Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 6 (Canyonlands NP, Needles district)

It was raining heavily when we woke up.  I had been thinking about going back to Arches National Park to see the famous Delicate Arch before we departed the area.  That plan was cancelled.  There was no way to hike the trail to get to the rock under those conditions.  The rocks would be slick.  We decided to take it easy today.  We would starting heading south towards Monticello, UT, our destination for the night, and stop at the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park along the way.  (The area we had gone to the previous day was called Island In The Sky.  The two sections are not connected within the park itself.)  Moab and Monticello are less than 60 miles apart, but the side road to the National Park was a long detour.

We got back on US 191 after replenishing our grocery supplies and filling up the car’s gas tank.  (Interesting note – the regular gas has an octane level of 85 in these parts, whereas the minimum octane level that I have encountered anywhere else so far has been 87.  I have to find out why that is the case!)  It rained almost all the way.   At the turn-off for the park we noticed that there were others traveling our way on the narrow road in spite of the weather.  Interestingly, we had to ford a section of the road that had water swiftly flowing across it. This was a flash flood condition.  The water was brown and looked deep.  Our SUV vehicle had no issue crossing.

We had been driving in open areas all along.  As some point the road began to wind its way downward towards the bottom of the canyon.  As we rounded a corner in the road (with an overhang of massive rock that I thought would take the top off the RV that was following us), we saw trees once again.  It caught us by surprise.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made a stop at this point to go to the Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis following picture was taken as we were wandering around near the rock with the petroglyph.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was still cloudy when we reached the visitor center, but there were signs that the sky might be starting to clear up.  There were very few people around.  It seem like that number of people that we have been encountering in the local parks has been going down each day.  That is probably because of the location of the parks and their popularity in the general public.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way further into the park we stopped at the Wooden Shoe Arch Overlook.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first real stop was for a hike on the Pothole trail to try to see the “Needles”.  Because of the rain the natural potholes had water in them.  You had to be careful to stay on the trail over the rock that was marked with cairns.  The rest of the area was muddy and you feet could sink into the soaked red mud.  Here are pictures from that hike.  We probably walked less than a mile.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI call the structures in the picture below (you can click on the picture to open in full size) mushrooms.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are the needles.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMushrooms once again!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It was like walking in a fairy tale wonderland.

We then drove to the trail head for the Slickrock trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe skies began to clear up as we walked this loop trail.  We covered about 3 miles on a flat rocky surface that offered panoramic views in all directions.  By the time we got to the later half of the walk we were feeling the effects of the hot sun and were regretting not having taken our hats with us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABig Spring Canyon Overlook was at the end of the park road, less than 100 feet from the trail head for Slickrock trail.  There was a stream flowing over a waterfall at the bottom of the canyon.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI walked halfway down to the stream by myself.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the way back out of the park we stopped at some roadside ruins.  It was a short walk to a location where there was a granary that Native Americans had built for storing their food.  It seems that these kinds of structures were deliberately built in hard-to-reach locations.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the way out of the park we stopped at the visitor center once again to fill up the water bottles.  The drive out of the park was spectacular as the evening sun was falling on the red stone formations that towered into the sky just beside us. We had to stop in different places to catch our breath and take pictures, pictures that cannot capture the majesty of the scene around us.  This land has a grandeur about it that words cannot describe, and we should be grateful for the opportunity offered to us to experience its natural beauty.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was what was left of the water that we had experienced flowing across the road that morning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe arrived at Monticello around 6 pm and headed straight for the Blue Horsehead Inn that we were staying at that evening.  It was an old roadside building that reminded you of motels in times gone by.  It turned out that our room was also in the same fashion, with the bathroom fittings seemingly from the last century. I thought it was a cute and functional setup, but I am sure some others might have different opinions and be concerned about staying in places like this that are somewhat offbeat and not up to their standards.

