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In this continuing armchair virtual tour series, and thanks to the community for being so receptive to same, we’re headed back to the desert country, this time in the Moab, Utah vicinity. Canyonlands is second to no other canyon in the world, and as the name implies, it is a series of canyons in the context of a greater mother canyon. Indeed, its province is separated into three huge parcels. This tour will introduce to each sector, as well as discuss many of this national park’s facets: geology, natural and human history, but this time more background will be provided. The reason is because Canyonlands may be the most ideal terrain to learn about peripheral subject matter, such as desert ecology, salt (of all things), and a fascinating human history starting with the Ancestral Puebloans and extending to the Mormons and cowboys of the 19th and 20th centuries, and uranium miners in the 1950s. In fact, Atomic City (a/k/a Los Alamos, New Mexico) could not have functioned without its post World War II life had it not been for the uranium boom in this part of Utah’s Great Basin Desert.

Location/Geography: In south central Utah, San Juan, Wayne, Garfield and Grand Counties. Closest city: Moab. Area: 337,570 acres (527 square miles/1,366 sq. km).

Spotlight: The first of the great canyons inscribed by the Colorado River, where it merges with the Green River above Moab. A spectacular sandstone maze of mini canyons featuring three distinct districts.

(Continues after the fold.)

Snapshot: Canyonlands is a sprawling landscape of sedimentary rock located in the heart of the Colorado Plateau. From the raven's perspective, it is a convoluted landscape dissected by the Colorado and Green rivers, where both sibling drainages merge.

When it was designated a national park status in 1964, relatively few people were even familiar with this remote multi-chasm terrain spread out below the backdrop of the La Sal Mountains. For a time, prehistoric people had managed to sustain a fragile existence in an equally fragile environment. Still, the sparsity of their numbers says what it does about the hardships of settlement in this locale, especially relegated to poor farming conditions. To a large degree, Canyonlands remains untrammeled today. Its minimal network of roads access only a few areas of the park (mainly part of the Island in the Sky and the Needles, which are two of three major districts dividing the park’s vast holdings). However, trails remain primitive to backcountry (though there is some decent day hiking trails here and there). Water and gravity are the prime architects that have fashioned the mesas, buttes, arches and pinnacles throughout this mostly backcountry domain. Time and erosion have also done wonders in hewing an array of landscape features. Nearly all the rocks are pinkish in color, brick red or salmon in some places; also, tinted with varying amounts of the mineral hematite. Patina (a/k/a "desert varnish") stains some of the broader surfaces with telltale blue-black streaks. Sometimes these artistic designs on rock facades border on the exotic. Canyonlands takes its name from hundreds of lesser canyons with the same geological features and setting seen more abundantly here. Indeed, here is nature's greatest gift in the guise of a broad landscape accented by scrimshaw-carved canyons.

Guided Tour Essentials: Canyonlands oversees three regions initially incised by the Green and Colorado rivers flowing hundreds of feet below the high rims: the Maze, Island in the Sky, and Needles districts. To the north, the Island in the Sky district overlooks the canyon country from a lofty mesa top 1,000 to 2,000 feet above the surrounding terrain. Bordered by the Green River on the west and the Colorado River on the east, this facet of the park boasts the most spectacular views of tributary canyons and geologic formations. Maze-like in every respect, there is an unpaved road through this sector, though recommended only for four-wheel drive.

Neighboring Dead Horse Point also offers an exceptional and higher view of the confluence.

Across the Colorado, the Maze district is the least accessible. The Orange Cliffs Unit of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area shares the western boundary of the park. Sometimes referred to as a thirty square mile puzzle inscribed in sandstone, this apt description of this district’s landscape says it all. The Maze is also known for its extreme backcountry terrain, where landforms and the layout of its geography is nothing less than dazzling and bizarre. With its fourteen amazing arches (thus far, this is the count), the Maze Overlook, the Golden Stairs, the ornate and convoluted Land of Standing Rock (a/k/a/ the Doll House), and The Chocolate Drops (trail), to mention just some, a trip into the Maze guarantees a superlative, rugged adventure in every sense. Indeed, visitors who venture here are also 100 miles (160 km) from anywhere. Still, the scenery and solitude is worth the risk for those who are in good physical shape. It should also be noted that four-wheel drive is required on vehicles. Likewise, the punishing drive to get to the Maze is often called the most strenuous part of the visit. The Wall, Standing Rock, and Chimney Rock Camps are not a drive for the faint-hearted nor recommended for street vehicles and drivers who think they can handle the terrain with back-road experience.

The seeming indescribable pinkish and white Doll House (just so you know what its terrain really looks like):


Completing the trinity of Canyonlands is the Needles district. Aptly named for its colorful spires and fins of sandstone, this popular facet of the park is also the most visited sector (mainly because it is more accessible than the Island In The Sky, and especially the bone-jarring and jaw-loosening entry into the Maze district. (There is no hyperbole given this description.) Moreover, the Needles is suited for passenger vehicles and buses.

From a more distant perspective, a Martian-like landscape, I think:

Situated in the southeast corner of the park, this district has another advantage over the other two facets: it’s the most popular backpacking destination in the entire region (and that's really saying something). In select places, the Needles sector doubles as another popular four-wheel drive challenge: Angel Arch, Elephant Hill, Confluence Overlook, and Chesler Park are some of the most popular attractions in this outback, and usually bone-jarring, trip in any vehicle. There’s also another facet to Canyonlands, though not a district in the same league as the other three: Horseshoe Canyon. Annexed in 1971, this equally scenic attraction is now a detached unit of the park. Famous for its rock art and home to prehistoric Indians for hundreds of years, this sector eventually became home to European settlers, sheep and cattle ranchers, even outlaws. In the mid-20th Century, oil and uranium prospectors came here by the hoards. Then again, look how huge this estate was and it was all for the taking, that is, until the Department of the Interior stepped in and said, "Take nothing but pictures; leave on footprints." Thus a Leave No Trace policy that has been with us ever since.

Notably, each aspect of the park shares a common and primitive atmosphere, thereby preserving a desert environment as diverse in its flora and fauna as the canyon topography is craggy, maze-like and utterly contrasting. Each district, plus the annexed Horseshoe Canyon, offers its own special rewards. Throughout this protected turf roam the Great Basin Desert's iconic predators, avians, reptiles and smaller mammals (see below), all of which keep Canyonlands feral and free.

Geology: Advancing and retreating seas and oceans each left thick deposits of beach sands and marine limestones. Various river and stream systems moved tons of additional sediment from such eroding mountain ranges as the Ancestral Rocky Mountains (a/k/a the "Uncompahgre Highlands"), which preceded today's second Rocky Mountain province. The accumulated and additional sediments were deposited in low-lying areas. This storehouse and foundation material would eventually serve as the setting for Canyonlands geography and inscribed topographical features. When the Colorado Plateau was elevated (starting about 66 million years ago), the Four Corners region became primed for erosion and downcutting by streams and rivers. Under enormous heat and pressure, buried sediment turned into solid rock. Overlying layers and percolating water through the permeable sandstone and limestone cemented the various and distinct layers below. Thanks to the perseverance of the Colorado and Green River architects, these fluid waterways, the two principals of the Colorado Plateau, carved deep canyons over 2,000 feet, making this region a veritable landscape of canyons within the context of the greater mother canyon. (See “Geology Layers” below for a continuation of Canyonlands specific geologic blueprints.)

The Power Of Water: Thousands of smaller canyon fissures represent a common site here, all initially cut by water and fashioned by erosion. Canyonlands sparsity of vegetation also abets the process. The barren soil and a plethora of exposed cliff and mantle-rock facades is what ultimately makes this landscape highly vulnerable to flash flooding. With little soil and vegetation to hold the water, runoff from powerful thunderstorms accelerates the erosion. The monsoon season (July to early September) might also be dubbed the speedy erosional wet season. During this typically stormy spell throughout the Southwest, arroyos and lesser washes explode from torrents of rushing water. The contour of canyons become tight, winding expressways for moving debris, including any living creature that happens to get caught in such forceful currents. The power of the water is also exponential as it funnels into the myriad canyon sectors.  Erosive scouring caused by debris in the sediment-laden water is nothing less than formidable. This process during parts of the year is what deepens the canyon annexes and helps make each chasm a little wider each time flash floods occur. In this terrain, look for rushing red water and get the hell out of the way. . .it's more powerful than you think:


And don't you just love it. . .dunderhead types who think their Hummers are vehicles-almighty? Well, in flash floods it's water that's almighty. Never underestimate their awesome power. Of course, the tow truck driver won't underestimate the hefty cost of retrieving the vehicle!

Scenic Marvels: Why and how do needles and spires form, and why are such geologic formations plentiful throughout sectors of the park? The unique architecture of Canyonlands is another form of erosion over the eons.

A few hundred million years ago this region suggested little more than a mundane appearance: a low-lying basin of immense proportion and partially open to the sea. (Remember: there were no mountain ranges to the west at this time, specifically the Sierra Nevada Range.) At times, the basin would fill with saline water. The usually arid climate would eventually evaporate the water until only salt remained––make that megatons––of salt that accumulated, congealed and compacted in many layers. Frequent cycles of flooding, evaporation, and salt deposition continued until a thick stratum of gypsum, halite (rock salt), sylvite (potassium chloride), and dolomite (a type of limestone) added to the foundational material. Combined, these materials created the lithified Paradox Formation, the dominant geologic bequeathment in this region. As additional rock layers were later deposited over these softer layers, pressure increased on the softer layers and liquified them. Eventually, as in nearby Arches National Park, the salts began to flow with the consistency of pliable putty. These flows vectored away from the areas of highest pressure, moving into areas of lowest pressure.

