This hike in Canyonlands National Park in Utah was one of the longest day-hikes we've done since we began our extensive U.S. travels in 2005. It was exhausting, but it's also one of the most memorable days we've had on the trails.
We weren't sure we were up for that. We thought we would do the 2.9 mile hike to a place called Chesler Park and then make a decision there. We could definitely do a 5.8 mile roundtrip.
I was hoping to be on the trail by around 9:00 am, but we didn't quite make it. However, we were on the trail right at 10:00.
Here we go.
It was a steep start as we looked back to the parking area and our Jeep in the lower right.
See all that black stuff on the ground in the photo below? That's the cryptobiotic crust.
It is so important to the habitat and it is all over the place in Canyonlands.
Okay, enough science. We proceeded toward the Needles formations.
Of course, red rocks were everywhere.
As were several varieties of lizards.
And the high desert flowers were in bloom.
More blooms popping from the hot sand.
One of many dead tree photos for today.
Looking back as we climbed higher.
Look at the lovely pattern on the back of this lizard.
Eventually, we completed the 2.9 miles to Chesler Park. But we were nowhere near finished.
Another beautiful desert flower.
The views kept changing as we hit the 3.5 mile mark.
But we were about two hours in and it was lunch time. So we climbed up into a tent camping area and had our snacks.
One of the views from that campsite.
We made our way back out of the sheltered area to continue our hike.
It was just one incredible view after another as we walked.
We were already committed to walking another 2 miles outward bound, so it was going to be at least a 10 mile roundtrip.
Fortunately, we had some flat portions, like below, to help us catch our breath.
We made it to the distant rocks where we found a viewpoint looking back at more Needles.
Then it was time for the Joint Trail which connects the Chesler Park Trail with the 4WD road. Down we went into the slots.
That was a cool change of pace on this hike.
This was rather a steep drop to negotiate.
I'm so glad we decided to go the extra few miles. Or we might have missed shots like this.
Coming out of the slots was one of the nicest parts of the trail.
Ah, more Claret Cup Cactus blooms.
Nearing the end of the Joint Trail.
For just a bit, we had to walk on the Elephant Hill 4WD road. We started at a parking area where the Jeepers could come in to the slots from the opposite way.
While there, I took a quick shot of this Raven.
Then, as we walked, we had this much smaller Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
We exited the 4WD road and got back on the trail.
This was a unique tree with a nice background.
At one point we had a decision to make. We could have looped back to Chesler Park and backtracked our way to the Jeep. Or, we could take a different trail for new scenery. That choice would increase our hike by about a mile and the last 3.5 miles would be on the 4WD road.
We chose the longer path back, so now we were going to make it a 12 mile hike. We have never done one that long. But we liked the idea of seeing an area we hadn't seen, we thought it might be an easier and faster hike, and if we just couldn't make it, we could flag down a four-wheeler for a ride.
Our decision started out to be a really good one for the views.
Hmmm. Hope there is a cut-through up in those rocks.
More red rocks and bright blue skies. The blue skies were sort of off and on all along our route.
There was in fact a cut-through. And here is the view back from where we came.
At the apex of the pass, we stopped for a rest while taking in the view to where we were headed. Awesome!
Down in that valley we encountered more flowers.
And then it started clouding up as we approached the Devil's Kitchen campground.
As we entered the campground we met a very nice family - John, Nancy, and their daughter Makenzie. They offered to let us top off our water at their campsite since they are leaving tomorrow and still had about six gallons.
We were able to offer something in return. They are looking to camp at Arches where we are campground hosts for a couple of months, so we gave them every tip we could think of to get in. They are tenters, so that increases their odds.
Here is a shot of their tent and view as it started to sprinkle just a bit.
The 4WD road connects to the campground, so we picked it up there. It wasn't so gloomy in the direction we were headed. Three and a half miles to go.
Boy, we were really wearing down. And there wasn't a 4WD vehicle in sight.
We climbed one last steep hill that just about did us in.
We got this photo with about a half mile to go.
Finally, we spotted our Jeep in the parking area! Hallelujah! We had been out on the trails for seven hours as it had just turned 5:00 pm.
It was an absolutely fantastic hike, but we wanted to do nothing but sit down and drive home. We were pooped, and we weren't sure we were even going to be able to get back out of the Jeep once we got home. But the long hike was worth it for the beautiful scenery.