All the Colors

I swear the more I hike in Southwest Utah the longer my list of places I want to hike gets. This spot was one I’d visited a couple times before but it wasn’t until we drove through the previous week that I noticed just how many colors were represented in these hills. With another round of poor weather hitting the high peaks 2 days before our scheduled departure it seemed a perfect time to explore this mid-elevation spot. And true to form, we concluded within the first 5 minutes of walking that we needed to return to check out an area across the canyon we could now see, adding yet one more thing to The List.

Our first hike began by walking the steady grade up to the mesa. Unsure of how far we’d be able to go from there we were pleasantly surprised by the appearance of canyons and higher-still hills that offered numerous options. We opted for one of the latter, weaving up a shallow wash partially shaded by overhanging limestone and multiple juniper and pinyon. About a mile up I was ready to continue this route when Tom disappeared. Terry and I yelled for him, eating our apples while we waited for him to reappear, but it wasn’t until 10 minutes or so later that I did a fast scramble to the nearest high point and heard him call back. He said we should come up. Relaying the message to Terry below I continued gaining altitude, albeit on a more reasonable grade and at a more sustainable speed, until reaching a rim. I knew I was still below the level where Tom was but the views here were captivating – particularly the pale greens of the cheat grass and the pastel blue sky – causing me to linger. I followed the rim as I resumed my ascent, watching as orangey-red and faded yellow limestone hills came into sight below, adding to the rich palette.

Near the high point Abby came to join me and we made our way together towards Tom and Terry. Regrouped we decided to follow the ridge north that connects the slight rises of the hills and this we did until we reached its terminus, stopping often to sight down canyons and take more photos. Running out of high ground forced us finally descend and the resulting navigation back to the truck through canyon and meadow required enough of our time that we agreed it would be our only adventure for the day.

The next day we returned and started on an OHV track up the opposite side of the canyon. Here we really got a taste of the colors, walking across the reds and yellows of the limestone with views of the seafoam green grass clinging to the contours of the hills, gradations of blue sky all around, and the sparse accents of purple and magenta in the nearby ridges and canyons. We didn’t actually gain all that much in elevation but at near the highest point around it felt like strolling across the top of the world.

Once at the rim we turned northwards, following old paths across the juniper-strewn plateau for miles before turning east and clambering up a crowded drainage full of limestone boulders and sage towards what we thought would be another canyon. The hope had been to intersect with this canyon and follow it down, thus making a loop, but the wash we’d been following flattened near the top and we found ourselves on a high rim without any real way down. Though we searched for alternative routes we ultimately backtracked down the wash to rejoin one of the plateau-top trails to the rim. I spotted an alternative route once on the rim and spent the next half mile descending quickly while paralleling the ridge route to the west we’d come up on. At the bottom Abbs and I picked up a jeep track across the flats, arriving at our starting point 6 or 7 minutes later.