Posts tagged: Utah

Our Time In Moab – Part 5

By , May 24, 2010 9:26 pm

Canyonlands National Park, Needles District

Note: It’s with a sad heart that I post our last entry on Moab. As far as we have experienced, there’s no place like this anywhere else.  We will miss it. 🙁

The last full day we had in Moab was reserved for the Needles area of Canyonlands National Park.  Needles gets it’s name from the rock formations near the Colorado River, as some of them look like a bunch of needles pointing to the sky. 

Needles is about 30 miles Southwest of Moab… as the crow flies.  To drive there, it’s 75 miles.  We started out fairly early and headed south on 191, then turned west (and eventually north) onto 211.  Our first stop, before Canyonlands, was Newspaper Rock State Park.


Newspaper Rock is named due to the amount of petroglyphs scribed on it.  As far I am aware, no one has a clue what the different drawings or scribbles mean or why they are here.  Maybe this was a stopping point on a seasonal migration path for native peoples, or maybe there’s some spiritual significance to the area for ancient cultures.  Regardless, there’s a lot of stuff scribbled here from various native cultures and times.

After checking out Newspaper Rock, we headed to Canyonlands.  The visitor center is nice and there were plenty of rangers on hand to point us in the right direction and to give us a fairly decent description of some of the trails I had considered.  We eventually decided to go to Confluence Overlook to see the point where the Green and Colorado Rivers met.

In the Needles district, there’s not a lot of park to explore unless you’re hiking, mountain biking or going off-road.  We did the paved areas fairly quickly and stopped at Pothole Point to see if there were any potholes. 

Potholes here aren’t like potholes elsewhere.  The potholes are little pockets in the rocks that fill with water when it rains.  It takes a while for them to dry out, so an entire little pocket ecosystem pretty much lives in each pothole until it dries out.  We found two or three real shallow potholes, but the only life we saw included mosquito larvae and little worms.  Not a whole lot else.  There were a few large rocks, which were good for some needed shade.

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The road to Confluence Point is not one for the faint of heart.  It starts at Elephant Hill.  If you can successfully navigate over Elephant Hill, you might be able to make the rest of the trip.  Elephant Hill is so narrow and steep that it has areas where you can’t even make a turn to go up or down the next section of the hill.  They have signs telling you to do the section in reverse…  primarily because there’s no room to turn around for the next leg either. 😉

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On the way to Confluence Point there are other obstacles too…  Nasty rocks, tight canyons, stairsteps, and deep sand are just some of the things that will slow you down. 

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But, once you make it to the end of the trail, you have a half mile uphill hike to Confluence Overlook.  We met a trio of people who had arrived about 20 minutes before us and were busy taking pictures when we finally made it up the hill (they took the picture of us together… I wasn’t lugging a tri-pod up that trail).

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In the pictures above, you can see the Green River coming in from the left and the Colorado River coming in from the right.  They meet here at Confluence and continue on as the Colorado River.  The portion south of here is called Cataract Canyon and is one of the most dangerous whitewater sections of the river, if I have my bearings correct.

After seeing the confluence, we headed back down to the parking area and sat in the shade for a bit to have lunch and drink plenty of fluids.  It’s pretty easy to get dehydrated out here because there’s little shade and everything is dry.  Even though you may be sweating, it just evaporates instantly, so it doesn’t feel like you’re losing a bunch of water.  We talked to the others as soon as they came down and got to spend a bit of time discussing the area (they come fairly regularly).


Getting back to the park entrance took less time than getting here, mainly because there’s a shortcut on the way out, but not the way in.  It didn’t hurt that I had just run most of the trail so I knew what to expect and where (I could drive relatively fast on the open sandy sections once I knew there were no surprises).  After that, we headed back up Elephant Hill to get to the paved section and head home.  Unfortunately, we had to wait for a couple of vehicles coming down Elephant Hill first.


I normally let people do their own thing without saying too much, but I have to mention something here.  The only two people with any sense in the above picture are the ones jogging down the trail.  The red truck was having a real hard time making it down Elephant Hill and came out a LOT more scratched up than it went in.  But, what really gets me is the chick sitting in the window of the truck in the rear.  I’ve seen vehicles roll over on trails MUCH easier than this.  She is one wrong turn away from being dead. 

