Carolina: Cruising Past 70: OLA: Getting Back to Desert Heat (Southern Utah)

Monday, April 29, 2013

OLA: Getting Back to Desert Heat (Southern Utah)

the glow of the setting sun on this hill in Canyonlands National Park
bidding goodbye to Colorado Spring Snow!
It was another snowy stay at Suzanne’s home in Denver, Colorado!   With the extra time, both Devin and Cassie, with a half day off from school one day, decided to create their own blogs. Cassie settled on one that inspires, informs, and entertains her audience with the fresh goofiness of an almost twelve-year old Funny Girl! For her first post, please go to Devin’s highlights unusual photos, music, and other stuff, and what else, for a fourteen-year old teenager! For his posts, please go to

the view from our camp in Hurricane, Utah
We wanted to head back to the warmth of the desert. The RV may be in Hurricane, Utah but we decided to stop at Moab to take a peek at the Canyonlands National Park. In 2009 we camped in the city on the way to Suzanne’s and visited its companion park, Arches National Park. We were very intrigued by Canyonlands because this was where the unusual story of an adventurous hiker became famous. 

another view near the camp
Canyonlands has four districts, the Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze, and Horseshoe Canyon. The last two are not easily accessible. It was south of Horseshoe Canyon where Aron Ralston, on a day hike, slipped into a slit rock where he was pinned for 127 hours (the title of the movie of his ordeal, the book is "Between a rock and a Hard Place") until he amazingly courageously cut off his arm just below the elbow to free himself and save his life. The Maze is Canyonlands at its wildest, a 30-square mile of sandstone puzzle.

the Needles behind us at Canyonlands
Big Spring Overlook at Canyonlands
The Needles are rock pinnacles banded in red and white where earth movements fractured the rocks and water’s freezing and thawing eroded it further into a jumbled pile. Though they dominate the scenic drive to and from the Visitor Center, other land forms of spires, arches, canyons, grabens, mushrooms, and potholes are all around. At the Big Spring Canyon Overlook there is a trail (which Bill braved) that ends at the confluence of the Colorado River and the Green River which carved the canyons.

Bill at the Green River Overlook of Island in the Sky in Canyonlands
Beyond is the last district, the Island in the Sky.  But, as we were leaving Needles, a an almost chimney rock, glowing in pink, stood out amongst the others. We stayed overnight at Moab and in the morning we drove to the two best overlooks of the Island in the Sky: Green River and Grand View Point. Both had Mars-type landscapes in the expansive canyons but the sun shone on Green River more. Grand View,  in the glow of the afternoon sun, probably offers an expansive stunning vista around the two mighty rivers.

Reef View,preview of Capitol Reef National Park
Interstate 70 through western Colorado and southern Utah is a scenic route. Book cliffs, Reef View (a preview of Capitol Reefs National Park), Wedge Overlook, Dragon Mountain, Big Rock Candy Mountain, highway intrusions into the red hills, and all other sorts of formations in varying hues from white to red to black studded the desert landscape. Even snow-capped mountains from afar and green fields amid arid landscapes interplayed with all of them.

Big Rock Candy Mountain
at the Court of the Patriarchs in Zion
Zion (meaning sanctuary) National Park is a spectacle of soaring cliffs in varying hues: the huge red Watchman near the Visitor’s Center, the majestic Tower of the Virgins composed of the West Temple, the Sundial, and the Altar of Sacrifice behind the Museum of Natural History, the spectacular Court of Patriarchs with Abraham’s, Jacob’s, and Isaac’s Peaks, and the spectacular trio of the Organ, the Great White Throne, and the Angel’s Landing from Big Bend, and the Temple of Sinawua that leads to the unusual world of the Narrows all carved by the Virgin River, the first-ever Federally protected  river.

Temple of the Virgins in Zion
Kolob Canyons, part of Zion
The next day we also made it a point to complete the Kolob Canyons, a separated part of the Zion National Park that was on the way to Bryce Canyon National Park. The soaring heights of Ranch Mountain, Beatty Point, Nagunt Mesa, Timber Top Mountain, and Shuntavi Butte made a spectacular large vista.

Bryce Point in Bryce Canyon
the Arch in Bryce Canyon
But Bryce Canyon is truly something else. The hoodoos, intricate formations from erosion still being crafted after millions of years, created such a unique land form of seeming cities for extraterrestrial beings. Rainbow Point at over 9,000 ft in elevation, to Agua Canyon, Bryce Point, Pariah View,  Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Fairy Land along the 37-mile roundtrip drive through the Park from the Visitor Center, at 7,000 ft. elevation, are all breathtaking stops.

Fairyland in Bryce Canyon
yes, there was still snow on Highway 14 going back to camp
On the way to Bryce we took I-15 North to Highway 20 East, then Highway 89 South and then Highway 12 East to the Park, passing by the Red Canyon National Monument. On the way back to the camp, we took the other more scenic route, through Highway 12 West, Highway 89 South, then Highway 14 West and back to I-15. Highway 14 took us to almost 10,000 feet in elevation and there was still snow all around. That was a pleasant surprise: the warmth of the desert below and the cool of the snow in spring above.

For more of the desert, and of a slightly different kind, Las Vegas…here we come!