Trail Happenings May 2010
Amphitheatre Hiking Trails
by Ginny Carlson
LOCATION AND HISTORY: The Amphitheater Trail System! What is it? One of the newer hiking destinations in Grand County, with connecting loops that meander through BLM land in the Richardson Amphitheatre area. Where is it? Across Highway 128 from Hittle Bottom, which is about 25 miles from Moab heading up river (past Fisher Towers and before Dewey Bridge). The amphitheater area is named for Sylvester Richardson who was a postmaster and teacher in nearby Professor Valley in the late l890’s.
DESCRIPTION: The trail offers a getaway from the more familiar crowded trails, yet provides stunning views of the surrounding cliffs and long range views of the Colorado River. The trail follows a variety of terrain and provides something for everyone! The original trail was a 3 mile loop. The Wilderness Volunteers, a national not for profit group, added an additional 3 miles of loops to this trail in April 2010, transforming abandoned 2 track routes into a single file hiking trail. The original 3 mile trail follows a beautiful wash, winding its way past several “hoo-doos” and then goes steeply uphill through a rock fall until reaching the top, about 400’ feet vertically from the beginning. It then winds its way gradually downhill following natural contours and an abandoned 4x4 track where there is a connection to additional loops. The trail is generally easy, with some moderate sections. Bring plenty of water for your hike and select the route you wish to follow.
TRAIL CREATION: In late 2003, the BLM asked several of its volunteers (including me) to check out the Richardson Amphitheater area for a possible hiking trail. With GPS and camera, we explored the area, checking out washes and the old 4x4 tracks. We found that the area had great possibilities but there was a difficult portion from the bottom of the wash up to the top. BLM recreation employees reviewed the route and with their approval, the route was discreetly flagged, using surveyors tape tied around rocks and small bushes. The next step was for the BLM to obtain clearances from all of its resource management areas who had interest in the area such as soils, wildlife, and archeology. As time passed, the soils manager walked the trail and made her comments. Then a date was set to walk the proposed trail with the archeologist-tech. Fortunately, there were no mitigations needed, since there was no signs of Native American presence. There were no flakes, nor rock art, or any other signs of early use. Then another trail review with the recreation group. Some suggestions were made to improve the trail by rerouting around a large tree and shifting the trail into a small drainage. Back to archeology, to again visit the area and review the proposed new route. An EA (Environmental Assessment) was written and posted on the local BLM web site. After a year of incubation, the 3-mile trail was approved.
TRAIL BUILDING: Several local volunteers took down the flagging and set up rock cairns to mark the route. Additional volunteers from the American Hiking Society were in Moab in the spring of 2004 and provided their expertise and muscle to build natural rock steps in the steeper part of the trail. Yet another group of volunteers from the Oakley School group spent a day placing dead branches and rocks on one of the abandoned 2-tracks, to narrow the trail to a single trail. More recently, the BLM installed a bulletin board with a map at the trail head on the Hittle Bottom side of Hwy. 128. A few years ago, a large rock fall from the cliff above destroyed a section of the trail which was repaired by Trail Mix volunteers.
About the author: Ginny Carlson currently serves as the treasurer of the Trail Mix Committee, is a previous Chair, and has contributed to several grant writing efforts. Carlson has volunteered with the BLM and Trail Mix on a variety of projects.
Trail Mix is an advisory committee to Grand County in the development and maintenance of non motorized trails. The Committee represents bikers, hikers, equestrians and skiers. Many government agencies and private citizens make up the “mix” that makes this group work so well. Come join us on the 2nd Tues. of each month from 12-2 at the Grand Center (500 West -182 North). Everyone is welcome.
Contact Sandy Freethey 259-0253 or find us online at www.grandcountyutah.net/trailmix/.
Volunteer activities include everything from trail building to grant writing.