Monday, March 24, 2008

In search of desert trails

Spring break (yay, grad school!) was last week and I had my heart set on backpacking through the desert, preferably surrounded by sculpted sandstone. I have always wanted to go to Canyon Lands in Utah, and this seemed like the right time of year, but we could not bring the dog hiking in a national park. Instead, we decided to hike a canyon in Escalante, a mere national monument which does allow dogs. We also had lift tickets for Durango Mountain that had to be used by the first Saturday of spring break. The trip quickly turned into a 4-corners area tour of sandstone.

After a pleasant day of skiing and trying out new telemark skis, we spent the night very near the 4-corners itself, just outside of the Navajo national monument. After a short hike in the morning to see the ruins at Navajo, we continued across northern AZ / southern UT (the roads are not straight) through Page, AZ, over the Glen Canyon Dam and on over to Escalante. We got our backcountry permit from the ranger station and drove out the mud road to our trailhead as it began to snow... rather a lot of snow. Suddenly the prospect of slogging through a few inches of water along the canyon floor in 30-degree weather wasn't sounding so nice.

We abandoned Escalante and went south, all the way to Sedona. It was still snowing there too, but we were led to believe that it would warm up, there were beautiful trails and we wouldn't have to slog through water. It did warm up over the next few days, the trails are gorgeous, but we did have to cross a deep "creek" and eventually could not complete our loop trail because it would have involved wading through waist-deep frigid water to get up-canyon to meet the other trail. We did spend 5 lovely days in the Sycamore Creek wilderness and saw some dramatic scenery and only a handful of other people.

Navajo Ntl Mon - can you find the ruins?

Lake Powell

Escalante Toad Stools (beware the clouds)

Sycamore Canyon, west of Sedona

It was incredible to realize how many amazing places are only a day's drive away from home. I already knew how great it is to be able to hike out of the Grand Canyon and drive home in the same day (it really makes those midwestern tourists jealous when you say "I'll be sleeping in my own bed tonight")... but to see just how many other beautiful desert places are nearby was a lot of fun. If you live out here, you should really make the time to go to these places, they aren't that far!


  1. WOW! What a trip! Sounds like you had a great time:)

  2. Funny- James and I are planning to go up to the four corners this week, and maybe do Monument Valley.

    It looks like you guys had a great time!