Forum Index > Trip Reports > Canyonlands NP backpack: Island bliss April 5-9, 2014  Maps!
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John Morrow
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PostWed Apr 09, 2014 3:23 pm 
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Island in the Sky District
Part 1 of my 2014 Canyon Country travels.

I have some firm dates later in the month but I had no specific plan as I drove through Salt lake on what to do first.  I-15 through Provo means decision time at the forks.  I heard that Canyonlands National Park got snow last week which could open up some longer hiking opportunities in its' driest district: The Island in the Sky.
Now, the Island gets an undeserving cold shoulder by the backpacking crowd, so I was even more determined to find some special stuff both, off the beaten path, and that I haven't tried.  My thought was; do a loop hike around the tip of Grandview Point and Junction Butte, beginning at the Gooseberry Traihhead and ending at Murphy Trailhead.  If you know it at all you are probably saying, "Who wants to walk the White Rim road???  Hoping that the White Rim sandstone potholes indeed held recent snowmelt for water, my idea was to find descents through the vertical White Rim and explore its hidden riches below.

Day 1, April 5, Government Trail:
OK, day one actually started with a day hike.  Why? Well I didn't fully trust water availability so I figured I'd supplement.  An unpublished trail... downclimb actually, called Gov't Trail or Murphy Basin Route would drop me down to the White Rim at about the 1/2 way point of the loop.  With a special cache permit from the rangers I set out to cache 2.5 gallons of milk jugs and bottles of water down onto the rim for pickup a couple days later.
Yes, Government Trail... well, it is no trail!  I put it at exposed Class 3 or even Class 4, with 20 pounds of sloshing water weight centered against my shoulder blades inside the daypack.  Exciting it was. After carefully picking my way down, occasionally lowering the awfully weird weighing pack to ledges below, I managed to safely reach the scree below.  it was done.

Murphy basin Route: good start
Murphy basin Route: good start
Whoa, this is gritty
Whoa, this is gritty
Call this a trail?
Call this a trail?
Com' on man!
Com' on man!
Finally through
Finally through
At the Monument rim
At the Monument rim
Drop off the 2 gal cache
Drop off the 2 gal cache

A short loop back via a wash leading to the Junction Butte-Grandview Point saddle, then up through the ledges, and I was ready to start the next day.

Cool tower
Cool tower
That's the route
That's the route
Last look
Last look
Grandview Point
Grandview Point
Time to go again
Time to go again
The trail is not a trail..Gary Snyder
The trail is not a trail..Gary Snyder
Slight exposure I'd say
Slight exposure I'd say
Yeah, right..made it, whew
Yeah, right..made it, whew
Back on top
Back on top

Camped at the Wllow Flat campground for the night I went up a nearby butte for sunset.

IMG_6486
IMG_6486
IMG_6488
IMG_6488
Incoming weather
Incoming weather

Day 2, April 6, Gooseberry trail to Dogleg Canyon and  Monument Basin:

Goal for this day was to descend the awesome Gooseberry Trail (previous report here: http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8004825&highlight=) to the White Rim. Then I'd leave the road, and walk along the rim on great cryptobiotic free solid flat stone, to the head of dogleg Canyon.  Here I hoped to find both water, and a safe entry into Dogleg Canyon for future walking.  Last year I found an entrance into Gooseberry, which will connect nicely at the Colorado River with Dog Leg and form a loop trip.  It went perfectly.  I got water at the head of Little Dogleg, accessed and entrance into Dog Leg proper, and even saw water there as well.

Time to drop Gooseberry
Time to drop Gooseberry
Gooseberry switchbacks bottom
Gooseberry switchbacks bottom
Gosseberry canyon proper
Gosseberry canyon proper
Esay walking on the white rim
Esay walking on the white rim
Started up at the overlook
Started up at the overlook
Water! In little Dogleg Cyn
Water! In little Dogleg Cyn
Water in main Dogleg!
Water in main Dogleg!
Crazy Organ Rock formation
Crazy Organ Rock formation
Dogleg entrance...goes
Dogleg entrance...goes
More Dogleg water, too
More Dogleg water, too