Stockpiled in huge masses, the salt material later pushed and squeezed its way upward, easily bending the overlying rock layers. For instance, in the Needles district parallel cracks formed as the overlying rock mantle slid toward the Colorado River on the relatively slippery salt below. The result, as seen from a high vantage point, would be a virtual checkerboard landscape with the appearance of a rumpled tablecloth, its usual tincture being burnt sienna. Rainwater and snow penetrated the weaker joints and thus the cracks widened over time. Erosion merely accelerated across an increasing area until its surface revealed thin fins and needles of rock remaining from the earlier non eroded layer. Hence, the geologic reasoning behind this suitably named sector of the park, the Needles. Moreover, soft rocks that might normally become sloped can morph into spires, that is as long as the rocks have a layer of erosion-resistant caprock on top.

Geology Specifics––Cliffs And How They Form: Most of the palisades throughout the park reveal a classic cliff profile. The uniform sandstone layers of (principally) Wingate and Cedar Mesa Sandstone are ideal for forming sheer facades. Gravity is equally an important partner in abetting the elements of erosion that continuously hone and refine Canyonlands profile. The effect of gravity causes softer underlying layers to erode more quickly than those harder layers above. This process (called "differential erosion") undercuts the harder upper layers, which then peel or break off, sometimes in huge slabs. The sandstone formations are quite ideal for arched alcoves. However, it's essentially the vertical-cliff profile that describes the overall layout of Canyonlands features; also the park's distinctive sloping facade adds to the landscape's appeal. Poorly cemented and softer layers of sand and shale (Organ Shale and the Chinle formations) are responsible for the noticeably askew appearance. Usually, their surfaces are covered with loose sediment, with fallen rock slabs from overlying cliffs mixed in with the crumbled material.

Geologic Layers: The rock footing of this sweeping territory of aesthetic contrasts gently arcs across the anticline of the broad Monument Uplift, which directly affects this region. As previously mentioned, for much of the Paleozoic Era (roughly, 541 to 251 million years ago) this region lay beneath a shallow sea, the water covering thousands of square miles/kilometers that resulted in the deposition of marine limestones, sandstone and shale. The subsiding basin was sometimes wet and sometimes dry. During the Pennsylvania Period (roughly, 321 to 299 million years ago) seawater was trapped in the basin, then eventually evaporated. Soon afterward the salt beds began to flow. This ongoing permutation feature of the region may have lasted until sometime in the Mesozoic Era (roughly, 251 to 66 million years), which we see in the dominant sedimentary layers of the park today. Of course, multilayered rocks were merely the basic and unadorned materials of a base foundation until the great uplift of the Colorado Plateau from which all else followed (possibly a two or three-pulsed uplifting period from (roughly) 71 to 41 million years ago).



Besides the ubiquitous Wingate, Cutler Mesa, and Paradox formations, other prevalent rock strata throughout the park create a conspicuous layer cake profile, much like the distinct and numerous formations of the Grand Canyon, only not as colorful in Canyonlands. For instance, the gray-tinctured layer is the Honaker Trail Formation (a mixture of limestone, sandstone and shale), and the Halgaito Shale and Elephant Canyon formations (each created by coastal lowlands). These materials became part of a layering phase of varying sediments deposited over millions of years. Other materials also washed in, which added to the overall content. For instance, extensive alluvial fans that helped fill the basin, eventually mixing with the Uncompahgre Highlands and resulting in the iron-rich Cutler red beds (a/k/a/ "Arkose Sandstone"). Afterward, the underwater sandbars and blowing sand dunes mixed with the red beds, which accounts for the white-tinctured and cliff-forming Cedar Mesa Formation; also bright-colored oxidized muds later deposited to form the Organ Rock Shale. Another common formation in the park is the Moenkopi Sandstone. Its base materials came from vast flood plains and covered an equally ranging lowland, thereby burying the eroded surface with accumulated mud from tidal flats. Where Moenkopi rocks are found, the colorful and sterile-looking Chinle Formation also appears. Its blue and purple-colored formation blankets the eroded surface.

The alternating dry and wet climate naturally introduced various and different kinds of building materials. During the Mesozoic's Triassic Period (roughly, 251 to 201 million years ago), the climate became increasingly dry, resulting in more encroaching sand dunes that accumulated and shifted for hundreds of thousands of years. Later, when the sand compacted and congealed, their petrified remains were classified as the Wingate Sandstone Formation. The climate changed again, this time the Kayenta Formation monopolized geologic events. Its contribution to the layering effect was followed by yet another long stretch of aridity, so that much of western North America was again covered by a sweeping desert. Later, those desert sands created the materials for the cross-bedded Navajo Sandstone laid down on top of all the previously deposited rock layers. Mudflats followed and its material formed the Carmel Formation and Entrada Sandstone. From all the above description, the formula for Canyonlands layered appearance comes down to the obvious: different types of rock laid down over long periods and deposited in different layers. Once compacted and congealed, the uplifted terrain (the uplift of the Colorado Plateau) was primed for downcutting by the Green and Colorado rivers, among lesser regional streams. From the initial etchings into the back of the terrain, the elements of erosion then worked in concert with the combined downcutting-uplifting process. . .by which all has followed: Canyonlands noble and faceted features.

Bonus Details: By description, the Colorado Plateau's most characteristic feature is the land of flat-lying rocks. This means all the strata are laid down one at a time, the oldest stacked at the bottom. Compare this region to the Rocky Mountain province's vertical appearance. Thus, the literal uprising of mountains compared to the laying down of seas, swamps, deserts and other environments that accounts for the sedimentary deposition process of the Colorado Plateau.

Human History: Paleo-Indians first entered this region some 10,000 years ago. This estimate is a fairly common anthropological reference, though the date more than likely is much older. This designated benchmark comes from evidence of circular pits prehistoric people used for cooking. Since only humans use fire and create such designs, scientists rely on Carbon-14 methods, sometimes called radiocarbon dating. Carbon-14 is especially accurate when dating objects up to 40,000 years or younger (and by some estimates, 50,000 years is the limit).

Dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) is another accurate method to reference sites. By contrast, paleontologists delve into artifacts millions of years old. Thus, their benchmarks rely on other dating methods, such as radiometric comparisons between the observed abundance of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope and its decay products, using known decay rates. In short, radioactive parent elements decay to stable daughter elements.

Since paleo times, there have been numerous tides of human occupation passing through this area, all of whom depended on the availability of natural resources, especially water. If the geologic setting is conducive to plant and animal life, it follows that humans can also manage a foothold and endure for as long as natural resources last, especially water. The first people known to inhabit the territory were Archaic Era hunter-gatherers. They were here between 2,000 to 10,000 years ago. Like all hunter-gatherers, they came in search of large game animals and edible plants. They were a migratory culture and tended to live wherever natural shelters provided a stopgap and temporary home. Once the game and edible plants diminished, they merely moved on to another region. Their migration was ongoing due to the continuing depletion of resources. Indeed, many archeological sites reveal that the original dwellers stayed in one region for about thirty years, then migrated elsewhere. This insight is mentioned, because the late comers, the Ancestors, though still prehistoric people, were also hunter-gatherers, yet with a proclivity to settle. This region, however, was not favorable for their settlement due to limited water resources and a genuine lack of soil in a predominant sandstone pavement country.


After the Common Era began prehistoric people of varying cultures tended to be more settled, particularly the Ancestral Puebloans. Agriculture was the key to settlement since they became farmers, grew corn, and constructed slab-lined cists for storing grains. The Basketmaker-agriculturist era was born. During this period, these people lived in and around present-day Canyonlands (albeit the majority lived farther south in places like the San Juan Basin country). They constructed pit-houses and made fine, utilitarian basketry. Around 451, a form of crude pottery emerged, and likely was something learned and traded from people who lived off the Colorado Plateau (the Hohokam and Mayans, most likely). Other practical innovations came as well. For instance, the bow and arrow and new construction techniques resulting in multi-roomed dwellings, and some with kivas. As for the Ancestral Puebloans who ventured into this region in the latter part of the 13th Century, it was a marginal existence at best. Because of this setting’s isolation from the main melting pot of Ancestors living far to the south, Canyonlands, as a frontier, may have been a dead-end to their culture; at least this speculation is noted during the mass diaspora of their culture from the Four Corners region (sometime during the late-13th Century). Even for protection, as in safety in numbers, or for the sake of preserving a cultural unity, once the message was received by all communities near or far, the people surrendered to a greater will of the once again united community that was summoned for imminent departure from the homeland (though without the Hopi and Acoma people joining the large group).

There were also some smaller communities that decided to stay behind, whose people likely chose living or hiding in their favored locations. Was the reason meant to escape of warfare, drought and famine to the south? It was difficult to get a foothold on the land and subsistence by agriculture was minimal at best, but what was on their minds that kept them here?

