Day 6: from Indian Creek through the middle of nowhere to Canyonlands National Park

Woke up with dew from the meager puddles of Indian Creek condensed over my sleeping bag, the cost associated with sleeping without a tent. The accumulating damp over the night hours interrupted my sleep some. I woke up tired. 

 The silvery blue dawn broke the  night around me as I walked those first still minutes of the day. Morning comes from the sky but also seems to reflect from the rocks and sand and seep into the air. This was the morning I walked in, a slowingly emerging ambient light in the bottom of Indian Creek, not a flowing creek (those don’t exist out here so far) but a sandy wash bottom that carries a subterranean flow which occasionally sees fit to seep to the muddy surface in still puddles. My shoes stick in the mud and sometimes the muddy surface is treacherously unstable and sucks the foot in instantly. 

I feel like I finally woke up on the ascent out of Indian Creek, up an broken sandstone formation whose rumpled shoulder reached from the meandering plateaus 600 feet above all the way down to the creek bottom. Climbing the shoulder was in spurts of effort–a few normal uphill steps followed by a heave up a ledge or wedging oneself with pack into and up a chimney. Eventually on top, wide views of flat earth interrupted with drainages in every direction, we contoured this high Mesa land, the Chesler Park needles of Canyonlands in the attainable distance. From the high plateau tops of this canyonated country, where I felt fine and almost of the air myself, I enjoyed another sandstone scramble descent into a drainage, this one my drainage, the one for me. Dropping down ledges, maneuvering around pour offs, climbing down through joints in the rock, all kinetically composed and graceful. I quite enjoy it. 

The sandy bottom drainage eventually met a dirt road which eventually met the main Canyonlands National Park road and there, the visitor center with flushable toilets and a water tap. I don’t really have any complaints about the water out here. On the contrary, I’m thrilled to find it when it makes a magical appearance in this dry land of sand. But the sources are all fairly alkaline (a fact which I think may have caught up unfavorably with my digestion) and the visitor center, tapped and cold, was a welcome salve after the heat of the day. 

Oh, the heat! A bit of a heat wave has made itself at home here and in every direction today, heat shimmers danced in the air. It was a powerful sun, and light or no breeze at all. My thermometer was 90 in the sun. I was in the sun because desert road walking is decidedly unshaded. The visitor center had a weather report which said a high of 78 F today but it felt much much hotter. It’s hard not to assume this foreshadows difficulty ahead–summer come too soon, dried up water sources after a weak winter, heat. But I know heat waves fade and the cold could return again. I hope it does, if hope has any place on a trip such as this. 

Here is something about the desert. It doesn’t hold on to things. Heat, cold, water, wind. It doesn’t resist them either. A day can be intense heat and sun baking down on the land and then it rushes away in the night and cold settles in. Wind comes and passes unfettered across the great open expanses and dances across the cliffs and rock formations. Water made this place, sculpted it. The desert let it in, let it go, and has been changed. No resistance and no clutching. 

I’m camped at Squaw Flat Campground in the park. I enjoyed the luxury of washing some underwear in a sink with soap. I even hitched over to Needles Outpost for some extra food and a burger (by the way, I probably had 8 days of food leaving Moab, at least twice what I needed). The hitch back was harder and I ended up walking an extra five miles today trying to get back to camp, sadly watching clean people whizz by in clean cars with empty back seats while I melted on the side of the road. Eventually I got a ride the last mile. So here I am. 

spring growth

morning climbing


walking the paved road in Canyonlands



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