|The sun rises over Utah's Canyonlands at White Rim Overlook.|
Day two started with a 5 am wake-up call. I had a big day planned, and with short days, some things needed to be done in the dark. Yesterday, it was 19 biking miles in darkness (but also the least exciting part of my loop). Today, it would be a run up the Gooseberry Trail by headlamp.
I still remember how quiet and calm the air was when my watch beeped and woke me from my slumber. There would be no more quiet and calm for the rest of the day unfortunately. Springtime in Canyonlands is completely unpredictable, and you'll often experience different weather from day to day or even hour to hour. The story of this day was the wind.
|This is where the Gooseberry Trail leaves the wash and begins its endless zig-zagging through the cliffs. There is some exposure near the top, but the trail is well constructed and easy to follow.|
|While the views are OK from the top of Gooseberry, a 0.8-mile run out onto a narrow peninsula and to the White Rim Overlook offers one of the grandest views in the Southwest.|
|View south from the White Rim Overlook. The White Rim Jeep Road can be seen contouring around the head of Monument Basin below. Later that afternoon I would ride that portion of the White Rim. The Abajo Mountains are in the far distance.|
|View northeast from White Rim Overlook. Gooseberry Canyon at lower left; my campsite is near the canyon rim and just off of the left side of photo. Prominent mesa in mid distance is Hatch Point. The La Sals appear in the far distance.|
|Bird's-eye view into Monument Basin from White Rim Overlook.|
|Running the wash part of Gooseberry Trail.|
After nearly getting blown off the Island in the Sky, it was no surprise to return to camp and find my bedroll plastered in sagebrush.
The plan today was to cover about 35 miles of the White Rim to Potato Bottom camp, and to squeeze in some additional hikes as well.
East of Monument Basin and well below the White Rim, near Sheep Bottom along the Colorado, there is a long-forgotten open-pit uranium mine. The hike down into this country is scenic and interesting with some 1950s-era junk lying around. On May 19, 1973, three National Park biologists and a local pilot were killed when their small plane crashed somewhere between the uranium mine and Sheep Bottom. More about this tragic event can be found in M. Kelsey's Canyonlands guidebook. Reportedly, the plane and the bodies were badly burned, but at such a remote location, you would think some parts of the wreckage would still be there. Kelsey mentions that he has yet to find the exact site. I was pretty confident I could sniff it out, but I also came up empty after spending way too much time looking. Perhaps flood waters have flushed anything left down to the Colorado? If anyone happens to find this crash site, please let me know.
|Somewhere in this gutted No-Man's Land are the charred remains of a Cessna Super 185. It is well hidden.|
|Then, I started seeing orange chert scattered everywhere. Clearly this stuff wasn't carried in, but is weathering directly out of the Permian-age lower Organ Rock Shale.|
|Hustling back along an abandoned mining track to my stashed bike along the White Rim. Determined to find the crash site, I spent too much time searching, and I was already getting behind schedule.|
Realizing I was running late, once I started pedaling again, I decided there was no time for more hikes (I was hoping to run down the White Crack trail a ways) and I'd just get to camp as quickly as possible.
Even after eliminating hikes and taking few photo stops, progress was slow. I had a constant gusty head wind. At times it was difficult to stay upright, and with so much loose sand laying around it was blowing into my eyes and nose. To add insult to injury, fresh sand dunes had developed over long stretches of the road, making some portions unrideable. Even a week after my trip, I still had sand coming out of my nose!
I summitted Murphy Hogback with less than 2 hours of daylight left. I still had 20 more miles of terrible headwinds and blowing sand between me and my reserved campsite at Potato Bottom. As I rode on, I decided that if Candlestick camp, which was only 10 miles ahead, was available, I'd crash there instead.
|View into Monument Basin from the White Rim Road.|
|A standing rock in Monument Basin.|
|View south from the White Rim toward the Maze District and Land of Standing Rocks (far distance).|
|View to east from the top of the Murphy Hogback climb. The tall mesa in the distance is Grand View Point.|
|View from the west side of Murphy Hogback, looking across Soda Springs Basin and to Candlestick Tower. It would be a race against the sun from here to my campsite near Candlestick.|
|The White Rim Sandstone thickens from east to west. So delicate "stepping stones," and thin natural bridges that can be found on the east side of the White Rim are replaced by a formidable cliff on the west side.|
|View of sun setting on the Candlestick Tower from camp.|