A Tale from the Trail

11 May 2012 in Trails/Hiking, Traveling


Bucktank DrawAlmost everyday that Lindsay has off we try to go out on some adventure. Usually it’s a hike. It has taken some time to adjust to a set schedule again. For the last eight months—outside of a few volunteering duties—we were basically free to come and go as we pleased, deciding to hike or take a day trip the morning of on a whim. But now Lindsay has a full-time work schedule and I’ve taken on some graphic design work so we aren’t allowed the complete freedom we once had.

Now we plan her days off ahead of time, I try to clear my plate of work and we explore the area. So far it’s mostly been our immediate area—of which there’s more than plenty to see, but in the future we’ll venture further for overnight trips back to Zion or up to Capitol Reef, down to the Grand Canyon.

Birthday ArchOn her last two day stretch we did a little hiking and a little dirt roading. On the first day we wandered over to the trailhead for Bucktank Draw and Birthday Arch. The Glen Canyon NRA seems to have their priorities a little out of whack. While the majority of their budget seems to be spent accommodating for thousands of boats of every variety, including house, they seem to spend little, if anything on trails. The standard brochure you get at the gate only mentions a few, very short day hikes. Luckily Lindsay obtained a supplemental trail list from one of her fellow rangers. This photocopied single sheet of paper produced by the park offers crudely written directions to additional “trails”. For instance a portion of the directions to Bucktank Draw and Birthday Arch were, “Park your car on the south side of Hwy 89 just at the west end of the metal railing and head down the sandy slope through the gate into the draw.” No parking lot, just a gravel shoulder along side a guard rail. No marker or sign of any sort identifying the trail. Luckily a few soles, literally, had sought out this trail before us and their faint tracks in the sand led us to a gate and the entrance to the draw.

In BloomThis we followed south curving back and forth between small ledges of constantly changing rock, peppered with an abundant variety of plant life and a handful of small lizards darting in and out. For those unfamiliar with the southwest, as we once were, much of it is not the stark, empty desert our minds might imagine, but it is actually teeming with plant life, and at night wildlife. Hiking up we saw several kinds of shrubby, twisted and thriving trees. I’m no botanist, but I know there were juniper and in all likelihood some cottonwood to name a few. There was also a large selection of small flowering plants large white, tiny red and orange, beautiful blossoming prickly pear, and amazingly fragrant shrubs covered in an all encompassing mass of small yellow flowers.

Birthday ArchThough the walk up the draw and to the arch was a relatively short distance the deep, loose sand made it a little strenuous on the old legs. This paired with a handful of scrambles up over ledges spanning 3-6 feet in height was enough to cause us to abandon the second trail we had planned for later in the day. But eventually we made our way back to a view of the arch. Now we just had to figure out how to make our way up to its base. The first obstacle was a steep incline of deep sand, natures stair master. Next we scrambled partially up a large embankment of sand stone of varying consistency and stability. Some hard as concrete, some soft as a dried up sand castle with no visual distinctions between the two. I scrambled up ahead of Lindsay towards what I hoped was a nice gap in the rock to cut through. I redirected Lindsay to the safer route back down and around the outer edge of the butte. My route ended up having a very uninviting gatekeeper in that of a giant mass of messy spider webs so I scurried along the middle of the butte over to connect with the route Lindsay was taking.

From here it was a pretty easy march up to the base of the Birthday Arch. Standing below you have a beautiful, natural window to the crisp, blue sky. Just around the corner is a pillar of rock we named the guardian of the arch because it looks like a crudely carved statue of a man. After thoroughly documenting our achievement with pictorial evidence we sat and rested for a spell. Taking in the longview of the draw we had just hiked and the surrounding canyons and buttes.

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11 May 2012 Trails/Hiking, Traveling

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