Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dead Horse Point State Park; Canyonlands National Park

Today we headed for Dead Horse Point State Park to start the day--had heard about this place and really wanted to see it.  It's about 20 miles or so from Arches and it's often called Utah's Grand Canyon.  Learned that it has been the setting for many movies, for scenes that many think were shot in the actual Grand Canyon.  I suppose one reason is that it is much less crowded, but it is really beautiful.  The Colorado runs through it and, since it's much smaller than the Grand Canyon, you get some really good views of the river as it twists and turns along the canyon floor.  The orientation film talks about a scene from Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible II that was shot there, but perhaps the most famous scene was in Thelma and Louise, where they drove off the cliff into the great beyond.  So we knew we just had to see it!

It's still so amazing that we can be so close to so many places here in southern Utah that are in close proximity to each other, but yet are so different from each other.  This was no exception.  It was nice to be in a much smaller place, with many fewer people, and have a little more space.  It was a gloriously beautiful day, with brilliant blue in the sky, red red rocks in the canyon walls, and white snow on the peaks of the La Sal Mountains--just gorgeous!  We drove to the end of the scenic drive in the park, right at Dead Horse Point, to view the canyon.  As the orientation film explained, the Colorado goes through all these twists and turns, or meanderings, in the words of the narrator, with faster moving water going around the turns on one side of the turn than the other, gradually, but continually wearing away at the walls.  There's one place where the river goes around this one section of a butte, making it look almost like an island, and as the narrator explains, one day the river will just eat through it so it won't be there at all.  Fascinating!!  So we spent some time looking at the canyon, and it's nice there where you can walk both the east rim and the west rim pretty easily, and see both sides.

By the way, the name of this park comes from legend, according to the brochure.  Seems that in the 1800's cowboys would round up wild horses in the area and put them on the small mesa, which made a natural corral.  They put up fences, to keep horses from coming down off the mesa, and supposedly a group took the horses they wanted, but left a large number of horses behind, fenced in on top of the mesa, above the Colorado River, but with no access to water, and the horses died.  Pretty crappy bunch of cowboys, if you ask me.

Then we headed to nearby Canyonlands National Park, where the Green and Colorado Rivers cut through the park, dividing it into three distinct areas: Island in the Sky, where we visited today, the Needles, and the Maze.  Island in the Sky is the most easily accessible area of Canyonlands, Needles is accessible, but a good bit farther from Moab, while the Maze is backcountry and much less accessible.  Island in the Sky is aptly named, as it is essentially a large mesa, almost, but not completely, surrounded by the canyon.  You definitely get the feeling you are on an island in the sky when you walk the rim trail here.  Anyway, we did a couple of hikes and really enjoyed it.  It's a park where there are very few facilities, no food or lodging, which means the crowds are smaller here as well.  But it is a very beautiful park, and is one of what we've seen sometimes referred to as Utah's Five Diamonds, or some such similar phrase.  Anyway, we've been to all of them now--Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands.  At Canyonlands we hiked first at the end of the park, which was a relatively easy hike, but with some spectacular views of the canyon, and the trail leads right along the rim of the canyon.  We were joking with another couple about our age that we were glad we didn't come here when the kids were younger, as close to the rim and consequent dropoff to the canyon floor as the trail was.  Shelley would have been consoling Trisha as she tried not to have heart failure while Todd and Jeremy would have been pushing the limits, seeing how close to the edge they could come!!  We then hiked a short trail out to Mesa Arch, the only arch in Canyonlands, but the views through this arch were  really special and unique.  Got back to Moab and visited a couple of the galleries and shops in town, and found a really wonderful shop with all sorts of southwestern art--almost overwhelming there were so many beautiful things here.  It was fun as well to be able to recognize the Acoma pieces they had for sale here, and nice to be able to remember what we had learned visiting there!  There's a rodeo here starting tomorrow, and as we were walking down the street we encountered some of the rodeo cowboys, cowgirls and bullfighters who were all duded up, promoting the show.  At the time we had not decided if we were going to stay here another night, but later decided to do so, so hopefully we'll still be able to get tickets to the rodeo for tomorrow night.  Decided we needed a day to just chill and take it easy--realized we were close to experiencing sensory overload, so it's time to just rest easy for a day.  Anyway, when we got back to the campground and as I was hooking up, the couple in the RV next to us said they had seen us in Zion last week, and asked if they could have their picture taken with Santa for their grandkids.  So we had some pictures and I signed Santa cards for their grandkids, while they told us places in their home state of Michigan we should definitely try to see when we're there later in our trip.  It was nice, too, to be able to share some of our experiences in places they haven't yet visited that they want to see eventually.  Really nice folks, and it's always fun to compare notes about RVing, and to learn what different people from the same state will tell you are the must see places in their respective states.

So here are some pics from today:

Shots as we approached the visitors center at Dead Horse Point

The picture doesn't really capture the color, but we saw these smooth as glass, brilliant cobalt blue surfaces that we thought were water, or lakes, but just not moving at all.  We asked in the visitors center and it's apparently part of a commercial potash mining operation, and they add cobalt to the water for this particular part of the processing of the potash they mine.

Dead Horst Point, like some other parks we've visited, is a habitat for Desert Big Horn Sheep, but we've so far not been able to sight any for real--this is the stuffed one in the visitors center.
Looking down into the canyon

Here is the promontory with the Colorado flowing around the end of it, the one the film narrator said would eventually be worn away by the river's flow

"Mini arch" in a small rock formation along the trail

 Next two shots are looking down on the potash processing ponds, with the La Sal Mountains in the distance.

 The bend in the river

 Tour boat, way below

Beginning views of Canyonlands, from Island in the Sky
 You can see some ATV trails way down on the canyon floor
 The snow covered peaks of the La Sal Mountains
 As a way of giving some perspective, this sole spire in the foreground is 305 ft. tall.

 See how the river has cut these sharp mini canyons over the ages

Multiple examples of God's beautiful creations along the trail!!

That same 305 ft. high spire--you can see how much smaller it is than the fins to the right

 Distance shot and then telephoto of the peaks of the La Sal

 Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, from different angles

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