After much debate, we decided that Arches should be our priority. Each day got hotter and June was close on the horizon, promising the heat of summer. As much as we had enjoyed the desert, it was time to head to the coast and enjoy the relief of ocean breezes.
In the early evening, after it had cooled down somewhat and the sun began its descent towards the horizon we ventured over to one of the overlooks to enjoy the canyon's colorful dusk display and eventual sunset. Of course, with the canyon aglow came renewed feelings on my part to get deeper into it. We decided that we could return to Canyonlands after Arches if we really wanted to. I knew deep down that would not happen at least not on this trip. Sometimes you just run out of time as much as energy and desire. Some dreams must wait for another day. The second half of the watermelon? Oh, we ate that before heading out for the sunset. There are some things that just won't wait.
Returning with that special person, my new wife, was a chance for redemption and we had been conquering such proclamations for a few weeks now including a very similar one at Grand Canyon where we indeed camped for two nights near the mighty Colorado. We knew we had the tools to do just that again here at Canyonlands. All our gear sat in the car and we were in great shape after over a month of hiking and backpacking. We looked down at the Green River from far above and could imagine being down there. It would involve some hardship but it was there to be had. My wife could see my mind working. We would have to do it early morning and could only carry enough water for one night. We couldn't afford more time than that anyway. We still had Arches National Park ahead of us and that was certainly higher on both of our lists than getting to the Green River.
We went to the visitor center and spoke with a ranger about the backcountry procedures and she suggested another great long day hike that she personally felt more rewarding called the Upheaval Dome. She also gave us some ideas about camping since our stop at Arches National Park that morning had not garnered us a spot at their much coveted campground. Canyonlands only campground was also full.
We went and got a spot just outside the park's boundary and set up camp. It was desert camping and pretty exposed with no running water but it was cheap and put us in position to do a number of things once we made our decision. We had bought a huge watermelon on our way to the park and we sat and greedily ate an entire half of it; the lightly sweet juices of the melon the perfect antidote for the dehydrating arid climate. Full to the brim, we set up our tarp in the shade of the only tree on our “property,” and laid ourselves out for our current siesta. There was little we could do now but rest and plan for the next days. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Normally, I would have been feeling a little lazy but after so many weeks in the desert, I was just doing what all intelligent warm-blooded creatures do at midday; I was having a siesta. When we arrived in the southwest in April, temperatures were more forgiving and you could sometimes plan activities for times outside the morning hours. It was now late May and the days were getting hotter earlier. The mornings were shrinking and the realization that we were running out of time for our desert visit was becoming increasingly apparent. It had been an amazing five weeks that began in White Sands National Monument and took us through New Mexico, Arizona, and now Utah. There had been some relief along the way when higher elevations made even the desert a cooler and hence more livable place. The Grand Canyon and Bryce were downright chilly at times. But we had also trudged through some very hot hikes and with the last leg upon us we knew were going to have to pick and choose just what we would do. There was only so much we could fit in.
I had come to Canyonlands National Park in Utah some thirteen years prior on my own and ready to tackle every hike in my path. It was early October and temperatures were moderate. As a warm-up to doing a day hike to the Grand Canyon floor I had bookmarked a similar path to the Green River in this much less crowded park. The twenty-mile round trip hike was a hot and dusty affair and all I could think once at the river was it would have been nice to camp there one day with someone special. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
The desert is beautiful, but it can also be deadly if you do not plan and take proper precautions. Take a good map, stay on the marked trails and also arrange with someone to check if you have returned at a set time after your trek or 4x4 adventure.
I have been enjoying the deserts in Israel and the US for over 35 years and doing rescue work in Israel for 25....I know the good and the bad aspects of the desert, the good, the beauty, the solitude, the visitas and the silence are all well known, the BAD, is usually caused by the people themselves
Fondest memory: I spend a lot of my time in the desert just sitting and looking and listening to the desert. I will spend also time following any tracks that I happen to find or take the time to examine in more detail that odd colored rock outcropping. Sometimes rock formations can take on new aspects and become works of natural art.
Two things make Canyonlands special. The "blazing" desert colors and the solitude. Here you can finally find that "quiet moment", all you have to do is just listen to the silence, something most of us never have in the cities.
Fondest memory: One of the favorite moments was when driving on a 4x4 trail over a plateau, we came to the edge of the cliff and as we approaced it a eye opening vista was in front of us...we stopped and had lunch overlooking this fantastic valley that we had "discovered".
If you plan to be a frequent visitor to National Parks in the course of a year, the National Park Pass can be a great purchase. I bought mine in March in Rocky Mountain National Park ($20). Since then it has paid for itself at least two times. The pass is $50 and can be used at any of the National Parks, National Monuments and National Recreation Areas.
Upon purchase you will sign the back. Each card can accommodate two signatories. Although we were told that we would need to show ID each time we use it, ID has actually only been requested once in 8 uses so far.
Favorite thing: Despite its remote location, the Visitor's Center in the Needles District is outstanding. They are very helpful in planning any trip here (and to the other sections of the park), and try to help the visitor get all they can out of a visit - within the visitor's limitations, of course. They also have a surprisingly well-stocked gift shop - possibly the best one I've ever seen in a National Park!
Favorite thing: Be sure to bring food and have a full tank of gas since there are no amenities in the park. The town of Moab is closest, at about 35 miles from Island in the Sky. Be sure to bring your sunscreen as well, becuase you will be under the sun!
Favorite thing: In some areas the ground in Canyonlands National Park is covered with a fragil cryptobiotic crust. This looks like black, crunchy soil, but is actually a living community of lichens, moss, fungi, algae, and cyanobacteria that is very important to the health of the soil and the growth of plants within the environment. They protect the soils from wind and water erosion, as well as enriching them with nutrients such as nitrogen. These crusts grow very slowly, however they can be quickly destroyed if stepped on. For this reason please stay on the marked trails and slickrock. For more information on this cryptobiotic crust see the following web page: nps.gov/cany/nature/soils.htm
For Additional Information you may write to: Superintendent, Canyonlands National Park, 2282 SW Resource Blvd. Moab, UT 84532
The visitor centers phone number is (435) 719-2313
The web address is: http://www.nps.gov/cany Along with general information you may also download park maps at this site, and contact them directly through the web site via email.
Call (435)259-4351 for backcountry reservations.
Or simply stop at any of the visitor's Centers while in the park to pick up free information pamphlets.
Favorite thing: Lots of the formations begin looking alike in this part of the world. It does not take away from their grandeur, but Monument Valley is not the only place to see monolithic sandstone towers rising from the valley floor.
Favorite thing: Can't say that this place is not aptly named. The scenery stretches grandly in all forward directions. Notice the mult-tiered composition of this spot. The photo is taken from atop a bluff 5,000 feet above the river. The intermediate tier is a few thousand feet below and the trails made by off-road vehicles can be clearly seen (called the white rim trail). The river is hidden from view at this vantage point.
The best view in the Canyonlands isn't actually in the National Park. It is at Dead Horse Point State Park where the Colorado River makes a complete horseshoe turn several thousand feet below the bluffs.
This is one of my favorite views in all of America.
Best way to - at least - get a idea about how huge this National Park is, might be the drive to the 'Island in the Sky'. This high plain, overlooking the canyonlands, is worth the long drive to (and same way back) to the mainroad between Moab and Green River.
Fondest memory: The view will never leave my mind. One could see how the weather was made, so wide and far the view was.
Favorite thing: THis park is every bit as scenic as its more famous sibling, the Grand Canyon, further downstream. The real beauty of this park is the blessed solitude in which one can enjoy the staggering views.