Then it was on to the edge of Monument Basin to find a camp on the hard rock of the rim.  in th eevening I found the second route I hoped to find.  This one I took as an evening walk: the Sheep Trail descent into Monument Basin itself.  So awesome down there.  Even a tiny pothole of water.

onto east rim Monument Basin
onto east rim Monument Basin
Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, UT
Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, UT
Cool...Monument Basin goes!
Cool...Monument Basin goes!
one capful at a time!
one capful at a time!
Evening among Monuments
Evening among Monuments
Colorado River view dusk
Colorado River view dusk
Fantastic camp over river!
Fantastic camp over river!
From the tent!
From the tent!
eve. stroll down Monument route
eve. stroll down Monument route
The way in
The way in
Far enough...it goes easy
Far enough...it goes easy
Colorful Monuments
Colorful Monuments
I don't like these...
I don't like these...

A great camp and great sunset ensued.

IMG_6563
IMG_6563
Needles area sunset over river
Needles area sunset over river
fading light
fading light

Day 3, April 7, 2014, Monument Basin to the White Crack Trail

After a nice sunrise, I headed west, reunited with my water, and moved on to the White Crack Trail over a few miles of the White Rim Road.  Since water had been plentiful, at that point I was carrying 3 gallons!

First light on Junction Butte
First light on Junction Butte
Sunrise color, Monument Basin
Sunrise color, Monument Basin
White Rim above Colorado River. Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, UT
White Rim above Colorado River. Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, UT
Best camp ever
Best camp ever
Yet more water!
Yet more water!
IMG_6598
IMG_6598

Fortunately I ferried half of that only two miles to the White Crack Road jct for my final days later.  At the White Crack Vehicle Camp I quickly found the "Crack Route", once blasted by ambitious uranium miners.  It wasn't hard, follow the cairns to the 6 foot fence post drilled into the rock.  I finished the day a few miles down this old trail to find a camp within a days walk to the Green River, hopefully.  Camp located on perhaps my favorite formation: the Cedar Mesa Sandstone of Needles and Maze fame.
Another great sunset.

The "White Crack" to descend
The "White Crack" to descend
Into the lovely Cedar Mesa sandstone
Into the lovely Cedar Mesa sandstone
Lithics 800+ yrs old
Lithics 800+ yrs old
Sunset on the Cedar Mesa forms
Sunset on the Cedar Mesa forms
The Needles through there
The Needles through there

Day 4, April 8, White crack Trail to Stove canyon to Green River. Retrace steps, find water, pack up camp and do the brutal 10 miles to Murphy Wash Trail with 8 on the road.  I know one can do a traverse along the Chinle rim at the base of junction Butte but I was too tired.

After sunrise, I was off to the Green river.  The trail led me right to the edge of Stove Canyon (unlabelled on map).  Stove went fine and fun on trail and cairned route, and soon I was splashing off in the Green River.

Total confusion country
Total confusion country
Maze crazed
Maze crazed
Ekker Butte
Ekker Butte
Wait...best camp ever? Island in the Sky District.
Wait...best camp ever? Island in the Sky District.
forget-me-not
forget-me-not
florals
florals
some yellow thing
some yellow thing
The Green River!
The Green River!
Stove Canyon...goes?
Stove Canyon...goes?
fun stuff!
fun stuff!
it goes!
it goes!
At the river
At the river
Stove route above nice camp
Stove route above nice camp
Soak and splash!
Soak and splash!
Back out
Back out
Met this one
Met this one
stately
stately
Sheep love views too
Sheep love views too
Very friendly
Very friendly
maybe, too friendly
maybe, too friendly
Cedar Mesa canyons water!
Cedar Mesa canyons water!
Love these forms
Love these forms
Tent along tree upper right
Tent along tree upper right
Tent view
Tent view

Yes the long walk to Murphy was a death march, but I wanted to get a predawn headlamp start on the last day to snag a campsite at Willow Flat campground.  lately full by 9AM!

Leaving for White Crack
Leaving for White Crack
Up the crack
Up the crack
reunited with bumped up cache
reunited with bumped up cache
The twins
The twins
Twins Basin to Needles and Grabens
Twins Basin to Needles and Grabens
Heading north, endless road
Heading north, endless road
Last White Rim view
Last White Rim view
15 endless miles done!
15 endless miles done!