I had booked the place to stay in Monticello rather than staying another night in Moab because the prices for rooms were less than half what they were in Moab.  You can see why that is the case when you drive into town.  It is a tiny place and I think it might have a single traffic light (I will confirm today!).  The place is sparsely populated.  I saw a few older motels as we were driving in.  The houses are small, and there are signs of decay, including the closed up diner on main street that is for sale.  I am hoping to head outside to take some pictures this morning.

There are only a few restaurants around and after we got our stuff out of the car we chose to walk to Doug’s Steak and Barbecue down the street.  It was a small unassuming place set back from the main road, and behind a camper, but the food was awesome. We had some out-of-this-world pulled pork, freshly made I am sure, that we washed down with beer.  We enjoyed this simple and inexpensive meal thoroughly.  Great stuff!  We were glad to walk off the effect of the meal as we headed back to our motel.

We head out to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado this morning.  I have to say that all our park experiences so far have been unique in their way, and I believe this will also be the case today.  I am not sure if I will be able to post a blog for today in a timely fashion because we are staying the night on Navajo land in Monument Valley, and I am told that their is no Internet connection in the rooms.

Colorado and Utah by Car – Day 5 (Canyonlands NP, Island in the Sky district)

It is raining heavily outside this morning as I type this blog, but that was not the case yesterday when we went to Canyonlands National Park.

The day did not start exactly as planned.  As we were driving out of town, an indicator lit up on the dashboard indicating low air pressure in one of the tires.  We had to head back to a tire repair shop in town to find out what was happening. Turns out there was a nail in it.  It took about an hour to address the problem. That was the opportunity for us to take a walk through the small town.  It took little time to get from one end of town to the other.  Moab is geared for tourists who have come for outdoor activities. There are lots of bike shops, and you see four wheel driven vehicles like the one below all over the place.  There are coffee shops and restaurants all over downtown.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe town is nestled between the hills.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is a stream with a walkway beside it, and a nice little park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the way to Canyonlands we stopped to take the obligatory park picture at the entrance to Arches.  We had neglected to do that the previous day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pictures below were taken on the road into Canyonlands. The two mesas behind are called the Monitor and the Merrimac.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was the view of Shafer Canyon in the park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is Mesa Arch.  The La Sal mountains are barely visible through the arch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a view of the canyon where the Mesa Arch is located.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pictures below are of Candlestick Tower.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is probably Gooseberry Canyon.  We stopped here for lunch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following pictures were taken during the hike from Grand View Point Overlook.  We walked a couple of miles around the rim of the canyon.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALa Sal mountains in the background.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a long way down from this point!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture was most likely taken from the Buck Canyon overlook.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe drove to Upheaval Dome, and walked about a couple of miles out on the trail (Teresa did not come all the way) so that I could get this picture.  It shows that the surface is fractured, and layers of rock from below have pushed their way out. There are a couple of theories regarding how this happened, but they are not sure about the actual cause yet.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe hike had some difficult sections, which was the reason why I went the final distance by myself.  There was a point at which I was trying to grab the rock next to me just because I was nervous.  The picture below shows one of the easier challenges along the way.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe obligatory park picture!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then drove to Dead Horse Point State Park to get a view of the meandering Colorado river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI saw the train coming from a distance as we were crossing the tracks.  I turned the car around and waited near the railroad crossing to take this picture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Canyonlands National Park had a very different feel from Arches.  We drove for long distances to get to places, and then we walked shorter distances when we got to those places.  Of course, the views were also quite different in these parks.

It was another long and somewhat tiring day.  We had walked about 7 miles over the course of the day, and some of it had been over difficult terrain.

We had dinner at a place where I could satisfy the craving for spaghetti and meatballs that had started early in the day. And they did have beer!

We are going to take it easy today.  I do not think much outdoor activity will be possible because the rocks are likely to be slippery.  We will head towards Monticello in a little while.  We will try to stop at the Needles district of Canyonlands.