Archive for October, 2016

Colorado River, Moab, UT 10/17/16

We closed out this amazing day with a sunset jetboat cruise on the Colorado River through the Canyonlands By Night and Day tour company. We had called to reserve their Sound & Light show, but they weren’t running it that night and suggested the Sunset Cruise instead – what a great choice (especially now that I’ve read this review of the Sound & Light show described as “Bigotry & Hate on the Colorado River” – yikes!).

Doubleclick any photos for full size views.

In this very dry season, the Colorado is only about 2 feet deep here, so our captain Andrew had to zigzag to avoid sandbars. His dry sense of humor added to the fun. We went about 20 miles downriver and learned more about the geology along the way. But the best part was the river, and the late afternoon “golden hour” sunlight.

We passed some arches along the way:

And people fishing, and… red rock walls!

There’s a stretch of high, straight cliffs known as Wall Street – it’s a rock climbing destination:

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See the belayer holding the rope at the bottom, and the climber above?

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We pass this sign for Indian Writing – pictographs (or petroglyphs?) high up on the dark square of wall to the left:

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Close up:

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It doesn’t matter if you’re looking through the front of the jetboat or over the wake at the back, the views are gorgeous:

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Jug Handle Arch:

Every twist and turn provided new views, new play of light and shadow, and a few clouds stopped by:

Playing with reflections in the water:

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These are my favorites:

And a few last views, including what might be a great blue heron:

Then back to their big dining hall for a “cowboy dinner” buffet. Funny, I was the only one who took a second plate just for the salads:

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Clearly, the best part of this tour was the food for the eyes!

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Mesa Arch, Canyonlands – 10/17/16

Our final afternoon hike on this Tuesday in the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands was to Mesa Arch.

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We’ve seen photos where sunrise makes the arch glow, but an afternoon non-glowing arch is beautiful enough. And it’s a fun trail with some ups and downs. This strange butte is across the way:

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This is Biological Soil Crust, a lumpy black soil that can store water and serves as the incubator for high desert plant seeds. There are a lot of signs urging visitors to stay on the trails to protect these rare habitats.

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The trail includes flat slickrock, and steps through sagebrush and junipers:

Love this gnarled tree stump supporting a tiny cairn:img_8925

Even on a late October afternoon, the arch is a magnet for photographers, and you have to wait your turn to capture some good photos without other visitors. Summertime must be crazy busy.

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Part of what makes this arch an iconic image is that from certain spots, the arch frames the spires and monuments in the canyon behind it:

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As you climb up and away from the arch, and back to the trailhead, you get more views from different angles, and see more of the other visitors:

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On the hike back to the car, you’ve got great views of the 4-wheel drive White Rim Trail dirt road down below. We watched a few vehicles navigating the switchbacks:

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The drive back out from Island in the Sky still provides gorgeous scenery.img_8946 img_8947

There are fossilized records and footprints that dinosaurs once roamed the area, which Utah has dubbed its Dinosaur Diamond. So this business is set up on the corner between Arches and Canyonlands – Paleosafari Moab Giants, where you can learn about dinosaurs and “travel back in time to walk with over 100 full size dinosaur models.” It looks fun for families, and was a head-turner for adults driving by.

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One full day in Island in the Sky, and we did almost every “easy” hike (fairly level, under 2 hours) the Park rangers recommend. If you’re more physically fit and would like to do some of the longer hikes down into and up out of the canyons, you’ll need more than one day. Bring lots of water, even on the short hikes.

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Canyonlands, Island in the Sky Overlooks 10/18/16

Still Tuesday morning in Canyonlands Island in the Sky section. We stopped to hike at overlooks along the side of the Grand View Point mesa. First was White Rim Trail Overlook:

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White Rim Trail is a 4-wheel drive/mountain bike trail about 1,000 feet down from the mesa. It’s on the level of the white rock layer left by ancient seas that tops a lot of the monuments, and divides the full canyon cliff walls in half between the different layers of red rock. Our hike to view the White Rim starts out over these potholes which house tiny communities of plants and organisms that live out their entire life cycles before the tiny puddles from negligible rain/snowfall dry out in this high desert.

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After craggy boulders, these looked like marshmallows:img_8889

Red dirt camouflaged lizard:

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end of trail

end of trail

lunch view

lunch view

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The next spot is Buck Canyon Overlook:

Next is the Green River Overlook, with a peek at the river:

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This is Cleopatra’s Chair. It’s probably more than 20 miles away in the Glen Canyon/Lake Powell area:img_8916

This is the long view towards Cleopatra’s Chair, clearly showing the white rock layer topping this Canyon:

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It’s early afternoon, and we have one more hike left. Next post!

 

 

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Canyonlands National Park – Island in the Sky, Grand View Point 10/18/16

Canyonlands is the largest of the 5 National Parks in Utah, over 337,000 acres. The Colorado and Green Rivers have carved countless canyons, mesas, and red rock formations into the Colorado Plateau, and divide the park into 3 main areas – Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze. We started at Island in the Sky – a great description because you’re on top of the Plateau, looking down into the canyons. From Moab, you drive 32 miles, passing the Arches entrance, to the Island in the Sky Visitor Center.