To any of my friends out there who want to go off-road and really be able to see everything, invest in a Jeep, take the top off and have someone build a good roll cage.  Trust me, it’s the only safe way to go.

This account seems kind of short, but the road to Confluence Point and back took most of the day.  Dasy was plenty tired by the end of it and I was “satisfied” in my explorations. ;)  We were just a scenic ride back into town away from the end of our time in Moab.


At some point, I’ll probably post up some more video, but I’ll save that for a future post when we’re parked somewhere for a bit.  It takes a while to edit and upload video and our Internet connection is pretty terrible right now.


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Our Time In Moab – Part 4

By , May 23, 2010 10:56 pm

Fisher Towers – Dead Horse Point – Sand Flats

We spent a few more days working, but managed to squeak in a few more outings. 


We found a gully that was vehicle accessible and ran that for a bit before turning back (yes, it was a marked trail, I was being environmentally conscious), then headed to Fisher Towers to check it out.


Fisher Towers was pretty neat because it had some cool rock formations, but the entire area around Moab was also cool because of the varieties of life in such an inhospitable environment.  Take this tree, as an example:


In black and white or color, it looks dead.  It’s not!  These trees pretty much all look like they’re rotting or completely dead, but they just sacrifice limbs one by one until they get enough water to start growing again.  In Arches National Parks we saw several that at least looked “half alive”.

IMG_0496Note: Lizard included just because I like them, although we did take that shot at Fisher Tower.  Photographic purists, I wholeheartedly admit that I heavily manipulated the lizard and tree pictures… If I post pictures and they ever show even partly with black and white, that means the gloves came off and I modified the snot out of them.

Later that evening I went back to Sand Flats Recreation Area to take some shots of the rocks at sunset.  I didn’t get quite the effect I was hoping for because a batch of clouds moved in right before the sun went down, but I did manage to get some decent shots.  I also took the tripod and had it set up to take a some time lapse shots too, which also didn’t work quite the way I’d hoped due to the clouds messing up the last half of the shots.  Ah well, some other time, perhaps. 😉

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The following day we went up to Dead Horse Point State Park.  It’s a small park, so it doesn’t take much time to appreciate.  Honestly, we were a bit put out at having to pay $10 for such a small park, but I guess the views are worth it and they know it (several people we met in Moab said it was a spot we had to go see).

IMG_2639There are a few different versions of how the park got its name.  The two most prominent have to do with the park being on a mesa with a very narrow “neck” to get to it.  Cowboys would herd wild horses up to the mesa and then just build a short fence across the neck to keep them penned in.  The cowboys would then pick the ones they wanted for whatever task at the time and leave the rest up on the mesa.  Someone was assigned the job of hauling water up there every few days, because there’s none occurring naturally on the mesa.  At some point, someone forgot, or got drunk, or something (this is where the stories all take different turns).  Regardless, the horses ran out of water and either died on the mesa, or jumped off (and died) trying to get to the Colorado River below.

What we found most interesting was due to our previous travels.  We’d been at the Colorado River on the boat trip, looking up.  Prior to that, we ran Potash Road looking up and down.  Now we were at the mesa above Potash looking down and seeing the whole enchilada. Below are the evaporation ponds from the salt company.


The portion of trail in the next shot is where we parked and saw the film crew on Potash Road at “Thelma and Louise Point”.


Finally, the road below and to the right of Dasy is right before Shafer Canyon and the border of Canyonlands National Park.


It really hit home with us just how BIG this place is when we were able to see just this one little piece from all three angles.  This is just one tiny little area around Moab.  A person could spend a lifetime exploring just one National Park here and still not be able to really experience even half of it!

Note: We’re almost done with Moab posts… I think I have just one more.  Sorry it’s taking so long and it just seems to keep going on, but the area around Moab really is incredible!  I don’t want to cut out any more than I have to.  Next should be our last outing, the Needles section of Canyonlands National Park.

