Thursday, December 29, 2011

Salt Creek Canyon Backpacking--Canyonlands National Park, April 2011

Hiking Salt Creek Canyon, Canyonlands National Park
April 18-23, 2011

Day One: Travel from Salt Lake City and shuttle to Cathedral Butte Trailhead

We traveled from Salt Lake City to the Canyonlands Visitor’s Center in the Needles District on Monday. We arrived about ½ an hour after the Backcountry Desk had closed, but the main visitor’s center was still open.

I was concerned that we would have to come back in the morning for the permit, instead of doing our shuttle that evening and getting started with our hike first thing in the morning.

I asked if it were possible to get our permit even though the backcountry desk was closed and the ranger went in the back for a minute and said another ranger could help us.

Dorita was the ranger who had been working the backcountry desk and she was kind enough to open things up again and take care of our permit. She was awesome, never rushing us and making sure we had all our questions answered including where we could count on finding water, and how to cross the marshy area above Kirk Cabin. Give yourself plenty of time as the back country desk closes an hour before the main visitor's center, because you may not be so lucky.

With our permit in hand, we left a vehicle at the Peek a Boo trailhead in the Squaw Flats Campground and headed out to the road that goes out to Ruin Park/Beef Basin and our destination, Cathedral Butte.

As we traveled, we could tell it hadn’t been very long ago that there was some difficult road conditions as the road has some very deep ruts and made it slow going for us even though the roads were dry.

Arriving at Cathedral Butte, we found about 4 cars already parked there and the sun was quickly disappearing. The view down into Salt Creek was spectacular. The wind really picked up as we were setting up tents to camp for the night.

Day Two: Cathedral Butte to Salt Creek Camp #2 (SC2)

It rained hard during the night, but we woke up to clearing skies and what looked like a promising day for hiking. As we were enjoying the morning sunlight spreading out over Salt Creek we noticed that when the sun was just right, you could see Kirk Arch clearly. At any other time it blends in to the canyon walls behind it and it’s very hard to see.

The trail down from Cathedral Butte was steep, but easy to follow and well maintained. The two of us who had trekking poles appreciated their ability to hold us back. My pack was very heavy, so I really appreciated the extra help.

As we entered Salt Creek Canyon, I was surprised at how wide and open the canyon was at this point. I was expecting a much narrower canyons similar to Elephant Canyon on the way to Druid Arch and the section of Salt Creek Canyon near Peek a Boo Springs. We enjoyed the wide-open spaces as it allowed us to follow our progress from Cathedral Butte behind us as we worked our way towards Kirk Cabin.

When we reached the marshes, we could tell the park service had been working on an alternate route around the marshes on the west side of the canyon. But the trail had the appearance of being blocked off by tree branches, presumably because they hadn’t completed that section yet. So we took to the marshes as described by Dorita at the backcountry desk the evening before.

As we worked our way through the marshes, we found it got harder and harder to not sink into the mud and water. I think because of the heavy rains the night before the marsh was exceptionally wet that day.

After getting through the marsh with some mud and wet shoes, we stopped for lunch under a small overhang that provided some nice shade.

It didn’t take very long to reach Kirk Cabin after lunch. We reached a place where the water was flowing well and cascaded down into a pond not far above Kirk Cabin. The trail passes right by the cabin so it’s easy to get a good look inside and out. Standing in the door of Kirk Cabin, you can look directly west and enjoy a great view of Kirk Arch on the other side of the canyon.

Just beyond Kirk Cabin is the spur trail that leads to SC1 and SC2. Of the two camps, I thought SC1 was the better camp as it provides more seclusion and protection from the elements. If I were camping in the winter or late fall and wanted the warmth of the morning sun, then I would choose SC2 as it is more out on the open plain than back in the rocks like SC1. We also took advantage of the easy access to the water source not far above Kirk Cabin to filter water for camp and refill our water bottles.

Day Three: SC2 to SC3

We woke up to frost all over our heavy duty garbage bags we used to cover our packs at night. It was cold, but not really uncomfortable. The morning sun quickly warmed (and dried) everything up anyway.

The trip from SC1 to SC3 was full of great archeology and arches and excellent vistas. We decided to skip a side hike up Big Pocket in favor of a side hike up to the base of Big Ruin. If you hike to the north side of the entrance to Big Pocket, there is a diamond shaped rock with about half of it buried in the ground that is just before you reach a trail that makes for an easy crossing over to the west side of the canyon and Big Ruin. The ruins are impressive and below them are hundreds of pieces of pottery shards, arrowheads, and two stones that were used to grind maze.

