Thursday, March 17, 2016

GANPRTSBA 2016 Day 5: CANYONLANDS and Dead Horse Point

So remember yesterday when I said words couldn't describe Arches, well today was Canyonlands and the same applies. There are no words and the pictures do even less to capture to the unbelievable scenery and incomprehensible scale of just the one little part of the park we were in. Simply incredible. It makes my heart happy and my eyes teary to see so much gorgeous, nearly untouched land just sitting there preserved and waiting for you to see it. And you should go see it.

Arches is amazing in its impossible rock formations but Canyonlands is amazing in its vastness. It is 527 square miles of canyons and vistas and arches and rocks and rivers... there are so many canyons, so many jaw-dropping look outs, I couldn't keep them straight when looking at our pictures when we got back.

Every view at every look out point, every direction on the top of each rock on each hike is simply breathtaking. I'm running out of adjectives, but I just can't describe it. It goes on for hundreds of miles in every direction and the views never end. Right at the edge of where your eyes can't see anymore you can tell its another canyon, another rock formation, something else amazing you can't even see yet because it's too far away in the SAME PARK. It's like looking across an ocean, but that ocean is made up of red rock in every geological form rock can take. It's extraordinary.

But enough of my rhapsodic ramblings, I'm making a mess of it anyway- the word indescribable describes it best, so let's move on to the blow-by-blow recap!

Canyonlands is about 45 minutes from Moab. Google maps told me it was 90 minutes, but google maps lies and you should pull directions from the National Park Service website. There are three districts that make up Canyonlands National Park- Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze. We chose to explore Island in the Sky. It's by far the closest to Moab and had some of the most accessible hikes, and I'd heard the views were just amazing. After hiking ourselves to near exhaustion at Arches the day before, admiring some views and taking some shorter hikes sounded perfect.

We started at the Visitor's Center where I bought all the kids National Park Passport Books as recommended by Meegs in the last post. My hope is that we can keep them and fill them in through all our years of adventures and then give them to each kid to fill in on their own when they're grown up. I totally bought one for myself as well. We got our passport stamps, chatted with the park rangers (always!), and picked up the kids Junior Ranger activity books. Then we walked across the street for our first glimpse of what the rest of the day was going to be like- crazy beautiful views of impossible scale.

Cora was on foot and again FILLED with hiking confidence. She can jump ("I JUMP MAMA!!") on and off all the rocks and DOES NOT NEED TO HOLD YOUR HAND FTLOG. After about 10 minutes of that we "raced" her to the car, strapped her in her car seat, and vowed never to let her out again unless she was strapped in the hiking backpack.

Hike #1 was Mesa Arch. A short and easy 1/2 mile loop, this was to warm up our sore muscles and get us in the hiking groove again. We stayed mostly on trail, recalling Landon one million times to STAY ON THE TRAIL it's just a quarter mile long- FOCUS, and then, there it was.

Stretching right in front of you with a window to the enormous valley- totally different from the one we saw a few miles back across from the visitor's center- and rock formations below.

There was a sign letting us know we couldn't climb the arch, which I was very grateful for because it's the only thing that kept James off. After Mesa Arch we took a long way back, climbing on lots of rocks and admiring the views without any idea of how many more incredible- and incredibly different- ones we'd see.

We drove a little further along the road, stopping for a picnic lunch near Upheaval Dome, finally feeling the alleged 41-degree temperatures when we were in the shade and not moving.

Luckily we got our blood pumping again with the hike up Whale Rock- a giant smooth rock stretching out across the ground like a half-mile-long blue whale. It's SUPER fun, and I highly recommend it.

We immediately went off trail to climb straight up the rock as opposed to walking around it at a more gentle slope. I balked at this plan halfway up when I realized I was on a steep smooth incline with no rope to hold on to and nothing to stop me if I decided to slip down; James had already pushed Claire up (Landon has sticky feet and hands; he's like a monkey climbing up those things) and I'll admit with some shame he had to come halfway back down to give me a (few) push(es) too.

