I went to the backcountry desk in the Visitor Center shortly after they opened, and was able to get campsites in Upper Salt Creek for 2 nights beginning tomorrow. Sweet! But with 20+ miles of backpacking in the next 3 days, I figured I'd better make sure I could indeed walk without getting blisters from the new hiking shoes. Suitably moleskinned and with a different choice of socks, I drove to the Salt Creek trailhead; my objective was a ten mile round trip to Tower Ruin, in Horse Canyon.
The first 2.5 miles is easy walking in and along Salt Creek. Walking in the creek bed was usually easier, since it provided firmer footing than up in the sand alongside. There was enough water in Salt Creek to make it impassable for 4WD vehicles (in the dry season, it is open as far as Peekaboo Spring), but you rarely had to get your feet wet. At the 2.5 mile mark, Horse Canyon branches off to the left (east); it is all dry sandy wash walking.
Another two miles in, and a sandy two-track 4WD road leads another mile back to Tower Ruin. It gets its name from the adjacent sandstone tower.
Tower Ruin is the largest of the ruins in Horse Canyon. It's not all that big, and thought to have been occupied by only one family unit.
There are other ruins and pictograph panels in Horse Canyon, or so I'm told. I didn't see any, but I didn't have binoculars along and didn't spend any time really looking. It's another five miles further up canyon to get to Castle Arch and Fortress Arch; that was more than I wanted to tackle today, saving my energy for tomorrow's backpacking.
From the point where Horse Canyon left Salt Creek, I didn't see any water at all, and didn't see another person. I'd like to go back here as an overnight trip, carrying the extra water but spending more time scanning the canyon walls and visiting the arches.
Oh yes, my heels were fine, no more blisters.
GPS log and more pictures on EveryTrail.com
Picasa web album for this trip to Canyonlands