A day in Courthouse Wash

Up just before sunrise we crossed back over the fence and started a peaceful morning in Arches.

Descending into Courthouse Wash. We alternate walking on rolling waves of sandstone and the soft fine sand of the wash. The sand is a good story teller of recent happenings of the neighborhood. Tracks stamped into ground of kangaroo rat hops, coyote trots, centipede trains, and jackrabbit bounds.

I can easily get distracted by the stories in the sand. But then I also get distracted by the flowers just starting to bloom, taking in the views of the Sierra La Sal, or admiring the rocks.

Gabriel also enjoys such wash explorations. One of his favorite things is transitioning through a wash from plateau and rim to canyon bottom and back again. Hence, today we opt to walk through Courthouse Wash, the only canyon in Arches NP.

Some tamarisk thrashing and willow weaving ensued. Not hideous, but definitely not smooth sailing. The tamarisk had its way with my favorite hiking shirt. Sure it had done about 3,000 miles of trips, days of brushy field work in the woods, and had a few holes (patched up mind you), but I had hopes for it to get one last grand adventure. The tamarisk ripped my right sleeve to shreds in about three miles. So it goes.

Aside from the brush damaging my shirt, we were liking Courthouse Wash. Lots of bird song, young Fremont cotton leaves a vibrant green fluttering in the breeze, and beautiful sandstone. Mostly we admired the rising cliffs and formations of the canyon. Gabriel especially enjoyed fine tuning his ability to read map topography and interpret the landscape. We noted every prow, buttress, bend, and amphitheater. Different than reading the topography of the Cascades. We are practicing now for when the skills will be especially needed later on in the trip.

After some slow going in Upper Courthouse, we crossed under the bridge and found the trail down Lower Courthouse Wash. A clear trail and a stream flowing the entire way, but always the path took us to a spot for a dry crossing. We rambled under alcoves, lounged by a series of little waterfalls, and admired the rock. There is going to be a lot of rock admiring for the next 800-some miles.

Soon enough, we could hear the roar of cars on US 191 and one canyon bend later we were out of the park. Such transition!

At different points in a trip the sounds of cars on a road have different meanings. On a night hike along I-90 or trip in the Columbia River Gorge (& I-84), I’m trying to escape the sound of the interstate and reach the edge of wilderness for a brief reprieve from the hustle bustle world. Coming back from 5-6 days in the mountains, the sound of cars on Hwy 2 are a promise of chips, bubble water (Le Croix pampelmuse!), and sandals for boot weary feet. This time, hearing road sounds felt a little too soon into the journey.

But a brief stay in town was necessary to get organized for a 12-day section. Gabriel booked a reservation for the motel where we’d kept our resupply boxes. (He sure is good at finding a comfy camp site, that Gabriel!) Then it was time to hoof it into Moab for one last night of urban amenities: laundry, kale, kombucha, espresso, a new shirt, a few minor gear tweaks, fresh veggies, and more kombucha.

We crossed the Colorado River for the first time via a lovely bike and pedestrian bridge. Then followed a path the last two miles into town.

Day 2: 17.1 miles; 31.1 miles total. A mile north of Willow Spring to the Bowen Motel in Moab.

GPS: used once; people: 8 on trail, including two NPS staff evaluating sites for backcountry camping, many on the way into town; roads: YES! sidewalk along Hwy 191.

First sunrise of the trip.

The slickrock park above the washes and canyon of Courthouse Wash.

Gabriel likes slickrock.

Mukmuk and a mini arch.

Fresh new shoes on day two. So clean and shiny. This won’t last long.

Rough paintbrush – for our friend Stumbling Beef, his favorite flower. We hiked with Beef on the CDT in 2014.

Evening primrose near our breakfast spot.

Golden cryptanth and Gabriel on the slickrock before our entry to Courthouse Wash.

A less than dignified way to avoid slipping on the algae (and minimizing damage to said algae) as we descend the wash.

Easy willow weaving.

Old growth tamarisk – nice work to the restoration crews with NPS tackling this invasive species in Arches!

Gabriel admires the rising canyon walls.

Overhanging slickrock in Lower Courthouse Wash.

Mukmuk enjoying the steps along the little waterfall.

Nice trail along the creek.


Gabriel “finds” a campsite… on Expedia.

Last miles of a beloved shirt. Thanks for the adventures! I sent it home so I can figure out how to put pieces of it to use.


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