If you know where to look, you can see from Big Ruin back across the canyon to the east and see Wedding Ring Arch. After we returned to the main trail we passed fairly close to Wedding Ring Arch. Fish Eye Arch is also in the distance to the south as well as another arch on the west side of the canyon which my son decided to name UFO Arch.

Anytime you find a well-traveled side trail, it probably leads to a ruin or other interesting natural wonder. After Fish Eye Arch and before a big bend in the canyon, there is a nice set of ruins, that sit low against the canyon wall on the west side of Salt Creek Canyon. One of the ruins still has corn cobs in the structures and melon or squash vines growing nearby. I remember seeing similar vines near Lee's Ferry where rafters begin their Grand Canyon trips.

The next significant attraction, and one of my favorite, was the pictograph The All American Man. It’s the only pictograph I’ve ever seen that has dark blue pigment. It’s very interesting in that is uses red, white, and blue colors and has a very similar design to the American Flag. It was also bigger than I anticipated it to be as it looks to be around 5 feet tall or so. There are a couple of remnants of ruins in the same area as the pictograph.

From the All American Man the trail turns up into a narrow gap in the wall which I assume is used because the creek bed most likely is impassable as it makes a sharp bend south. The trail is steep as it climbs up and through a gap in the canyon wall, but not difficult to do. It's a short climb up into the opening in the wall and then easy switchbacks down the other side.

As the trail works its way back down to the creek we passed through some tall growth and eventually came to another cascade and pool. When we reached that point, a spur trail to the east lead right up to some excellent ruins and a really nice pictograph called The Four Faces. The afternoon shadows made for some very nice lighting.

Not too far downstream from the pool is the spur trail to the southwest that leads to SC3. This was a very nice camp with plenty of room for tents and a great view of the canyon walls to the east and west.

So far our plan for camping after relatively short hikes was working very well. We never felt rushed and took our time at each major point of interest we wanted to visit.

We walked back up to the pool from SC3 to get water which was a short distance and very convenient, similar in distance to our walk back from SC2.

Day Four: SC3 to Angel Arch Canyon

We had rain during the night, but not as much as we experienced at Cathedral Butte, and decided to take the time to dry out the tents in the morning sun before packing them away. Because of the location of SC3, the sun came early to that side of the canyon, which we appreciated.

From SC3 we encountered Upper Jump, which is an interesting section where the water falls off a shelf down to another pool.
From Upper Jump we had the chance to look at a set of ruins high up in the wall on north side of the canyon. An interesting pictograph on the west end of the ruins looks like a set of paper dolls with joined hands.

I checked out SC4 even though we weren’t scheduled to camp there. It’s a small camp, so if there were more than two tent sites needed, it would be a bit more challenging. This is the last camp that is by reservation only, and the last camp with bear boxes (20mm rocket boxes in river rafting language.) From Angel Arch Canyon down to Peek a Boo Springs it’s at-large camping, no reservations needed. The park rangers refer to it as The Zone.

We arrived at Angel Arch Canyon in plenty of time to hike up to Angel Arch that afternoon. We decided to camp just downstream from the entrance to Angel Arch Canyon in an area that is definitely used for camping frequently. There was plenty of open space with rocks piled up for the “kitchen” and the protection of large cottonwood trees.

We set our packs down and headed back up Angel Arch Canyon. The last time I had been here was in 1974 and we had traveled up the canyon from the visitor’s center by Jeep all the way to Angel Arch. The canyon seems to be taking back it’s pre-Jeep road state and on occasion you can see the two-track road, but it also appears that flash flooding and plant growth are hiding what was a trail in many places.

Even as a teenage I remember being very impressed with Angel Arch and I was anxious to see it again. We were not disappointed. Angel Arch sits high on the western wall of the canyon as it boxes out and is simply much more spectacular in person than any picture can capture. But that can be said about most of the desert southwest.

The wind picked up pretty good while enjoying Angel Arch and continued to be steady and strong on our way back. Cooking dinner was a bit challenging with a strong wind. Setting up tents was even more challenging as the winds continued to be steady and strong.

As the sun went down, so did the winds and the night was calm and mostly uneventful. Some kind of rodent took an interest in the bag of sunflower seeds that was in an outside pocket of my backpack, even though it was covered in a plastic garbage bag. It climbed up underneath the cover and chewed a hole right through the thick fabric of the backpack to get at the seeds inside. I suppose in the future I will keep the food in the middle and deep inside my pack to reduce the temptation for rodents. It would have been convenient to have the bear boxes there also, but as of this hike in April 2011 the boxes are only found in the upper section of Salt Creek and not in The Zone.