Our Time In Moab – Part 2

By , May 21, 2010 7:18 pm

Canyonlands National Park and Potash Road

On May 10th, we decided to do some more off-road exploration.  I’d checked some maps and spoken to some locals who recommended Potash Road as a fairly easy but scenic trail to tackle.  I wanted to take a trail that was a little easier than the one we managed in Arches National Park.  From an off-road aspect, it wasn’t difficult yesterday, but I know it was a little nerve-wracking for Dasy.  Of course, the sign at the start of the non-paved section made me happy. 😉


Potash Road starts just north of Moab and winds south along the Colorado River.  The first few miles are a nice paved road.  The river is on one side and sheer red rock cliff faces are on the other.  There are scenic pull offs on a regular basis, most of which are near Native American pictographs.  The pictographs are interesting, but theories on what they all mean are as varied as the terrain around here.  We managed to hear two different “guides” talking about them and the stories they told were radically different.  I’m pretty sure everyone just makes up whatever they want and the tourists just suck it all up. 😉

At the end of the paved section is a boat ramp (more about that in a later post) and the dirt road pictured above.  The area of land is actually owned by a salt company, but they leave it open and unmaintained.  That’s a good thing, because it’s kind of a “thoroughfare” for several of the tour companies and off-roaders.  We headed up the dirt road, which at this point is easily navigable by just about any kind of vehicle (there wouldn’t be much in the way of difficult off-road trails today).  The first major sights we encountered were the evaporation ponds.

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When you’re at eye-level with them, they’re hard to photograph, but they’re still quite neat.  The color of blue in the evaporation ponds is quite brilliant, especially in contrast to the few flowers in the area and the bleak red rock and sand of everything around the ponds.

The salt company pumps water into the ground, then collects the run off in these ponds.  The ponds are lined with black plastic and the water is dyed with a bright blue cobalt dye (we didn’t find out about the dye until a few days later).  The dye causes the water to absorb more sunlight, which causes it to evaporate faster.  What’s left after the evaporation is a huge collection of potash (a type of salt, used mostly for fertilizers and dynamite).

After the evaporation ponds, we gradually gained altitude and swung back towards the Colorado River.  Rounding one bend, we happened to notice a pretty large collection of GMC Yukon SUVs and a few pickup truck.  The Yukons were one of the local tour companies stopping for lunch at an overlook.  The trucks were a film crew, possibly working on a future Disney movie.  It turns out that a lot of movies have been shot here, the most recent recognizable one is probably Thelma and Louise…  The overlook we stopped at was the one where they drove the car off the cliff into the (supposed) Grand Canyon. In the picture below, you can see the point and the film crew way up in the top left on the outcropping (you might want to click on it to open a much larger version).


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In spite of how high up that looks, we were only about half way up to the plateau that becomes Canyonlands National Park.  We’d see this same area later from a completely different vantage point.  In the photo below, there is a butte behind our Jeep.  If you look at the top of the butte, about halfway between the passenger headlight and the Jeep logo, you can just make out a large awning.  That’s Dead Horse State Park.  We’d head up there in a few days.


The views around here are just unreal.  It’s not possible to capture them with a camera.  The best I could do was to piece together a few panorama shots that show only a small portion of what we could see.

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I generally try to avoid messing with my pictures too much, but assembling five or six pictures together into one was really the only way to even hint at how much is out here.

After spending time checking out the view over the Colorado River, we continued up Potash Road.  Eventually, we ran into Canyonlands National Park, where the road splits up to become Shafer Canyon Road and White Rim Trail.

White Rim Trail is a road that runs along the rim of the canyons carved by the Colorado and Green Rivers.  It circles the area of Canyonlands known as Island in the Sky.  I’ve been told you can complete the trail in a day, but it’s a long day and you have to be hustling pretty quick.  We didn’t do that because parts can be difficult and I didn’t want to abuse our Jeep by trying to go fast on difficult trails.  In the picture below, you can just make out White Rim Trail running around the big canyons.


We headed up Shafer Canyon Road and into Shafer Canyon.  The road is fairly easy, but you’d probably want some kind of four-wheel drive, just for the convenience.  The road is quite narrow and bumpy and would probably put quite a strain on the suspension of a standard passenger car.  It’s rare that you can see more than one of two bits of the road at a time.  We really didn’t know where it would go, but I had a map that said the road went into the canyon and there were mountain bikers and the occasional SUV that came down, so we figured it had to come out some where.  It turns out that it climbs up the canyon and dumps you at the plateau of Canyonlands National Park.  The view from the top gives you an idea of how much of a climb it is (this is also a panorama shot… it’s too big for one shot).


