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Unread 11-23-2010, 09:06 PM
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Default A Once in a Lifetime Journey to Beef Basin and Beyond

Trip Background:

14 years ago, when my wife (Lori) and I were dating, we took a camping trip with a bunch of friends and my father-in-law to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. I believe that it was on that trip when I first heard of such places as Beef Basin and Ruin Park. My father-in-law (Stan) has been an avid backpacker and Southern Utah adventurer for as long as he’s been alive. He’s been everywhere and seen everything. Multiple times. But not Beef Basin. Stan has talked about going there as much as probably any other place I can think of. During my 13 years of marriage, he and his wife (Rae) have been our most frequent and most adventurous travel companions. They are much more adventurous than any of our friends or siblings.

With Stan in his 76th year and Rae not far behind, it is getting harder for the both of them to do as much strenuous outdoor activities as they used to. Keep in mind that is an extremely relative statement. They still camp in a tent on the ground. They still go hiking, camping, and dirt road exploring with us at least 4 or 5 times per year. Anyhow, we’ve had a few experiences in the last 24 months that have revealed some signs that their most adventurous days are now behind them both. For this reason we decided to plan our 6th Annual Fall Moab trip specifically for them and focused the trip on Beef Basin.

We felt a responsibility to get them there because we knew they would never, at this point in life nor going forward, go alone. We also feared that the remoteness and “roughing it” aspects of Beef Basin could likely preclude them from joining us in a future year. Many thanks to F.A. Barnes, Michael Kelsey, and the many voices on this forum who have made my ridiculously in-depth, pre-trip research so easy and thorough.
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Unread 11-23-2010, 09:07 PM
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On Thursday, 10/14/2010, at approximately 1:30 AM, my wife and kids were sleepily coaxed into the overloaded and pre-warmed WJ where they quickly returned to a peaceful slumber.

At the Canyonlands National Park Needles Visitor’s Center, just before sunrise, and a good 3 hours before rendezvous time, I aroused my sleeping family by talking of flush toilets and breakfast.

Getting ready for the day - Canyonlands NP Needles Visitor's Center:


Exploring near visitor center:






At about 10:30, and hour and a half behind schedule, our guests arrived. Joining Stan and Rae was one of her sons (Cody) and family. I was extremely grateful that Cody had agreed to come. I probably wouldn’t have gone forward with the trip without him. It was nice to have a second able-bodied man in the group. We were outnumbered nearly 4 to 1 by women, children, and the elderly. Not exactly the ideal demographics when traveling so far from communication sources. Also, should something go awry, it was comforting to have someone from both families there to represent and to help make decisions.
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Unread 11-23-2010, 09:08 PM
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Our journey begins! We hit the Elephant Hill trailhead nearly 2 hours behind schedule.

Elephant Hill trailhead:


About 100 feet up the trail, Cody is dead in his tracks. We quickly realized that his front hubs were not engaging. Behind schedule and knowing nothing about Xterra 4wd systems, we disappointedly scrapped Elephant Hill, the Joint Trail, and Bobby’s Hole from day one itinerary. Plan B took us to our hopeful campsite destination in Middle Park via Cottonwood Road.

Cottonwood Road:


Distant view of Salt Creek Canyon:


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Unread 11-23-2010, 09:10 PM
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Camp:

I had planned on a specific camping spot within Middle Park for several reasons:

--First, it was a central location for exploring the greater Beef Basin area.

--Second, it was 2wd accessible. This was important because up till 4 days before, we had not received positive confirmation one way or the other from a couple of 2wd vehicles that were considering joining us.

--Third, a careful examination of the campsite using Google Earth’s sun feature, promised a break in the terrain to the southeast at just the right angle to allow for reasonably early, camp-warming sunshine.

--Fourth and most important by far, was the abundance of exploring opportunities within walking distance of camp. I am a huge advocate of not wasting a single moment of time when enjoying outdoor adventures. I love sunrise, I love sunset, I love every moment of daylight in between.

I’m not saying I don’t like to relax or enjoy the scenery as it were. Quite the contrary, it’s just that if I am going to be in Beef Basin, I want to do my relaxing in the shadow of a ruin. I want to “enjoy the scenery” IN the scenery, not back at “camp.”

