3 May 2012
The bright sun gave us beautiful warm light as we headed down the north side of Murphy Hogback. All of Soda Springs Basin lay before us with Candlestick Tower watching as we began our day.
We’d done a good number of slot canyons in Utah, so Holeman Slot came as a familiar and interesting change of pace. Getting in could’ve hardly been easier, and the section we explored had that curving sculptural sandstone found in the best slots. We turned around at the first dry fall, the biking gear didn’t lend itself to scrambling and we had plenty of miles left in the day.
Just before Potato Bottom as the road bends to the northwest, the White Rim Sandstone dives beneath the landscape — not to be seen again. And it really was a little sad to say farewell to the formation that we’d biked on for the last couple of days.
We stopped at Potato Bottom for lunch. The “bottoms” are the sandy parts of the river and this was the first time we stood on the same level as the river — this one was the Green. A huge cottonwood provided sweet shade while we ate lunch and lingered in the empty campsite.
Having the river as a companion took some getting used to. In previous days on the east side the Colorado was inaccessible beyond the cliffs, glimpsed only occasionally and usually only with effort. In contrast after the White Rim sandstone goes under, the Green is usually just right there. Maybe behind the tamarisk, maybe down the hill — but ever accessible.
After a bit of scrambling you get to see not only the ruined tower but a near 360 degree view of the Green. The final push for the day was down the north side of Hardscrabble Hill. It’s much easier than the uphill by far, but the road had enough sand in it to keep the descent from being carefree. And we shortly rolled into Hardscrabble Campground. Although this lacked the “on top of the world” feeling of the previous nights view from Murphy, it’s situation was not without its charms. The camp is nestled by the river as it takes a hard turn in Labyrinth Canyon, and on both sides the Wingate cliffs loom above you.
4 May 2012
Our last day was going to be a short one, so we took our time breaking camp to savor the morning sun on the walls of Labyrinth Canyon.
Years ago we hiked to Upheaval Dome in the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands. It’s the eroded remains of an ancient (millions of years ago) meteor impact. It’s a grand sight — circular with almost vertically tipping rocks amid a linear landscape. After the meteor hit, sediments piled up, then sediments wore down. And the present day path of this erosion ends up in Upheaval Bottom — where the sand that used to be in Upheaval Dome takes a break before continuing into the Green river. The road goes right through this deep sand. Did I mention the sand was deep? I’d like to think we soaked in more of the views as we pushed our bikes, but we didn’t. We wrangled our bikes, looked down at the sand, and muttered discouraging words.
The rest of the morning’s ride followed the turns of the flat Green river.
As we rose the views of the Green River and Labyrinth Canyon got better & better.
- Day 1: Visitors Center to Gooseberry (29 miles)
- Day 2: Gooseberry to Murphy Hogback (19 miles)
- Day 3: Murphy Hogback to Hardscrabble (25 miles)
- Day 4: Hardscrabble to Horsethief Trail (9 miles)
- Total milage: 81 miles