Undulating Upheaval
Backpacking Island In The Sky: Upheaval Dome
Canyonlands N.P.

October 2 & 3, 1999
by Rob Jones

Upheaval Dome
View of Upheaval Dome from its outlet
(Click the image for a full-size view (12k; 581x396); Photo by Rob)

(Text and Photos © copyright by Rob Jones)
(Click on the THUMBNAILS to see larger images)

Other trip reports about Canyonlands N.P. on the Wild Vagabond site:
Chocolates for Easter: Backpacking THE Maze (1998)
Jointly to the Needles (1998)
Disraeli Gears Under Island In The Sky (1999)
Upward Angel: Backpacking Upper Salt Creek (1999)

The blazing red/orange fin appears razor thin from our vantage point, inching through the narrow drainage, approaching Upheaval campsite. It's nearly sunset of a long day. After scaling numerous stone steps, out of the gulch, we found our camp, replete with 360 degree views of chocolate Wingate Sandstone, topped by the glowing, salmon-red Navajo. We slept without a tent, feeling absorbed by the brilliant stars. It got very cool. But, before it did, a few nasty midges assaulted us.

Topo of Upheaval Dome
Section of a topo map of Upheaval Dome
(Click the image for a FULL-size view (45k; 826x1070)

It's an 8-mile loop with a 3-mile round trip detour into the dome from near the campsite. There is only this one outlet from the dome. It would make a fine day hike. The trail loses about 1300' (and, of course, regains it on the other leg). If one continues down canyon from the dome outlet, the trail eventually joins the White Rim Trail Road. According to the archman, Vreeland, somewhere in this outlet canyon is a wall arch.

Craig McCarthy and I left Smog Lake at 5:30 a.m. The plan was to meet T at the ISKY (Island in the Sky) visitor center and backpack the loop around Upheaval Dome, on the Syncline Trail. Craig and I were performing a preparation hike for the upcoming N rim of the Grand Canyon backpack, where we would be totting a huge bolus of water to cache. Today we would be carrying about 2 gallons each, for it's a dry camp. Things started out mostly as planned, and by noon we felt like it had been a day since we left the city of smog and salt. On the trail, we missed the relatively faint cuttoff to the Syncline Trail and hiked to the Upheaval Dome overlook. This was certainly worth the hike, but we all wished we had left the mongo packs at the trailhead. Returning to find the trail, we were close enough to the vehicles that we convinced T to leave her tent. Then, we got back on the real trail.

We discovered that T was not ready for prime time, ISKY style. She had brought too much stuff. It took us 7 hours to hike the 3.5 miles to the campsite, located where the outlet from Upheaval Dome meets Syncline Canyon. Argh….! Even after Craig and I took the portion of tent T was carrying and her food, things did not speed up. We arrived in camp just after sunset, and glanced with admiration at the blazing cliffs while throwing camp and dinner into place. As we were setting up camp, T pulled out a metal thermos full of wine and an assortment of fresh foods, including orange juice and boiled eggs. Craig and I just starred and blinked, thinking "what! No wonder our feet are flat!"

The next day, we enjoyed a lovely hike up Syncline Valley, the more interesting side of the route. It climbs steeply out of the valley, then sweeps around the North side of the dome, returning to meet the trailhead not far from Whale Rock, a large slab of Navajo Sandstone beached on our local desert. Please check out the Caveat and then the Links (go to the links from the main page) and do something to preserve your wildness.

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