Wednesday, May 11, 2016

needles district, second day

Wednesday morning we got up, had breakfast (oatmeal with dried cherries and bananas, and Poptart chasers) and drove to the Elephant Hill trailhead in CNP.  Access is via a narrow, winding 2.7 mile dirt road and while we didn't meet anyone going the opposite way, we both were thinking that it could get a little nerve-wracking later in the day on the drive out.  We got to the trailhead around 9 a.m.  There were a good number of cars already there, including a jeep making its way up the challenging Elephant Hill 4WD/ORV road, but it wasn't full.  It was already hot, though, so we slathered on more sunscreen and hit the trail.

View of the Needles from the trailhead

The plan was to hike out to Druid Arch, a 10+ mile out-and-back and one of the most popular hikes in the Needles District.  At the third trail junction, however, we second-guessed ourselves and went the wrong way.  (Note to selves: for future reference, take Hiking Canyonlands and Arches National Parks because it has explicit mileage/junction directions.)  At about five miles into the hike, we did consult the book we had brought (without explicit mileage/junction directions) along with the GPS and determined that we were, in fact, nowhere near Druid Arch.  Because we had gone through half our water at this point, we decided to turn around.

The squeeze

Despite our mis-navigation, the trail was gorgeous, all slickrock and sandy washes and narrow passages through the giant sandstone fins that make up the actual Needles.  We saw lots of lizards and songbirds, some squirrels and plentiful deer tracks.  What we didn't see many of were people - and I suspect we would have, if we'd been on the Druid Arch trail - and that was just fine by us.

View of the La Sals from not-Druid Arch

When we got back to the truck, the parking lot was full and it was quite hot.  We met five cars on the drive out but amazingly, we had no trouble get pass one another.  After quick stops into the Needles District visitors' center (for a puzzle and a sticker) and the Needles Outpost store (for ice and shower tokens), we headed back to camp.  It felt great to shower off all the sand, salt and sunscreen and we then settled in under the juniper trees as the sun worked itself lower in the sky.

H on the trail

Dinner was not quite as good as the previous night's - chicken and broccoli alfredo, using canned chicken and home dehydrated broccoli - but we still snarfed it down quickly.  The evening was windy and quite a lot warmer than the night before; despite this, we felt a campfire was in order so that we could have something to stare at alternately with the stars overhead.

Looking west from our tent

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