We were up early. The biggest chore of the morning was trying to fit all the frozen jugs and tubes of water into the two coolers. We’d tried to limit how much food needed to be in the cooler by choosing a box of mac & cheese and pasta and jar sauce for two of our meals. The only food items in the “food cooler” were half & half, cold cuts and sliced cheese (our first night’s meal), a small brick of cheddar, some yogurt, limes and a couple frozen jugs of water to keep it cold.
The beverage cooler was all frozen jugs except for a quart of tonic water. We also had bread, crackers, snack bars, granola, a six pack of spicy V8, unsweetened iced tea, some trail mix and three 2.5 gallon containers of water. You can’t ever have too much water.
We dropped by The Red Rock Café and bought some scones for the road and had our travel mugs filled. There was an annoying Italian couple there who didn’t seem to grasp the concept of waiting your turn or respecting personal space. I guess they weren’t morning people.
In spite of that, we were on the road heading south toward The Needles District of Canyonlands where we would be camping for the next two nights.
Peter suggested that Sharon call anyone she wanted to now since we’d be losing cell coverage down the road a way. She called her mom and was chatting with her sister for awhile until she lost the signal. We made good time on the straight road south past the Hole-in-the-Rock tourist attraction to the right turn toward The Needles. We powered down our phones to save the charge since they’d be useless until who knew when.
Over the 35 miles to the park, sprawling grasslands gave way to ever larger red cliffs. We went past Newspaper Rock and it became a land of gigantic proportions. Huge mesas near and far. We eventually reached the park and could see in the distance the odd spires that give The Needles its name.
The lady ranger in the booth let us know that the Squaw Flats Campground
hadn’t reached occupancy the night before, and we were so early that we should have no trouble finding a site.
We cruised through the first area and the sites were nicely spaced all along the low, muffin-topped rock wall behind them. They were more private than Cap Reef but we decided to see what the second area further on had to offer.
As we rounded the bend we saw it…probably the neatest campsite in the whole place. It had its own little toadstool and was well away from any of the other sites. On the east side where you pull into your driveway, there was a table, and fire ring. Behind that was a cave-like alcove that was deep enough that you could drag the table under it for cover if need be. Best of all the site was empty and available.
We wasted no time filling out the permit and claiming Site #18 for two nights. Within a few minutes the tent was up and the chairs were plopped in the grotto with the folding side table between. There was even a convenient flat rock protruding from the wall to make dry storage for the percolator, paper towels and assorted other camp items.
The site was oriented so that it got sun in the morning but would be in complete shade all afternoon. The site was so ideal that it could have been designed by Disney.
Peter hung his rock art recreations in the tree and inside our rock shelter thinking they'd add a festive touch. One can only wonder what the campers driving by thought of that. Our car had California tags so I’m sure there were a lot of “that figures”.....
Now that camp was all set, we headed out to explore the park. We stopped by the Visitor’s Center and asked about little hikes to occupy the day with. She suggested the Cave Spring Trail. It is an easy loop of a bit over a half mile.
In a shallow alcove past the cowboy camp, we found the grain bin for the horses. It had a rustic wide-plank lid with some pretty fancy scrap metal work over the cracks to keep the rodents out.
In a large, deep grotto, we found what makes the cowboy camp possible. The cave spring. Water seeps out of the sandstone and forms a pool of filtered water.
Above the pool in a seeping stratus grow maidenhair ferns. Pretty extravagant for such a dry area.
On the stone face of the alcove were pictographs and painted hands created by people who used this space thousands of years ago.
Any source of water is sacred here.