Sunday, October 19, 2014

Canyonlands National Park - Needles District

October 16 - 17, 2014:

One minor drawback of BLM area camping (usually) is no fresh water and no dump station, but there were several campgrounds in the Moab area where you can dump your tanks and fill your water tank for $5.00.  Actually I'm kind of ready to get out of Moab, too much traffic, too many people.  So we are on route 191 south for about 30 miles then into route 211 for another 30 miles to the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park. There is a campground inside the Needles Park area, but it is a reservable one and has no vacancy.  We had done our research and found out about a good boondocking area 2 miles outside of the park on Lockhart Basin Road. There is a BLM recreation site campground with developed dry camping sites for a small charge.  In addition, there are other undeveloped campsites all along the road, totally free.  I saw a site I could back into from the road, the entrance was uphill and a little rocky, but once you got all the way in it was level.  It's another beautiful campsite. nothing but sage brush around us, mountain views and sky !  Actually there is considerable traffic on this road, it is a dirt road but goes on for 15 miles to Lockhart Basin and 48 miles to Hurrah.  The developed campground is pretty full so I'm thinking there must be many other boondockers further down the road.

Out in the great wide open

We set up camp then rode into the National Park stopping at several pulloff's for short hikes.  The terrain here is different from the other end of Canyonlands Park and Arches Park, but equally spectacular. One of the short hikes went to the site of an old cowboy camp area under overhanging rocks.  There are many unique rock formations here called Mushrooms, because that are shaped like them.

That's a Mushroom formation on the left

This is a granary where the Indians stored grain

Lots of Mushroom formations

Cowboy Camp site, note soot on ceiling
from the campfires

The Indians also used the same overhanging
rock shelter and left this evidence behind

View along Pothole Point overlook

These are Potholes, when they fill with water, small
creatures come back to life

Twinkles in front of a huge rock

A distant view from the trail

View from Big Spring Canyon Overlook

Sunset from the campsite

I went to a Ranger fire side talk in the evening about 4 corners Indian creation beliefs and stories.  It was done by a young female ranger, very articulate, enthusiastic, funny.  I continue to be most impressed by many of these Park Rangers, they have real talent.

On day # 2, Twinkles is hurting, too many hikes in a row for her knee and other parts and she needs some alone time, so It's a solo hiking day for me.  I decided to go to the Elephant Hill trailhead and hike the Chesler Park Trail and then a portion of the Joint Trail. This is the most scenic area of the park, but it is a challenging trail.  (No pain No gain)  The Joint Trail takes you down into a narrow slot, more like a crack in the rocks where you have to do some rock scrambling.  I went about half way into the loop then turned around and went back out the same way.  Going back is always the hard part, the heat of the day and the tiring muscles start to shift your focus from the beauty of the surroundings to how good it will feel to get off the trail, get the boots off with a nice cold beverage stretched out in a lounge chair.  I think I hiked about 12 miles total and I feel like that is my limit, I was dragging at the end.

The dirt road to the Elephant Hill trailhead

View along the Chesler Trail

Another trail view

So many great rock formations

They go on and on

A nice walking area

More great views

Then on the Joint trail you come to this.
Must admit it made me a bit nervous

The Joint trail continues

After the slot, you come out to this area

We have been dry camping and boondocking for 14 straight days now and Twinkles says she's tired of being dirty so we are off to a reserved full hookup campsite for a while.
Next stop is Cortez, Colorado,
Twinkles and Slick

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