Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Canyonlands National Park & Island In The Sky

That is the view from Grand View Point Overlook at Island in the Sky in Canyonland National Park, behind me. I am looking at my now antique, first digital camera, a Casio product that did not take very good pictures.

That picture was taken on my first visit to Canyonlands. I'd driven by both Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, while passing through Moab, many times, never bothering to visit either until a very cold New Years Day a few years ago.

It was near the end of a Christmas Roadtrip to Disneyland, then on to Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert and Monument Valley. This was the Roadtrip where I first saw the San Juan Inn in Mexican Hat that I vowed to return to some day. The day that saw Mexican Hat ended in Moab, New Year's Eve.

The first time I saw the view from Island in the Sky I saw mountain bike riders far below me. At that point in time I did not have a mountain bike. I decided right then I was going to get one and return to Moab, which was already a world-wide mountain biking mecca, and ride the trails.

Within a year I was back in Moab, with a mountain bike, biking the Slickrock Trail, Gemini Bridges Trail and the infamous Porcupine Rim Trail.

There is a trail you reach soon after you enter Canyonlands National Park called the Shafer Trail. It's a steep series of switchbacks that take you down into Shafer Canyon. I've seen a jeep on this trail, but no bikes. It would be a bit scary to ride your bike down this trail. A broken brake cable could have you flying off the edge. This "road" looks way more challenging than the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier NP in Montana.

I believe there is a campground somewhere in Shafer Canyon. There are a number of campgrounds in Canyonlands National Park.

Island in the Sky is a broad mesa between the Colorado and Green Rivers at the north end of Canyonlands NP. There are many overlooks along the White Rim of Islands in the Sky, where you can see the rivers 2,200 feet below. The view from Island in the Sky is sort of similar to Grand Canyon. It has become an iconic image of the Southwest canyon country.

Canyonlands National Park is divided into distinct districts, with Island in the Sky being one. Then there is the Maze and the Needles. The Maze district is the hardest to get to area of the park, it being one of the most remote areas of the United States. People get lost and die in the Maze.

The Needles gets its name due to rock pinnacles that can be seen all over the district. There is a lot of sculpted rock here, similar to that in Arches National Park. It's a lot harder to see the arches in the Needle district than the arches in Arches NP.

The 4 pictures in this blogging were all taken at Island in the Sky. I mention that lest someone think a couple of these pictures were taken at the Maze or Needles areas.

The exit that takes you to Canyonlands NP's Island in the Sky is only about 10 miles north of Moab. If you are heading north from Moab on Highway 191 you take a left on to 313. It'd be hard to miss the turnoff. It's about another 20 miles before you enter Canyonlands. Before you get to Canyonlands you'll see signs pointing you towards Dead Horse Point State Park. It's worth the detour to check it out and learn why it is called Dead Horse Point.

The most recent time I've been at Island in the Sky was during a very long Roadtrip, the first destination of which was Moab, to go to Arches National Park and the Fiery Furnace Hike and Canyonlands, then on to Houseboating, again, on Lake Powell, then Mexican Hat and the San Juan Inn and Monument Valley, then on to Durango and Silverton, then Taos, Alamogordo, White Sands National Monument, Tombstone, Yuma, then stopping in Vegas for 4 days at the Luxor before heading home.

That was one very good Roadtrip.

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