Just Outside Cayonlands

Those Needles Over Yonder- Canyonlands National Park, Utah

off the Utah road
Utah landscape

In another post (the last post probably) i’ll tell you the story of driving up from north Texas through the belly of Kansas and through the heart of Colorado to end up in this most splendorous corner of Utah. But for now, lets skip past the 2am drive through creepily empty cornfields and move onto the beauty that is driving through Utah. I did it this past March a good bit but crossing into Utah from Colorado after a 12 hour overnight drive was even better than a hot cup of coffee at soothing my weary, and at this point, very dusty soul.

Theres something about the landscape- the land itself- that i’ve been unable to find a likeness to anywhere else that i’ve been to in the USA and even knowing all the other places I would soon see, it was hard to leave at the end of our stay here.

arches, one of the windows

This isn’t to say it was all fun and sunshine however. The title of this post is called Canyonlands, but this photo is actually from Arches. Because see, that was the plan for our first day in Utah…hit Arches early in the morning, spend the day there and then go checked out Canyonlands for sunset. Of course the weather had other plans and a hellish storm followed us in from Colorado and blasted the landscape while we rested in the night, to the point where even running on no sleep, me and the bf still woke up in the middle of the night to what sounded like the norse gods having a rave out in the desert.

We attempted to follow through with the plan though, optimistically thinking that perhaps since we were about 45 min away from Arches in Green River, the weather wouldn’t be so bad there. We got to the park well before sunrise and managed to clamber up to the Windows arch view point during a lull in the rain….at which point the heavens let loose everything they might have possibly been holding and we were pelted with rain that quickly turned to sleet and while I held out as long as I could (being the insane one) the bf eventually talked reason into me….but not until both our clothes had been soaked to the last stitch, we’d been pelted with ice and i’d almost fallen over the arches ledge from the strong winds.

To me it was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life, watching the sun climb its way up the mountains while being violently pelted by the forces of nature and grinning like a blind loon as I clutched the slick rock of the arches ledge. The bf was more practical and made sure my camera didn’t get ruined, got us plastic bags to sit on so we wouldn’t ruin the seats and gently made me see the light in regards to running around the park with soaked clothing. We headed back to the hotel to shower, change, and reassess.

Cayonlands National Park, the Needles
Canyonlands, the needles
The Needles at Canyonlands
Canyonlands National ParkWooden Shoe Overlook, Cayonlands National Park UtahThe Needles at Canyonlands National Park

Just Outside Cayonlands

So, there are three different (and separate) parts to Canyonlands National Park. And yes, I do mean separate as none of them connect to each other by any main linking roads. Did I know this before setting out to Utah? Of course not, you’re talking about the person who went wandering around icey Bryce Canyon in traction-less shoes. Anyways.

Island in the Sky is the most popular part of the Canyonlands park, and it’s easy to see why. Not only is it much closer to the more popular Arches NP, there’s a incredible view almost everywhere you turn up there, something akin to surreal beauty that’s almost heavenly.

The Needles is…well, for one it’s much more out of the way to reach. It takes you quite a long time to even get on the road that leads you to the actual park, and once your on this road, its about an hour before you even get to the entrance station.  And given there are no actual grand overlooks, or even that many overlooks in general, most people choose not to make the drive out there. I can tell you with full honesty the park ranger who met us at the entrance station seemed almost puzzled that we were there.

The drive out there is magnificent though, I can’t stress that enough. If you only have time for one part of Cayonlands NP, yes, do Island in the Sky (the other part is called the Maze and unless you have 4-wheel drive, it’s utterly inaccessible, we didn’t even attempt to make it out there this time) .  But if you’ve got the time, like we did, it’s so very much worth the effort. One of the reason I love traveling to national parks in general is the chance to get away from it all, perhaps not to get in touch with nature since i’m still a creature comforts type of person…but the chance to be awed by nature and the way it shapes the land. That feeling of aloneness that never feels like loneliness when you’re just looking out over a vast landscape. And while Island in the Sky has the “awed by nature” part, it’s generally full of people wherever you go and you won’t be buffeted by winds so much as stray shoulders.