Unfortunately, I seem to have the unfortunate destiny of befriending, being born into, and marrying into groups of people who are huge advocates of doing nothing BUT wasting time. Knowing whom I was inviting (we have a list of about 100 such people that get our Fall Moab invitations each year) I had to begrudgingly plan for the inevitability of teeth grinding hours of sitting around camp waiting and waiting and waiting. To defuse the internal bomb, I spent hours scouring every source I could find on potential campsites, including many recommendations from this forum. Each potential campsite got a thorough analysis of foot friendly features.

The chosen campsite was in a natural rock amphitheater in Middle Park. There were dozens of acres of sandstone cliffs and domes with scrambling opportunities in three directions. Four arches were purported to be visible within the amphitheater (I only found 2).

View toward Middle Park amphitheater campsite


Setting up camp:


Looking East across amphitheater campsite


Looking West across amphitheater campsite


Arch #1 at Middle Park camp


Arch #2 at Middle Park camp
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Unread 11-23-2010, 09:12 PM
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From inside our tent, there were two ruins visible on the hillside. Both ruins, plus 3 more that were not visible from camp, could be visited within a 5 minute walk.

Middle Park Ruin #1 in the background:


Middle Park Ruin #1 (inside)


Middle Park Ruin #1 (closeup)


Middle Park Ruin #1 (closeup)


Middle Park Ruin #1 (right) and #2 (left) as viewed from our tent


Middle Park Ruin #1 (above) and #3 (below)


Middle Park Ruin #4 (collapsed)


Middle Park Ruin #2


Middle Park Ruin #5


Middle Park Ruin #5 (closeup)


Middle Park Ruin #5 sunset
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Unread 11-23-2010, 09:16 PM
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A 15 minute scramble to the upper ledge above the camp afforded incredible views to the south toward House Park Butte and Middle Park, and to the west into Ruin Park. A few minutes further, working around to a north facing cliff edge, leads to a breathtaking view of the Needles, Chesler Park, and many of the side drainages of Salt Creek Canyon. An old timer camped nearby, provided me with scrambling directions to the top and hooked me up with details of a few unpublished ruins.

Looking South toward House Park Butte


Sunrise view in amphitheater


View North into the Needles


Chesler Park from afar


View East across Butler Wash toward Salt Creek Canyon area
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Unread 11-23-2010, 09:19 PM
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We camped at Middle Park for 2 nights. The day in between was set aside for exploring ruins. True to my pessimism, we didn’t actually get underway until 11:00AM.

Farm House Ruin


Views from Farm House Ruin


My daughter in the background sketching Farm House Ruin, while my son sulks after being told not to touch


Farm House Ruin (distant view)


Hot Tub Ruin (named by my daughter) with Farm House in the background


Hiking the ½ mile along the recently closed road to what I’ve called the Kiva ruin


Kiva Ruin


Kiva Ruin


Tower Ruin


Tower Ruin


We spent a total of 3, maybe 4 hours exploring the sites in Ruin Park. Then headed back to camp for a late lunch. I had hoped for lunch “on the trail” so we could see more stuff, but everybody else wanted to head back. Late lunch turned into relaxing around camp, then evolved into “we might as well stay put for the rest of the day.” Scrapped from this day’s itinerary were exploring in Beef Basin Wash, Ruin Canyon, and/or Beef Basin proper. No worries though, I had plenty of personal adventures back at our perfect campsite. I did a lot of exploring and took each of my kids on their own personal hikes with daddy. Pictures of camp explorations are included above.
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Unread 11-23-2010, 09:22 PM
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On day three we parted ways temporarily. Cody with his mom and family headed back to Needles via Cottonwood Road. Lori’s dad went with us back to the Needles via Elephant Hill, another adventure he’s wanted to do all his life.

First stop was a ruin between Ruin Park and Bobby’s Hole


We checked out some excellent future potential campsites near the top of Bobby’s Hole


Approaching Bobby's Hole


We walked partway down Impossible Hill. Another couple of inches of lift, at least 33” tires, another locker (for the front), a winch, and at least one more vehicle along are the criteria I’ve identified before I will try out that route.



