Apr 23 - Canyonlands National Park

  • Explored Canyonlands National Park, Islands in the Sky unit.
  • Toad Miles Today:  102
  • Total Toad Miles Spring12:  777
  • Tonight's camp: Portal RV Park near Moab
  • Weather: morning low 46, afternoon high 92; (yes, a 46 degree spread); Sunny... Intense sun... SPF-99 and a big dumpy full-brimmed hat needed.
  • Notables:  1. An awareness that the more we explore... the more there is to explore.  2. Canyonlands is very different than Arches... but no less stunning.  3. Getting our boots on the ground and walking, hiking, increases intimacy with our environment... by a lot.
  • Link to photo album for today.

The past few days we have run into a bunch of friendly and sociable people. Starting when we were down at Goosenecks State Park almost a week ago now, and continuing up here in Moab... almost everyplace we stop... trail head, pull-out, scenic overview, along the trail... we've had enjoyable chats with folks from all over the country.  Of course, when we run into someone from our home state, Wisconsin, there's even more to talk about. Today, we ran into two sets of fellow-explorers from Packerland... and many more from all around, including Germany, Kansas City, Colorado, and some I can't remember.

We're also becoming aware that the more we explore... the more there is to explore. We came to Moab to see Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. While here, we've also explored the Colorado River Canyon. But during an extended stay like this you tend to become aware of new things to see and do... things you didn't know about before. So we'll be leaving with many more things on our "to-do" list for our next visit.

Canyonlands National Park is split up into three separate and distinct units. For most people, it's not possible to move from one unit to another without leaving the Park and re-entering at the gate for the other unit. The northern unit is called Islands in the Sky. It's the most accessible and the most popular with tourists. The southeastern unit is called Needles, and the southwestern unit is the Maze. The Needles gate is about 40 miles south of Moab. And, to tell you the truth, I have no idea where anyone would start getting into the Maze, the most wild and inaccessible. I may figure it out some day.

Our foray into the Park today was into the Islands in the Sky unit. It's about a 45 minute drive from Moab just to reach the gate. Then, it's easy to kill the better portion of a day hiking around and seeing the place. For the most part, being at Islands in the Sky is being atop a mesa and looking down into the most stunning collection of canyons, buttes, basins, rims, pinnacles, rivers, hoodoos, and nature-carved art you can imagine.

After our requisite stop at the visitors center, a short drive followed by a short walk got us to Mesa Arch, a friendly little arch perched on the side of a high cliff. A good photo opportunity as you could frame you're sweetie in the hollow of the arch while taking advantage of a backdrop view you don't get just anywhere.

Of course we stopped at almost every pull-off and view-point... and shot hundreds of photos. But after the snaps and clicks, we found ourselves putting the cameras down, and just soaking in the view... the immensity of where we were and what we were seeing. Living in the moment, you know.

At the furthest south point you can drive to with anything like a low clearance two-wheel drive Ford Focus, the Grand View Overlook, we parked the car, loaded up on sunscreen and water (it was over 90 today), and hit the Grand View Point rim trail. No guard rails, no fences or walls, no warning signs... we walked along a sheer canyon wall a bit over a mile to the end of the trail at Grand View Point. And after all the camera clicks, and all the Ooohs and Aaahs, we had 10 or 15 minutes of being completely alone... no one else in sight... listening to the wind rushing around the rocks and through the junipers... a raven or two... gazing out at the wonder of nature, some of it more than a thousand feet below... pondering history, the ancients, and changes this land has endured... and we felt so happy... so lucky to be there... and to be alive.


Tomorrow, Tuesday, will be a day of rest and catch-up for us. Writing, processing and uploading photos, perhaps a trip to a grocery store... we need a day like that once in a while. And I will complete the post for our first day in Arches NP.

The plan now is to extend one more day here and go back into Arches NP to take a couple more quick walks on Wednesday. That would mean we'd be leaving Moab and heading northwest again on Thursday.

Slightly Better than Most