyon can be HUGE and you CAN get lost in the maze of trails (though we never did)....we learned to be in the tent BEFORE dark cause there are a LOT of bats flying around once that sun drops over the canyon wall...we learned that we can happily wake up at 4:30 a.m. and simply enjoy waiting for the sun to peek over the canyon wall again so the bats go back in...we learned to read the sky and feel the rain coming...we learned to cover our packs IMMEDIATELY at the first sprinkle and we learned that the temperature can drop 50 degrees in 5 minutes and your hoodie that we almost left behind can be your BEST friend under your raincoat because hypothermia is a real danger in that situation....we learned that we NEVER want to ascend or descend that mountain/butte AGAIN....mostly we learned that we want to go AGAIN!!! We want to be in better shape and we want to go for much longer!! Neither of us has stopped talking, thinking or planning for the next one! We WILL be going again next summer, from the other end and we will be spending 12 days out in the canyon. We have been looking over the map endlessly and hopefully I have a plan of action....being in shape will be a MUST because going in from the other end and having time to explore will require greater hiking distances to our first camp so that we have the days needed to explore after that. I have all of the general camp equipment we need...but next time I would like to activate the SPOT so that we can let people know we are still alive...LOL...we also will spend 1 night in a motel when we come out simply because a shower NEVER felt so good...LOL Our plan is to go a couple of weeks earlier, more toward the first of August to hopefully avoid some of the rain...a lot will depend on the type of weather they have been having up to that point.
  • I keep trying to describe the feeling and I keep falling short...that feeling of SURVIVAL...knowing that all of your decisions count out there....I just can't yet find the words...the inner peace your soul feels every time you follow your instincts and prove yourself right...I took my journal with me and I never wrote in it...not once....the feeling the entire time you are there is just...WOW...like your brain only has room for the experience of each moment...your thoughts are centered around survival...we need to go get water....if we want to go for an extended hike tomorrow we want to take these things....and we have to go get more water....things I didn't say above are: freshly filtered spring-fed water is the most glorious tasting stuff in the WORLD!! The feeling you get when you filter nasty red water into clear drinkable water is the BEST!! and...speaking of "bugs" we camped literally 3 feet from a major anthill. We learned to live with them crawling on us and we learned that thankfully they do go back in their hill at night...LOL....ants out there are EVERYWHERE....I got bit once...by a very large red ant...no ill effects other than the bite...we didn't see any super-sized spiders or any scorpions or snakes, but I'm sure they are there in abundance...another use for hiking poles...clearing webs...LOL I hope you do go...it is an experience like no other!!The feeling of walking where spirits walk....when we sat on the doorstep of a ruin ...we both felt reverence...like we were making an offering...you just feel that everywhere as you walk and explore....I would definitely never take anyone who "thought" they could make it though....you have to go out there DETERMINED to do it or the difficulty of the experience would be all you got from it and it would drive everyone else crazy quickly...also...don't waste money on hiking boots...they are too heavy for my taste...I bought good trail shoes..much lighter...even though I had to deal with cactus needles a few times I still preferred them...boots would have gotten just as wet in knee-deep water and taken much longer to dry...we also took light sandals with good tread and wore them at camp and even hiking around camp in the afternoon... We also learned that spotting ruins is a lot like spotting morels...lol...once you find one...they are EVERYWHERE!!
  • Footnote: Our new packs arrived a few days ago and they FIT!!! :thumbsup:
 

Nick

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Aug 9, 2007
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12,934
Wow! That sounds like quite the epic adventure! Glad you enjoyed it so much despite the challenges! And way cool on seeing mama bear and her cubs.

Some advice as you get to planning more adventures in the desert -

Salt Creek is just a tiny little pocket in a vast expanse of amazing places, it's definitely worth another visit but if I were only able to pull off a trip once a year, I'd try other things. Instead of 12 days up there (BTW that's a crazy HEAVY pack), break it up and go see some of the other amazing things on the Colorado Plateau. Short backpacks like Chesler Park and Elephant canyon are every bit as good and you could do a handful of amazing trips with that much time to spend.

If you find pottery shards, it's best to leave them where you found them. It's okay to pick it up and take a look but the park service discourages people from placing artifacts into those little galleries that accumulate. They say once a piece is moved, it ruins the ability for a researcher to learn as much from it. It also takes away the ability for others to find them in their natural state. I have to admit though, it is fun to see those galleries - just best not to add to them.

Bats are great, no need to fear them! They're just out eating up bugs in the evening. I've spent hundreds of nights in the wilderness and never had a bad experience with them. They're actually a lot of fun to stare up at and watch as they dart around getting their dinner.

Good job on the trip!
 

