Next morning after a quick breakfast of crackers and cheese I packed up camp and left the packs for later pickup. Today was the day to explore the inaccessible plateau. Luna found the secret way down the goblin cliff on her own. Without the packs the goats easily made it down, and we found ourselves on the giant indestructible sandstone slab. Now I have to mention that even up higher on the hoodoos there were completely out of place glassy agates and other strange minerals. They must have been there for ages, resisting the wind while the sandstone around them dissolved over time. Here on the stone slab, any rocks you find tend to be either black shiny oblong things, or chunks of agate. Here I grouped some shards I'd found within a just a few feet of me. One even looks like it may have been worked by an Indian at some point in history judging by the scalloping. This was a fun area to rock hound for sure, but I left these for some future hiker to see.
Here you see the hard floor covered with interesting stones. The tree sits in one of the few places that water had washed a shallow into the hard sandstone. In the back you see how the goblins just sit on the stone without a lot of rubble messing it up. Very tidy.
Was it a plateau? Was it a valley? Its both. We followed the edge of the goblin cliffs around the valley area. There are some fantastic formations that I'd love to spend more time exploring someday, but the schedule only allowed for an overview on this trip. There were some sandy areas with a lot of prickly pears down below, so we followed the goblin shelf around for a while. So fun!
I wanted to see if there were ways into the valley from the top of the plateau. This is important because the top of the plateau eventually drops to ground level a few miles north, and future trip plans might rely on knowing if there are other ways in. This scene is from a side canyon that leads to a saddle which I think one could climb with a bit of scrambling.
This is where I had originally thought about camping. Its very cool but its a side canyon without the view of the sunset, so I'm glad I camped where I did. There are 2 or 3 ways up to the top of the cliffs from here. Good to know. These pillars were very cool, and the area below had vast smooth goblin platforms that rolled like dunes. Lots of little hoodoos and balancing rocks. The early morning lighting doesn't do it justice, I'm afraid.
In the river bottoms, the sand is churned by cow footprints. Up here no cow has ever set hoof, and probably very few deer or antelope. There had been some thunderstorms a few weeks back and I could tell the area had been drenched by the ripples in the sand in the washes. Things were starting to green up a bit, but you have to imagine how this place would look in a wet spring! Anyhow, the lack of cattle made the plateau much more lush and green than down below.
Here we are following the edge of the sandstone slab. Here on the south end it sits high on the top of some cliffs and forms a wide ledge. However, up ahead the goblins come to the very edge and block the path ahead. The distant platform is rather isolated from below. I figured out a way to get to it by climbing a lucky arrangement of goblins, up to a goblin ledge, past the blockage and back down. I didn't have time to bother with it on this trip, however someday it would be a fun project.
The goats would walk that edge completely unconcerned-- Literally their hooves half hanging over the 80 foot drop. I wasn't as worried as I would be usually because I knew that this slab had no thin overhangs or wobbly stones on the edge. It was solid.
Heading home. Here we pass the lower west side of the hoodoo campsite where the goblin cliffs touch the stone slab when its at river level and dives underground. The walk back was uneventful, but I did have some fun walking with the goats near the highway. I could see people in some of the passing cars doing double takes and freaking out to see the goats. I observed something interesting as we passed under the highway and got in view of my SUV. The goats, on their own, left the trail and bee-lined for it. I didn't think they had great eyesight, nor did I think they were able to recognize cars at that distance, but they both knew right where they were going.
In the end the trip was a total success. I was a little dissappointed how quickly the goats pooped out in the heat and with full loads, though. I admit that even my goats arent in the best shape, since I only hike once per week or so and I swap out goats a lot. To do this right I really need 3+ goats. I did learn what my water consumption rate was, and that was important. Day hikes just don't give the right answer. This trip used up 3 gallons for me, 2 goats and a dog for a hot afternoon, evening, and morning with generous use.
I'm not sure what next week's hike will be. I have so many ideas to choose from!