Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Utah Continued

We enjoyed the Moab area so much that we have stayed longer than anticipated, and even with a ten-day stay didn't see nearly everything that's there.

After our strenuous climb up to Delicate Arch, we spent the next day driving south past Wilson Arch (It's so big someone supposedly flew a small plane through it.) to the Needles Overlook section of Canyonlands. The views are awesome, and we spent time just looking as well as exploring along the canyon rim.

By Thursday, we were ready for more strenuous pursuits, and hiked up Negro Bill Canyon with the dogs. About two miles up, at the end of one of the side canyons is Morning Glory Natural Bridge. At 243 feet long, it is the sixth-longest natural rock span in the U.S. You can see the bridge at the end of the canyon behind John and the dogs.

Negro Bill Canyon is narrow and steep, with lots of willows (and poison ivy!) and a clear, cool stream running through it. The dogs had a great time cooling off at each crossing. Nickie got to be off-leash so she could carry her pack, while Feathers remained leashed most of the time to keep her from stressing her arthritic hip. They were generally well-behaved. However, toward the end of the trip John took off Feathers' leash because he thought she was probably "tired enough to stay on the trail." Wrong! Not two minutes after getting her freedom, she plunged into the bushes (followed closely by Nickie and Lucky Dog) in pursuit of small, furry creature. The critter escaped, but Feathers was quickly secured again.

Everywhere we went, we encountered as many foreign tourists as Americans. While we were hiking in Negro Bill Canyon, we encountered an entire busload of Brits on a "walking holiday" courtesy their employer. They said they are able to go all over the world on these tours, and clearly were having a wonderful time. They were also a wonderful example of the benefits of keeping in shape. The canyon is rugged and steep, and the walk quite strenuous. However, the Brits (most who appeared to be in their 70s, with a couple of octogenarians) were all handling the walk with little problem.

Friday we took a ranger-led tour through the Firey Furnace section of Arches National Park (so named because of the red glow on the rocks at sunset). This section, though only 1/3 x 1/4 mile in area, can only be entered with a ranger, or by special permit. The reason is that it is a narrow, twisting labyrinth of fins, towers, drop-offs and dead-end canyons. Sheer rock walls muffle sound, and it's very easy to get lost. Here's a photo of some of our fellow-hikers at the mouth of one of the numerous steep, narrow canyons we walked

We had planned to go fishing on Saturday in the LaSal Mountains east of Moab. The LaSals rise steeply to peaks of around 12,000 feet. There are a couple of small, high lakes off the LaSal Loop Road east of Moab, so we headed out with high hopes. We we disappointed, however. The lakes are off the main road, down steep, narrow dirt roads. Since we had opted not to rent the $150 per day jeep, we decided not to risk taking the Falcon down them. Another impediment was a 100-mile bicycle ride taking place on the LaSal Loop that day. Most of our views of them were like this one, except steeper. The road is so narrow that there is no shoulder, so they ride single-file in the traffic lane. They were very considerate, but sometimes we had to follow for quite a while before we could see to go around.

On Sunday and Monday, we visited Dead Horse Point State Park and the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park. Dead Horse Point is just outside Canyonlands and overlooks the Colorado River. As you can see, the views are spectacular. The "point" is an area of 10 acres of less separated from the rest of the mesa by a narrow "neck" about 30-40 yards wide. It gets its name from an unfortunate incident in the early days involving capture of wild mustangs. The park is lovely mesa-top area, with hiking trails (which allow dogs!) and a nice campground. We'll stay there the next time we're in the area.

Some spots in Canyonlands that we especially enjoyed were Green River Overlook where you can see the Green River as it makes its way to join the Colorado at The Confluence. The white stone rim you see around the lower canyon is about 1000 feet below the mesa top. The river is actually another 1000 feet or so below that;

(We're at the photo limit for one post, so I'll continue this in my next issue.)

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