Wednesday, April 5th, 2023, 0700-1500
S2 Rustler Canyon mm 35.3 to Needles Outpost.
14 miles, elevation 4800′
It wasn’t near as cold as I feared it might be…only 32 in the morning. Our site was great after the wind died overnight. We woke to clear skies and soon the sun was hitting. We shortly turned upstream into Indian Creek and did another tricky climb out of the canyon. Once again, there were several routes and we kind of went with the flow of the most obvious one. It was a fairly easy scramble up, assuming ones takes the time to scout for the best options. There were many nooks and cracks in the cliffs, providing access for animals and humans alike. The scrambles are like puzzles to be solved. There are almost always easy solutions but it takes time to work them out.
Then we were on top of the rim, connecting ridgelines amongst the canyons below. Somehow there was a route that stayed high, without falling off into one of the many gaping holes in the earth. It was like we were traveling along rooftops, as in a superhero movie, moving from one to the next. But eventually it was time to fall down into another canyon, titled “we hope so wash.” It was a pretty mellow descent, with only one place where we passed packs. The lower wash was fantastic, with wide flat slab and hardpacked sand. A gold standard wash for walking in. There was even a nice trickle of water…water had been in almost every wash since Rustler canyon.
We came to a side trip to an overlook of a loop in the Colorado river and decided to take it, even though it added about 0.8 miles. It was well worth the effort. The ascent of the wash was easy and soon we were staring at quite a spectacle, probably only surpassed by the Grand Canyon. A boat just happened to be going by, which gave the scene some perspective of just how high we were above the mighty river, like a greenish brown snake whipping into a tear-drop shape below. A diving board rock beckoned the greatest and last swan dive into the abyss. We stood near the edge but were cautious of the void’s pull.
After a nice break enjoying the view and taking lots of pictures, we scrambled back along a different wash, this one more difficult in terms of finding a way down several cliff bands of melted cheese rock. We took packs off once and were definitely not on the gps track…so far we’ve seemed to find much easier and better routes than where many of the tracklines suggest.
We stopped for a proper lunch break just before leaving the wash, then hit a dirt road to officially enter Canyonlands NP. We had about 4 or 5 miles of walking the dirt road all the way to the visitors center. Since we were ahead of schedule, we inquired about changing out permit but everything was booked, as suspected. I did some sink laundry in the bathroom and then we started walking the road towards Needles Outpost, a private campground and general store just outside the park. We’d sent a resupply box there, plus we needed a place to spend the night.
Amber, NO’s (Needles Outpost) manager and owner, greeted us warmly, as did her adorable pup Coco. We also met Mac, a Hayduker whose footprints we’d been following since the Adventure Lodge. We knew he was just ahead because Tom told us about him, plus we’d been following his posts on Instagram. Mac is also well known as the creator of the popular website Halfway Anywhere, where hikers can respond to and read data from surveys about the PCT and CDT. It was great to get to meet him.
We paid a reasonable price for a campsite and some shower tokens. Included was access to the wifi, which was key. It was the only contact to the outside world I’d have in 9 days. But first, a quick set up and a hot shower were in order. I wanted to get all this done before sunset, as the temps were already dropping. The low was expected to be in the 20s. Chores done, I sat outside the store cooking dinner and sucking wifi until it got too unbearably cold. Handwarmers and many layers were in order for this night.