Needles section of Canyonlands – Slickrock Foot Trail, 10/19/16

The Needles is the southern section of Canyonlands National Park. It’s  a 1.5 hour drive from Moab, has only about 10 miles of paved road, and is much less visited than the Island in the Sky section.

Much of the road towards Needles is “open range,” meaning cattle can graze wherever they want:

Along the way into the Park is the Newspaper Rock Archeological Site:

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Why “newspaper?” It’s a flat rock wall covered in 2000 year-old carved drawings; the Navajo name means “rock that tells a story,” but archeologists haven’t deciphered the meaning:

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Along the road, into the Visitor Center, and back on the road to our first hike. The views are broad, wide, and we’re so early that the moon is still high in the sky:

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Our first hike of the day is Slickrock Foot Trail, a 2.5 mile loop over a sandstone plateau with 360 views to the LaSal Mountains, Island in the Sky, and across the whole Needles vastness.

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No, we didn’t see bighorn sheep. We also didn’t see any other hikers for almost the entire hike. That’s one of the beauties of going at the beginning of the off-season, and getting an early start – not only do you get this remarkable landscape, you get to enjoy it in near solitude. The absence of distractions (whining kids, chattering tour groups, selfie-sticks in your face, waiting to get a stranger-less photo) promotes a mindfulness, a deeper connection with the place. In solitude, you are fully immersed in the “be here now” experience.

And this was our “now:”

Here’s a view of why the area is called The Needles, about 4 miles away:

The Needles!

The Needles!

Lizard! It’s easier to spot a redrock colored critter when he’s on gray sandstone:

The vastness of this landscape is hard to fathom. Luckily, we had picked up the trail guide brochure at the start – and it mapped out the various canyons and formations, and the distances to each. This video is shaky, but it’s a full 360 pan of the view – and ya gotta love these autumn-yellow cottonwood trees:

And the still the sights keep coming, like this closeup of the Needles spires miles away:

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Jaba the Slickrock Hutt

We’re hiking up the slickrock always searching for the next cairn:

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Cairn mimics SixShooter Monument

Love this planet.

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