The Magnificent Windows – Arches National Park, Utah

double arch in the morning light
The Windows, arches National Park
Turret Arch, Arches NP
Towards La Sal Mountains
The Magnificent Windows, Arches National Park
View out of North Window Arch


To be accurate, this section of the park is just called “The Windows”, but I felt it necessary to add the Magnificent in part because because I saw The Magnificent Seven in theaters right before we went on this roadtrip and also because there’s nothing short of magnificence here.

There’s something so compelling to me, something that just reaches inside my chest and tugs at places heretofore unknown when I look out across the landscapes laid out in this corner of Utah. Something so essential and almost ridiculous in it’s intensity that has me to the point of almost desperation. I was granted almost 5 whole minuets of solitude basking in the view out of the North Windows opening before yet another tour bus started unloading in the parking lot and it was almost enough to revel in the scene.

If I could offer just one tip to anyone visiting this section of the park, it would be this: arrive with a bag full of patience to be doled out while waiting to scamper up the rocks to see the view out of the opening of the windows. Early morning is best for almost every single part of the park, though sunrise will most likely find you surrounded by early bird tripod wielding photographers so, waiting till just after would maybe be just a tab better if all you want to do is enjoy the view. As this blog shows, I love photographing the places I visit but i’m not a professional by any stretch of the imagination, so I can let myself off the hook when it comes to capturing the best shots or having the right equipment (and i’ve yet to find a tripod that doesn’t frustrate me). That isn’t to say you won’t find me half dangling off a precarious perch just to get a better view- if the bf started his own blog i’m sure half of the post there would be titled “M tests her mortality and shaves five years off my life yet again” . 

what’s life without stupid risk though?
~m

Delicate Arch And Blanket Capes- Arches National Park, Utah

delicate arch, from viewpoint landscape at delicate arch viewpoint trail delicate arch at sunrise Delicate Arch viewpoint at sunrise

Sometimes i want adventure and sometimes I just want naps.

Case in point, a 330 am wake up call found me grumpy, cold and ready to call it quits almost as soon as we arrived back inside Arches NP. The hope was to catch some sufficiently dark night skies, as the last trip to accomplish this at Big Bend was very poorly timed (my fault for not researching beforehand) . This time….well, I can at the very least say they were almost the darkest skies i’ve ever seen, certainly the darkest i’ve ever seen since I took that ill-fated adventure down HWY 1 a couple of years ago that had me convinced i’d encounter Bigfoot. Possible cryptids aside however, the night sky at Arches was lovely and I enjoyed the chance to see stars twinkling merrily even as both me and the bf froze our butts off waiting for sunrise to near.

We picked Delicate Arch as our sunrise viewpoint, though I should point out we didn’t do the Delicate Arch trail, instead making our way up to the Upper Delicate Arch viewpoint. The actual trail is about 3 miles, rated as difficult and not particularly recommended after rainfall, whereas the upper viewpoint trail is just half a mile or so and only moderately difficult. Also, sunrise is much less crowded on either trail than at sunset when literally a hundred people might just be the low end of the estimate.

I’m gonna go ahead and suggest not doing either one of these trails whilst wrapping yourself up in a blanket that ends up fluttering behind you in a cape-like fashion…at least if you don’t want people staring at you like you’ve gone completely nuts. Usually, you would think I was the one that would do something like that…BUT, i’m somewhat proud to point out that I had both appropriate hiking books on and adequate layers to insulate me from the chilly morning. The bf however, did not. I honestly think i’m definitely rubbing off on him in the worst way.

The colors here are everywhere, the obvious reds and oranges slowly arriving with the sun’s rise while the greens, blues and purples in the sky become an almost perfect match for the gorgeously unexpected tones running through the landscape itself. I’d love to do the actual Delicate Arch trail one day, but cape or no cape, even this short hike was more than worth the view.

~m

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.

~m

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,
~m