Southern Utah Getaway

April 2021  |  Southern Utah

Usually in the wintertime my driving force is to ride my snowboard/splitboard as much as possible whenever I'm not riding my office chair. But every year by about March or April cabin fever sets in and my powder lust wanes as I start to dream about warm weather and dry ground backpacking. So this April we made two escapes to the desert of southern Utah and it felt so liberating to get outside for some adventurous backpack trips, to sleep out under the stars again, and to take a much needed break from work and daily winter routines.

Our first trip was a quick weekend getaway for a 3-day backpack loop at Island in the Sky in Canyonlands National Park. By pure luck we happened to time our trip during a spring hot spell, with 80º days and warm, calm nights. Perfect for thawing out after winter!

Warm sunset light shines in a remote canyon below Island in the Sky in Canyonlands National Park in Utah.

Sunset Light in the Canyonlands

Warm sunset light shines in a remote canyon below Island in the Sky in Canyonlands National Park in Utah.

Our Canyonlands hike whetted our appetites for more desert time, so a week later we loaded up the truck and headed back out to Utah to spend a week car camping and backpacking in the Robbers Roost Country around the Dirty Devil River east of the Henry Mountains and north of Lake Powell. Unfortunately unlike the previous weekend, this entire week was much colder and windier, which made it seem more like early March than mid April. On the bright side, the unsettled weather brought some nice clouds and sunsets to photograph!

Sunset light and Factory Butte as seen from afar.

Desert Light

Sunset light and Factory Butte as seen from afar.

A moqui marble moon rises over a sandstone landscape.

Moquirise

A moqui marble moon rises over a sandstone landscape.

In recent years a favorite desert camping strategy of mine is to scout out remote plateau rims and outcroppings above the canyons, then hike cross country and haul water to camp there. That's what we did for our first outing on this trip in Robbers Roost Country. We drove way out to the middle of nowhere then hiked out to the point of a distant plateau I had scoped out on maps and Google Earth, overlooking a sea of sandstone canyons.

A fantastic sunset over slickrock sandstone formations in the Robbers Roost Country, a remote region of southern Utah.

Redrock Sunset

A fantastic sunset over slickrock sandstone formations in the Robbers Roost Country, a remote region of southern Utah.

We enjoyed a pleasant afternoon lounging around and exploring the slickrock, followed by a spectacular sunset over the canyons. The photo above was not actually what I had in mind at all for this location, but sometimes you just have to improvise at the last minute and point the camera where the good light is!

A grand vista overlooking the Dirty Devil River.

Dirty Devil Vista

A grand vista overlooking the Dirty Devil River.

For our second backpack trip in the Robbers Roost Country we did something a bit more adventurous, hiking a spectacular and challenging trail down to the Dirty Devil River then up another remote canyon.

Sunrise light illuminates a slickrock bowl high above the Dirty Devil River.

Sandstone Light Catcher

Sunrise light illuminates a slickrock bowl high above the Dirty Devil River.

A great campsite on top of a big flat boulder.

A great campsite on top of a big flat boulder.

We intended to do a 4-day loop trek up one canyon then over and down another. Unfortunately we got "Kelseyed" yet again when we got to a crux point at the climb out of the first canyon and decided it was too spicy for our taste, especially since the steep, exposed sandstone route was wet after several hours waiting out a blowing rainstorm. We turned around and retreated back the way we came, cutting our trek a day shorter.

Sunlight spolights a spire along the Dirty Devil River as rain clouds pass.

Sandstone Spire Spotlight

Sunlight spolights a spire along the Dirty Devil River as rain clouds pass.

Sunset light on a sandstone spire above the Dirty Devil River.

Dirty Devil Sunset Spire

Sunset light on a sandstone spire above the Dirty Devil River.

Morning coffee in the tent at our slickrock campsite.

Morning coffee in the tent at our slickrock campsite.

On the way down to the Dirty Devil River we had missed the route at one point and accidentally found a spring! So on the way back we camped on a lovely slickrock terrace near the spring. It's funny how one little spring and a bit of slickrock can make a desert campsite feel like a paradise oasis!

Morning light above the Dirty Devil River.

Dirty Devil Morning

Morning light above the Dirty Devil River.

Spiny lizard. I think this is a Yellow-backed Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister uniformis) but it may be a Desert Spiny Lizard...

Spiny lizard. I think this is a Yellow-backed Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister uniformis) but it may be a Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister cephalaflavus)

As always, it was a delight to make some spring getaways into the canyons of southern Utah for our first backpacking trips of the year!