(Jan) Shafer Trail Road in Canyonlands National Park started as a very steep cattle trail into the canyon where ranchers moved their livestock down to lower river regions in the winter and back up to high country to graze in the summer. The trail was so steep and narrow that cattle sometimes went over the edge and fell to their deaths. In the 1950’s uranium boom the trail was improved and widened to allow truck traffic on the ‘road’. On Sunday we intended to drive the road down the canyon and explore along the Colorado River on the White Rim Road. But it was not to be. It had rained Early Saturday morning and so it was slick and muddy for Saturday’s drivers. We heard from a fellow park visitor that someone had slid off of the side of the (cliff) road resulting in a ‘gnarly’ rescue by the park rangers. So, our hopes dashed and not wanting to be in position of needing a ‘gnarly’ rescue we changed plans and did some hiking instead.
First stop was a hike out to Mesa Arch perched on the side of a cliff overlooking the canyons below with the snow capped La Sal Mountains in the distance. The pleasant hike through juniper and pinion trees ended with a stunning view of the precarious placed arch. As we came closer we could see where the arch was barely attached on one side to the canyon wall and had huge cracks between the arch and the cliff. What a beautiful site to hike and explore.
Our next stop took us over to the Green River Overlook. Looking down into the tortured landscape below made us appreciate John Wesley Powell and his crew who in 1869 first explored this section of the Green River and the surrounding country. Today you can drive the 100 mile long White Rim Road that follows the canyon rim of the Green and Colorado Rivers in the Island in the Sky part of Canyonlands.
After lunch we headed over to Upheavel Dome. There is still debate whether this area is a result of an uplift of a salt dome in the earth’s crust or the site of a meteor crash. Whichever, it is an interesting land formation and a pretty but challenging .3 mile uphill hike to the first overlook. That evening we capped off the chilly, windy day having pizza in downtown Moab.