Wandering and exploring around the Needles part of Canyonlands NP was the perfect, though unexpected, way to start our Utah part of the roadtrip though I will say the best views to be seen and experienced lie just before the park boundaries (as the last two photos above where taken half an hour before we even got past the entrance to the actual park). A remote and vastly under appreciated part of the park that i’m glad we made the trek out to experience.


the bf and Cayonlands NP

Unexpected Dinosaurs- October Roadtrip 2016, American Southwest and California

So, it’s been a good while since i’ve posted anything on here hasn’t it? Literally more than a month since my last post actually and yet for once I have a legit excuse that doesn’t involve work, procrastination or personal turbulence. Ok lie, there’s a fair bit of procrastination involved BUT in general i’ve been busy preparing and planning for this massively insane roadtrip and also going on this massively insane roadtrip.

the bf at Rhyolitems fables exploring in Death Valley
the bf and Cayonlands NP

Heres some fun numbers for you guys:

6- the number of times the intinerary was reworked
4,805 – total miles traveled
2- tow trucks involved
5- National Parks that were visited
1- Desert kit foxes seen wandering around Joshua Tree NP
3- times zones driven through
12- estimated number of unexpected dinosaurs encountered
2- the number of times we drove almost an hour out of our way for tasty food stuff
3- the number of times I thought we were going to die in Death Valley NP
4- flannel shirts worn
32- projected posts i’ve got outlined from all the photos and adventures we went on
0- the number of times I regretted going on this roadtrip

Anyways, this post is just to give a heads up about what i’ll be posting about for the next couple of months probably, given my average sporadic rate of completion on posts and the limited time I have to edit photos (I need to be able to actually eat once in a while on my lunch hour).

not drowning in my coffee cups yet,

A Time Quiet and Warm – Textile Art Sunday

mixed media textile art

It’s been a quiet two or so weeks since I posted the last of the Big Bend road trip, though my own life has been anything but calm. Schedule changes at work as new people come and go, planning and researching for the next upcoming trip (at the end of this month, and how did it get here so quickly??), dealing with unruly AC units at home that prompt a 5 day stay at a hotel and in between it all trying to find time to do art, write up the stories piling up 4 cars deep in my head and of course, keeping up with friends both old and new.

It’s been…a challenge to say the least but, while I was putting together some parcels to send off to friends who i’ve just started snail mailing with, I managed to find this odd little project I had worked on last year. Messing around with fabric and textiles, creating weird things out of felt and buttons, it’s a thing I come back to eventually, even when I set it aside for what feels like ages. I have no idea if the friend I ended up sending this to just quietly set it aside to figure out at a later point, but revisiting the quiet hours spent sewing it up while the sun set over the upstairs balcony windows was calming in a way the end of summer rarely is here in Texas.


Jeep Renegade at Big Bend natl. park

Bricks Contain Mercury, And Other Fun Roadtrip Hazards- Big Bend Natl. Park, TX

Gods this last post for this trip feels like it’s taken me an age and a day, good grief. More realistically, it’s been 2 months since this trip- it took place at the end of June and it’s now the end of August and i’m a month away from my next probably just as ill-advised roadtrip. But considering I picked up a lot of common sense knowledge from this trip, more so than even from the last roadtrip back in March, I don’t mind that it’s taken me this long to finally get it together enough to finally finish.

It took about 8 hours to drive from our house here in the Dallas area to the southern park of Texas that Big Bend is situated in, literally right on the border to Mexico. Considering the longest day drive me and the bf have done was the 17 hours to the Grand Canyon last March, this was a breeze. He drove the first part until we stopped in Abilene for lunch at a Denny’s (because of course you have to stop and have lunch at Denny’s) where I forgot how to count by fives when leaving a trip for our waitress with the hostess and she teasingly- but somehow still kindly- told me, “It’s alright honey, you’re pretty.” And let me tell you, if that wasn’t the best indicator of how the trip was gonna go, i’m not sure what else would have been.

The second leg of the drive was taken over by me and I managed to get us stopped by the sheriff not 5 seconds after driving into the town we were going to staying in, Alpine.  For once though, I can 100% guarantee I wasn’t actually speeding and was more than a little confused as to the reason we had gotten pulled over. According to the unfailingly nice and polite officer though, I had been speeding, but he let me off with just a warning. When I told a friend later about this, his immediate reaction was to say, “well it’s cause you’re a girl, and you’re pretty” and I just sat there thinking, maybe it had more to do with me being nice and meeting Texan politeness with my own brand of southern charm. Heavens knows I wasn’t much to look at that day, running on 4 hours of sleep, any makeup I started with already faded from the hours on the road and a questionable stain on my shirt from a breakfast of coffee and chips. And so, thats the best advise I can give you if you plan to travel in Texas, always be polite and just this side of guilelessly charming if you can manage it.

The biggest thing that I learned from the last roadtrip was to stop ruining my shoes and remember to always put on something that wasn’t flats when going out exploring. And I mean, thats probably such an obvious thing to anyone that isn’t me, but there you go. From this trip the most important thing I learned is that investing in a cooler when heading out on a full day of exploring is probably a good idea, or else suffer the slightly stroke-inducing prices at the parks general stores.

Heading into desert climate enviorments, make sure to bring something to cover your face when the winds start to pick up, especially if your heading out in the summer months. I got buffeted by scorching winds from all side and to say it was bracing would be the understatement of the year. After enduring this for the better part of 3 hours I finally found a sheer scarf in the back of the Jeep that I hadn’t seen in months, wrapped it around my head and shoulders and covered my mouth and nose as best as I could while running around like a crazed coyote among the cactuses and dust.

