The day after Jon’s half marathon we decided to do a more challenging hike. I had researched the options at Canyonlands National Park and decided on the Neck Spring Trail – a 5.8 mile hike into the canyon that leads you by several features from Canyonlands’ ranching history. It is hard to believe that Canyonlands, with its dry scrub brush, would support much life, but both cattle and sheep ranching were prevalent here, beginning in the 1880s and going all the way up through the 1960s.
We arrived at the trail head about 10:15 am, got our gear prepped – lots of decisions… How much food and water do I need to bring, am I starting out with a fleece or without, hat on or off, get the camera ready. It’s an ordeal, I tell you! The hike starts at the top of the mesa, but quickly begins dropping into the Neck Spring Canyon. The total elevation drop is about 300 feet.
Shortly after we started the hike, we came upon an old watering trough from the early 19th century. Near the trough, we were also lucky to see, and get a picture of, a pinyon jay! At this point we were very close to the first spring; imagine water in the desert! There was quite a bit of shade there, due to several cottonwoods growing near the spring.
Leaving the spring, we hiked through loose sand up to the top of the butte. We ate our picnic lunch along a spur trail that goes right to the edge of the mesa and overlooks Taylor Canyon in the distance. What an awesome view! Shortly after lunch, we came upon another spring, and evidence of an old cabin and 100 year old barbed wire. That stuff sticks around forever… Longer than Twinkies! The cabin let us know that we had moved into Cabin Spring Canyon.
Eventually, the trail heads up a slick rock section where we had to scramble to get back to the top of the mesa. The trail has been rerouted, and this is definitely the most challenging part of the trail. What a scramble – I was sweaty and breathing heavy after this part. It wasn’t that far though.
Once at the top, Jon thought that we were almost done. However, at the top of the mesa we found another cattle watering trough before we began meandering through loose sand along the mesa top with views of Cabin Spring Canyon and Neck Spring Canyon below. We saw parts of the trail we were hiking on below too! We saw gorgeous views of Taylor Canyon in the distance. Other notable finds were old tin cans, and cougar poop. Scat for those of you who are really into poop. We did not see the cougar that went with the poop though.
After another mile or so along the mesa top, we got back to the trail head, coming from the opposite direction along the road. The section of the hike gave us some really great views of Schafer Canyon and the Schafer Rim Trail, where several Jeeps were making their way down to the canyon floor. It was so neat to watch!
To wrap up a fantastic hike, after we got back to the trail head, a beautiful raven also posed for me along a picturesque fence.
I could have stayed in Canyonlands forever…