Day Five: Angel Arch Canyon to Peek a Boo Springs Camp

The hike from Angel Arch Canyon to Peek a Boo Springs was the longest day of hiking so far on the trip. Because there weren’t any significant side hikes, it worked out fine to schedule the trip that way.

One of the larger side canyons to the west appeared to have really pushed a lot of water through in the past. Later that day in talking to one of the rangers hiking up Salt Creek, he mentioned that a major flash flood had come through there in August 2010. So only about 8 month previous there had been significant flash flooding through that area.

The canyon was narrowing a lot more than prior to Angel Arch Canyon and the scenery was excellent. We were fortunate to have been able to get a reservation for the Peek a Boo Springs Jeep Camp which is normally only available to vehicle campers coming up the canyon to that point.

We were able to cut off a whole bend in the canyon by hiking up and through the arch that gives this area the name of Peek a Boo. One of the very nice things about camping in the vehicle camp was the convenience of a picnic table, but more importantly a vault toilet that meant not having to dig cat holes and helps minimize that human impact in the canyon. I suppose we could also debate the impact of the construction of a vault toilet as well.

It was also very obvious that major flashflooding had come through this area because the gate that prevents vehicles from going any further up the canyon was laying on the floor of the creek bed and the creek bed was significantly wider than the gate would ever be able to cover. I suspect the flooding also made most of the road impassable from Peek a Boo back to the confluence of Horse Creek and the entrance to the canyon further downstream.

About 8 years prior to this trip I drove a Jeep up as far as the Peek a Boo Camp. I towed a Ford Explorer out of that section that had sucked water into the engine and blew the motor. The water in that section would sometimes be up to the bumper on my Jeep. I wonder what it must have looked like after the flash flooding from the previous August? I wondered even more if hiking out that way would have required stream crossings that meant getting boots and lower legs wet or not. Hiking out from Peek a Boo to the Horse Canyon gate is an alternate exit for this hike.

Day Six: Peek a Boo Springs to Squaw Flats Trailhead via the Peek a Boo Trail

This day brought overcast skies and the threat of rain. We made our way around the larger bend of Salt Creek Canyon when you leave Peek a Boo to a place were a long ladder helps you get up and out of Salt Creek Canyon and working your way northwest back to Squaw Flats.

Having not been on the Peek a Boo trail before, I had imagined it to weave through canyons to Lost Canyon. But to my surprise we just kept climbing higher and higher until we were almost at the highest level we could get. It started to rain softly which wasn’t too bad, except that it did make the grip on slick rock a little less sure. I would not attempt this section if it were icy or if there was snow.

There were a couple of occasions where the trail edged along some pretty steep drop offs, so if you are fearful of edges or heights, you might have a hard time in a few places. A couple of times I lost my footing coming off a ledge because it was wet, but nothing serious and in dry conditions it probably wouldn’t be a problem.

The final day proved to be the most challenging physically as there was a fair amount of elevation gain and loss. I suppose you could break up this section by staying at the backcountry camp at the junction of Lost Canyon and the Peek a Boo trail. This camp requires a reservation like the camps in the upper section of Salt Creek.

Since the trail skirts edges of a number of canyons on the way to Squaw Flats, the views of the Needles District, the Blue Mountains, and the La Sal Mountains were excellent. Well worth the extra effort to exit via the Peek a Boo Trail.

Once we reached the trailhead, my wife and I drove the vehicle we left there back up to Cathedral Butte and made the return trip back to Squaw Flats in about an hour and a half. Poor road conditions could make it much more time consuming.

We had dinner in Moab and made it home to Salt Lake City later that evening.

Salt Creek is an excellent intermediate hike. Not one I would consider for a beginner. A back country permit is required and campsites SC1 - SC4 are assigned by the NPS. I recommend going on-line at to print a permit request well in advance of your hike. Of course, the information provided is not to be relied on as canyon country can change dramatically at anytime and weather conditions can have a significant impact on your experience. Use your own judgment and resources to determine whether this hike is for you or not.

© DTE Consulting 2011. “Helping you Do The Extraordinary!”

New Year's Resolutions-Oh No! Not Again!

I believe it’s very possible to create excellent New Year’s Resolutions and make that annual process a great and productive experience. I also think it’s essential to have our lives turn out in a way in which we can look back on our lives with satisfaction, not regret. I also believe it is NEVER too late regardless of your age. So please don’t “check out” on this message, thinking there isn’t anything you can do differently.

