Have you ever gone out to dinner with friends and decide to order just one dessert to share amongst the group only to take a bite and think to your self that was a stupid idea? You should have ordered your own because it’s so good and one bite just isn’t enough. Well, that’s what Canyonlands is like. It left me wanting more. If the Needles District, which is where we hiked and explored, is so awesome, I can’t even begin to imagine what the Island in the Sky area contains.
The Needles District is Southwest of the Colorado river and according to the travel guides hold hundreds of stunning hikes. We only had part of a day there so we had to really cut down the options. We opted for a trip into Chesler Park. But first we had to get there and it seemed that ever corner and ever rise in the trail offered us these views of land that seemed out of this world. Well, almost out of this world. All the plants, shrubs, and cactus made me feel like I was at least still on planet Earth.
Supposedly there are 337,598 acres of canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches, and spires. We hiked mainly through the spires and there were thousands of them everywhere you looked. Some were like globs of play doh that has set out too long and started to get squishy and crack, while others were more like birthday party hats in their height and majesty. They were fantastically decorated in colorful stripes of alternating red and white. The fact that it had just rained the night before meant that the colors were all that more intense and you could see for miles and miles. What more could you ask for?
The geography of the park is so diverse here, more than any other place I’ve visited in the Southwest. Both the Green and Colorado Rivers convert here in the park and there is a lushness here that I was surprised to find. It could have been the time of year, but still. It’s not like a desert. Its more hospitable and varied. You actually think that primitive life could be supported around these parts. That wildlife could be supported by the natural flora. We saw traces of animal life but didn’t actually see and of the critters running around. Supposedly, there are black bears, coyotes, skunks, bats, elk, bobcats, badgers, a couple species of ring-tailed cats, pronghorn sheep, cougars, cottontail rabbits, kangaroo rats, mule deer, some 270+ species of birds, and lizards, snakes, toads, and frogs.
The geology of the place is one that stretches back millennia and in some ways leaves me thinking I should go back and retake that geology class I took in college. I seriously don’t remember learning about the Pennsylvannian time. At least not as it pertains to the evolution of our planet. I know for sure that we did not delve into things like oxidized muds and Moenkopi formations. My geology class stuck a little closer to home and talked more about the Sierra Nevada Mountains. So there’s a lot I need to learn about the desert. Thank god for books and the ability to go back and visit again to really soak up more knowledge about the place.
We arrived fairly early and set out on our hike with the sun barely over the eastern horizon. The cool temps were a treat and made for an easy wonder. The trail was easy to follow with cairn stones and a nicely worn path. It wasn’t strenuous at all and if I went back I’d probably put on some gaiters to keep the sand out of my shoes and go for a run. The trails would be perfect for a nice long desert run.
The only time when I though it could get a little tricky was when we approached the spires that surround Chesler Park. But after a handful of moderate switch backs you make it through. You have a ton of trails to choose from too. I want to go back and do more of them. Maybe not all of them be definitely more of them. I think camping out here would be wonderful too.
The “park” in encircled with sandstone spires and stretches out before you just begging you to stay awhile. It’s incredibly peaceful. Probably one if the most peaceful places we had been on this trip. It’s not crowded. In fact, there were only a handful of other hikers out there and a couple of runners. Oh how I need to spend more time running trails and find myself a solid running partner.
The clouds were slowly breaking apart that morning and occasionally the blue sky would peak out, the sun would also seep through and turn everything all glow-y. Is that even a word?
Watching the world wake up is one of those things that never gets old. Never.
There are four districts that make up Canyonlands, Island in the Sky, Needles, Maze, and Rivers (the Green and the Colorado) and they all hold amazing places. How can they not? With names like Island in the Sky, you’re just bound to have some amazing adventures there. I feel I need to poke around this park more. To get out there again and see the La Sal Mountains, the False Kiva stone circle, the petroglyphs, the Great Gallery, the White Rim, Mesa Arch, Druid Arch, and maybe do some rafting.
In case I didn’t fully capture Canyonlands, because it’s really hard when there’s still so much left to explore, here’s a giant wooden shoe on the horizon. Okay, it isn’t really made of wood. It’s actually made out of stone, but doesn’t it look like one of those wooden shoes? I’ve always wondered how people walked around in them and why anyone would want to. But that’s for another day.