All that we really know is the majority of Ancestral Puebloans vanished off the Colorado Plateau, and forever. Well, the majority went elsewhere and changed names, though not the cultural legacy. So, and in a way, their doing so could be construed as a temporary hiatus until the people were later resettled in New Mexico, who then became the extended legacy under the name Puebloan. Wherever these people went or came from, they always left a message of their presence; intelligible and cryptic symbols inscribed on rocks over many centuries.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Plateau was mostly empty of people. Far to the south the Mimbres people, who previously had settled in parts of the Mogollon (pronounced mug-ee-own) Rim, managed to sustain their culture. As for others, it’s likely the Hopi and Acoma settlements became island civilizations in a greater ocean of geography that was not touched by human hands for possibly many decades (and by some estimates it is said this territory was not settled again for nearly one hundred years).

Eventually, new migrations of other tribal people, notably the Ute, Southern Paiute, and Shoshone ventured onto the Colorado Plateau, whose natural resources, by then, were nearly restored. Then came the latest historic people, the Navajo, who wandered into a revitalized region that developed a wetter climate, its natural resources thus recharged. However, the dates of these various immigrations to the Four Corners region are educated at best. It’s also thought that the Great Basin Culture (Utes, Shoshones and Southern Paiutes) was already in place long before the epic Great Drought began (sometime during the late 1300s). After 1301, and perhaps over a period of 100 to 125 years, the later tribal groups moved into the Four Corners region and stayed. The Navajo became the dominant culture, while most of the Puebloans lived near the Colorado Plateau country, mostly inhabiting parts of central and northern New Mexico.

Other Notable Interlopers: When the acclaimed Franciscan padres, Escalante and Domínguez, started out on their 1776 expedition from Santa Fe, New Mexico they left with the hope of reaching present-day Monterey, California (which they failed to reach). Later, the U. S. Government was interested in acquiring this part of Utah from Spain (signing the Adams Onis treaty in 1819). Indeed, by the mid-19th Century politicians, assorted business owners, and similar enterprising people in the East were desirous of the Western territory, regardless who owned the land and lived here. (This great ambition began sometime during President Polk's term from 1845 to 1849). However, the covetous ownership policy did not deter mountain men from previously entering the future Canyonlands, whose vanguard of hardy men came to this territory earlier in the 1800s. From 1836 through 1838, an enigmatic trapper named Denis Julien left his moniker carved in sandstone faces throughout this region, including select canyons of the Colorado and Green River rivers.


Because settlers were coming to the West, many of whom were initially headed for the Northwest, the military was engaged in helping open the Western territory. The Army was also eager to know more about this region’s desert and canyon country. For instance, in 1859 Captain John N. Macomb was sent on an expedition to explore the Colorado Plateau (and many others like him followed), ostensibly to search for a wagon route from the New Mexico territory to Utah, which was already staked out by the Mormons. The expedition members drew the first accurate maps of southeast Utah, compiling geographical and geological information of the area. But the captain was no particularly enamored with the scenery in this part of the West's desert terrain and remarked, Perhaps no portion of the earth's surface is more irredemiably sterile, more hopelessly lost to human habitation. Still, some of us would have loved being in his boots on some of the harrowing adventures he mapped and explorer. The next best thing, of course, is to read about his and other adventures in a landscape that was primal as it was virgin territory poised before an eventual first major wave of emigration beyond the 100th Meridian.

Easily the most famous of all Western explorers is Major John Wesley Powell. Starting from Green River, Wyoming, he and his men mapped a huge expanse of the territory, mainly from river corridors. His two famous and distinct river expeditions took place in 1869 and 1871. The second expedition was the longer of the two, providing more data and information that finally put an accurate face on a nebulous terrain. His most important contribution in launching both intrepid down-river safaris came from putting crucial cartographic lines and data onto maps of all the canyon country from Wyoming (just below Green River) to the end of the line, the Grand Canyon.

There were no pictures taken on the first expedition, but here's a photo taken on the 2nd, and look how the man aged in those two years:

Just kidding. The major just got older like everyone else and decided it was too hard to shave (him missing part of his right arm and all. . .)

Around the turn of the 20th Century, other famous river runners followed and passed through the Canyonlands region: the Brown-Stanton survey party (which was a mitigated disaster by all accounts), Bert Loper, Charles S. Russell, and E. R. Monett. Julius Stone was the first to hire a guide, Nathaniel Galloway, to take him down the river in 1909. The first motion pictures of the nexus of great canyons in the West were later filmed by Emery and Ellsworth Kolb on their 1911 lengthy odyssey. Then in 1937, Norman Nevills started commercial river trips on the Colorado River. The contemporary Twentieth Century commercial river runners and their passengers arguably had first dibs on Canyonlands best backcountry assets. In time, hikers and backpackers came to see and experience the sights by foot. Of course, so did those who preferred driving paved and unpaved roads to experience the majesty and intrigue of the future national park.

The Cowboys: As far as settlements following the Native Americans who once lived here, this sandstone-carved territory became a rugged home-on-the-range for cowboys and ranchers. Cattle grazing in the White Canyon region near Natural Bridges began in 1891. Ranchers soon found the desert country ideal for letting thousands of cows loose in various places, and where cow hands could drove the cows or round them up. (Sheep herders soon followed this practice.) The Island in the Sky district became another popular grazing locale. With cows and sheep also came rustlers. But this famous c'boy and his trusty steed was not one of the locals. . .

Why did rustlers and such prefer this setting? Because some of the canyon annexes provided ideal hideouts for famous outlaws like Robert Leroy Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy. Robbers Roost, which is west of the Maze District, also served as a secluded refuge for gangs of outlaws eluding posses led by sheriffs and marshals who probably weren't too keen on tracking desperadoes in such hostile country. Essentially, lawmen patiently waited for outlaws to venture into the open country where they hoped to coral their quarry. Mostly, the sheriffs and posses captured these desperadoes, dead or alive.

If, as it's said of Ebenezer Bryce's famous quote (about Bryce Canyon), "It's a hellava place to lose a cow," then consider how the Maze District could easily hike 10,000 or more:

Mormons: Meanwhile, Mormons who immigrated to the Western territory in the late 1840s to avoid religious persecution of their sect denote the second large-scale emigration after the Spanish and Mexicans. There were a few Mormon settlements around Canyonlands toward the latter part of the Nineteenth Century, which were scattered throughout the state as well as into Arizona. In March 1883, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad joined with the Rio Grande Western Railroad near Green River, Utah, and provided rail transportation to southeastern Utah. This convenience, combined with the vogue policy of moving Native Americans to reservations during the late 1900s, nurtured the growth of farming and ranching communities such as Moab and Bluff. With the Utes since removed to the Uinta Reservation, Mormon settlers soon reclaimed their abandoned pioneer community of Moab. Mormons from the town of Bluff later branched out to build Blanding, Monticello, and La Sal.

Prospectors: Despite these early settlers, much of the Canyonlands area still remained relatively inaccessible. Then came the great uranium boom in the 1950s that changed everything. The catalyst was none other than the atomic bombings in Japan that effectively ushered in the nuclear age. The Atomic Energy Commission also offered incentives for mining uranium ore.

Imagine, from this stuff the prospectors dug out of the rocks. . .

Came this bright flash and destruction. . .

The uranium-rich Canyonlands region lured droves of prospectors who stood a chance to make a great deal of money. Uranium, as it turned out, was sure gold, meaning prospecting was finally profitable. These men built and braided roads that opened up miles of previously unexplored public lands. The boom, however, was short-lived. Once the Department of the Interior set up shop (by Congressional mandate), Canyonlands was given protected status and all mining ceased. Outlaws, on the other hand, probably still used parts of the park to hide from the law. Likely, someone like this dude. . .

Canyonlands High Desert Country: The word "desert" usually conjures up visions of barren, desolate landscape void of life, with high temperatures and no water. Yet in the Southwest’s desert terrain, there’s no void here; not in this rich diversity of life and life forms. Canyonlands Great Basin Desert features abundant animal, avian and plant life representing myriad genus species. A classic high desert, geographic landforms create a climate of less than 10 inches of accumulated moisture annually, and potential evapotranspiration exceeds precipitation.

And, most certainly, there is snow in the winter:

The park lies at a latitude north of the equator where dry air masses constantly descend toward the planet’s surface. Its territory is deep in the interior of a large continent and far away from marine moisture. Thus the extended rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. All of these factors act to produce the territory’s arid environment amounting to an average of 9.2 inches of precipitation each year. Most of this moisture comes from melting winter snows. It's the high elevations throughout the park and the winter snow that classify this region as a cold or high desert community of plants and animals. Ranging 4,000 to 6,000 feet, it’s also the dryness of the air that has an impact on the environment, where more moisture is evaporated from plants and the ground terrain than accumulates during the year. Thus, the potential for, what is called evapotranspiration, which is 8.5 inches. This figure translates to approximately 76 inches more than what is normally available! Low moisture in the air also allows more sunlight to reach the ground, thereby raising daytime temperatures, especially during the hotter months. This vital aspect of climate defines another distinguishing feature of a desert. Throughout the park the assemblage of plants and animals therefore generates a lively blend of life not found in other deserts of the world.

Flora and Fauna: Given the seeming scarcity of life forms in Canyonlands during the hotter months, the best chance to see critters is at night, because most prefer lower nocturnal temperatures to avoid the extremes of heat during the warmer months. Since there are fewer people and less traffic park at night, which tends to keep animals away, early morning and evening are ideal times to see mammals, from small to large and in between. The common predators––coyotes, bobcats, pumas (mountain lions) and foxes––are favorites of visitors. There’s also an amazing array of avians, including raptors, like the ubiquitous red-tail hawks. Rodents, rabbits, snakes and lizards are common as well. Insects, however, prefer darkness, especially scorpions.

