South Thompson River in the Fall

The South Thompson River is a well-used and busy river from June through mid-September, but there is very little activity on the river after October 1st.   The river is lower and has a number of shallow areas, troublesome for power boats, but these pose no problem for canoes and kayaks.  We launched our kayaks at the Lafarge Bridge (NE side of the river) and paddled down to the Valleyview Boat Launch.

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This section of the river is 14km long which takes about 2.5 hours of paddling.   There are a number of homes on both sides of the river along the way, but it is a quiet area on a weekday morning, late in October.  Fall colors lined the banks and there were lots of geese, ducks, eagles, and a variety of smaller birds in the riparian zone.  Even though the air and the water are cooler in the spring and the fall, those months invite us for a day of quiet paddling downstream.   

Puebloan Granaries

While hiking on the high mesa on Island in the Sky District in Canyonlands National Park at 6300 feet, we hiked a short trail (1.5 miles) to Aztec Butte.   On top of this butte, but under a cliff overhang was a Puebloan granary, hundreds of years old, but still standing.

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Ancestral Puebloan people hauled their seeds and grain in woven baskets up to these stone structures which they sealed in mud.   Clad in sandals made of yucca fibre, their climb from the banks of the rivers far below was about 2000 feet in elevation and at least 8-10 miles each way.   We looked inside two of these structures and noted that they were dry inside with a sandy-rocky floor. 

Below us the cliffs dropped away into twisting canyons on their way down to the Colorado or Green Rivers.  Another special spot to explore in Canyonlands.

Fairyland Loop

Bryce Canyon is a special place to visit and the Fairyland Loop is the best of the hiking trails of the Park   We have chosen to hike the Fairyland Loop each year for the last 3 years (see below for links to previous stories).   This year we hiked it in reverse and a sunny morning in September.

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The scenery along this 8 mile trail is so stunning that doing the hike again feels like the first time, every time.  Find a time to go when there are few people around to enjoy the quiet seclusion of many extranordinary spots along the route.  

"Find a place that resonates within, then stop to let your senses drink in the scenery that surrounds you.   Open then close your eyes, and repeat this until both the essence and the details becomes a part of you.   Engage your sense of smell and hearing.   Touch the rock and the bark.     Let your hands know the landscape, along with your feet and your eyes.   Engage your sense of wonder and let this place become a part of you."

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"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." (John Muir)

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"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike. " (John Muir)

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"I know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found." (John Muir)

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"This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on seas and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls." (John Muir)

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"One day's exposure to mountains is better than cartloads of books. See how willingly Nature poses herself upon photographers' plates. No earthly chemicals are so sensitive as those of the human soul." (John Muir)

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We will return to the Fairyland Loop for as long as we can, but the singularity of this trail is already a part of us, even as winter approaches.  

More information:

Savona Caves Revisited

Our first hike to the Savona Caves was in the mid 1970's and we returned there again from time to time over the years, but we had not been there for at least 5 years when friends recently asked about the route so we hiked the trail on a cool autumn day.

To find the trail, go south on the Tunkwa Lake Road.   Drive south for 10.8km.   Turn onto the (signed) Savona Mountain Road.   Climb/drive for 0.6 km and look for a track bearing west right at a corner.   Park there.   Follow the double track and keep a sharp eye for cairns and flagging tape as a single track winds through the forest.    It is only 1.55km to the caves, but the last 0.5km is up a steep ridge.  The surface on the spur can be loose and slippery, so go up and down carefully.

Savona Caves Route

At the top are some caves in the cliff face.   There are a couple of pictographs on a rock on the northern cave roof.   That cave is fairly dry.   The southern cave has packrat nests so look in, but don't bother to enter.   There are some nice views from this spot.   This is a pleasant spot for a shorter hike.

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More information:

  • Wear good shoes/boots for the trail.   A hiking pole will help on the downhill.
  • Trailhead – N50 40.789 W120 46.656
  • Caves at N50 41.181 W120 47.550
  • Savona Caves (2010)

Hiking Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands is one of the five National Parks in Utah and certainly one of the best for hiking anywhere.   It is divided into three "districts", separated by the Colorado River and the Green River.   Although the boundaries of each District border the others, we can't get from one area to the others safely/easily, so we have to drive long distances around to get to the trailheads.   Near the center of the four Districts is Moab, Utah, a good base for daily hikes.   All 3 Districts have something different to offer.

Island in the Sky

  • 40 minutes drive (NW) from Moab
  • 1000 feet higher than the plateaus surrounding it
  • hiking trails on top are shorter, but many have interesting views
  • longer hiking trails drop down to the White Rim Road and back up
  • recommended hikes – Neck Springs, Syncline Loop
  • this is a good area for a visit and shorter hikes, but none of the hikes are as good as the other Districts

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Needles District

  • 90 minutes south of Moab
  • an extensive network of trails and many combinations of routes are possible
  • the area is more remote and sees fewer hikers (even though this is one of the best hiking areas anywhere)
  • superb camping locations
  • best hikes – Druid's Arch, Chesler Park, Big Springs, or any combination
  • There is at least a week of outstanding hiking here.

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The Maze

  • high clearance/4WD access only and impassable when wet
  • some trail access is by scambling only
  • option to hire a river boat down the Colorado for a drop-off/pick-up
  • a remote area with few visitors
  • permits needed for overnight camping

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Horsehoe Canyon

  • 2.5 hours from Moab, including a 30 mile dirt road
  • This is a separate Unit, supported as part of the Nationa Park because of a significant archaeological site, the Great Gallery
  • only one hike, but it is a good one

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Recommendations

  • Along with the Grand Canyon and Zion,   Canyonlands offers some of the best hiking on the continent.  
  • There are a number of other hiking opportunities near Moab, including Arches National Park, slickrock benches, regional parks, bike trails, and canyons.   Canyonlands offers at least 2 weeks of great hikes for anyone visiting Utah.
  • The Needles District is the best choice for your time and effort.