CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK
Canyonlands National Park was our final destination in the Moab area before we headed towards Salt Lake City, but our timeline for it changed drastically and rapidly.
This park is split into three distinct districts, separated at the confluence of the Colorado River and the Green River. The more visited district is Isle in the Sky, which we headed to first. This section has the quick views, short hikes, and easy access resources. The Needles and the Maze districts are boasted to be tougher, more isolated, and less populated. Excited by the prospect of longer hikes and less people, we planned on spending two nights in Isle of the Sky, and then heading to the Needles for three nights.
Yea, that didn't happen.
With a small 12 site campground, we did not expect to get a site upon arrival at Isle of the Sky. We heard mixed reviews (its so cool, it is boring, it is as crowded as Arches, its completely dead....) during our time in Moab about the popularity of this park, so we didn't quite know what to prepare for. When we pulled into the campground at 9:00am and still managed to secure a site for the night, we figured it would be a nice reprieve from the overflowing people in the surrounding area.
Then we got out of the car.
Immediately we were swarmed with a combination of mosquitoes, no-see-ems, midges, biting flies, horse flies, what ever you call it, there were three different kinds of them eating us (each one's different bite was it's own special hell). Thank goodness for bug nets. During set up of camp, we both received numerous bites and became extremely twitchy once again.
Fine. We were planning on spending the day exploring anyway.
This section of Canyonlands is pretty small, and the longest hike is about 6 miles long. Well, at least trails that went to something specific. Like the other districts within the park, Isle in the Sky had a 4wd road that had trails and campsites along it as well, but we did not have the capability to navigate it. We were saving our strength for the Needles district, so we decided to see all the main highlights. Most of these were seen from over looks or a 2 mile trail maximum. It was a relaxed day exploring, but the elements were finally getting to us.
Around noon the winds picked up, once again. This windy season was starting to grade on us, hard. But hey, at least the wind would calm down the bugs a bit right?
High winds, 100 degree heat, tons of bugs, we were starting to reformulate our plans. It was the first time we were really faced with the prospect of passing on the most efficient time to see an area. We were right there, we planed on the Needles, we were excited to experience the less traveled for the area. But did we want to be limited by wind, heat, and bugs? Most of the day was spent debating this.
And then we returned to camp.
Cooking at camp has it's challenges, even in perfect weather. We were expecting the desert to cool down in the evening, but with sunset at 9:00pm, it was still around 90 degrees at 7:00pm when we needed to feed ourselves. We plan on creating a post to describe this issue in more detail in the future.
Anyway, I cooked some shrimp and rice (a rarity!) and it was delicious. In the process, however, more bites and extra twitches were acquired for both Eric and I. Combined with the heat, we were done. The desert had officially broke us.
We were craving trees big time. Privacy, shade, water, hammocks, these were desperately needed. We were tired, sticky, sick of canyons, and sun crazed. The decision was confirmed, the next day we were going to head towards Great Basin and leave the Needles district, Bryce, Zion, and Capitol Reef for another time, when we were less burnt out and could give them the appreciation they deserved.
The next morning we woke our sorry-asses up for sunrise. We are not good at this. I have yet to regret getting up for this daily event, but I have yet to be happy upon the alarm. With sunset at 9:00pm and sunrise at 5:30, the turnaround was not great. We woke up anyway and hiked a short half mile to the famed Mesa Arch for the glorious display, thinking there would only be a few groups to join us.
Pulling into the parking lot at 5:15am we knew we were in trouble. Figuring this could be the case, we thought well we can at least see sunrise through the arch, even if we wont have the best photo spot.
Wrong again, again!
This famed view was circled tightly by all the tourists that we hadn't seen the day before. Seriously, where the fuck did they come from! Apparently all of them were amateur photographers as well.
So, tired and hungry, we found a spot a bit back and above from the main viewpoint, and enjoyed sunrise anyway. Sort-of.
How were mosquitoes already out by the masses at this time of day!! Constant wiggling got us through the spectacle that was watching an amazing natural event while the 30-40 “photographers” mobbed a 21 sqft area so they could get “the shot.” John Muir eat your heart out. Both Eric and I had two prominent thoughts running through our heads this whole time. 1.) Wow what a magnificent sunrise. 2.) WINTER, please freeze the fuckers out, tourists and biting insects.
After coffee we packed up camp. Secure in our decision to move on from the desert, we hoped in the car with no exact destination for the night. We didn't care. Trees were waiting for us wherever we ended up.
That was the goal. We will come back, and soon, but for now, we are fully saturated with the American Southwest.
9/10 would stare at spectacular scenery again (would not loose half my blood again)