To set the stage, I’d like to first identify what I think are some of the inherent problems associated with goal setting and why it often doesn’t work. The first being the kind of environment we live in today. With the constant barrage of media influence and the ability to have worldly influences 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; it makes it very difficult to follow the Lord’s scriptural call to “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Also, the media barrage also makes it nearly impossible to develop any level of self confidence when the messages are that we don’t have the right car or other possessions, or the perfect body, or that we better check with our doctor to make sure we’re not missing out on the latest new prescription to heal the disease we don’t even know we have. These worldly influence can leave us very confused or misguided on what goals we should set in the first place.

The Law of Harvest is a concept lost on those of us who have never been acquainted with the farm life. The law of the harvest is also found in the scriptures and essentially states that we reap what we sow. So if we spend our evenings watching mindless shows and negative examples of life around the world, what do you think will be the result? The Law of the Harvest would suggest if we sow sarcasm and negativity, we will only reap the same. The Law of the Harvest also suggests that even when we sow good seeds, we must wait for the natural cycle before we can reap the harvest.

So it would make sense to have some patience in the process of goal setting and not give up in early February because we aren’t seeing the harvest. We reap in the “harvest time” of the cycle, no sooner, whether we want it now or not.

In the United States we pride ourselves on the freedom and opportunity we have. But I also think we’ve strayed a bit and live in a culture that pushes us to discard our dreams and pursuit of our natural talents in order to fall in line with the mantra of pursuing educational choices that will get us the best jobs, not what builds on our natural God given talents and gifts. The question, "How much did they pay you to give up on your dreams?" can be heart wrenching question if we consider truthfully what we've set aside in pursuit of the well-paying job or a chance to climb the corporate ladder.

This supressed desire about living a life that’s one’s purpose doesn’t just happen by chance or by doing things the same way we’ve always done them in the past. According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is “to do the same things over and over again expecting a different result.” So if we aren't living a life full of joy and purpose, something must change in us or we're living a life of insanity as Einstein would define it.

My personal experience with this started a while ago. My opinions and attitudes began to shift about 15 years ago with the realization that our education should never end and personal development should be a daily pursuit. That lead to a realization that “working endless hours in a job” at the expense of my family relationships and spiritual well-being was not the answer. So began the pursuit of a balanced lifestyle.

That lead to a pursuit of trying the find the ideal career for me. About 2 months ago a made a very interesting discovery. I found a notebook I had been using in the fall of 1998 based on some of the dates I had written in the notebook. On some of the pages I had written what I felt would be the ideal career for me. Since that time I have had 6 different jobs, 3 different career changes, and lost my job 3 out of the 6 times that I changed. During the 6 year span from when I wrote down my ideal career until I started doing what I do now, consulting and personal coaching, I don’t think I ever reviewed what I had written down again. In fact, even though I had an idea in my mind about what I had written down, I forgot I had written it down until recently.

The big surprise was that except for a couple of minor points, what I had written down is what I do today. What I had written down was an industry in its infancy, personal coaching, and I didn’t even know existed until I found it 5 years ago.

One thing I do know is that if I had never decided to continue my personal education, set some goals, and write down my ideal career I never would have found myself in a position to pursue the career I’m in now and doing what I would consider in many ways is my life’s purpose.

I just don’t think it ever would have happened if I didn’t at least informally set some goals. I’m also of the opinion that we have a lot more control over how our lives turn out than we may think. In a book called, “Something More” by Sarah Ban Breathnach she writes, “…Joy is the absence of fear. Joy is your soul’s knowledge that if you don’t get the promotion, keep the relationship, or buy the house, it’s because you weren’t meant to. You’re meant to have something better, something richer, something deeper. Something more. Joy is where your life began, with your first cry. Joy is your birthright.
“However, reclaiming joy as your birthright requires a profound inner shift in your reality. Most of us unconsciously create dramas in our minds, automatically expecting the worst from every situation, only to have our negative expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies. Inadvertently, we become the authors of our own misfortune. And so we struggle from day to day, careening from crisis to crisis, bruised and battered by circumstances, without realizing that we have a choice.”
(By the way, I found that book for $2.00 at a thrift store. Your continued pursuit of education doesn’t have to be exceptionally expensive.)

My observation working with people all over the world in many cultures and mindsets is that until someone figures out what their “life purpose” is they don’t do very well with goal setting and definitely not very well with goal achievement. In Proverbs 29:18 we read, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

The bible has many stories of people who's lives changed dramatically when they discovered what it was they were meant to do.