In this seeming naked rock country, desert plants and trees are decidedly scarce. However, trees and plants, especially those that prefer riparian (streamside) conditions, are relatively abundant. Whether plant, tree, flower, animal or avian, each manages to survive by devising ingenious ways to adapt. Even when it appears there's no water to be found, especially during the summer heat, all is not lost. For example, drought evaders such as moss simply dry up, then suddenly come alive when moisture returns, soaking up everything nature provides. Most creatures manage to contend with temperature and moisture stresses because they are mobile, and with unique behavioral adaptations. Some even undergo adaptive physiological changes. The environment thus continues as a living, thriving desert terrain; a home to numerous plants and trees, animals of all kinds, and birds, even during periods of extreme climate.

Additional Bonus Details: Hiking and driving trails within Canyonlands NP are too numerous to list. However, it's highly recommended that hikers research this information to determine what might be suitable for a day trek or even overnight backpacking. Whether by foot or vehicle, there's almost too much to see and experience here. What is best to experience depends on how much time and energy travelers have to spend and what they're mostly interested in. Some claim the best hiking in the park is the Needles district. Treks range from fairly easy to fairly strenuous. Hikers should know their limitations and rely on a practiced skill of orienteering (using topographical maps and a compass). One suggestion for those interested in the region’s primal people is to visit nearby Newspaper Rock. This large, flat-standing rock is found in Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument, situated in the Needles district. The weathered and stained surface of its acclaimed landmark boasts one of the largest known collections of symbols painted and preserved on the same surface. The 200-square-foot upright alter (for it is just that to many viewers) is part of the vertical Wingate Sandstone cliffs that enclose the upper end of Indian Creek Canyon. Literally covered by hundreds of ancient petroglyphs, this aptly named icon is one of the largest and best preserved displays of rock art in the Southwest.

The Fascination and Mystery of Rock Art: Newspaper Rock’s petroglyphs have a diverse mixture of human, animal, material, and abstract forms. Thus far, no one has been able to fully interpret their meaning. The site is old, with the first carvings made around two thousand years ago. Although a few are as recent as the early-20th Century, and left by the first modern day explorers of the region, the main group were made by the Ancestral Puebloans (1 - 1300), Fremont people (700 - 1300), and Navajo (1500 onward). Hikers can see in one setting intriguing drawings of several prehistoric to historic periods. Repatination (preserving) of surface minerals reveals their relative ages, but, again, the reason for such a large concentration of petroglyphs remains an engaging conundrum that also inspires constant debate related to interpretation. Have fun, yes, but always keep safety and common sense in mind.

Directions: From Moab, drive north on Hwy. 191 for about 10 miles (16 km) to Hwy. 313, then west toward Dead Horse Point, and follow signs into Canyonlands. (Hwy. 191 is south of I-70 and north of Monument Valley, on Hwy. 163). For the Needles District, take Hwy. 191 south of Moab for about 37.5 miles (60.3 km), then go west on Route 211, and follow the road into the park. For the Maze District on the other side of the Green River, which is mainly four-wheel-drive terrain, take Hwy. 95 near Hite (on Lake Powell) or else Hwy. 24 via Hans Flat, and take the turnoff (for Hans Flat) north of Hanksville. For Horseshoe Canyon, which is south of the Goblin Valley turnoff, go north of Hanksville to a dirt road heading east from Hwy. 24 (which during inclement weather is passable only with four wheel drive).

Contact Information: Canyonlands National Park, 2282 SW Resource Blvd, Moab UT 84532. Phone (General Information): 435-719-2313; Backcountry Information: 435-259-4351. Fax 719-2300. Typical NPS Email: %20%20%0A&r=/cany/index.htm

And so, DKos community, we come to the end of another trail, another armchair tour. I trust you learned a thing or two from the spiel. Stay tuned for tomorrow's special diary: two relatively easy hikes in Canyonlands (and one the park service is reticent about giving directions to its locale).

As always, your thoughtful commentaries are welcomed.


Here is a parting shot that may entice or evince you to one day to visit (or return) and see this magnificent national park from a closer view:

P. S. In case you haven’t read any or some of the other diary-missives posted on this site, here is a current list you might be interested in reading:

An Archeological Timeline:

Colorado Plateau Human History:

Zion Canyon (Hiking the Subway):

Zion Canyon NP:

Geology 101:


Chaco Canyon series:

The Colorado Plateau series:

Res Dogs (prologue and chapter series):

Bryce Canyon NP:

The Art of Backpacking:

George Steck Vintage Glen Canyon film:

A Companion Narration (for George Steck film):

Monument Valley Tribal Park:

The Lost Atlantis (Glen Canyon):

Glen Canyon-Lake Powell series:

A Most Surprising Christmas:

Originally posted to richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 07:57 AM PST.

Also republished by National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, Pink Clubhouse, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  On my way out, so I'm hot listing this diary. (12+ / 0-)

    Thank you.

    I am a work in progress. Still.

    by broths on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 08:09:29 AM PST

  •  We backpacked for a week (13+ / 0-)

    in the park when I was a teenager.  It was quite the adventure.

    Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world--and never will. Mark Twain

    by whoknu on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 08:30:54 AM PST

    •  I did when I was around 32 (9+ / 0-)

      Went with a small Sierra Club group of around ten. It's amazing how much food we took in our packs, including 1 gallon of water each per day. The leader was an expert in the place.

      "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

      by Crider on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 09:46:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you, Crider, (8+ / 0-)

        for posting your comment. And I thank you especially for reminding about something I have always taught my students with the field institute, NAU, Yavapai College or any other place I happened to get paid for play: avoid the TMF and TMC syndrome. Namely, not taking too much food and too much clothing. People carry way too much when backpacking. Even in the central corridor of the Grand Canyon I try to get my charges to pack, say, no more then 28 and 35 pound maximum; back-backcountry is different, but even then 50 or so pounds is more than sufficient. In those years when you hiked it was SOP to pack heavy, as though you might spend a month or more on a trail. These days, however, especially with ultra light backpacking equipment and apparel, it's not the case. Even food, say, Mountain House packets, are lighter and easier to carry. So are cameras. So, you learned as I did: heavy backpacking because you thought your life depended on all that weight. It doesn't. Thank you, again, for posting your comment.

        Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

        by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 10:28:44 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  when we hiked down to the rive from upheaval dome (7+ / 0-)

          we carried a gallon of water per person per day, and cached some of it for the trip back up. Water is the heaviest thing to pack!

          A gallon may sound like a lot to drink, but for desert hiking, it was just enough. If there'd been more available to drink, we sure would have. It really is the bare minimum for desert hiking/backpacking.

          Such beautiful country.

          •  Thanks. . . (8+ / 0-)

            wasatch, and tomorrow's hiking installment-sequel, features this enigmatic crater. I can't endorse your remarks enough, but water, though it is heavy, is the most necessary elixir to tote, whose volume of weight should never matter to a hiker headed into typically hot and arid backcountry. I know on some back-backcountry Grand Canyon treks I was up to about 92 pounds. . .4 gallons of which was in the pack, because there were nearly 2 days of dry camping along that route. Incidentally, I never complain about such weight when I know my life depends on it. I like your style of hiking, wasatch, because you know what's important and why the weight of water is what it needs to be. The more, the better. And, no, there is no available water in that sector of the canyon. Thanks, again, for posting your comment.

            Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

            by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 12:29:56 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  and not the Ephemeral pools, Tadpole Shrimp (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dewtx, Aunt Pat, whoknu, RiveroftheWest

              woohoo! you little beauty you!
              Tadpole Shrimp at the NPS site.
              The NPS site is great, well cross linked with all kinds of stuff, like about Denis Julien, he must have been a distant relative as us Huguenots are all cousins, hehee.
              Thanks for this and the pictures, so excellent, and the one about Denis Julien.

                At the NPS site there was this about the archeology, a great story of a find made by visitors in Horseshoe Canyon in 2005! Sitting there waiting for the owners return for maybe 1400 years!

              Thanks again Rich, good stuff!

              This machine kills Fascists.

              by KenBee on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 02:49:48 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  KenBee... (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                KenBee, whoknu, RiveroftheWest

                I always try and respond, as in answer thoughtfully (hopefully, thoughtfully) all comments posted to these diaries that I write. I almost missed one. Thanks, and that goes also for the tadpole shrimp and other article you sent. I miss some of this stuff and that's another reason why I appreciate this community so very much. . .so helpful and suggestive, when need be. Good. I can't do this stuff alone. And I always pointed out Julien's name in that sector of the canyon country, Stillwater, wasn't that the segment? . . . and mainly to suggest the aura of mystery of who exactly this person was. People would ask me if I knew and I said, "Sure. . .he was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Julien," and let it go at that. Boy, did that ever make eyes roll backwards! Now I have to read this Horseshoe Canyon link that you sent. You have my full attention on the matter. Thanks for posting this comment. Really. And I love fairy shrimp, too. Amazing how one thinks of a tinyas as completely dead, when its empty, yet when the rains come, so do these critters. How do they do that, I wonder!

                Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

                by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:13:55 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  When we hiked up to Delicate Arch (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            at Arches a few years ago we carried a half a gallon each.  I don't remember how far round trip it is but it took us about 4 hours.  As we were coming down with our bottles mostly empty we saw 'hikers' carrying 6oz bottles of water and no backpack.  I guess they didn't read the sign because it was very clear about how much water to take.

            Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world--and never will. Mark Twain

            by whoknu on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 05:42:01 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for posting. . . (6+ / 0-)

      and I think the really neat thing that I hear from commentators, like you, is how memories are reinstated. It's never too late to have a happy second childhood (or beyond this age), and memories often lead the way back in time to an almost halcyon state. Well, it would be nice to make such a claim. And you are so lucky to have done what you did so many years ago. . .backpacking as a teenager. That sort of thing tends to create a proactive and active life when growing up, and such a shame to see how so many young people have been sedentary in front of their cyber worlds.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 10:31:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  thanks for the comment (5+ / 0-)

      and I thought I had already replied to same, whoknu. Guess it didn't get posted. Just to let you know (again), your point about hiking C-lands as a teenager was more than an adventure, because I think such experiences for younger people is what carries with them the rest of their time on this side of the ground. . .and likely an appreciative memory that always reaches out in time and reconnects the experience, as though it only happened yesterday. Do you think?

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 12:32:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  We were part of a very active (0+ / 0-)

        youth group.  My family also did a fair amount of hikiing when I was younger.  The year before Canyonlands we hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  So when I registered for College they offered a two week backpacking trip into the Collegiate Peaks area west of Buena Vista before the semester started as a sort of 'get to know people' activity.  The school I went to offered a major in Outdoor Ed so it was part of that.  I thought I was prepared.  

        The comments above about how much to pack is sort of funny in retrospect.  I was sent a list of items to bring when I registered and didn't find out till the night before we left I only had half the list!  My Dad and I scrambled to gather all of the stuff.  Luckily we were able to beg, borrow and buy the rest.  We had a limit of 40 lbs and the leaders took most of the food and so carried 50.  The market was just starting to offer freeze dried food but for some reason they brought a lot of cheese too.  After two weeks on the trail I was actually sort of glad I had so many clothes and ate so much cheese.  Bathing was either in an alpine lake or one heated pan of water (high altitude made boiling a long process.)  I just put on more clothes as the days wore on.  But always clean socks!  We didn't carry water because there was just no way-but we did have to boil or treat what we took out of the lakes or streams along the way.

        Now that I'm sort of old, sleeping on the ground isn't my idea of fun.  Later in the year they offered a Winter backpack trip.  I declined.  Freezing my **s off wasn't my idea of a fun time.

        Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world--and never will. Mark Twain

        by whoknu on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 05:38:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I spent a fair amount of time in... (10+ / 0-)

    ...Canyonlands, but that was a very long time ago. Beautiful land with lots of ghosts. Thanks for the reminder and for teaching me stuff I didn't know about the area.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 08:40:54 AM PST

    •  and I thank you. . . (6+ / 0-)

      for posting your comment. Lots of ghosts, indeed. I have stumbled across what I believe to be smaller Ancestral Puebloan dwellings (and grannies) in the deep backcountry, and if anywhere this is where I was always in touch with people who lived here long, long ago. Not ghosts, per se; just their spirits and I think there is a difference between the two, Meteor Blades.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 10:24:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  No kidding about the rough roads! (8+ / 0-)

    My son, he who has been driving off road since the age of 11 (ATV and dirt bike, later trucks of all sorts), went into the Maze two years ago.  Besides having an absolutely fantastic time hiking and camping, he broke a tooth on the drive out!    

    He claims on the next trip he will be wearing his football mouth guard!

    Thanks for another great diary, riholtzin.  You feed my wanderlust.  

    "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

    by Most Awesome Nana on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 09:58:48 AM PST

    •  And thank you. . . (7+ / 0-)

      Most Awesome Nana. . .I was sort of there with your son in the Maze given that graphic description that really does attest to the obscure and difficult topography of its setting. I take it he rappelled into this cavity's district and camped out far below the rim, such as the unique Doll House (I've been lost a few times in my life, both as guide leading others and my own solo treks, and let me tell you the Maze is about a 100 miles from nowhere and very much like being on another's geology and terrain is that unique. Anyway, you are welcomed for sharing the wanderlust feed, because believe it or not when I write this diaries I am also reliving memories. I really don't know who's getting the better bargain here, the Dkos community or me. . .but I am happy to hear some of you are enjoying the tours. More to follow. Arches NP is next weekend. Be sure to tune in. And something tells me your son was there, as well, since Moab is renowned for its sandstone slickrock and draws hikers and bikers and ATV'ers and 4 X 4 folks from all over the world. It is THE sandstone mecca of them all.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 10:23:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It is such a pleasure to read your diaries. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wasatch, high uintas, KenBee, dewtx, Aunt Pat

        I look forward to the Arches NP diary, one of my favorite places.  We've been there on family trips and my son has gone back with friends for the Moab Jeep Safari (I think it's called?).  

        I know just from the way you write, that you are reliving memories.  Your love, and respect, for the land shows.

        The Maze is just the type of place my son loves - 100 miles from nowhere, difficult to get into, no one around.  The more rugged, the better.  He's mostly given up the Grand Canyon, except for the South Bass Trail in the winter, because of the number of people.  While the GC is fantastic, for him it is over run if there are 5 people on the trail!  I doubt he could stand it in the summer.      

        "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

        by Most Awesome Nana on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 11:10:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  thanks, again. . . (6+ / 0-)

          for sharing your memories associated with both your son and your own love and respect of the land. Remember: to "re-cognize" is to see again. Ergo, you must also have a similar state of mind given what you said about my own love and respect for the land. Please pass along a special tip to your adventuresome son, for he seems as such: The next time he strikes out on the South Bass Trail, one of my favorite all-time hikes and sectors in the Grand Canyon, head east midway, toward Fossil Bay, then into Matkatamiba Canyon, and up and over to Big Thumb Mesa. I mean, if he really wants an outing, and will eventually end up at Supai. . .tell him Rich recommends it, but only for expert 'readers of the convoluted topography.' Made darn sure the tinayas are filled with water, because water in that western sector is 'damn seldom' (as in seen). That route, by the way, is as rugged as they come. Very few (relatively speaking) have ever done it.

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 12:26:06 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thank you. I will pass this along. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            high uintas, KenBee, dewtx

            It sounds like just what he looks for.

            "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

            by Most Awesome Nana on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 12:37:40 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  P. S. again (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              KenBee, dewtx

              if your son wants to contact me, tell him it's okay to do so and he can find me through my profile's email. I like his spirit. Reminds me of. . .well, me when I had all the time in the world and some money and a better pair of knees for hiking. After eight thousand or so miles doing that sort of thing here in the Plateau country. . .well, let's just say I am happy I can still rack up a lot of biking mileage. But my trail tramping days may be well behind me. Maybe.

              Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

              by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 02:39:36 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Thank you. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                I will pass that along - to my daughter, too.  She is also an "extreme" hiker.  Although she has been mostly climbing mountains since she got on the 14er kick.

                You have so much knowledge.  What a resource you are!  :)

                I must tell you, my son is in the Merchant Marines and is gone for months at a time.   Right now he is off the west coast of Africa.  So you might not hear from him for some time.

                Thank you for the generous offer.


                "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

                by Most Awesome Nana on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 03:35:40 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

  •  A wonderful diary! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    high uintas, KenBee, dewtx

    What makes the Green River green?

    •  algae and clear water. . . (6+ / 0-)

      for one reason, justintime, though the river's origins, as a name, really is a Spanish derivative, which they called Rio Green and a contrast to the Colorado (Rio Colorado), meaning its brownish-red tincture. But that's a good question you posed and I am glad you asked. Think I"ll have to mention this tidbit in future mentionings about this sister drainage (a sibling to the Colorado River's vast watershed). Now that I think about it,
      historically the Green was known to the Shoshone Indians as the Seeds-kee-dee-Agie, or Prairie Hen River. Usually, it was the Southern Paiute Indians who named so many places throughout the Colorado Plateau Province. And now something else rings a bell in my head. John C. Fremont (remember him?) surmised the name came from the vegetation along the banks. So even my clumsy 'algae and clear water' likely also fits into the 'non authoritative' category (for an explanation). Thanks for posting this interesting comment. Really.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 12:21:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Whetting the appetite for more! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CoyoteMarti, dewtx, high uintas, KenBee

    Super tour, Rich! I have been around the Canyonlands in my time but never worked it out to actually go there. You have given us a wonderful introduction to the Park and its districts. We are definitely putting Needles and the Island in the Sky districts on our 2013 bucket list. Looking forward to the suggested Canyonlands hikes tomorrow.

    Your photos are spectacular. Your sense of humor is almost as spectacular - laughed at the sunken Humvee.  Did not laugh at the flash flood picture!   Thanks once again for a fabulous diary!        

