Twig Adventures

HayDay 7: Druid Arch

Friday, April 7th, 2023, 0650-1930
Lost Canyon site 3, Canyonlands NP to HomeWater Spring S3 mm 25.5
25 miles (includes 4 mile side trip to Druid Arch), elevation 6400′

I finally heard an owl overnight..I think maybe a Mexican spotted owl. Oddly, I hardly heard any other bird song or calls. It was eerily quite in the canyon in the morning. It wasn’t too cold overnight (30 degrees…funny when just below freezing feels like an improvement) and I awoke excited for another day in the park. When we planned our (expensive) overnight in Canyonlands, we did so with the hope of having enough time for a side trip to Druid Arch, a 4 mile RT out and back. Pictures showed a very awesome and ginormous arch. And pictures never do anything out here justice, so I had to see it for myself.

Our plan worked out pretty perfectly. We got such an early start that we saw some gorgeous sunrise glow on the red and white sandstone. We were seemingly the only ones up so early and had the trail all to ourselves until well after 9 am. The trail bounced along the slickrock once again, in and out of Squaw and Elephant canyons. There were more ladders and plenty of cairns to follow. Water was flowing in all the creeks, plus many of the potholes were full. It was great to see this area with so much water.

We dropped our packs at the start of the side trail, hiding them behind a rock, under a ledge. I was a bit worried a critter might find them, so I made sure to take my snacks out of the pockets and leave them unzipped. We missed the turn for a pour-off bypass, so ended up walking even more distance. But the arch was well worth the extra effort. Carved from an enormous fin, the arch presented a slightly different look from every angle. It was a very powerful figure, emanating its own energy. I wondered if it could be a sort of time portal, like in Outlander. If only one could climb up there. I guess it is a time portal to an extent, demonstrating the slow effects of ice, wind and water over the millennia, carving a masterpiece. It quickly became my favorite arch.

The massive scale of Druid Arch

On the way back, we started running into heaps of day trippers. We just beat the morning rush. We also beat the keen eye of the ravens, who must have been napping when we first stashed our packs. Just as we retrieved them, a raven landed on the rock they’d been sitting behind. It was inspecting the spot to see if we left anything behind. Had we been trying to stash packs at this point, the ravens would have surely torn into them. We got lucky. We sat down to have lunch, taunting them with our bounty. One sat and watched us for 30 minutes, then finally flew off. I love ravens. They are beautiful and highly intelligent birds. But I was happy to disappoint them by not giving them a food reward.

We followed a series of trails for a few more hours through the park. There were some really cools sights around Chesler park and then a giant crack in the wall called the Joint. I didn’t enjoy these sections as much because there were so many people. There was almost a traffic jam in the joint, where there was barely room for one person to slide through, let alone groups of 5 to 10 going both directions. Some backpackers in front were going very slow but at least were kind to let us squeeze past, once there was enough room.

photo of the Joint taken by Sky

We hit a jeep road leading out of the park mid afternoon and followed it for about 11 miles. This was an alternate we decided take to make up some lost time due to the Druid arch side trip. The main route was up Butler wash… we’d seen a lot of washes already, so figured we wouldn’t be missing out on much. The jeep road was pretty cruisey and I got to learn what a graben is (according to Jamal Green): This interesting geology is common to the region and consists of a depressed block of the crust bordered by parallel faults.

It made for some interesting walking for a bit. The road was dead quiet, not a single vehicle passed. It got hot, so out came the umbrella for the first time this trip. I put a good podcast on and just walked and walked. It was good to zone out for a bit, as there hadn’t been a whole lot of opportunity for doing so on the Hayduke. The road walk took us past some ruins and all the way into the early evening, just in time to find a piped spring for dinner. Our plan worked…we got over 20 miles done for the day and also got to be tourists for a spell. We made camp in a wash again, more worried about getting run over by cows than any water coming down the wash.

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