Nick

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Oh, and one last thing - if you want to avoid the thunderstorms, don't come in July or August (or even early September). Every summer we get a weather pattern throughout Utah that we call the monsoon season. It's moisture that shoots up through Mexico and Arizona and is usually when the biggest storms and floods come. They usually come in the form of short, but violent afternoon storms and can be very unpredicatable. It's also really hot as you probably noticed. My favorite times to hike in the desert are the spring and fall when the temps are more reasonable and the chance of rain and flooding is more predictable.
 

LoriB

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Jan 1, 2013
Messages
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Oh, and one last thing - if you want to avoid the thunderstorms, don't come in July or August (or even early September). Every summer we get a weather pattern throughout Utah that we call the monsoon season. It's moisture that shoots up through Mexico and Arizona and is usually when the biggest storms and floods come. They usually come in the form of short, but violent afternoon storms and can be very unpredicatable. It's also really hot as you probably noticed. My favorite times to hike in the desert are the spring and fall when the temps are more reasonable and the chance of rain and flooding is more predictable.

Thanks for the tips Nick...we will leave the shards where we find them from now on for sure!! We actually didn't mind the heat at all...we live in MI where it's cold too much of the year for us...the thunderstorms didn't bother us at all either, at least we knew we could get water... except that they may have delayed our getting out and people at home would have surely thought us dead...LOL. Before July we simply have too much work to do for our hometown festival that we are in charge of...I'm President, she's Vice President with only about 10 volunteers (if we're lucky) to pull off 3 days of events and all that goes with that...later September when we could go also brings and increased proximity to bears if I understand the stuff I've been reading...and it brings cooler nights....the thought of either of those things will most likely keep us coming during August for some time.

As far as taking several shorter trips...we have thought about that because with all of my research I do know there are so many beautiful things to see out there. We have a couple of reasons for doing 1 long trip though....#1...Solitude...that feeling of being completely cut off and alone...neither of us like to go where everyone else goes. #2...The ruins...I know from all we saw in only a few short days that there must be so much more out there to find...if I knew of another place where we could go and be so alone and find so many ruins...I would consider that, but I have waited for so many years to see and experience the history...my soul craves more. #3...Base Camp....we liked having a base...we brought along smaller hydration/daypacks that we put on for the days we just want to explore...after carrying the big packs those felt like nothing...LOL We're new to this game, but we're learning...but the one thing we knew when we went out there was that we didn't want to feel rushed, we wanted time to simply relax and do things at our leisure and time to explore any canyon that looked interesting. That might change with time, but neither of us felt that 4 days was enough....we went to the Four Corners and The Grand Canyon after Salt Creek and didn't enjoy it nearly as much as those 4 days of complete quiet and solitude.

I honestly can never thank you enough for posting your blog...you made a dream come true for my friend and I. Oh, and since I've been back I've already begun planning for next year...my first purchase was a digital scale...I have cataloged and weighed every single thing we took with us....my pack weight was closer to 62 pounds!! A whole lot of CRAP is not coming out there with us next time!! We carried too many "what if we need it" items and too much heavy (trail mix & homemade energy bars) food. We have already begun replacing gear with much lighter stuff or cutting it out altogether. So keep on hiking (when your knee heals...) and writing about it because you do inspire people!! :)
 

BJett

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May 3, 2013
Messages
528
Don't let bears be an issue because they are not. You would be incredibly lucky to see one. September is a wonderful time to be on the Plateau, warm days and perfect nights. If ruins are what you seek...along with solitude...the Cedar Mesa/Grand Gulch area is what you want. You can spend months down there. Or years. The National Parks are nice, but in my opinion the best of southern Utah resides in between...Escalante country, White Canyon/Cedar Mesa/Grand Gulch, San Rafael Swell...many lifetimes of exploring.
 

LoriB

Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2013
Messages
42
Don't let bears be an issue because they are not. You would be incredibly lucky to see one. September is a wonderful time to be on the Plateau, warm days and perfect nights. If ruins are what you seek...along with solitude...the Cedar Mesa/Grand Gulch area is what you want. You can spend months down there. Or years. The National Parks are nice, but in my opinion the best of southern Utah resides in between...Escalante country, White Canyon/Cedar Mesa/Grand Gulch, San Rafael Swell...many lifetimes of exploring.

Thanks! We did feel very lucky to see that Mama Bear and her cubs, but uneasy too...here in MI it has become so crowded that bears definitely associate people with food...that makes us wary. I know from my research that Cedar Mesa/Grand Gulch area is what we seek too, but I couldn't find enough definitive information to make a plan and while I would love to just go wander, I'm not foolish enough to believe that I am an expert navigator by any means...we are also limited to what we can reach with our 2 wheel drive car that we bring out there...taking it to the top of Cathedral Butte was quite an accomplishment!! Is there one particular trail that you would recommend for beginners? If I had my way I would simply live there since I have been unable to get that beautiful country out of my head for more than a day since we've been back.
 
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