Utah 2008: Pleasant Creek

For the second half of our visit to Utah, we planned on taking a short backpacking trip. It took us quite a while to figure out just where we were going to go, but in the end we agreed on Pleasant Creek in Capitol Reef National Park, which is a glorious place that I had never heard of before.

Kit and Kelleen hiking along Pleasant Creek
Kit and Kelleen hiking along Pleasant Creek

Pleasant Creek runs through a canyon that is neither as high nor as wide as Horseshoe Canyon. This canyon felt more intimate and isolated. Even the trail we were hiking wasn’t a groomed trail. We wanted some back country time and this was it. We hiked along a clear, active stream, something we hadn’t seen much of in our end-of-summer travels.

Pleasant Creek
Pleasant Creek

Unfortunately, we have very few pictures from this part of the trip. The creek, while pretty, turned out to be rather hazardous as well. The canyon’s narrowness meant that the meandering stream would butt right up against one canyon wall and then twist it’s way over to the other side. It was impossible to stay on one side of the creek for very long, and we began to cross the running water over and over again.

It seems silly now that I was so worried about getting my boots wet. Balancing on rocks with a pack on my back turned out to be a real trick. With each crossing, I seemed to have more trouble than less. When Kelleen fell into the creek and was pinned down by her pack, we all became more wary of the rocky path we were following. Except for a skinned hand and some bruises, Kelleen was all right. We had covered about two miles so, after a break, we went on.

Another accident happened at the next stream crossing. We had all made it safely across the water. Kurt had managed to scramble up the steep bank, but I was looking for an easier way out of the stream bed. Kelleen started to climb the bank which was at least five feet high. The rock under one of her feet gave way, and she shifted her weight only to have the ground under the other foot collapse as well. To keep from falling, she caught hold of a woody shrub just above her head with her right hand. The combined weight of her backpack and body yanked on her arm so hard that she dislocated her shoulder. Of course, none of us really knew what was wrong with her at first, but by the time we got to the park’s visitor center and dialed 911, we had guessed.

We sat by the creek for half an hour, waiting to see if Kelleen would start to feel better, and trying to decide what to do. In the end, Kurt took Kelleen’s pack and his own and hightailed it back to the car (he got quite a workout). We rigged up a sling using Kurt’s long-sleeved shirt, and Kelleen and I took our time retracing our steps.

With one arm strapped to her side, Kelleen felt unsteady and was cautious. On our way back, we just waded through the stream at the lowest point we could find – to heck with keeping our feet dry. Kelleen expressed the hope that whatever was wrong with her would be something serious, so she wouldn’t have to feel like she wimped out and cost us our backpacking trip over nothing. She has since recanted. Weeks in a sling is trying her patience and learning that she has at least 6 months of healing and therapy before she’ll be fully recovered didn’t help any.

We were extremely lucky that the nearest clinic had an experienced and confident staff. After letting some Demerol relax Kelleen’s muscles, the nurse and Kurt worked together and got Kelleen’s arm back where it belonged. The relief Kelleen felt was instantaneous. She’d been really uncomfortable for several hours at that point but hadn’t complained once. The nurse strapped her arm to her side and told us what we needed to know to take care of her, and we found ourselves a hotel for the night.

The next day we set out on a driving tour that had been recommended by the nurse. While it wasn’t the trip we had planned, we still had a wonderful time and saw mind-blowing things. On our first day, we drove about ten miles down the Burr Trail Road and stopped for a picnic lunch at what turned out to be a lonely but scenic spot.

Kelleen with sling, and Kurt
Kelleen with sling, and Kurt

The view from our picnic perch
The view from our picnic perch
Another example of the scenery at our picnic site
Another example of the scenery at our picnic site

The scenery for the rest of the day was just as beautiful, and we wound up at Arches National Park just before sunset, but I’ll leave that for another entry.

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