Our reconnaissance of future camp locations included checking out what I have dubbed, “the Expedition Utah Campsite” in Bobby’s Hole


Canyonlands NP back entrance


Incredible views in Bobby's Hole



First sweeping view of the Needles


We enjoyed a fantastic lunch location in the Needles



SOB hill


Gawking at the feet and hands pictographs




Elephant Hill




I tried hard very hard—and unsuccessfully I might add—to suppress a very prideful perma-grin as we descended from Elephant Hill with several tourists looking on in amazement. At least two still cameras and one video camera belonging to strangers captured our descent from places unknown. At the bottom, we nonchalantly answered some questions and inquiries, accepted commentaries about how cool we were, and then were on our way to meet up with the Cottonwood Road group.
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Unread 11-23-2010, 09:23 PM
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Having failed to secure a campsite at Squaw Flat, we all decided to proceed up Davis Canyon to set up camp. We hoped to hike to the Five Faces in the morning. As we traveled up the Davis Canyon Wash, it became progressively narrower and eventually became impassable due to the recent flooding. We thought we were very close and even hiked about a quarter mile further to see if we could find the National Park border where we had planned to camp. We eventually gave up and set up camp on the edge of the wash.

Davis Canyon Wash



North and South Six Shooter Peaks


When we woke up on day four, we planned on trying to see if we could hoof it to the Five Faces. We hoped the National Park Boundary was just around the next bend or two. However, a rainstorm was brewing (that never did materialize) and there was much concern about becoming trapped in the wash from flash flooding. So we broke camp and high tailed it back to the highway.

After I got home, I downloaded my GPS track to the computer and checked on the map to see how close we were. It ends up that about a mile before the Canyonlands border, we somehow went up a small, deadend side wash! Ugh! We followed this for about a mile before we got to the impassable part. In other words, we were in exactly the right spot, just one wash over.

Not only that, but it ends up that we were on an illegal route! I assumed that Davis Wash would be pretty easy navigation. I didn’t have a topo quality map of that area and I had not pre-programmed any waypoints into the GPS. We simply followed the main wash and the tracks, but apparently missed a split along the way. I was pretty ticked with myself when I figured where we went wrong. My wife was even more ticked because visiting the Five Faces was the only specific request she had made of our entire itinerary! How disappointing.

Davis Canyon Map (the red road is where we went wrong)
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Last edited by ret32; 11-23-2010 at 09:24 PM. Reason: added pix
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Unread 11-23-2010, 09:30 PM
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Well the in-laws were heading home that day so we said goodbye and parted ways after a group photo.




???

With no itinerary for the next day and a half, we hemmed and hawed about where to go next. Back to Davis Canyon? How about Squaw Flat Campground? Maybe head up Lockhart Basin?

Lori eventually admitted that she would really like a shower and dinner out. So after messing around in the park for a few hours, we headed to Moab and set up camp at the Canyonlands Campground. Then we headed over to the Moab Brewery for some grub and their house-brewed rootbeer.

Squaw Flat trailhead


Navigating the Squaw Flat trail


Squaw Flat hike


Cowboy Camp hike


Cowboy Camp hike ladders


Canyonlands Campground


Canyonlands Campground
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Unread 11-23-2010, 09:45 PM
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We arose early on our last day and spent the morning browsing downtown Moab, then we headed home. It rained a little on this last day, but it was the only rain we saw all weekend! We had three days of 70* highs with not a cloud in the sky; one day at 65* with only a few hours of mildly threatening clouds, but no rain; then one day in the low 60s with light rain most of the morning.

Moab pix





In all, it was a near perfect weather week! JUST LIKE I HAD PLANNED!!! Read more about this in an upcoming weather thread. If you dare!!!!

In the end, although several itinerary segments were scrapped, it was a great trip! It was a real thrill to watch Stan as he enjoyed what he is certain was not only his first, but probably his last trip to Beef Basin and Elephant Hill. Good times for sure!

As with all Southern Utah adventures, my “must do” list is now longer, not shorter, than when I started.












