Hiking in Utah: Part 2

The other half of our most recent hiking adventure was Canyonlands National Park. It’s one of the most stark, shockingly-untouched places I’ve ever seen. It struck the kind of primal fear in me I don’t feel very often as an urbanite – that realization that in places like this, nature WILL win if you’re not very, very careful. Parts of Canyonlands take hours and hours and hours to get to, and you have to have everything you’ll need for multiple days just to DRIVE there, not to mention the hiking part. This is the place that the guy in 127 Hours got pinned in a slot canyon by a boulder and had to cut his arm off to escape after several days of, well, dying. We spent our time in the closer-to-Moab parts of the park.

On our way to the remote visitor center and trail heads, we passed “Newspaper Rock,” a rock face on which Native Americans told their stories. I learned that a lot of times these rock art panels are found near water – they were placed there to signal the presence of water to others, as well as tell stories and remember.

One of the big attractions in Canyonlands is the Needles, a network of giant sandstone spires. They look tiny in these photos, but they’re gigantic.

A nearby hiker said these rock formations looked like pudding.

We started with a 4.3-mile hike, which was probably one of my favorites on the whole trip. Chesler Park Trail is much longer, but we did what we could in order to see a lot in one day. I loved this trail because it felt like the Land Before Time, and the elevation kept changing in bits, not just up or down. We went from up on the tops of these spires down into the valleys, twisting and turning, squeezing through narrow slots between rocks, through tiny passages, across flats and dry creekbeds, and up and down steps carved into the stone. I know hikers pass through this place all the time, but it felt totally untouched, and it was amazing.

This one looked like a chicken pot pie to me!

This last one might look all warm and fuzzy with Dad’s arm around me, but he’s really just trying to keep me from falling off the edge behind us. He won’t let either of us get within 10 feet of a big cliff. It’s pretty funny!

The rest of our time in Canyonlands was spent hiking lots of shorter trails. On Roadside Ruin Trail, we saw a granary – a food storage bin – built hundreds of years ago by Native Americans. Kept animals out of the corn and grain stores.

We saw a natural spring on Cave Spring Trail. It was cool and damp under there, and moss was growing where water seeps out of the rock face. This area had ruins of a cowboy cattle camp – pens, camp furniture, iron stuff. They settled here because of the reliable water source.

Apparently they weren’t the first ones – we saw some cave paintings and hand prints on the overhangs.

We climbed up a couple of ladders to hike around on the tops of these mushroom-type formations. The spring and cattle camp are underneath. From above, we could see so far!

One of the trails with the most grand vistas was the aptly-named Grand View Trail, which basically takes you 2 miles down and around the top ridge of a big peninsula-type island. It took a long time to drive to because you were driving to the edge of the “Island in the Sky” plateau, of which this trail is at the tip. The cement we parked and walked on in the parking area there was all orange, the color of the earth there, because it was so much easier to use what was there than to haul it so far into the wild. From here, you could see everything we had been to, all the landmarks.

The last couple of trails were tied together, Upheaval Dome and Whale Rock. Some sort of phenomena, either a meteor or salt dome, created this giant hole in the earth, and the force pushed back several ringed ridges of rock and earth around it. The first trail took us over a couple of the ridges so we could see the hole up close, and the second took us along the crest of the outer ring.

Whale Rock was actually a little scary, although nothing compared to the rock fins in Arches. We walked along the top, and the sides sloped off on either side. It made Dad nervous, of course, so when I asked him to pose for a picture, he went and stood in this tiny little 3-inch-deep crater in the middle of the ridge. Because those 3 inches would keep him safe. Too funny.

In all, we walked 25.6 miles in 3 days. We saw some amazing places, and there is so much more there that we just couldn’t get to. I hope to go back someday!