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Then you drive 12 more miles from the Visitor Center to Grand View Point, passing pretty grand views along the way. Doubleclick any photo for full size view:

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Grand View Point offers spectacular views down into the multi-pronged canyons, with Monument Basin right in front, and a 2-mile roundtrip trail to see more and more and more around each bend.

We were facing into the sun early in the morning, so the views of these monuments were backlit/dark, and surreal.

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The trail continues over red slickrock:

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and along red walls:

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Look at the vastness of this view:

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view back to Candlestick

The trail includes climbing down and scrambling up some outcroppings for photo ops and views:

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This mushroom rock is near the end of the Grandview Point trail:

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The trails over slickrock are marked by cairns, formally constructed here, with a view of more canyons and mesas:

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On the return trip – it’s an out and back trail – the sun’s position has changed, illuminating the canyons in new ways:

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Not a bad start to Canyonlands – a grand view.

 

 

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Arches National Park, Moab, UT – 10/17/16

Arches National Park, adjacent to the Colorado River, covers 119 sq. miles of high desert plateau and boasts the world’s largest density of natural stone arches – over 2,000. Plus red rock monoliths, spires, fins, and balanced rocks. The park gets about 1.4 million visitors a year.

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We headed to the Windows area, past the Three Gossips:

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Balanced Rock:

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and this guy:

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Windows and Turret from the side:

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It’s a very crowded Windows parking area. I can’t imagine the peak of summer, when you have to sit in your car waiting for parked cars to leave. Late October, and it was busy, but we found a space in the lower lot.

Climbed up these stairs to the upper lot and trailhead:

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From this spot, you can see the North and South Windows and Turret Arch.

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North window:

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The trail:

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We turned towards Turret, with the sun shining behind.

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double click to enlarge – and see those tiny people under the arch:

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We climbed up through the arch and looked up:

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Heading back through Turret Arch, you can see a corner of South Window:

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We took the primitive trail around the back of the windows – the road much less traveled by, with spires in the distance.

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And cairns marking the trail:

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an odd little balanced rock:

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view from behind the windows:

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view on the other side of the trail:

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cairn and spire

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cactus farm on the primitive trail

Across the Windows area is Double Arch flanked by elephants:

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You watch the Double Arch grow as you hike towards it:

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see those tiny people under it? It’s hard to fathom just how big this arch is:

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Skeleton trees on the trail back from Double Arch:

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Our last stop for the late afternoon is the overlooks for Delicate Arch, the iconic image of Utah – it’s even on their license plates.

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the trail

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stairs up to Delicate Arch viewpoint

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Delicate Arch

There’s a strenuous 3 hour round-trip trail (which we didn’t do) that brings you right up to Delicate Arch – you can see all the little people under and around the Arch, waiting for sunset.

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The view from the lower viewpoint:

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as the sun sinks slowly in the West:

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Boulder to Moab, 10/17/16

The 350+ mile drive from Boulder, CO to Moab, UT takes over 5 hours while taking you through spectacular scenery, much of it hugging the calm Colorado River before it plummets through the Grand Canyon. The full moon was setting over the Boulder Flatirons when we headed out.

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I70 is long highway that winds through steep canyons….

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And gold mining country:

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It reaches an elevation over 8,000 feet near Vail:

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We headed down to Grand Junction, where the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers meet. The highway skirts Grand Mesa, the largest flat-top mountain in the world, about 40 miles long and covering 500 square miles:

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We head into Utah, and turn off onto Route 128. Not quite the same views at the Route 128 that skirts Boston:

We saw prairie dogs scurrying across the road in the flat areas, then 128 started approaching the distant hills:

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As we get closer, we see that the hills are red and rising up along the banks of the Colorado river. There are campgrounds along the river, with red cliffs rising across the river.

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This is the view from the Dewey Bridge Campground:img_8781

The scenery kept getting more and more spectacular, rivaling the road through Zion National Park. And this isn’t even a National Park, just the Colorado River Recreation Area!

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Towers of red sandstone that rival Monument Valley’s rise above the river:img_8785 img_8786 img_8787 img_8788 img_8789 img_8790

What a planet we’ve got here. If we don’t protect it, who will?

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Red Rocks, Morrison, CO – 10/16/16

Red Rocks, about 10 miles outside of Denver, is the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world (so they say). Two red sandstone monoliths frame the site, and a local promoter held the first musical performances there in 1906. In 1936, FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps built the roads, staircases, permanent stage, and poured the cement seating for over 9,000.

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The Beatles performed here in 1964. Willie Nelson, Grateful Dead, Bruce, nearly everyone has performed at Red Rocks. But even without a show, the site is a terrific destination with a music museum and hiking.

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entrance to Red Rocks

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honoring the CCC workers

You can see Denver nearby:

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The amphitheatre is impressive, even when empty. Videos from concerts, when the venue is packed, are even more so.

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left side sandstone wall

After admiring the view, we headed into the museum with this wall listing every performance from every year. Most years, the season opens with a sunrise Easter service:

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James Taylor likes Red Rocks

 

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Allman Brothers Red Rocks concert poster

After the museum, we crossed the road to begin our hike up to to lizard head rock. Nice smooth dirt trail, that gets steeper, and includes sections of steps.

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lizard head

Here’s the resting spot under the lizard, looking back at the amphitheater:

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Back down the trail:

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more red rock formations and views:

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