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Hiking Happenings October 2006

Getting Back to Amasa
by Rory Tyler

Kane Creek Colorado Confluence
Kane Creek/Colorado Confluence. Amasa Domes on the left

First things first. For fall color, go to the mountains in early October. Later, try Negro Bill Canyon, Courthouse Wash, Mill Creek, or the Kane Creek/Colorado confluence, which takes us to the topic at hand, Amasa Back. (I’ve heard it pronounced a MAH sah, a MAS a, AM a see, AM a sah, and so on. Take your pick.)

The proximity of bicyclists and four-wheel enthusiasts might lead a hiker to underestimate the attractions of Amasa Back. This is an accommodating place to walk away the day, offering a full range of hiking opportunities, from walks-in-the-park to treks-in-the-wilderness.

Amasa Back is a cliff-sided ridgeline that forms a miles-long gooseneck hundreds of feet above the Colorado River. Its vistas are among the most diverse anywhere in the canyon country. Kane Creek borders the east end of the ridge. All hiking access begins here. Take Main Street (Hwy 191) south to the 500 West/Kane Creek turnoff. Stay next the cliff, turning left where Kane Creek Boulevard and 500 West split. The Kane Creek/Colorado confluence is about three miles up the road, where it changes from pavement to gravel. At the parking lot, face the river. Jackson’s Trail begins in the lower left part of the lot.

In the first couple hundred yards, Jackson’s Trail drops off a ledge, through a tunnel of dense tamarisk brush, and across Kane Creek (usually a wet crossing). Then it’s a straightforward climb along a ramp of Kayenta sandstone that ascends above the river until you reach the top, in about forty-five minutes. I like this route for casual hiking. The footing is excellent and it’s not as long or messy as the main route. Nor are there many bicycles and you don’t have to walk on the slippery crushed rock left behind by four-wheelers. At the top of the trail you’ll come to some power lines. One option here is to follows the power lines to the left, cross the four-wheel drive road, and walk across the narrowest part of Amasa Back where you’ll get a radically different set of views than the ones that have been astounding you so far. This is also the trailhead for Jackson’s Hole, which is another matter entirely. Or, you can make a loop on the main trail, back to Kane Creek Road and your conveyance.

A more adventurous option is to go under the lines and forge north, the direction you’ve been going, for some off-trail exploring. It’s an interesting area, not too intimidating, and you can turn left and climb out to the main trail at any time.

The main Amasa Back trail is about a half-mile further up Kane Creek Road and is clearly marked. From the trailhead you can see a huge, eye-shaped alcove across the canyon. There’s some terrific rock art about twenty yards to the left of the alcove. With binoculars, you can see it well from the start of the trail. To get there, cross Kane Creek, take the first side-canyon up to the wall, then work your way back along the ledge toward the alcove.

It takes about an hour to reach the crest of the ridge on the main trail and, as noted, you may be sharing it with bicycles, motorcycles, and jeeps. At the crest, go cross-country a quarter mile to your left for the views of Lockhart Basin, Jackson’s Hole, Deadhorse Point, and the Potash Mine.

About half way up, the main trail rounds a point and heads toward three distinct towers of sandstone. An interesting hiking option from here is to leave the main trail, climb to the saddle on the right, then cross-country out to the domes above the Cane Creek/Colorado confluence. This is spectacular stuff, but it’s not for everybody. It requires some route-finding ability, desert experience, and physical confidence.

From the point, another option is to round the head of the canyon on your left and work your way towards a large Navajo sandstone remnant I refer to as The Whale. This route takes you to the east end of Amasa Back and the most spectacular views in the area. Here, Amasa Back is notable for the large, gently sloping, easily traversed, slabs and ledges of gray Kayenta sandstone and its exotic crypto gardens. Above and beyond The Whale you’ll see a large outcrop of canyon-cut Wingate sandstone comprising the crest of the ridge. Intrepid, determined, skilled, and/or foolish hikers will find this an especially inviting place.

One last thing. There are some archeological remains scattered here and there on Amasa Back. Anyone who defaces a rock art panel or steals an artifact is, by definition, Evil and will spend Eternity manning the drive-thru window at a fast food joint in Hell taking diabolically distorted short-orders from ravenous hordes of demented demonry. Don’t say you weren’t warned!

Rory Tyler is available for cowboy poetry/campfire song gatherings which include lore, science, history and lies of the Moab area. (Suitable for all age groups). Rates are negotiable. Give Rory a call at 435-260-8496.

Cryptobiotic soil garden
Cryptobiotic soil garden

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