Arroyo, wash, draw, dry wash, slough,…Call it what you will it is basically a dry creek bed, that flows only during times of high water. There was a pretty good size wash just behind our campsite so on the last day at the Valley of the Gods we decided to see where it goes. When free hiking in the desert, that is “off Trail” there are certain rules to follow. First and foremost, Don’t damage the “Crypto”. Crypto is cryptobiotic crust, a combination of red or brown sand, some small amount of moisture, and minute plant life that binds it all together into a crust about as tough as pie crust. It’s tough enough to keep the wind form blowing the soil away, but not tough enough to withstand a footstep. When damaged, it can take decades to repair itself and vital soil may be lost before the crust re-establishes itself. Therefore, off trial hiking is done on durable surfaces such as rock or gravel and in washes which periodically get rinsed out anyway so there is no permanence to the wash soil.
There was actually a small flow of water near the beginning of our hike, but it was due to a small seep or spring, not an actual creek.
Most washes are primarily sand and gravel with boulders strewn about, this one, near the beginning, had long stretches of red slickrock, sandstone smooth enough that you could drive on it. We’ve done lot’s of wash hikes and never seen one like this. It was like a solid rock road.
After a mile or so of red slickrock we passed through a gravel area and then found blue slickrock for another half mile.
Finally we found several sections of red and blue mixed together, often with purple highlights, and inclusions of various types in the rock.
Shortly after we got back from the hike, the wind blew up and storm clouds started to build all around us.
When the storm cleared we could see back into the layers of canyons where we had hiked. The storm finally blew itself out and presented us with a beautiful sunset.
The next morning was Saturday and in the distance we could see the dust trails of cars and trucks heading into the valley so we left for Lake Powell.