    •  And you're welcomed. . . (5+ / 0-)

      for the diary but my thanks and appreciation for the comments. And so you are not going to tackle The Maze district? How cum? Never mind; the question is rhetorical. It's one thing hiking in that aptly named, though utterly fascinating (mesmerizing is more like it) district, but getting there. . .I mean, talk about brutal! Anyway, C-lands is indeed a spectacular national park with multiple facets, not only districts, but all of Nature's going ons. I think next to the Prescott (AZ) locale, the Bradshaw Mountains in particular, and all the puma sightings I once had as U. S. Forest Service GPS surveyor (and topographical mapper). . .I mean, a mess of those big and wonderful kitty kats, C-lands' backcountry, like Capitol Reef, the Waterpocket Fold, and the Upper Paria, has nearly as many. Bobcats, as well. Anyway, that's why they call it the 'back' 'country' and far from the maddening crowd. Thanks for posting a comment, Don always.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 12:16:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  First explored this country by water. (5+ / 0-)

    Three day float down the Colorado into Moab. First night out under the stars, listening to the burbling and hushed rush of the river below, bats divebombing to what felt like inches from our noses while feasting on the bugs our warm bodies certainly attracted. Full moon rise right after midnight so bright it shone through closed eyelids. Waking up what seemed like hours later to find the moon had only moved an inch. Awoke at dawn to a rare rain shower that infused the desert with the unforgettable scent of sage and redrock. Later that same summer, down the Green through the Gates of Ladore Canyon, we "slept" on our boats as the Perseid meteor shower played above us between the black canyon walls. That was my 19th summer; like returning to an ancient home I did not know I had. I was never the same. Thank you for touching so many memories, and inspiring me to make more!

    "I'm all dry, fluffed off and happy to be a hominid" - Bill Foster, scientist and new IL-11 Representative, when asked if he was fully evolved in support of gay marriage.

    by CoyoteMarti on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 12:11:08 PM PST

    •  Wow! What a gift of a trip! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, CoyoteMarti, dewtx

      I am envious.

      "The scientific nature of the ordinary man is to go on out and do the best you can." John Prine

      by high uintas on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 01:20:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  yes, but what about your. . . (4+ / 0-)

        achievements? I mean, look what you mentioned (below). Also, sometimes we have to find other ways to share the adventure, such as reading. I remember as a young boy (was that this lifetime, or some other lifetime?) reading Richard Henry Dana's "Two Years Before The Mast." I was land-locked in central Pennsylvania, where I never quite grew up, and had never seen a sailing vessel in reality. Yet Dana's narrative took me on that epic journey, just by reading. And at the time it seemed 'gud enuf' to me. All that to say: I am very glad I got to do so much out here in the West and Southwest, yet I always wanted to do more. What a pig huh? And I still do! That's because I am envious of others who are out there exploring and living their lives to the fullest. Here's to adventure, high uintas, and those who live it!

        Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

        by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 02:33:00 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  And I got paid to do it! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        high uintas, RiveroftheWest

        Was a counselor at a really unusual outdoor adventure camp for girls (this was back in 1969-1972). We even took 12 girls ranging from 8 to 17 up Mt. Elbert (the highest peak in CO, but by no means a technical climb). Love your user name. Every time I see it my spirit smiles, since I'm currently based in Chicagoland. :-)

        "I'm all dry, fluffed off and happy to be a hominid" - Bill Foster, scientist and new IL-11 Representative, when asked if he was fully evolved in support of gay marriage.

        by CoyoteMarti on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 03:14:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  a poet. . . (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, CoyoteMarti, dewtx, RiveroftheWest

      and a whole lot more given this descriptive commentary, CoyoteMarti. How's about writing a diary on all this and sharing it anew, only the whole enchilada? You have certainly touched many DKos community readers with your epistle, so stated, starting with me. Lodore, by the way, was the first whitewater canyon that kicked my ass and I stupidly got hung up on the rocks in the aptly named Upper Disaster Falls. . .the same as Powell's men did when no "NO NAME," I think it was got trashed and split in two. . .Howland's boat.

      P. S. I eventually got free and continued into the next maelstrom of rapids. I later learned I was a better backcountry backpacking type than a river rat.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 02:36:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  *blush* (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Not sure I have more than a paragraph or two in me at any one time, but an intriguing (sp?) thought, and I am touched by your words. This particular summer was 40 (holy carp and salmon!!) years ago, so only the highest of lights remain in my memory. OMG, Upper Disaster! Many of my professional river rat friends have been baptised there. Tougher than Lava Falls they say. But me too, me too:

        I later learned I was a better backcountry backpacking type than a river rat.
        Thanks for the encouragement; awaiting your next word journey. Quite a few of my non-dkos-reading friends are now your friend too.

        "I'm all dry, fluffed off and happy to be a hominid" - Bill Foster, scientist and new IL-11 Representative, when asked if he was fully evolved in support of gay marriage.

        by CoyoteMarti on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 03:41:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  the nicest comments. . . (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CoyoteMarti, RiveroftheWest

          the most sincere and supportive comments I have ever been humbled to hear and receive comes from you and this peerless DKos community. Sine qua non and no kidding! Thank you for what you just wrote. I think you are also right given that baptism ritual, quite the embarrassment for me in the 1970s, there at Upper Disaster. . a well-named cataracts, that's for sure. Lava Falls, though, is quite different; the way it turns, the way boatmen are forced into the wall, but MUST resist, and of course the higher CFS flow and narrower channel. Now Crystal, there's a S.O.B. if ever I saw and ran one, and my worst was always HANCE. Let's not forget Yampa River's Warm Springs rapid, because that's a sneaker. Anyway, I look forward to your non-dkos-reading friends, as you put it, to join us on more of these virtual tour larks. Tomorrow will be two hiking odysseys in Canyonlands, and next Saturday will be Arches, followed by another tour or two of the park, on Sunday. And you, CoyoteMarti, just gave me a whole new expression when things go south. . .HOLY CARP AND SALMON! Never heard that one before and now I am going to use it (if you don't mind). Thanks again, for posting another comment.

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:07:14 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You are welcome to spread my catch phrase (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            far and wide. I started using the Carp in front of kids and on line, and one day the salmon swam by and hitched a metaphoric ride. I think it was around the time I was re-reading some Tom Robbins (probably Cowgirls...). You were definitely on the rivers when my friends were. One-- non-pro but good enough to get permitted for The Canyon three times-- had uncles (great uncles?) that were one of the first companies to run the wooden dorries.  Going out for a bit, so conversation will lag on this end for the rest of the night.

            "I'm all dry, fluffed off and happy to be a hominid" - Bill Foster, scientist and new IL-11 Representative, when asked if he was fully evolved in support of gay marriage.

            by CoyoteMarti on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:50:13 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Tour Series (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CoyoteMarti, high uintas, KenBee, dewtx

    I have been waiting all week for this installment of the Tour Series. Looking forward to Arches. We did two trips in this area - one to Moab (and Arches) for mountain biking (Mr. WYNative road straight up the Slick Rock Trail!) and a kayaking trip down the Green River. Both amazing places! Looking up at the spectacular canyon walls while paddling down the Green River is something I will never forget. Also not forgotten are the mosquitoes! We were there in September and they ate us alive! Wonderful places and we hope to take them in again this Spring. I will be heading to the library again to copy this week's diary. Thanks again for doing this for all of us - it has been an amazing journey and it is not over yet!

    •  sharing your adventure. . . (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, dewtx, CoyoteMarti, RiveroftheWest

      vicariously, your description of your time spent in this sector, wynative. Were you running Deso-Grey (Desolation and Grey canyons)? Or Desolation? Lodore? Stillwater? I used to be a boatmen on the Green and Colorado rivers, also the Yampa, and I know exactly what you about looking up at spectacular canyon walls. I take it you're a Class 4 or 5 kayaker? These other Utah State birds, the m's, well, what can I say except thank the gods for Deet and such. I did the Slick Rock Trail, by the way. . .and I'm still tired thinking about. Have you also done the Island in the Sky circuit, especially hoofing/peddling up Murphy's hogback, I think it's called? First year, it was a bummer; second time I tried it. . .didn't even notice the incline. Ha! Thanks, as always, for posting a thoughtful comment. I am only writing these missives because you good folks in the community appear to want a distraction from the usual diaries, though they, too, are important, and most of which are politically oriented. Still, I am very thankful to Kos, et al., for opening up the venue for other community-oriented narratives. Hell, I think I am at the point I would pay for submissions. . .except I'm on a restricted Social Security budget, and I'm still not sure if the Republicans, maybe even the Democrats, might usurp more funds from this monetary source. Funny world we live in these days, huh?

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 02:28:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Green River (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CoyoteMarti, RiveroftheWest

        We had a shuttle take us to a point called Ruby Ranch and we put into the Green there, going down I believe Desolation Canyon. Actually, we were paddling sea kayaks, so it was not too wild. Unfortunately, we did not have a permit to paddle down into Canyonlands, so we had to take out right before the boundary. We were disappointed but it shows you that you have to plan these trips in advance and secure whatever permits are necessary. Anyway, the place we got out had a stand with a book on it for river runners to sign. Everyone who signed it wrote something along the lines of "g_da_m mosquitoes" - it was pretty funny. As far as the biking, we only road the Slick Rock trail and didn't know enough about the area to go to other trails. I am going to order Frommer's Guide to National Parks of the West before we head down there again, and with your wonderful diaries, I hope to be better informed. Also, too, we were a lot younger and making lots of money. We too are on the SS budget - mine doesn't even start until March - but we are hoping that will help fund the trip down there. I came back and started reading Edward Abbey's wonderful books about the Southwest which certainly gave me a different perspective and appreciation for where I had just been.

