Descending Upon Toadstools and Ascending Upon the Sun

12 June 2012 in Memories, Trails/Hiking, Traveling


What a ViewOver the past weekend—Tuesday and Wednesday, Lindsay’s weekend—we got in two magnificent hikes. When we first arrived we feared there wouldn’t be enough to see and do. The Park’s hikes we few and short. I think we did all of the hikes listed in their handout in one day. Then we got a supplementary list and quickly made our way through most of that. Thank god for Michael Kelsey’s book Hiking and Exploring the Paria River. One of Lindsay’s fellow rangers shared this bible of hiking with Lindsay right before he left and since then we’ve picked up the latest edition.

Cryptobiotic Close UpWithin is an abundance of hidden treasures. Places we’ve quite literally driven past without knowing there was any place to hike or anywhere to see beyond the obvious. For instance our first hike today starts at an easily missable pull off. No sign, no trail, nothing obvious to see. Just a large expanse of flat desert peppered with bushes and cryptobiotic soil (an amazing little crust of living dirt). There is a jagged, small cliff in the distance, but nothing indicating the surreal and diverse landscape hiding just over the horizon.

At first I stood on the truck and surveyed the land for any sign of a trail and Lindsay wandered out a little ways in search of leads as well. Nothing. No sign of footprints or anything that would indicate anyone had crossed this area in recent times. Well, we figured by setting up a few landmarks to judge our direction we could safely wander out in the general direction the map in our book indicated. And so we did.

Maybe a half mile out we came across a well beaten path, seemingly emerging from nowhere and figure this must be it. At this point there was still no sign of the Toadstools we were looking for or an indication that this is where some might be. But this landscape is tricky. You can be sure there’s nothing to see and all of a sudden you almost fall in a gaping hole a mile wide and filled with the most strikingly wondrous rock formations you’ve ever seen. And that is exactly what happened. We crested a small hill and a new and previously hidden world opened up to us.

ToadstoolsBelow was a colony of toadstools, white as chalk pillars varying in height, girth and shape with an equally assorted selection of brown rocks precariously set atop the pillars. It seemed as though at any moment one might finally decide to give and come crashing down setting off a domino affect that could forever erase this geological abnormality. Surrounding this colony were domed monoliths of more chalk white stone that transitioned outwardly into masses that dropped deep into narrow slots and canyons. On the outer edges of either side was red rock and painted rock. The variety is really beyond the scopes of my memory and of my ability to describe geological formations. So I’ll leave the scene to Lindsay’s photography.

At first we couldn’t identify a direct path down. We saw trails winding through far below, but we were situated a hundred feet above this cove. So we followed the obvious trail to the right which we assumed would take us up and then down. It ended up leading to a sheer cliff face. It was a stunning view, but far from the area of our interest so we back tracked. We could see the highway from our perch so the plan was to seek out the alternative route listed in the book which started from 89. But then we notice a hidden path to the left of where we originally descended. This led us right down into the toadstools.

It was magical to say the least. I felt like a little gnome weaving through giant, stone mushrooms. Each was unique with one resembling a turtle or a snail. Another maintained a top so massive compared with it’s base that the whole thing seemed to contradict the laws of gravity.

ToadstoolAfter thoroughly exploring the toad stools we wandered out amongst the domed stone to peer over the edge of yet another massive drop off. This cove basically contained three level; the top which we had descended, the middle which we a hundred foot or more drop and the desert floor. I’m not entirely sure how you get up to the middle level where the toadstools reside if you’re coming from the highway and the desert floor.

Yellow RockNext we returned to the truck and headed north towards Yellow Rock. The name is self-explanatory, but overly humble. Finding our way back through the brush and abundant foliage of Cottonwood Wash we found the old horse trail the booked identified. Now the book mentions it’s steep and I can confirm that, but I’m not sure what kind of super horse would be necessary to ascend this. We decided it would have to be some kind of horse bred with a mountain goat. It was difficult for us to drag our biped, descended from apes butts up there. I have no clue how a horse would do it or who would or could make them try.

But with calves and quads aflame we reached a worthwhile view of a mass of yellow stone hulking and out of place among it’s neighbors. The color is vibrant and unlike anything we’ve seen. It’s rich tone transitions from sunshine yellow to gold to fire orange to fire hydrant red, but the majority was yellow. This paired with it’s domed shape made the experience of climbing to the top like walking on the sun. Our legs certainly felt that way.

A View of Castle RockOn top we were finally afforded an amazing view from above the landscape we have spent so much time below or amongst. The wind this high up was refreshing and we sat for a long while and just listened to the silence. Besides the sound of the wind there was nothing. Not a soul besides us, no cars, no planes just complete solitude. There wasn’t even a sign of civilization. No road, no highway, we couldn’t even see the trail. This moments and these places do more for my inner being than anything else in the world. I don’t think, I don’t worry, I don’t exist in conflict with anyone or anything. I just am.

I know that last part sounds a little hippy dippy, but try it once. There’s honestly no better way for me to explain it.

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