Moab’s Peaks and Plateaus Part II

Posted by on December 12, 2016 at 12:09 am :: No Comments

The next day we hiked the Gooseberry Trail, the most strenuous trail in Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky District. It dives 1400 feet from the top of Island in the Sky to the rim of Gooseberry Canyon, 1200 of those come in its first 0.7 miles. While this path is only 5.4 miles out-in-back, its enormous elevation change makes it relatively untraveled so we were eager to assess its rise and solitude extremes for ourselves.

A series of narrow switchbacks coiled precariously downward from the top of Island in the Sky.

A series of narrow switchbacks coiled precariously downward from the top of Island in the Sky.

The Gooseberry Trail is one of the steepest paths in any national park.

The Gooseberry Trail is one of the steepest paths in any national park.

It took us 4 hours and 40 minutes to complete the trek to Gooseberry Canyon and back; the average is 4 to 6 hours. Frankly, it was much easier than I expected. Based on website comments and Canyonlands’ pamphlets, I anticipated having to take numerous breaks just to keep my heart from going all Tommy Lee in my chest but my beater did just fine and didn’t need many pauses. However, this trail was not easier than Jason expected. Yes, my expectations are tougher than his.

The deep dip down was even more daunting than it appears here.

The deep dip down was even more daunting than it appears here.

The vibrant layers of the Kayenta and Chinle Formations splashed all around us.

The vibrant layers of the Kayenta and Chinle Formations splashed all around us.

The hardest thing about this path, in my opinion, was its fearsome heights. Gazing down from the top of the mesa, the trail looked like a skinny snake slithering on the edge of oblivion. It took some guts to tell that rising “no” inside me “no” but I shut it down slowly with one foot in front of the other.

Gooseberry Canyon falls just 100 feet from where its trail ends. What an ending!

Gooseberry Canyon falls just 100 feet from where its trail ends. What an ending!

The White Rim Road, a 4x4 trail, runs along Gooseberry Canyon for a bit so we got asked by a few confused off-roaders where the heck we came from.

The White Rim Road, a 4×4 trail, runs along Gooseberry Canyon for a bit so we got asked by a few confused off-roaders where the heck we came from.

After our initial height-shock faded, the trail really wasn’t terribly terrifying but our awe remained. Mighty views kept hitting us until Gooseberry Canyon brought a new wave of wonderment and alarm. With its 200-foot plummets, it was an intimidating and spectacular spot to eat a victory sandwich. What an amazing hike with all the heart-pounding exertion and panic one could want in a day!

I made Jason look so tough. Photography is magic.

I made Jason look so tough. Photography is magic.

Stairs eased the elevation changes on the trail's gnarliest sections.

Stairs eased the elevation changes on the trail’s gnarliest sections.

Moab was superb once again. You aren’t particularly bright if you thought I would say otherwise. Where else can you freeze your caboose in an alpine meadow and the next day, just minutes away, sport a tank top in desert rapture. It was a little sad not to have our bikes with us but we managed pretty well on two feet.

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