Friday, November 11, 2016

november long weekend in moab pt. 2

We hadn't made much of a plan for this Moab trip but we did decide to do a long hike on Sunday.  We geared up, stopping at the grocery store for breakfast and lunch fixings first before heading up to Canyonlands National Park's Island in the Sky.  We had hoped to renew our parks pass on the way in but Canyonlands is on winter hours currently and the visitors' center didn't open until 9 a.m.; when we got to the trail head, we stuck our expired park pass in the window and hoped for the best.  (We were able to renew our pass on the way out.)

Finishing my doughnut before hitting the trail

There was only one other car at the Murphy Point trail head when we got there.  We snarfed down bagels and doughnuts while putting on our boots and then hit the trail at 9 a.m.  We'd done the shorter Murphy Point overlook trail a couple years ago - our trail this time was the Murphy Loop, a lollipop that started out down the face of the mesa. 

Looking out over the rim

The descent wasn't as intense as going down Gooseberry had been, but it felt a little sketchier than the Syncline Loop descent.  Still, since we were following switchbacks down the face of the cliff, we descended really quickly.

That's what we came down

At the bottom of the cliff, we were presented with a choice for the loop portion: to the left down Murphy Wash or to the right across the Murphy Hogback.  Since our books recommended a counterclockwise route, we headed out across the hogback.  This was a fantastic trail, dry and level, hardpacked dirt winding its way through the desert vegetation.  The views, as they usually are in Canyonlands, were spectacular, with the winding canyons below and in front of us and the red cliffs of the mesa behind us.

H heading out across the hogback

After 4.8 miles, we turned left onto the famed White Rim Road, a 100-mile dirt MTB/OHV trail.  We met a couple of MTBers who were doing the whole thing, a multi-day trip supported by a Jeep carrying water, food, camping equipment (and beers, presumably).  They had just finished a brutal climb and were pretty gassed - but not so much so that they couldn't gawk at the gawk-worthy scenery. 

Don't know what it is but it's pretty, even dry

We continued along the road, down that hill and into the Murphy Wash which would complete the loop at the base of the mountain.  Walking up the wash was a little more challenging than the trail across the hogback had been - the footing was loose sand and pebbles - but the ascent, though constant, was gradual and made up for all the elevation we had lost on the White Rim Road rather painlessly.

View out towards the White Rim and the river

Just as we started the climb back up to the mesa, we met three other hikers who had just descended.  This was around 1:00 p.m. and we were a little concerned for them: we had already been out for four hours and were now on our way up; they didn't seem to be as strong hikers as we were and the sun would be setting at 5:10 p.m., leaving them just over four hours to do the loop and get back up the cliffside.  Maybe they had head lamps with them but climbing back up to the mesa was not something we would want to do.  They didn't ask our opinion, however, so we wished them well and all parties continued on their respective ways.

From whence we came

It took us 39 minutes to get back up to the mesa, the cliff walls baking in the afternoon sun.  The beers and sandwiches that were waiting for us at the truck were very well received at that point (10.68 miles; just over 4 hours of walking, 56 minutes of rest/looking around; 1,500 feet of elevation; 2.6 m.p.h. moving average speed and 2.1 m.p.h. overall average speed).  It was a great hike over varied terrain with few other humans around - doesn't get much better than that.

Heading up the wash towards the cliffs

We repeated the routine back at the motel - showers and then beers in front of the room whilst listening to the music from the Folk Festival wafting from a few streets over.  Then the evening's entertainment included a quick drink at Woody's, followed by a walk to Milt's Stop N' Eat for cheeseburgers and chocolate shakes under the tree out front.

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