Once at the top, we explored the Island in the Sky portion of Canyonlands.  It really is like an island in the sky… it’s one huge plateau mesa surrounded almost completely by precipitous drops.  It’s a pretty neat place and I wish we had more time to explore it.  We did take a bunch more pictures, but I’ll probably post up a slideshow with those later. Note: Dasy thinks Island in the Sky is a mesa, I think it’s a plateau.  We did some digging and found that it’s a good example of both.IMG_0333

After touring Island in the Sky and doing a fair amount of hiking to a place called Upheaval Dome (more on that in a different post perhaps), we were pretty close to cooked and ready to call it a day.  After checking some more maps, I found that there were three ways to go back.  One was back the way we came, which we decided against.  Another option was to take main roads, but that would have been a fair distance.  Instead, we elected to take Long Canyon Road, which was an off-road trail that was marked as “intermediate” on my maps.  It looked fairly short, and most of it was forest trail, so I figured it wouldn’t take that long.

While most of the trail was easy, there’s one portion that you wouldn’t want to take unless you were comfortable wheeling in 4-wheel drive with steep angles.  As an unexpected bonus, we managed to find a really cool spot that I didn’t expect to find during our trip…



Just for reference, that’s not just me showing off… that IS the road! :)  The giant boulder over the Jeep fell off a few years ago and the county jack-hammered chunks off it so that the road would still be usable.  About half an hour of climbing down the canyon later, we ended up right back on the paved portion of Potash Road, just a couple miles from Moab.  That was definitely an appreciated detour.


Our Time In Moab – Part 1

By , May 19, 2010 8:49 pm

Arches National Park

Note: There will probably be several entries for Moab, there’s just TOO much for one post.

We arrived in Moab, UT on Sunday, May 9th.  We got checked into the OK RV Park in very little time and immediately headed to…


We stopped at a few of the parking areas, including Balanced Rock and Fiery Furnace…

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IMG_2384In spite of the area pretty much being a desert, we saw plenty of interesting flowers.


But, it wasn’t until we got to Sand Dune Arch that we really started to have some fun!

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Unfortunately, Sand Dune Arch is very well named… the wind started whipping up a bit and turned the entire area into a giant sandblaster (my zoom lens on my camera still makes little grinding noises because of the sand in it). 🙁

So, we booked out of there and headed on to Devil’s Kitchen, which happens to be the home of the famous Landscape Arch.


Landscape Arch is the longest freestanding natural arch known (according to the Natural Arch and Bridge Society).  The last large chunk of it fell in 1991, which is when the Park Service closed the trail that runs underneath it.  I’m not sure it’s going to be an arch for too much longer. :S  BTW… it’s a pretty decent hike out to the arch.  It was hot and we were tired when we got back to the Jeep.  So, it was time to go off-road! 🙂


Dasy didn’t have quite as much fun as I did, but she managed. 😉

We headed up Salt Valley Road to see Tower Arch, but somehow managed to take a wrong turn, so we missed that one.  Fortunately, that meant we had over 9 miles of off-road trail to cover before returning to pavement. 🙂


Note: That is steeper than it looks.  This is with “new Jeep”, which is completely unmodified other than a new front bumper.  Also, my air compressor broke, so I couldn’t deflate the tires.  Someone was a little nervous. 😉

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But, we eventually made it back to Balanced Rock without even scraping anything.  The sun was just starting to descend, which made the color in the rocks really come out.


By then, we were pretty much cooked.  That about wraps it up for our day at Arches National Park.   I included a video at the end of this post, but it’s mostly the off-road driving portion.  Enjoy!


Rocks, rocks and more rocks…

By , May 16, 2010 8:28 pm


Just a quick shot from Fins & Things OHV trail in Moab… it’s too nice here not to share. 😉

The Plan… for now

By , May 6, 2010 10:35 pm

Gonzales City Limit

We’ve left Gonzales and are currently a few miles up the road in Seguin, TX.  We just had the front bearing seal replaced on one wheel and will be heading out in the morning.  We did some thinking and calculating and figured out that we had better pass on Big Bend National Park for now.  Instead, we’re working our way up to Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park.

If I had to pick a place to stay in between those two, there’s really only one choice…


For those who aren’t familiar with it, Moab is somewhat of a Jeep owner’s paradise…  off-road trails of all kinds in just about every direction… time to break in the new Jeep. 🙂

We’ll post about the Gonzales gathering soon… we had a blast!

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