But we made it! And then we got to run across the top of a giant dome-like rock to our heart's content.

Because running across giant dome-like rocks really does make our hearts happy.

And the views. Oh my god the views. 360 degrees. All different, all spectacular, all around.

We were up very high and it was very steep. As usual, the pictures fail, but they're all I have.

We finally cut ourselves off and headed back to the car, having just as much fun on the way back across the top of our friendly whale.

Once in the car we stopped at a few more overlooks, ending in Grand View Point-- not just another canyon with a breathtaking view, now we have a canyon with rock formations growing up out of the bottom. What?!

We drove out, truly in awe of this beautiful place, and headed for Dead Horse Point State Park. DHP (I can't keep typing that name over and over again, it's just too depressing, particularly after reading the myth that I sincerely hope is myth on how it got its name; spoiler alert- it involves a lot of dead horses and a group of asshole cowboys) is only about 15 minutes away from Canyonlands, sort of on the way back to Moab. We paid our $10 entry fee (our Southeast Utah pass didn't work for state parks, but I never begrudge a park fee) and proceeded straight to the end of the road- the Dead Horse Point.

And again, bam.

A winding river, steep cliffs, views and vistas forever.

Cora "hiked" and jumped a hundred times from ever increasing heights.

And after climbing around for a while and probably making other people very nervous, we piled back in the car, perfectly tired and overwhelmed with everything we'd seen. As I joked to James on the drive back, even the views from the highways are magnificent and I feel we're already somewhat numbed to them. Oh, giant red sheer cliffs with balancing rocks on top? Yawn, we just saw bigger. Utah is insane.

Once home laundry was done, fleece was donned, and two big kids who apparently didn't hike enough were sent out to the playground in front of our condo. We decided to man up and actually leave the condo this evening, putting back on real clothes (and by that I mean yoga pants and a cozy shapeless t-shirt), and heading into town. We ate at the Moab Brewery where we had a fabulous meal and I had a "naughty root beer" which is vanilla vodka in their house-made root beer. I had to stop at one because the altitude makes me a lightweight and it wasn't bedtime yet, but that little beverage was another highlight in a day full of them.

Dessert was gelato and another early bedtime while we enjoy House of Cards (loving Season 4) and I flip through my pictures and sigh repeatedly. Tomorrow we're filling in a few gaps at Arches with some short hikes to notable arches we didn't see on our first time through and then we're planning to wander Main Street and do some shopping and eating and then eventually packing. Our time in Moab is nearly up, but what a time it has been!


  1. Awesome pictures. I'm curious--what kind of pants are you wearing /do you recommend for hiking? My stretchy yoga pants don't cut it for colder weather hiking, but I'm not sure what a good substitute is.

    1. I had a year-long SAGA looking for hiking pants. I wanted something cute, lined, comfortable, and somewhat wind/dirt resistant. Not jeans, not leggings that snag easily- just regular pants with pockets and it was IMPOSSIBLE. I will say that Athleta had several I loved, but they only make "longs" for size 4 and up and I'm a 0. It was very annoying. I ended up with these (the winter liner version) on sale from Lululemon- they come in Tall and I LOVED them. I paid $70 and that felt about right, but given my difficulties and the fact I wore these pants every single day of our trip, maybe I would pay full price?

  2. Ah, we love Moab so much! I am so jealous! My husband's collection of pint glasses from Moab Brewery is his pride and joy. Yes, the dead horses desperate for water story is in fact a myth. If you look off the edge there is a formation of white rocks Near the Colorado River that look like a horse laying on its side; that is the actual origin of the name. Fun fact: the scene where Thelma and Louise drive off the cliff was shot at DHP. It's supposed to be the Grand Canyon but it's actually all shot right around Moab.

    1. That makes me feel SO much better about the horses, thank you! And that's awesome about Thelma and Louise- I can totally see how DHP could stand in for the Grand Canyon!

  3. Yay! I'm glad you got the Passports. We love watching ours fill up.

    I want to vacation with your family! This trip just seems like such perfection!