The Canyonlands Crossing

Adventure begets adventure. Shortly after our Zion Traverse, Mike picked up a map of Canyonlands National Park in Utah, opened it up and spotted a route that begged to be run. A few nights later, he showed us the map and we were mesmerized. We baptized the route “The Canyonlands Crossing” and made plans to run it the following weekend (after the Quad Rock 25M/50M). We didn’t know anything about the route or the area, couldn’t find anyone who’d ever run it before, and found hardly any information online at all from folks who’d hiked it over several days, but there was something about it that sparkled at us on paper. And this past Saturday, Mike, Cassie, Ryan and I, had our minds blown.

After running the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim-to-rim over Thanksgiving, then the Zion Traverse a few weeks ago, it’s hard to imagine that any other desert run would impress. Yet, every step, every breath, every moment on this Canyonlands Crossing was magical.

I’m not going to give a super detailed route description here as part of the adventure of this route is the remoteness and the unknown (if anyone want some more info then drop me a note).  I will, however, leave you with some eye candy to motivate you to forget about whatever you were going to do this weekend and plan an adventure instead.

Our 48 hour Canyonlands extravaganza started late on Friday evening after work with a 7 hour drive to ‘middle-of-nowhere’ Utah where we pitched our tents at 2:30am for a good night’s rest short nap near the finish of our planned 50K point-to-point route. The folks at Coyote Shuttle picked us up bright and early Saturday morning and drove us 1.5 hours along a rough 4WD road to the start of our run. Cathedral Butte Trailhead, even more in the middle of nowhere.

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Once the jeep pulled away and out of sight it was just us and the desert for miles and miles and miles! Time to get this party started!

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The weather was perfect and every step down into the Salt Creek Canyon floor was exciting,

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and every corner offered another incredible photo opportunity.

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Just a few miles in and we’d already run over rocky ledges,

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and slickrock,

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through sandy river beds,

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between tall reeds,

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and bright green reeds,

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across open fields with blooming cactus,

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by a lonesome tree,

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a surprise oasis,

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and even the ruins of an old cabin:

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The trail petered out a bit and eventually we were just running around, trail-less, inventing our own way,

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enjoying the expansive views,

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discovering amazing caves,

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playing around with gigantic tumbleweeds,

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and jumping into deliciously cold pools!

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This is what running is all about! And it was about to get even better because deep in that strange looking alcove…

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… there was a 2,000 year old cave drawing from the Anasazi and Fremont Indians! Now we were really on an adventure!

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Those ancient people must have known that in 2013, four funny faces would run across their old stomping grounds! They drew our portraits!

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And gave us “virtual” high fives!

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Back on the trail things got a bit more fun

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Running up through windows

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and down the other side

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to discover the next section of the canyon.

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And, of course, no run across Canyonlands is complete without a magnificent arch!

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And a classic shot of Ryan’s bellybutton over a magnificent arch ;-)

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Angel’s Arch and the heart-shaped Molar Rock.

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After a nice break for “lunch” and to enjoy the sights, it was time to discover the second half of the course (yes, we were only 1/2 way done at this point!)

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Another watering hole! Just in time for another dunk!

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Soaked and refreshed in the midday heat.

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The trail wiggled endlessly back and forth along the right and left side of a creek bed

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until it eventually dried up.

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We made our way through a window, up an unexpected ladder…

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…and BAM! We were on top of the world!

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And our journey took us to a different planet entirely! The Moon?

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Maybe Mars?

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Wherever the heck we were, it was beyond incredible and it was our playground for the final 5 miles of our journey.

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Looking back at where we came from:

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And ahead, past the balancing rocks:

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Cassie takes a moment to soak it all in:

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Meanwhile the boys start messing around. Mike tip toes across an invisible tightrope:

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And Ryan doesn’t miss an opportunity for a mega leap across an abyss!

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Happy Birthday, Mike! What the hell are we gonna do next year to top your 34th?!

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(If you’re interested in all the juicy trail and mileage details for running this route feel free to contact me and I’ll tell you all about it, heck, I might even join you! As if it wasn’t already obvious, this place is amazing.)

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