Starlight Cave in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (GSENM) is a place I’ve been plotting to go to since I moved to Utah nearly 15 years ago. Steve and I tried (once upon a time) to find the cave (filled with really old and amazing pictographs) but with little back country experience at the time, abandoned our trek and it’s been silently sitting in the back of my mind over the years.
So now — one chilly November morning — my two fav adventurers Paul and Vince — didn’t have to do much to convince me to bundle up and head out at 5 am to do a 18~ mile point to point run/crossx trek to the top of Mollie’s Nipple (a prominent landmark in the GSENM) to Starlight Cave, over to Kitchen Falls, and then down the Pariah River, ending at the Pariah Town Site.
|The goon squad — Vince, Paul, me 🙂|
The plan was for the three of us to summit Mollie’s Nipple first (about 5 miles from where we would park Paul’s trusty subaru), Vince would return to the car after the summit and Paul and I would continue on — with various maps (apps and such) to get us across the vast wilderness to Starlight Canyon and the cave. Vince would then pick us up at the finish (another 10 miles through Kitchen Canyon and the Pariah River).
|Mollie’s Nipple at sunrise|
|Vince halfway up to the summit|
|Thunderbird — a good trail marker to let you know you’re on track to the top|
|I dudditz! On top of Mollie’s!|
Paul and I said good-bye to Vince and we were off to our next destination (the one I came for!) — Starlight Cave. After a good hour or longer of hoofin’ it across the vast wilderness, we came to Starlight Canyon. I knew we had to be close. Paul had been here before, so I was in good hands and felt confident we would not get lost 🙂
Then paul pointed across a narrow wash and said…. “Look over there.” and I saw a ginormous cave which I knew must be Starlight.
A quick scramble off a rocky outcropping and up into the sandy alcove and I was there.
I really was amazed by the rock art here. It was so detailed and unlike anything I’ve seen before. I had only seen pics of the two dudes in the photo above. But there was so much more!
|weird upside down person|
Gah! So amazing.
We rested a bit, taking in all of the amazing history here, being sure not to step on, touch, rub against or in any way disturb the area. Then we were off to Kitchen Falls.
From Starlight to Kitchen we encountered a very short but RAD section of narrows with cascading pools. It reminded me of Goonies 🙂 Very fun!
|Kitchen Falls.. meh.|
After Kitchen Falls, it was time to put on our water socks (the Pariah was frickin’ freezing) and head on to find the confluence of the river. We also heard there was more rock art (petroglyphs) right at the junction. Could we find them?? 🙂
|Paul’s about to be surprised 🙂|
We heard there were even more glyphs across the river, and spent a good 30 min trying to find them, but with daylight waning, we decided best to move along. We had about 4 – 5 miles of pretty easy running and river crossings to the “finish” where Vince would be waiting for us.
About 90 minutes later, sun setting and the cliffs glowing pink, I saw a tiny little white suby in the distance. And there was Vince, waiting for us with a huge grin.
|Success and Cheers 🙂|
It was a very long, fulfilling day — lots of laughs and beautiful wild landscapes. Pretty much a perfect adventure!