  •  Edward Abbey's classic "Desert Solitaire"... (5+ / 0-)

    is an exceptional book vividly describing Edward Abbey's love of nature in general and for the Arches & Canyonlands region of Utah and the American Southwest in particular. If you're interested in books about the relationship between human and wilderness, it definitely deserves the title of "classic".

    Also Canyonlands National Park is very near where Aron Ralston famously became trapped in a canyon due to a falling boulder and had to amputate his own right arm in order to save himself. This became the subject for his book "Between a Rock and a Hard Place", which was also adapted for the movie "127 Hours". Canyonlands is truly a beautiful, and rugged, place. And the moral from both Abbey and Ralston is that if you're going to hike the canyons in Canyonlands NP that are off the usual more traveled tracks, make sure you're very well prepared and try not to hike alone.

    Canyonlands NP (and Arches NP which is relatively close by) show the Southwest at its most breathtakingly magnificent. I just love this region of Utah. Thanks richholtzin for this wonderful diary.

    Men must learn now with pity to dispense; For policy sits above conscience. — William Shakespeare, 'Timon of Athens', Act III, Scene II

    by dewtx on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 12:47:07 PM PST

    •  and I thank you. . . (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dewtx, KenBee, CoyoteMarti, RiveroftheWest

      and I am sure the Daily Kos community also thanks you, dewtx, for your excellent take on the true value of Nature, and of course reminding us of that epic eco Bible Abbey wrote, "Desert Solitaire." It was actually my first 'read' about the Southwest, which was when I had moved to Denver, in 1969. Instinctively, and upon finishing that tome, I wanted to do everything he did. I damn near did, except I wasn't about to assume the radical environmentalist POV. I think there's a better way of going about it, and that is through the courts and such. Anyway, he taught me a lot, vicariously, and I do savor his musings in that awesome book, which is why I tend to always find a way to remind others to read it. The fellah who had that most challenging decision to cut or not cut off part of his arm happened to be in one Abbey's most favorite canyons, which he always kept his preferences utterly secret. I hiked there before and I don't think I would have had do what he did. Kudus to Aaron for his hutzpah on the matter. Thanks for posting your comments. They mean a lot to all of us here in the community.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 02:21:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My daughter attended (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, dewtx, CoyoteMarti, RiveroftheWest

    the College of Eastern Utah in Price for two years (you don't turn down full ride scholarships) and then went on to the U of U. Her time at CEU was transformative. She spent her summers working in the Tetons and the rest of the year in the S.E deserts of Utah.

    She had two professors who were true naturalists and they had a class called  Environment. My daughter and her best friend didn't know what they were in for when they signed up.

    They spent two weeks deep in what is now the Grand Staircase of the Escalante, they rafted the San Juan to Mexican Hat, they spent camping time with founders of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and spent two weeks hiking in Canyonlands.

    On their way into Canyonlands they had to navigate a steep downhill hike into a canyon. Her back pack shifted and threw her off balance, she landed on her nose. It was badly broken but they were on a one way trip, climbing back up was not an option and she didn't want to look like a wimp so she kept going and refused the offer to call for rescue.

    She spent a couple of days on a camping pad by a small stream filled with tiny minnows and just watched the wildlife. She told me that she learned more by staying in that one place, pretending to be part of the landscape than in any trip she ever took.

    When ever I go into the wild now I try to carve out a day to watch the sun move across the rocks, to hear the birds and feel the breezes. To watch the bugs and see if the lizards will crawl across me. To be a part of where I am before I go stomping around in it.

    My daughter taught me a lot.

    "The scientific nature of the ordinary man is to go on out and do the best you can." John Prine

    by high uintas on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 01:18:07 PM PST

    •  another great story. . . (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      high uintas, KenBee, dewtx, RiveroftheWest

      from the community. I really do enjoy reading these adventures and reminisces the community is prone to sharing all the time. Like this adventuresome daughter of yours, and not wanting to wimp out! My kind of people! Your daughter has taught you a lot but you have been very supportive of her and that says a lot about you, too, high unintas. What a legacy for both of you. Oh, and that about spending time in one locale and learning more. . .that is the absolute truth. There was also no pretending about it: she learned how to meld with the landscape, be one with Nature, or by any other term one prefers calling the life process. I don't even like to use the cliche "a Zen experience," but that's more or less the focus in such a mindset. Tell her I said she needs to get onboard this community's website and share some of what she garnered in the way of her adventures. Sure beats hearing about the negative stuff people tend to talk about too much of the time. Do you think?

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 02:17:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I try to get her here (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KenBee, dewtx, CoyoteMarti, RiveroftheWest

        but truth is she is now a 38yr old mother of two boys, one 14 and the other 12. She is involved in her local school district and is a Democratic delegate for the state. The woman is BUSY! When her life gives her time I expect her to write a novel, that's another dream of hers. I don't think she has much time for us.

        "The scientific nature of the ordinary man is to go on out and do the best you can." John Prine

        by high uintas on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 02:35:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  wow. (0+ / 0-)

      Now I'm envious. Sneaky thing you did there, high uintas!

      "I'm all dry, fluffed off and happy to be a hominid" - Bill Foster, scientist and new IL-11 Representative, when asked if he was fully evolved in support of gay marriage.

      by CoyoteMarti on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:08:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's on my list! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee, dewtx

    My long, long, list...

    Gotta get the new vehicle so I can get over the mountains to the Plateau!  Must...  focus....

    Thanks for continuing to post these great diaries; I'm gonna re-read them so that I actually absorb the majority of the data.

    Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

    by Leftcandid on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 01:36:56 PM PST

    •  Thanks for posting. . . (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, dewtx, CoyoteMarti, RiveroftheWest

      your comments, as always, and when you re-read all that stuff then you can re-teach me. I mean, teaching is the best way to learn, don't you think? As for getting a new vehicle and getting over the mountains to the Plateau country. . .how about taking a cab? I mean, now's the time to visit Arches, because the summer tourista droves aren't yet in gear. It's just a wintry idea, of course. Tomorrow's diary on a couple of hikes in Arches should also be interesting to read, Leftcandid, because, well, there's always more geology and stuff to learn, and I sure do love the rocks in my head and sharing such stuff with this excellent and supportive community.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 02:11:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  fwiw . . . (0+ / 0-)

       in '67 or '68 I found myself in Moab. There was a paddle boat which left at dusk going upriver (I think) until good dark and then floating back down while they played spotlights off the canyon walls.

    •  Your comment. . . (0+ / 0-)

      lorell. . .is the first confirmation (on this site) about that now ancient and defunct tourist attraction in the late 60s. I have heard about that manner of seeing the canyon after dark, but I think the NPS was criticized for allowing that enterpriser to essentially disrupt the night life of the real denizens of C-lands, the critters. In other words, as much enjoyment as it was for passengers on that paddle boat, it was also distracting for nocturnal critters that prefer the "lights out" after dark motif. You know, for hunting or trying to slip away from their predators. Still, that must have been something in those days. Back then, who knows. . .I might have been one of the people on the boat. Thanks for posting a most interesting comment.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 05:39:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  In the mid 60s . . . (0+ / 0-)

           that part of the country was pretty much wilderness frontier. Moab was hardly a wide place in the road. I just wish folks today could see it the way it was back then. Hell, I wish I could.

  •  Thank you for another wonderful diary. (0+ / 0-)

    Beautifully written and beautifully illustrated with amazing pictures.  Your work is greatly appreciated.  It certainly makes me want to plan a trip soon.  Best wishes.

    "Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy -7.8., -6.6

    by helpImdrowning on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 09:28:38 PM PST

    •  And thank you. . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      helpImdrowning, for the glowing compliments. Really. Until you make that plan to this part of the Southwest. . .you have this article to fly your dreams, and later this morning I will be posting two hikes in Canyonlands, which I hope you'll join me and the other Dkos community members (or non members) on  a tour. The more the merrier!

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 05:33:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  One of the best places on earth (0+ / 0-)

    No time to comment today, but Canyonlands is simply an astounding place. I hope the NPS keeps it wild and doesn't build too many roads.

    “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” Charles Darwin

    by ivorybill on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 10:38:59 PM PST

    •  thanks. . . (0+ / 0-)

      your comment, ivorybill. . .but what's this about the NPS building too many roads? I've not heard anything about this, but there was a rumor a long time ago about paving the Island in the Sky route, which, as you know, is currently, and has been, a 4 X 4 route through this gorgeous sector of the park. So, if you know of anything that might be in the works, this road or any other, please let me (and we of the DKos community) know, ok? Again, thanks for posting your comment. This 'one of the best places on Earth," as you put it will be in my profile's showcase whenever you get around to dialing it back up.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 05:31:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hi Rich (0+ / 0-)

        I have not heard of anything afoot to build more roads, but you are right, we gotta be vigilant on that sort of thing.  

        People who come to know the Colorado Plateau fall in love with it, and they fall hard.  It's kind of an addiction. Two of my brothers couldn't bring themselves to leave - one works for the NPS in Grand Canyon and the other lives near Zion in poverty, but walks all over that great land.  And I'm in the Middle East, reading this diary and missing terribly the smell of a thunderstorm on sandstone.

