Canyons 2015: snowline

Yesterday, Canyonlands National Park Service posted a picture of the snow outside the visitor centre on their Facebook page. It looked great, so we thought that today we would see if it was still there.

Breakfast was a quicker affair today, despite the B&B being full. Perhaps it is easier to start and maintain conversations when there are fewer people. Still, it takes a little while to get up to the Island in the Sky, so by the time we had reached the visitor centre it was nearing 11am. Along the way, we noticed the snow was still lying on the ground once we passed the 6,000 feet mark. We stopped in briefly to show our pass at the visitor centre and then drove a few miles further to the trailhead for the Lathrop Trail.

 This trail heads across meadow for the first mile and a half. Normally this is an easy yomp along a sandy path, but today it was either snowy (really large snow crystals) or muddy. And when I say muddy, I mean the really clarty, sticks to your boots and makes your feet feel several pounds heavier type of mud. Half way across you get a glimpse of the La Sal mountains to inspire you to continue.

 Eventually the trail reaches slick rock and from there it clambers up and down, across and over slick rock benches, through ‘gardens’ so pretty they could be designed and works its way out to the rim. Views of the canyon start to open up and it is a spectacular backdrop. Our hike ended after 2.5 miles at the rim edge, after which the trail started to wind itself around to the next side canyon and from there down to the White Rim road, 1,000 feet below. Standing at our turnaround point you could hear only the wind and occasional bird call. And Andrew’s stomach growling…

We climbed back up to a good viewpoint and ate our hiking snack bars before setting off for the return journey. We saw an unknown bird of prey circling above and passed a rabbit or two along the way. There were a couple of lizards too, who seemed to be coming out to sun themselves now that the rock was warming up. The water in the potholes which had been very frozen on our outbound journey was starting to melt. 

 We were soon back on the meadow and heading towards the car, although this seemed like one of those destinations in a dream that never gets any nearer…distance is very deceptive when there are no intermediate landmarks in a vista so huge. Of course, we got there eventually, although our boots were somewhat covered with sticky mud on the soles.

Our next stop was a short walk of around a mile at Aztec Butte, a walk we had never actually done in the last ten years. We took the short route which scrambled up onto a rock outcrop and around to a couple of Puebloan granaries tucked away under the cliff ledge. They must have been very small people as there was no way to stand up under the ledge.

 By this time, it was getting towards late afternoon, so we headed back to town, stopping at a few viewpoints on the way back, including one overlooking the Behind The Rocks area, which comprises a maze of sandstone fins.

We stopped in at City Market and then returned to the B&B. Sadly, we then caught the news about terror attacks in Paris, which are dominating the news in the USA too. We showered and headed to Zax for dinner, as Andrew fancied steak. Apparently it was ok, but not Hadfield steak….

Our last day in Moab tomorrow, so we will be taking in some more great views and sights. And hopefully the legs will keep up too…

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