Jeep Renegade at Big Bend natl. park

Bring enough water, a car that can handle dirt, rock strewn “roads” and maybe don’t go hiking around abandoned mines at the hottest part of the day after driving in an air conditioned car for the past 5 hours. You might possibly get heat stroke and end up almost dying in a part of the park where cell reception is just a dream and the nearest ranger station is hours away. Just a kind suggestion, made from infinitely dumb experience.

Btw, just for reference that might be helpful, some symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweat despite the heat
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness and/or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes such as confusion, disorientation, or staggering
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
( this is just to say, if this was a bingo card game, I would have cleaned up but good)

Also, another good piece of advice…..when visiting the park with the darkest nightsky in the lower 48, maybe don’t pick a weekend right before the full moon.  Just you know, a friendly suggestion.

Me and the bf ended up spending a good few hours getting buffeted by rough winds up alone on Sotol Vista point hoping for some darkness to glimpse some starry skies but in the end we packed up and headed out around 11pm back to Alpine. Another good piece of advice would be to remember that Big Bend is right on the border to Mexico, which means hello Border Patrol.

We got stopped at a Border Patrol checkpoint around 12am and let me just say, that other piece of advice I gave up above, about being polite? Gotta say thats probably also a good thing to remember when/if you get stopped by the Border Patrol. They had us park the car, get out and sit on a bench nearby and then had an agent and his dog go through our car. I’m gonna go ahead and say they probably didn’t see us as the most likely transporters of drugs and/or humans considering the guy they assigned to stand near us while our car was being searched didn’t ask us if we had anything in our pockets until the bf took out his cell phone to check the time. And even then all the guy did was ask “er, you guys got anything else in your pockets?” and then comment on how hard it is to get service out there. The car search took maybe 10 minuets, after which they wished us a good night, helped me back my car out of the parking spot and waved us off into the night. Good times.

The drive back the next morning had us stopping at the Marfa Prada art installation and then listening to a couple of episodes of the Black Tapes before the bf drifted off to take a much needed nap and I switched to listening to 8tracks playlists to keep me going. We stopped at the most retro 50’s of rest stops a little past Odessa and I swear it was like stepping into a Fallout game that I almost expected there to be a Nuka Cola vending machine somewhere. It was an easy drive and we made it home by the evening, that strange feeling of being back in the suburbs and near the shining bright lights of Dallas after being gone in the literal boondocks of Texas settling over us.

All the ups and downs of the trip, all the unexpected joys and misadventures… I can with full honestly say the trip to Big Bend was unlike anything i’ve ever experienced before and it was more than worth the time and effort needed to get to such an out of the way place.And if you’ve plans to head out there, blow a kiss to the desert winds for me and tell the Sotol plants i’ll see them soon.

Masterlist of Big Bend posts:
#1 Unexpected Bears
#2 Old Maverick Rd.
#3 Mule Ears and East River Rd.
#4 Mariscal Mine
#5 Glen Spring Rd.
#6 Chisos Mountains and Bears
#7 Sotal Point Sunset
#8 Prada Marfa


Prada, Marfa - South Texas art installation

Prada Marfa- Marfa, Texas

Prada Marfa, Summertime
Prada, Marfa - South Texas art installation
Prada Marfa Art Installation

When I started out with the planning for this trip, as always, the end result was nothing like what I began with. To start with, my main goal on heading down south was to see the interesting little town of Marfa.
To witness the Marfa Lights
To wander around the Chinati Foundation’s varied collection of art installations
Perhaps to even stay at the delightfully unique El Cosmico

Visiting Big Bend Natl. Park was an afterthought in regards to these other things I was more interested. ‘Till I began talking to friends about the trip…and they in turn gushed about their great interesting hiking and exploring the park, nevermind some random town that lies beyond it’s borders. And so I started reading up on Big Bend more and in the end it ended up being a trip that focused almost exclusively on the park and nothing else. With one exception that is, the prickly art installation that is Prada Marfa.
(one of my favorite articles on this is here )

Say what you will about it and what it means and what it will mean- there is something so surreal and bizarre and yet so utterly “Texas” about coming upon this place amid the endless road that leads you back towards the north on US-90 (and actually found just outside the teensy town of Valentine, not Marfa). It’s customary to take a photo of yourself in front of this building, but the only image of me visible in any of these photos is in the reflection on the windows inside the “store” and I don’t think anything is more appropriate for a places I almost left behind in the dust. I will be back to Marfa to soley see all those things I wanted to see before the desert climate of Big Bend seduced me over to its side but, this place will survive in my memory as a once and only sort of visit.