Canyonlands is truly a different world. It has been shaped by the mighty powers of the Colorado and Green Rivers. These two rivers converge in the middle of Canyonlands and divides the park into 3 distinct areas Island in the Sky, The Needles and The Maze. Island in the Sky is the most popular and populated areas in the park.
The Maze is a little-known land with little or no marked trails. The only way to get there is via high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle and as the book says the “chutzpah” to drive it down the hair pin turns of “Flint Trail”. Arriving is only part of the challenge, you then have to explore a virtually unknown area without getting lost. Although we are here for adventure, this is one that we will skip.
The Needles is full of colorful spires of Cedar Mesa Sandstone and has many opportunities for day long hikes and overnight back country hiking and camping. There is also a scenic drive (on gravel roads) with a couple of shorter hikes. We want to see this part of the park, but have not made it down there yet, it is about 2 hours south of where we are staying, but stay tuned as we will go there eventually.
So far, we have only explored the Island in the Sky section. It is truly an Island in the sky at about 6,000 ft. it is a mesa of grassy fields and colorful buttes, it has a very unassuming appearance until you reach the edge. From there you look down about 1,400 feet to a lower layer of hills and valleys, that then give way to intricate canyons. The canyons are rimmed by a distinctive white sandstone that stand out against the greenish upper layer and grey canyons. The sheer size, and depth of the view is awe inspiring and a little frightening. You will notice a road near the white rim, it is a 100 mile backcountry road that is estimated to take at least two days by vehicle or 5 days via mountain bike, needless to say we are not planning on doing this trip.
Anyway, pictures of the landscape, and an Arch on the edge of the cliff reminiscent of Arches NP about 35 miles away.
I have discovered a fear of heights that I really never knew I had. At the overlook in Joshua Tree Keys View, I was uncomfortable even experiencing a little vertigo but got used to it after a couple of visits. Same occurred at Dante’s View in Death Valley, but nothing like trying to hike the rim of Island in the Sky. There is an easy hike one mile out and back, we made it about half way and I just could not continue. I was not only uncomfortable for Randy and myself, but others on the trail kept getting so close to the edge and jumping from rock to rock that I was a nervous wreck. A little slack, but I didn’t see how the view could get better just by moving another half mile when you could see for 10s of miles all around. Below is the rest of the trail we choose not to do.
There is also a crater called upheaval dome on the western edge of the mesa. We took the steep hike up to the rim of the crater for an amazing view. The crater is approximately 3 miles across and its origin is unknown. In geologic terms it is relatively young at less than 170 million years old. They speculate that it was either the result of a meteor strike or a collapsed salt dome. Recently (1990s) the theory of meteor strike has been supported by a study by a team of geologists and seismologists from NASA and the University of Nevada at Reno who performed a detailed study that included seismic refraction and rock mapping. In 2008 they also found shocked quartz which could only have been formed by the high pressure caused by a meteorite strike or a nuclear explosion. We buy the meteorite theory.
Peace and Love!!