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Home » Adventures » Moab » Day 6

Wednesday April 25 — I See You

Day 6 route

Route I Traveled This Day
16 Miles Hiking (Red)
6.1 Miles Backpacking (Yellow)

Due to family obligations I had to make a phone call this morning. Since I did not own a cell phone (and coverage would have been spotty out there anyway), I backtracked to my car at Squaw Flat campground and drove to the visitor center. After placing my call there I went to Cave Springs Trail to hike into Peekaboo Campground. My permit was actually for at large Salt/Horse Creek camping, but the ranger informed me of Peekaboo’s availability since vehicles were prohibited on Salt Creek Road at that time. I accepted this change since a groomed backcountry site would be significantly more comfortable than a self made one.

I followed Salt Creek Road to my campsite. The “creek” part was a vast understatement and the “road” moniker was very generous. The rains turned the entire roadway (which at its best was a sandy path — do not ask about its worst stretches) into a stream half a foot deep. Keeping my feet dry was futile, so I jumped in and plodded through the water. My boots were soaked within a couple of steps, so hopefully they would have time to dry later. With the sun overhead, the cool water flowing around my feet felt very refreshing. The soothing sensation eventually grew old though as I endured the water laden trail almost the entire way to Peekaboo Campground.

Salt Creek Road

The flooded Salt Creek Road

I arrived well before noon at a large campsite designed to accommodate several groups of off-road vehicles. Since those were banned, it left ample room for packers. In fact, I was the only inhabitant that night, although several groups of day hikers passed through looking at the nearby artifacts.

These relics were several ancient Indian paintings adjacent to Peekaboo campground. Up the hill previous cultures engraved paintings on the cliff face. Archeology was never my forte so their deeper meaning was lost on me, despite the explanatory signs nearby. More amazing was how the numerous seemingly primitive civilizations survived in such a harsh location over the centuries.

An Arch (or Two) or Bust

Paul Bunyan’s Potty

Paul Bunyan’s Potty

After downing lunch I departed base camp determined to finally find an arch, despite the nearest one (Castle Arch) requiring another epic hike to reach. Undeterred, I briefly backtracked up the creek before embarking down the conveniently dry Horse Canyon Road. Even with the rain that filled Salt Creek, this stretch was bone dry and had already completely drained its water. This landscape could only retain liquid for about an hour after the rain ceased. This wide and sandy washout provided an extremely easy path that was impossible to get lost on.

I passed a structure at the base of a cliff built by Indians and pioneers for food storage before hitting Paul Bunyan’s Potty, which indeed look like the underside of a giant toilet seat. An ironically placed modern outhouse sat in its shadow for good measure.

With these sights passed, I continued marching along the dry, windy creek. The trail was consistent through its many miles, with loose sand under my feet and rocky walls rising in the background. As my location became even more remote the trail narrowed and had rocks strewn about its dry riverbed. It seemed the road would have been impassable by all-terrain vehicles (if they were allowed).

The number of pre-existing footprints interrupting the riverbed dwindled as I moved further from what little civilization existed in Canyonlands. Many animal tracks lay imprinted in the sand though, some only several hours old. I only saw evidence of wildlife and never observed any actual animals, save some lizards sunning on the rocks. I was the first human to have traveled that way in many days. Hopefully nothing disastrous happened as a long wait would ensue until help stumbled across me. As long as I did not have to cut off my own arm though, I would be okay.

Castle Arch

Castle Arch

I drudged forward, and my watch indicated I should have reached the arches already traveling at my normal hiking pace. I doubted having missed the side trail but began second guessing myself anyway. Getting lost in this remote outback would have been very bad. Eventually though, the sign for the spur leading to Castle Arch appeared. The trail was narrow single track which climbed through rocks and up a ladder before landing at the base of the amazing geological formation. It was still perched high above the valley floor, but gazing up at this formidable structure was breathtaking. The arch had an amazingly large span, and its rock frame seemed too thin to support such an enormous gap.

Ein Feste Burg

After gawking for a while, I made the short jaunt down Horse Canyon Road to Fortress Arch. The very rugged trail leading to this arch was even less frequented than the rest of this area, and I carefully dodged cacti encroaching the right away. For all the work required to reach it though, Fortress Arch was less impressive than the neighboring Castle Arch. Fortress’s span was smaller and significantly more rock reinforced the structure. It looked more an oversized hole in the cliff rather than an inspiring arch.

With the requisite arches seen, I did not have much time to dabble as over three hours of hiking separated me from base camp at Peekaboo. I discovered nothing interesting in reverse, and just followed my lonely footsteps backwards.

The weather had been great all day — sunny and in the eighties, but still cool enough to cover myself from the unmerciful sun. Even with all this protection, the long day caught up with me. I developed a slight headache and my energy dwindled as I kept placing one foot in front of the other. Hiking through the barren sandy riverbed, I felt like Clark Griswold wandering through the desert after crashing his car. I did not wear boxes as an impromptu hat…yet.

I hiked relentlessly the entire afternoon (with an additional six miles of packing that morning) and was still several miles from my tent, but I convinced myself to take a small diversion to see Tower Ruin anyway. The landmark was an old storage building high up on the cliff. Having seen this sideshow, missing this destination would not have been heartbreaking since the site was situated far from the trail and archaeological sites are often not that exciting to me anyway. Besides, the sun had fried my brain, and it could not appreciate anything intellectual regardless.

Finally though, I arrived back to camp, a little closer to dark than safety allowed. With night knocking on the door I tried to locate a vantage point to watch the impending sunset, but the canyon walls obstructed all my views. My weary legs scampered around the nearby hilly trails, but to no avail. The sky just gradually faded to black as I did not have tickets for the desert’s evening show.