Yes, we are taking another Hayduke Route alternate. Apparently this one is more scenic and has water. It adds about 15 more miles to the standard route. Believe it or not, as much as I love paddling, it feels good to be hiking again. We were up by 6:15 am and hurried our selves to make it the to the camping office by 8am, where the owner of Needles Outpost promised us a ride back to the trailhead, knocking off three miles of tedious road walking. Thus, instead of a 17 mile day, it was a 14 mile day. Pete definitely appreciated the less miles today. We were done hiking by 4pm. We could have gone further but we had this specific campsite reserved in our Canyonlands National Park permit. Deviating from that would guarantee us a fine if a ranger were to interrogate us.
Salt Creek canyon is your quintessential Southern Utah riparian type of canyon. Water flows intermittently, yet definitely flash floods as evidenced by the ubiquitous flash flood debris. Cottonwoods, Sycamores, Willows, and invasive Tamarisk line the drainage and juniper and piñon pines are omnipresent further away from the bank, nearer the steep, pink and red hued sandstone canyon walls. To further add to the picturesque scenery, the skies are oh so blue, enhancing the color of the pink red sandstone. But perhaps my most favorite thing about these quintessential Southern Utah canyon are Ancient Ancestral Puebloan archeological ruins. While we didn’t see grand scale ruins a la Mesa Verde National Park style, we did spot one granary way up high clinging to a shallow alcove up on the canyon walls. We also encountered ancient hand imprint pictographs near the peekaboo trail junction. No petroglyphs or cliff dwellings were found, however. Oh, and you can’t forget the occasional natural arch. They seem to just all of sudden appear out nowhere way up high in the cliffs around a random canyon bend. Pow! Just like that. Sandstone arch at 9 o’clock.
Since we got done early for the day, Cuban B decided to explore the cliffs near our campsite after he had dinner. He apparently found a trail that led up to a saddle and led into a small bowl shaped valley. He found more ancient hand print pictographs but just one set. That got me very excited and prompted me to join him to explore this area more to look for more pictographs and ruins. None more were found. Oh well. It was a fun way to end the day. Eventually the sun set, and Venus was in its usual brilliant splendor above the horizon. The moon is more than half and waxing.
Tomorrow we have to push some miles, perhaps doing more than 17 miles. Either way, we should be out of this canyon and on the mesa tops, making our way to Dark Canyon and the official Hayduke Route.