(note, attached Google Earth file has somewhat cryptic abbreviations. It is partially self-explanatory, but if you use the file and want more description, let me know and I will describe it in more detail)
Attached Files
File Type: kmz Beef Basin Research (wo blm map).kmz (8.6 KB, 315 views)
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Unread 11-23-2010, 10:36 PM
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Great trip report! Thanks for sharing the story and your great photos.
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Unread 11-24-2010, 12:00 AM
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Great trip report. I like the "protect wild utah" and "suwa sucks" stickers. Well played.
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Unread 11-24-2010, 02:10 AM
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Way to go! Your FIL looked he had a blast, lots of grins.
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Unread 12-02-2010, 02:37 PM
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Your report is very helpful in helping me plan a BB/Needles trip for next spring. Greate report!!

Classic!!
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Unread 12-02-2010, 05:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SAMI View Post
Your report is very helpful in helping me plan a BB/Needles trip for next spring. Greate report!!
Glad to hear it! I hope you caught the Google Earth file attached at the bottom of post #11

It is good summary of all my research in prep for this trip.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SAMI View Post
Classic!!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cody_ View Post
Great trip report. I like the "protect wild utah" and "suwa sucks" stickers. Well played.
Yes!! I wondered if I should comment about that in the body of the trip report, but I decided to just see what kind of response would come out of it. LOL.

Despite the loose family ties, I had not really had any associations with the step-BIL before this trip as he has been living out of the state for most of my married life: just recently having moved back to Utah. He apparently has a pretty extensive history as a hard core member of SUWA. We had a handful of interesting and respectful discussions on wilderness, camping ethics, Tread Lightly, Leave No Trace, pack it in pack it out, NPLD, designated routes, ARRWA, Take Back Utah, kryptonite dirt, and the like.

The whole group engaged in quite quite a bit of playful banter throughout the trip. Except for my step-MIL; she was noticeably concerned that it might become not-so-playful, but everyone was respectful. Notice my daughter's thumbs down in this pic, meant to express her opinion of the "Protect Wild Utah" sticker.



I believe I represented the offroading crowd in a way that negated the many stereotypes that wilderness advocates typically like to portray. Likewise, I strengthened my personal theory that SUWA’s leadership’s extreme rhetoric, twisting of facts, and occasional flat out lies does not fairly represent the opinions and thoughts of many of their actual members or donators. I believe their misrepresentations are as manipulative toward their own members as they are toward the general public. In my mind, most “real environmentalists" (which I consider myself),when fully informed, are better served by the likes of BRC, U4WDA, USA-ALL, ARRA-Access, and so forth. In other words, education and responsible, multiple-use recreation: not exclusive access.

Now if we could just get THEM to see that…
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Unread 12-05-2010, 11:20 AM
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Excellent work Ron, sounds like despite the lollygaggers (we all know em') you had a great trip and made the best of it. Beef Basin, Ruin Park and just that entire region have a certain allure to them that is hard to beat. I love the red-rock, I love the history, I love the desert, I love the solitude. While there are plenty of places that capture those requirements in Southern Utah, few do it to the degree of Beef Basin. Funny you mention the 'Expedition Utah Campsite', so many of us have enjoyed that spot a time or two over the years.

Thanks for sharing!
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Unread 12-06-2010, 08:52 PM
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Great report and pics Ron, suprised I just now saw this. It seems like no matter how hard you plann, something always comes up (locked myself out of the apartment the day we were supposed to leave for our Maze trip), but I always findmyself with a big smile during the drive home.

Thanks for sharing.
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Unread 12-08-2010, 01:30 PM
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Quote:
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Excellent work Ron, sounds like despite the ...Funny you mention the 'Expedition Utah Campsite', so many of us have enjoyed that spot a time or two over the years...
Ya, it was trip reports on this website that I first learned of that campsite, which is why I named it that. Although, the Peter Massey book (which pre-dates anything I've found on this website) does mention it along with a GPS coordinate.

It seems like a great place to camp. It was actually my original camp choice, but the potential for 2wds joining us was too high for me to seriously consider it. Also, the terrain to the East would have left it without sunshine until nearly an hour after sunrise (which translates to people staying in bed longer), not acceptable for the type of trip.
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Unread 12-08-2010, 06:16 PM
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awesome!!!
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