I arrived at 7:30 to a rock flat enough to throw my pad and bag down on and set up to watch the sunset.

IMG_6710
IMG_6710
IMG_6711 Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky District
IMG_6711 Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky District

Day 5, April 9, murphy Wash trail to Murphy Trail to the Trailhead.

Up and moving at 5:45AM the first 2 miles went fun via headlamp as I watched an incredible milky Way fade with morning light.  Soon I was in the switchbacks and seriously bonking in sleep deprived extreme fatigue.  But the sun color views made it easier.  although, not faster, yet I was able to get the last available site at Willow Flat Campground for the night!

Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky District
Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky District
Sun coming up
Sun coming up
Murphy Trail climb
Murphy Trail climb
NPS trailwork
NPS trailwork
Nice bridge
Nice bridge
Sun shines
Sun shines
Finally!
Finally!

Gotta go...this establishment is closing.  Maps and edits to follow at some point!


Maps added:

April 8
April 8
April 9
April 9

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“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”-Mary Oliver

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”
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bobbi
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PostWed Apr 09, 2014 4:15 pm 
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oh my…..what great hiking with awesome weather!

water may have been from some recent rains?  very timely!

scorpion, nope shakehead.gif

thanks for sharing your trip and fabulous photos! up.gif

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bobbi ૐ

"Today is your day!  Your mountain is waiting.  So…get on your way!" - Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss
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MyFootHurts
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PostWed Apr 09, 2014 5:34 pm 
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The Colorado Plateau makes the NW look like Detroit.
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GaliWalker
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Have camera will use
PostWed Apr 09, 2014 5:48 pm 
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And so it begins...John Morrow's annual spring series of superb, envy-inducing trip reports from the southwest.

Bravo to the first installment!

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Photography: https://www.flickr.com/photos/shahiddurrani/albums
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ragman and rodman
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PostWed Apr 09, 2014 6:41 pm 
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Simply incredible!!  up.gif  up.gif

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"Teanaway 70" Peaks List... a guide to hiking and scrambling in the Teanaway Area.
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Rainie Too!
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PostWed Apr 09, 2014 7:51 pm 
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up.gif  up.gif  up.gif
Can't wait to see and hear more!
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John Morrow
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PostSat Apr 12, 2014 2:12 pm 
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Thanks everyone!  Happy and hopeful that it will inspire adventures for others to come.

I added maps to the original post, at bottom, for anyone interested.

John

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“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”-Mary Oliver

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”
― MLK Jr.
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olderthanIusedtobe
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PostSat Apr 12, 2014 3:37 pm 
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MyFootHurts wrote:
The Colorado Plateau makes the NW look like Detroit.

Really?  The desert southwest is cool no doubt, TOTALLY different than the northwest, but the NW rocks.  I'll keep it, you can have Detroit.  I'd say the NW makes the SW look like Mars.
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olderthanIusedtobe
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PostSat Apr 12, 2014 3:38 pm 
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Great pictures by the OP, sounds like quite an adventure.  Nice when it all works out according to plan.
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Jim Dockery
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PostMon Apr 14, 2014 3:55 pm 
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up.gif  up.gif

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Gwen
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PostTue Apr 15, 2014 1:17 am 
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GaliWalker wrote:
And so it begins...John Morrow's annual spring series of superb, envy-inducing trip reports from the southwest.

Bravo to the first installment!

Yeah, what he said!   up.gif

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Tomorrow's not promised to anyone, so be bold, scare yourself, attempt something with no guarantee of success. You'll be amazed at what you can achieve. -Olive McGloin
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D. Inscho
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PostTue Apr 15, 2014 6:57 am 
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I'm not surprised you were bonking John; manic coverage of the area!  You really know how to sling a camera too.  Very nice photo work.  (I love seeing red BTW) wink.gif
eve. stroll down Monument route
eve. stroll down Monument route

Thanks for taking the time to post the images and narrative.

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The key to a successful trip is to do the planning during work hours.       --  John Muir
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Gabigabs
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PostTue Apr 15, 2014 9:32 am 
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Great adventure  up.gif

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Life is simple... Eat, Sleep, Hike!
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nuclear_eggset
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PostTue Apr 15, 2014 10:40 am 
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Very pretty!  Thanks for sharing such a different landscape!
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