It’s Almost Another World, Isn’t it?- Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Shafer Trail Road, Canyonlands National Park

super crowded Mesa Arch
Grand View Point Overlook, Canyonlands National Park

Brian at Canyonlands National Park

M at Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park in October
M at Canyonlands National Park
the blue light at Canyonlands National Park

There is a sense, when you stand at the edge of almost any overlook at this park, of otherworldliness. Your mind rebels at the idea that this vista your eye beholds, that it belongs on this earth. The scale of it all is one thing, but the sheer oddity and variety of all the formations out there on the great expanse, it easily pulls you to imagine you’re far away on some distant world.

The crowds were sparse here, at least when we visited that early morning- though I will say if you’ve plans to enjoy Mesa Arch, time your arrival well in advance and be prepared for loads of people crowded around the formation. Grand View Point Overlook was almost completely deserted when drove up, and compared to the previous day we had stopped by when there was absolutely no parking available, it was a welcome sight. We spent the better part of an hour just wandering around the edges of the overlook there, casting our eyes down down down to where we could see hints of the at times dangerous and high clearance, four-wheel-drive recommended Shafer Trail Road. I think very highly of my beloved Renegade, but that doesn’t mean i’m so foolhardy as to think we should attempt any part of that road, no matter how utterly tempting it might have been. (Definitely something i’ve bookmarked in my mind to come back to later though. )

Leaving the Grand View Point overlook was almost harder than leaving one of my favorite overlooks at the Grand Canyon, and that’s truly saying something, though I guess i’ve a thing for “grand” things.

Don’t we all though?


An Unexpected Finale – Arches National Park, Utah

Balanced rock, Arches National Park

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

About a month after the photos in this post were taken, i’m sitting at home in my office/art studio with graphite pencils scattered all over my floor, three sketchbooks open to various projects and a reheated cup of coffee that tastes just this side of too sweet. In my head i’m composing letters to penpals I really need to send and coming up for excuses as to why i’ve yet to finish Gödel, Escher, Bach by D. Hofstadter though i’ve no problem buying still more Byzantine empire history books. In short, my heart is content to be at home, but there is always a part of me that longs for the promise of adventure that the open road holds and the way my hands itch for a camera and an interesting landscape. 

By the time we had finished up at the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint it was around 9:30 and while we turned the car back around with enthusiasm to head back deeper into the park, there was definitely the sense that the relative peace we had been experiencing was well on it’s way to being over. The day before, after getting drenched to the bone, we had arrived back at the park around 10:30 to stop in at the visitor center so I could stock up on postcards and other souvenirs for friends, coworkers and penpals and it had been a surreal experience to wait in a long line of cars for about half an hour just to get inside. There had been loose plans to possible do the Devils Garden trail, at least as far enough to see the Landscape Arch section but after seeing the overflowing parking lot we decided to save this part of the park for another trip.

Before you get wilting with sadness with me,I should point out that this is something I like to do almost everywhere I go. I like this idea of leaving behind pockets of unknown adventure for myself to look forward to on a return trip, something wholly new and unexpected to come back to and explore. (Also,I can be such an anti-social SOB that the idea of knocking elbows with dozens upon dozens of people while trying to find a way to enjoy something outdoors is bristling to me. Drop me into a city and i’m fine, but the crowded outdoors is a jarring dissonance.)

On a more positive note, I’ve got to mention the Sand Dune Arch as one of my most favorite parts of the park- there’s something utterly magical about the area and the way the light filters through the rocky passages and spills itself onto the warm sand below that is not to be missed. After leaving Sand Dune Arch, if you head up towards the Skyline Arch, there’s a bit of an unmarked offshoot dirt road you’ll see on the lefthand side of the road and if you happened to take that, you’ll end up in the valley bellow, wondering where the heck you’re going but also hopefully enjoying the unexpected views. This actually takes you towards the Tower Arch trail….and if you keep going, dumps you rather unceremoniously out of Arches. About 45 minuets after that, just when you’ve begun to despair that you’ve really gone the wrong way and you think the road couldn’t get more rough and bumpy, yet again you’ll be unexpectedly dumped off the road, this time back onto the main 191 highway.

And so, that’s a weird way to say goodbye to Arches that I wouldn’t exactly recommend unless you’ve got some kind of Jeep/high clearance vehicle but hey, the surreal-ness of the adventure was definitely enjoyable.


Courthouse Towers Viewpoint- Arches National Park, Utah

Tower of Babel, Arches National Park
The Organ at Arches National Park
The Three Gossips, Arches National Park

“Tell me of the way the lights splash against the rocks.” 

If I had to pick a favorite rock formation from this viewpoint, it would be the rather awesomely named, The Organ. A close second would be The Tower of Babel. The Three Gossips (and if you can’t guess which one that is just from the name alone I might just need to sign you up for some new glasses) was really fascinating to gaze at from below and reminded me strongly of the Three Sisters I saw at Monument Valley back last March.

Though this section of the park was the one we spent the least amount of time at, I would definitely recommend parking your car and crossing the street from the view point to walk a bit along the Park Avenue trail as 1. it gets you away from the crowd and 2. it provides excellent views of the surrounding monoliths and other interestingly formed geological marvels.

( On a side note, I’ve only got 2 more posts for Arches in the pipeline, after which i’ll be moving on to cover the Canyonlands – Death Valley- Joshua Tree- Salton Sea/Salvation Mountain –  Carlsbad Caverns part of the trip so…if you’ve only been hanging around for more Arches, er bad news I guess. If you’re happy to move on to other interesting places and eventually hear about those wacky adventures, hang tight.)