Hayduke Trail Day 7: the Ghost Behind

Daily Neat Beat
Day 7
Total Miles 15.3
Cumulative Miles 111.8
Map of Hayduke Trail Day 8 in Salt Creek Canyon, Canyonlands National Park
I usually prefer off trail hiking to trails in most National Parks which tend to be crowded. But I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty and solitude of Salt Creek Canyon in Canyonlands National Park.
Salt Creek Canyon, Canyonlands National Park

We have started the third section out of fourteen on our 800-mile Hayduke hike. We are hiking from the Canyonlands Visitor Center in the Needles District through Salt Creek Canyon in Canyonlands through Dark Canyon Wilderness to Hite Crossing at Lake Powell. The third section will take us about 6 days.

Salt Creek Canyon is known for its sculpted rock formations of red and white and a sinuous creek that winds around pinnacles, spires and rock noses. It also has numerous signs of ancient Native American habitation with ruins and pictographs. 
Fremont Style Pictographs at Peekaboo Springs

We pick up our Park service permit this morning before heading out. We had tried yesterday but the Visitor Center closed at 3:00 pm and we didn’t get there until 4 pm after doing our vehicle shuttle. You can really see that the Park Service’s budget just keeps getting cut and they are really operating on a shoestring.

The Park Ranger is helpful but says she can’t tell us where any cultural sites are and asks that we not post any cultural pictures on social media as cameras and phones have the location information on them. She says she can’t tell us to do this but they ask that we do. Ray and I have disconnected this feature on our cameras and phones but I am going to double check before posting any sensitive information. There are some sites that are well known already and are on the topo maps such as the pictographs at PeekaBoo Springs and the All American Man. But I plan on being careful and respectful of the Park Service’s request.
Today  and tomorrow are more leisurely days as we have designated camp spots in Salt Creek and have given ourselves time to explore. 
The start of Salt Creek Canyon is in a sandy wash

We start hiking at 9am in the cool overcast morning. The hike starts off on a closed dirt road in the sand and then the trail starts winding its way through the canyon. We take a break at Peekaboo Spring. The rock art here is fascinating. The rock art is located near a window in the canyon wall as it makes a wide turn around a rock wall. We later see other rock art associated with windows in these rock walls and spectulate about a landscape connection. The rock art covers a wide range from Barrier Canyon Style which are the very old (Archaic, 3,000 to 5,000 years old) and are ghost like figures, to more recent (1,000 years old) Fremont Style or Ancestral Puebloan. The old ghost figures, of course, fascinate us the most.

The “Peekaboo” through the canyon wall

Fremont style pictographs often contain shields
I used Dstretch to really bring out the ghost-like image that is Archaic from about 3,000 to 5,000 years old behind the shield figures. Note that you cannot see the image as well in the picture above.

We get to camp by mid to late afternoon. After setting up camp we decide that it is only 4pm so we have time to do a quick 2-mile hike up a side canyon to see the Angel Arch. Many people are surprised to learn that Canyonlands also has arches. Angel Arch is perhaps the most famous arch which people used to drive to it (with permission from the Park Service). Now the road is closed off and the only way to really see it is by backpacking. Unless you are an ultra runner, of course. We get to the arch as the sun is stepping away and throwing rainbows at Angel Arch.

Arch Angel with Sun Dogs (ice crystals that refract color patterns from the sun)

It is absolutely stunning. We head back to camp where we are entertained by skittish deer. I really like this canyon. We will have to come back.

The deer at camp were especially skittish.



  1. Day 7; Forest service policy takes “sense of place” to new heights. I enjoyed your expression and nice choice of words “rock noses,” which I imagined as sensitive to the location feature on phones—it honors a personal sense of place. Blogging about it intensifies the intrigue of this place, its ghosts, and hidden treasures.
    Re: the images. Loved the (apple headed) ghost behind the ‘shielded.’ Wonder if the ghost was cause for the title Peekaboo? The ghost seems from a different culture, and layering of pictographs appears to depict residential cycling. They came…they went (repeat). The layerings of these images—are reminiscent to witnessing layers of graffiti in East LA over the course of about 30 years. The layering in either case doesn’t appear to be caused by lack of space.

  2. I took the policy as “Common sense in this place.” I truly loved your effective use of Dstretch, whatever that is, to bring out the pre-Fremont image. It was wonderful to see the multiple layers of people recording “Sense of Place.”

  3. When I did this hike with my Mom and friends, we found lots of Mountain Lion tracks too. I loved this canyon so very much!

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