(previous: Hayduke north from Canyonlands ⟺ next: another hike TBD)
Final Stretch to Arches
May 30th, 2018
Woke up to a sunny day with a sky filled with fluffy clouds. I packed up and continued along the Lockhart Backroad as it wound its way around the upper branches of several canyons. Many of those canyons beckoned as potential short-cut routes, but I instead continued to follow the circuitous road just to make for easy walking. I didn’t want any unforeseen drama/delays so late in my trip.
Across the way I could see Dead Horse Point State Park. I mused how many people must haven been there at that very moment, but I’d not seen a person face-to-face since leaving Needles Outpost (I’d only see a few cars from a distance.) Soon the Jeep road made a series of hairpin turns and descended a rough route down the canyon. After another mile or so of walking I was at the junction of Chicken Corners where there were a few new embellishments on the road sign.
By this point I was running fairly low on water, but I wasn’t too worried as I knew there was a spot not too far ahead where it was possible to access the Colorado River. But, before I even got there I investigated a possible tank/stockpond near the road and I was happy to find it had water. It was pretty muddy and didn’t look like the best, but it was still probably less silty than the Colorado. Once I ran it through the filter it tasted great — so I was happy. Less than 20 minutes of walking later, I didn’t even bother stopping at the access spot along the river.
The next four miles or so were fairly fast walking, though I did duck behind a rock every now and then to get out of the sun. My stretch of isolation was now over though as several people in Jeeps/ATVs whizzed past me as I walked along. One guy named Pete driving a big truck actually stopped to chat and wanted to know what I was up to walking “way out here”. He actually asked to video the interaction for his YouTube Channel. 🙂
After another hour or so the clouds moved in and it looked like it might rain. As I left the main road and headed north I encountered something very strange for this area… a Frisbee golf course! I was approaching Base Camp Adventure Lodge, so I guessed it had to be part of that facility (and it was.) I actually walked a bit out of my way to go up to the Lodge to check out the main office. I’d heard they had cold drinks which sounded pretty good. When I got there it didn’t have a store/office like I was expecting, but so at first I was disappointed. But, I just happened to meet the owner Tom and he offered me a cold Coke and all the water I could carry. He also gave me a tour of the facilities which was really cool. He alone manages the large parcel of private land along the river. There is a main house with rooms for rent along several additional satellite units — a few of which are re-constructions of Navajo traditional hogans. It was cool to see the place.
From here I’d decided to head north to the area known as Jacksons Hole. I had originally planned to go over Hurrah Pass on the road (a route I’d walked before) to then connect with a new route through Behind the Rocks. But, I was running out of time so I thought it best to skip the BTR portion. With this in mind I didn’t just want to walk the road, so I opted for this new-to-me-route via Jacksons Hole instead. The first portion of the route ran by some interesting geology included a few big “Mushroom” rocks:
Before long the route dropped down into Jackson Hole itself — an abandoned meander of the Colorado River. The geological formation means the river used to run through this area. This is fairly obvious from looking at the map, but it was cool to see river-polished round rocks as I walked in the wash which is now many miles away from the river. The rocks definitely seemed out of place — an artifact of a time long passed by.
As I neared the northern end of the bend, I could see the next challenge ahead — a spot known as Jacksons Ladder. This is where I would scramble up the established route to the top of the mesa known as Amasa Back.
It was a steep climb, but the route was good. Once I got to the top, it was a great view back behind me with the late-day sun on Jacksons Hole.
On the other side of the mesa I could see the Colorado River and all the way to the La Sals. The sun’s final rays where illuminating the fins in the Behind the Rocks area in the distance.
It was such a magical spot — I decided to camp right there. It made for the perfect spot to camp for my FINAL night on the trail for this hike.
The final day!!! The race was on. I had a 2pm meet-up scheduled with my parents at Arches, so… I needed to get moving. I made my way down the Jackson Trail which clung to the cliffs above the Colorado as cars whizzed by along Potash Road on the other side of the river.
There was a barely-visible arch high on the wall along the way, but I didn’t take too long to investigate a better view of it. Before too long I was down in the flat cruising along and soon came to Kane Springs Creek which was more of estuary where I first intersected it. It’s common for the creek to flood here, so I continued upstream to see if I could find a place where I could get across without getting too wet. Sure enough — soon there creek was fairly small and in fact there was even a little bridge so that I didn’t even have to get my feet wet. Ironically… I decided at that point to actually take a break and get IN the water. I hadn’t had a chance to rinse off in over a week, so I thought I should probably get the smell of the last 10 days off me before meeting up with my family and heading into town!
Once I dried off, I climbed the bank and was on the paved road running toward Moab. I never enjoy pounding pavement, but at least there were several petroglyph panels along the way to keep me entertained.
Within a few hours I passed through the narrow section of canyon known as “The Portal” and rounded a bend and was on the outskirts of civilization.
It was tedious walk through town. It’s only about 4 miles through Moab, but it just seems so out of place to be walking along city streets with a big backpack and trekking poles with cars and bicyclists whizzing by. I actually stopped in a convenience store for a cold drink along the way.
On the north side of town I stopped in city park for a short break before crossing the pedestrian bridge across the Colorado River.
About 10 minutes later I was at the spot I’d been anxiously awaiting for a while… the somewhat unceremonious boundary sign for Arches National Park!
But… I wasn’t quite finished yet. Though I had given up on the idea of hiking all the way up to the Windows Section of the park, I did want to walk a little ways up Courthouse Wash. There was a nice pool there that I’d remember from my hike last year that I thought would be the perfect place to end my hike. So… that’s what I did.
After shooting some video/pics at this awesome spots, I turned around and retraced my steps to the road. From there I walked just 1/4 mile up the road to the agreed upon meeting place with my folks. I walked up and sure enough the were there waiting… I was about 30 minutes late after all. 🙂 Hugs all around!
Though my hike was officially over, I wanted to drive up through the park to see a few of the iconic location. I didn’t feel like I’d needed to hike to these spots as after all I hiked through the entire park to being my 2017 trek. But, it was good way to see the spots as a “tourist” and reflect on how I’d just walked to Arches from Zion! 🙂
And… with that my hike was officially finished. Well… once I had my cheeseburger and beer in Moab… then it was officially 100% finished!
As always… Thanks for following along!
Awesome report again! Even if I watched your video series of this trip, I just read all 14 parts of it. What an amazing journey in this incredible area. Thanks you so much for spending these long evenings creating these videos and reports. Stay safe until the next adventure (any idea when?).
Thanks! Still no definite plans for my next hike. Considering something small over the summer and/or maybe something bigger in the fall. We will see how things shape up.