Moses had fled Egypt as a wanted man, only to find out on a mountain in the wilderness what his divine purpose was. Once his purpose was understood, finding the courage, energy, and will to persist to the end wasn’t as difficult.

Queen Esther found herself in a position to save her people, the Jews, from certain destruction. But she was very hesitant to plead with the king to save them because of the real possibility she would be put to death for coming to see the king without an appointment. But Mordecai in an effort to help her understand her purpose simply said, “…and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” So Esther asked the Jews to pray for her and away she went to fulfill her purpose and save a people from destruction. (See Esther 4:14)

These are great stories of individuals who followed through in great ways, documented in the scriptures to be remembered and studied for generations and generations. But what can we do? We’re just ordinary everyday people right?

I think if everyone were to dig deep down inside their hearts and minds, we would just know that we are here not by chance, but by design and purpose. “For such a time as this...for such a time as this.”
So it would make total sense to me that we can and should seek to be inspired to figure out our divine purpose. As well as figure out our unique gifts and talents and then use them purposefully through intention and planning.

I think at times it can actually feel quite overwhelming and even frightening to learn what we are really capable of. I’ve often had the thought that, “it would be a lot easier to just stay in my routine and not press outside my comfort zone. But then I have learned that our comfort zones are really a prison of our own making and we really won’t grow by staying there.

I have a quote on my office wall I heard was that was attributed to the author Og Mandino that says, “ The most selfish thing I can do is to be consumed with thoughts of self-doubt. Because when I am, I rob myself and everyone else around me of my greatest talents.”

The discovering of our divine and inspired purpose is a worthy challenge all on its own. Once that’s figured out, identifying resolutions and goal setting becomes so much easier, and infinitely more productive.

How many times do we set goals that seem to be only appropriate and nice for others? Perhaps we even set them for “their” approval, whoever “they” are. That goal, or those goals (unless they are very easy) are pretty much doomed for failure because we don’t really have the internal passion to achieve them. They really belong to someone else.

When our own divine purpose is understood, all goals we set must fit within the context of our eternal purpose. So an important part of proper goal setting is to make sure it’s YOUR goal, and not just someone else you’re trying to please. But keep in mind, the context of insisting on the goals being your goals, is that you have first discovered by divine inspiration what you should be doing already.
I think it’s also important to understand as it’s so famously noted in Ecclesiastes 3:1. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”

So now we come to the real challenge of goal setting and New Year’s Resolutions. Knowing the balance between what we think we want, and what we really should want, and the timing of when we should pursue each worthy and inspired goal.

Every December we hear or read the Christmas Story as recounted in the Gospel of Luke. Think about Mary, the mother of Jesus preparing for a wonderful future with Joseph, only to find out life would soon change dramatically. So an angel tells her about a new plan and then says, “For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’” And with the customs and culture of that day, she was essentially agreeing to a situation that would bring her great shame and ridicule. And also most likely lose the life she planning with Joseph. According to custom he had the choice to put her away either publicly or privately. And she probably didn’t know which of the two difficult options he would choose. In her virtuous mindset, I’m sure she didn’t have a lot of time to think through what was ahead and what option Joseph might choose. And then Joseph as well had a choice to make that was different than his hopes and plans. Again, through inspiration, he chose a new plan and both he and Mary were greatly blessed for their decisions based on new, inspired information. (Luke 1:37-38) “To everything a time and season.”

So not only should we pursue our life’s purpose with passion and enthusiasm, we should be ready and able to change course with faith when new and inspired information comes.
But I don’t think it’s the regular practice of God to smack us over the head with what we’re supposed to be doing. We need to seek out what our unique and divine purpose is through inspiration and then trust God that He will make a way for us to pursue that purpose with passion, remembering that “…all things are possible, to him that believeth.”

We may not be someone who ends up documented in the history books for having been a positive influence on thousands and thousands like our prophets through the ages, but we can certainly make a difference in the life of one person. Asking or wondering how our positive influence on one person can really make a difference is like asking how many oak trees lay dormant in one acorn? We may never know in this life, but we do know that “our joy will be great with the one, or one’s we labor diligently with” in our circle of influence.

But none of this is likely to happen just by chance. So why not pursue the discovery of why you are here? And then, be better able to serve the one, or the many with your unique gifts. Why not decide that God is really in charge and knows who you are. Why not set some excellent New Year’s Resolutions and then some specific goals to accomplish them?

Live on purpose knowing an all-knowing, kind, and loving Heavenly Father sent you here for a purpose and make each day exciting and meaningful, come what may.

© DTE Consulting 2010. “Helping you DThe Extraordinary!”