        “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” Charles Darwin

        by ivorybill on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 06:14:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  And thanks. . . (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Don Enrique, ivorybill

          for the snappy reply and here's to sending you (by osmosis) that poetic description you just gave. . .a scent of a thunderstorm moving across a desert sandstone pavement, ivorybill. I am learning more and more how this excellent DKos community is scattered throughout all parts of the world, and this site is like a feeding trough, only its vocabulary and images and imagery that keeps people coming back for more. I am so happy to be part of the community and doing what I do: these breakaway missives that promote a sort of time out in a halcyon sort of way, just for the sake of plugging into Nature's bounty. . .these myriad Colorado Plateau scenic highlights. I never even dreamed or dare to think I could possibly fill a niche in this community, at least given the penchant and promotion of so many political pundits, whose contribution is, well, over the top given such subject matter. Anyway, you are still here in this community in spirit, though thousands of miles separate you from the reality of this particular Colorado Plateau province where I reside. Your brothers are also fortunate to make a living in those two national parks. I do, too. Well, I more or less did. Now it's the poverty of writing (i.e., the difficulty of publishing these days), yet the richness of giving and receiving that comes with the turf. At least that's my bid being part of this most excellent and erudite community I enjoy writing for. . .these diary-missivs, even these blabby retorts, as commentary. Be well!

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 06:32:44 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Lots of rich detail, as usual. (0+ / 0-)

    Fascinating rock art. Good stuff!

    "They come, they come To build a wall between us We know they won't win."--Crowded House, "Don't Dream It's Over."

    by Wildthumb on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 10:46:47 AM PST

    •  and I thank you. . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Wildthumb, for the nod and the posting of your comment. The Ancestral Puebloan and later Native American tribal presence is not too great in C-lands. Some say it's because it was the end of the trail for the former, and these were the desperate ones who likely were hold up in the canyon maze country avoiding the wholesale slaughter and raids of others in their community, far to the south. Could be. All I know is it wasn't ideal for 'dry farming' and water resources, other than the rivers, were 'damn seldom' (as in available). Thus smaller settlements, more itinerant types moving through that region, and likely on their way elsewhere. Ergo, less glyphs in the park per se, although it's obvious from Newspaper Rock's gateway to the Needles sector there were many tribal people of many nations stopping to sign their John Hancocks and such. Thanks for posting.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 11:36:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary. (0+ / 0-)

    I've been into Canyonlands several times and several different ways, hiking, four-wheeling, and 'yakking.

    It's a mindbending place.

    I've run Cataract Canyon twice, once on a raft and once in my kayak. Satan's Gut is an aptly named rapid.

    Did a week-long four-wheel drive trip, mostly short stretches of driving to base camps for hiking. We did the Elephant Hill loop, which is challenging. We took turns leading the group (had 4 vehicles). Once when it was my turn to lead, coming out of the loop, I stopped at the edge of a cliff and got on the radio to tell everyone that I'd obviously made a wrong turn, lost the trail, and we were going to have to back up and find it.

    Turns out the 'cliff' WAS the road--you just drove over the edge and skidded down to the bottom. The clue was the scuff marks on the rocks below from where folks had bottomed out.  

    When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

    by wheeldog on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 11:10:02 AM PST

    •  scuff marks on the rocks below. . . (0+ / 0-)

      and, ahem, what about those other scuff marks given that hairy descent to the bottom? OK, some people go that way. Your adventures scare the beJesus out of me. Never had the courage to do what you 4 X 4 folks do. I'm a backpacker. And a climber. I'd take any and all challenges, including the whitewater boatmen years (and, yes, Satan's Gut, just like the "graveyard of the Colorado" (Cataract), is aptly named. (Try running that gorge around 44,000 c.f.s.  But Elephant Hill, and what I have seen of its terrain. . .no sir, no way for me. I did the mountain-biking trek thru Island in the Sky a couple of times, and that, too, was as close to four-wheeling (only on two) that I'll ever get. Watched too many of you vehicle types taking your lives over the edge and trusting the mechanics of your vehicles to do it. But thanks for posting. You make my typical backcountry stuff look like child's play. Today's posting, on two hikes in Canyonlands, the latest diary, is also mellow stuff, wheeldog. If you get a chance to peruse the diary. Thanks for posting your hairy comments. I'm thinking the community is going to want to know more about those kind of outings. That's your department; not mine. Goferit!

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 11:32:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not really a 4x4er. (0+ / 0-)

        In fact I generally abhor that whole 4x4 'tear up the landscape' mentality.

        That trip was many years ago; I was driving a Toyota 4x4 pickup. We were more interested in the access the road gave us to campsites to use as base camps for dayhikes.

        I've always been more interested in the hiking and river running aspect of the outdoors. Now, with advanced age and a bad back, more involved in dayhiking, canoeing, and snowshoeing in the winter. Can't do that combat roll in a kayak and sleeping on the ground is less and less appealing.

        The Elephant Hill loop is pretty amazing and I suspect with all of us on the trip being rank amateurs at the 4x4 stuff and driving mostly small trucks, we were lucky to not seriously injure ourselves.

        I do recall on the uphill part of the trek there were some spots where it was so steep you couldn't see the trail because of the angle. All you could see was the hood of the truck and the sky. You needed a second person to walk in front of you and, using hand signals, direct you up and over the boulders. By that time my (now ex-) wife was so scared she preferred to be out of the truck and walking anyway, so was more than glad to give her opinion of our adventure with hand gestures.

        She must have concerned about the state of my immortal soul and my eventual spiritual destination because I recall her using one gesture several time, pointing to heaven with her middle finger.    

        When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

        by wheeldog on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 11:48:49 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  too funny... (0+ / 0-)

          pointing to heaven with one finger! HA! You really need to consider writing your own diaries, dude! I have been to the bottom of Elephant Hill, just observing the crazies. I suspect anyone claiming that accomplishment merits the 4X4 Hall of Fame, if there is such. Too much for me. As for your 'bad back,' I'd say what you're doing these days sounds more like a sore back. Otherwise, you'd be home watching the tube or something for most of the time. As for a 'combat roll' in a kayak, I tried that once in minimal whitewater. I finally realized why the helmet is necessary and why the occupant should never lose his or her paddle when searching for the slip spray release maneuver. HA! Thanks for another commentary of levity and seriousness, wheeldog. I mean, trusting this person in front of you wasn't leading you to the proverbial edge. Was it your wife, maybe?

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 12:02:59 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I've backpacked in The Maze twice and.... (0+ / 0-)

    ...and it is a magical place.  Long hard drive, and one not to be taken lightly, but magical.  Also have hiked quite a bit in the other two districts.  Will be going backpacking again along Indian Creek in another month.  Thanks again Rich for another great tour and a great diary.  Can hardly wait to get back.

    •  Thanks... (0+ / 0-)

      and you're welcomed, IntotheOutdoors. Indian Creek. Another month, you say? Lots of I C's in this country. But I'm thinking this locale. . .From Moab, go south on US 191 toward Monticello. Next, take SH 211 and and go right (west). Winding road that eventually heads downhill. Look to the right, sign your name (on Newspaper Rock). Just kidding. On the right side of the road, then drive a few more miles into Indian Creek Canyon.

      That the place? Did some climbing there many years ago. Lucky you for the upcoming adventure. As for the Maze, I don't know which is worse: that road leading into the district or the rotten road to Toroweap. Blow-out city en route, or returning, that's for sure. Heard some unlucky fellow say he had 3 flats going into the Maze. Three! One tire was totally ruined. Lucky there was sag wagon support. Can you imagine being broken down that far from anyone or anything looking like a human?

      Thanks for posting. No wonder the parkys like hearing how bad it is to get into certain places. Otherwise, everyone would be headed there and the next thing you know: human services galore. Ergo, what isolation and stillness like the moon, only with an atmosphere?

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 02:20:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've gone into the Maze from Green River... (0+ / 0-)

        ..and also from Hite, and by far the harder of the two is from Green River (stopped to spend the day hiking one canyon over from Blue John at the same time Aaron Ralston was in Blue John).  Can't help but to think about the Monkeywrench Gang when crossing the White Canyon Bridge.  

        I always carry extra tires and gas when I go to The Maze.  This last time we had to build ramps to climb up the ledges so we wouldn't bottom out.

        Indian Creek is special, but I'll be exploring well below Newspaper Rock.  Enough views, rock art, and ruins to last a lifetime.  BTW, I know a public lands manager in the area and he told me that there are old abandoned airstrips inside and outside CNP built by drug runners in the 60's and 70's.

        What do you mean by "I C's"?

        •  Iconic Canyons... (0+ / 0-)

          in the Canyonlands sector. There are so many possibilities for hiking and sequestering one's self from the maddening crowd of others. . .like that Horsethief Canyon area, I thin it is, north of Deadhorse Point. From the Green, and naturally coming by way of boat, I found it a bit easier to get into the Doll House, but maybe that was just me. White Canyon Bridge, indeed, as a Monkey Wrench locale. I forgot about that. . ."Hayduke?" I didn't know about the airstrips, but it doesn't surprise me. Found some of them here and there in my wanderings, and figured they were for government ops. ..or those bad guy types making a fast buck. If you do get to see any, take some photos and post on my email's profile. There would have to be a link with a rough road in and out of those locales. So you were also in Blue John! Pretty fabulous slot, that. Did you also venture into Horseshoe Canyon, because I think those two are about in the same locale? Or is Roberts Roost I'm thinking about? Let me take a gander at a map. My memory might come back to me again. Sometimes it works. All the best, and thanks, again, for a treat in the way of your happy memories, albeit rugged turf to claim under your feet-a-walking.

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 04:06:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

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