Friday, March 20, 2009

Elephant Hill Trail to Devils Kitchen

The Elephant Hill 4WD Trail includes a 9.3 mile loop route past Devils Kitchen in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in southeast Utah.
  The Trail Head at Elephant Hill is also the starting point for popular hikes to Chesler Park and Druid Arch. The 4WD trail is rough for vehicles but the walking is reasonably easy, similar to the hiking trails but wider.

There is a 1.5 mile segment before arriving at the loop portion. I followed the loop clockwise, going the same way that vehicles go. The first part of the hike climbs steeply over rock and then follows a two track sandy road.

Some of the rocky portions look like some concrete has been used to fill in the bumpiest parts. There are some small signs advising drivers where to back down sections that are too narrow for a normal turn. In the first half of the loop there is a hand print pictograph visible.

The Devil's Kitchen area is a backpacker campground centered around some rock formations that are particularly black with desert varnish, giving the appearance of having been scorched by sooty fires. There are some short trails into these formations that are shady and cool.

North and south from the Devils Kitchen is Devils Lane, a narrow grassy corridor with some of the bordering rock formations also blackened by desert varnish. The south section approaches the famous Needles formations. (There is some rock art about 1 mile down the Lane.)

One section is named the Silver Stairs, a rocky stair step descent down from the Devils Lane. This section is easy to hike over but would be bumpy for a vehicle.

The last portion of the loop had a number of small arches to spot. It took me about 4:00 hours to cover this 9.3 mile route. I carried three liters of water on a 65 F. degree day. I only saw one Jeep on the trail on a week day in mid March.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pothole Point Trail

The Pothole Point Trail is a 0.6 mile interpretive loop in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in southeast Utah. The Trailhead is toward the west end of the scenic drive.

This trail traverses an area where the Cedar Mesa Sandstone has eroded unevenly, forming shallow depressions. The interpretive material describes how these depressions fill with water following spring or summer rain and support a brief burst of life.

Some of the animals that make use of these short lived pools are Fairly Shrimp, Tadpoles, Snails, and several insect larvae. The eggs of these animals lie dormant in the mud and spring to life when the opportunity arises.

The potholes can fill in with sand and soil eventually as support small isolated gardens of plant life also. Grasses, herbs, Yuccas, and even small trees can take root in the filled in potholes.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Indian Creek Petroglyph Trail

The Indian Creek Petroglyph Trail is a short climb up to a petroglyph panel in the lush Indian Creek corridor on the way to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in southeast Utah.
  The unmarked trail head is 2.7 miles past the well known Newspaper Rock site at Mile Post 4, on the east side of Utah Highway 211. The trail is only a few hundred yards long. The panel faces the highway and is at the base of the exposed Wingate Sandstone cliffs that line Indian Creek in this area.

This is a popular climbing area and there are at least three accessible petroglyph panels close together here. The Shay Canyon site is 1.9 miles past Newspaper Rock on the west side of Indian Creek.There is a main panel in the center with more figures to the left and also some to the right. The panel to the right is more eroded than the center panel. This rock art site features some very large figures.

A highlight of this panel is the archer in the lower left corner with huge feet. There seems to be some historic markings from 1911. The Mountain Sheep is the upper left are nicely done.

To the left are several large humanoid figures. There also seem to be a number of crescent moons in this panel, with one or two more near the sheep in the upper left.

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