We stopped in the Visitor Center first thing, so we could get passes to Lavender Canyon. They offer 8 per day, and we got the first five. We did Elephant Hill first, and then headed off to do Lavender Canyon on the way out.
We stopped at the Needles Outpost for gas and we all managed to fill up before someone "spun the pump" and broke their last remaining gas pump. The owner seemed a little tipsy and wasn't too happy with us. Still, the gas pump was older than most of us and it didn't work quite right. It was definitely an interesting experience at the Outpost, and one we'll be talking about for awhile.
We hadn't done Lavender Canyon before and we weren't sure what to expect. It started out as a very scenic but very mellow trail. There were a few little hills and bits of slickrock, and then we were in a huge wash in Davis Canyon. It was very smooth sand, and all of us had a good time getting up some speed. Mike S. was racing everyone, and everyone was grinning.
We managed to stop in time to see the left turn for Lavender Canyon, thankfully. It would have been easy to miss. It wasn't long before we were over in the Lavender Canyon wash.
We started off slowly but soon we were going as fast as we could without being dangerous. There were cows in the wash at times, so we couldn't get going too fast if there wasn't a lot of visibility. Still, everyone had a blast tearing through the sand and splashing through a few areas of a small amount of water. It was new and different, and it went on for miles.
Soon we got to the locked gate and thankfully the combination we had opened it. We were soon all through the gate and it was locked behind us.
Hand Hold Arch and Caterpillar Arch were easy to spot up on the right. They were both really cool. We took some pictures and kept going.
We took the leftmost trail at the "Y" in the road and headed off to Cleft Arch. It was really huge, and very scenic. Even the unnamed arch after it was really cool. We explored a bit, and then turned around.
The other part of the "Y" had us lost for a bit. We ended up hitting a dead-end and saw on the map that Long Arch was off in another canyon. It seems we made a wrong turn. The light was failing, so Bob and Mike C. decided to head back. The rest of us went back to where we made a wrong turn and kept going the right way.
Long Arch was pretty impressive. It was very high up and very thin for how long it was. It would be cool to view it from the top, if that's possible. The trail kept going, but it got rougher and there were no more arches to see, so we turned around.
Don, Michael and Mike S. had a great time "rally racing" in the sand and water on the way back. They were going a bit faster than Bob and Mike C., so they ended up not being that far behind them. Bob and Mike C. were done and ready to leave just as the rest of the group arrived at the trailhead. Bob wanted to head back so he took off, while the rest of us aired up and reconnected sway bars in the fading light.
We ended up driving back in the dark but it was worth it. It was a great day in Canyonlands.