I’m not often at a total loss for words, but the magnificent UTAH scenery we have seen in just two days defies description. Alex has been here before and he made an outstanding tour guide and could even explain all the Earth processes (chemical weathering, deposition, erosion) that shaped the Colorado Plateau 300 million years ago.
Today, after enjoying a tasty breakfast at the Eclectica Café in Moab, we gassed up the Explorer and headed to the Arches National Park. I had seen photos from Alex’s earlier trips but nothing prepared me for the massive, majestic, monolithic rock formations — arches, spires, impossibly balanced rocks, fault cracks, and sandstone fins. I’m afraid that I was fascinated by the “things” I saw in the huge towers and soon began describing them to Alex…to his disgust. “Look, there’s a lion…a warrior sleeping…an old man with a beard…and (name any number of animals).” In the photo above, for example, you can make out a man sitting in a recliner, feet in front of him.
And let your imagination loose with these two characters…I see an Egyptian pharo to the left — with his ‘head’ rock balanced precariously, visiting with a woman covered in a burka. We drove through the Arches National Park and stopped at every opportunity to get photos. The incredible thing was that each new vista was more amazing than the last. Even with the temp ramping up to 100+, there was a nice breeze and the sky couldn’t have been better if demanded by central casting.
Arches welcomes over a million visitors a year who journey to see the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. The Park encompasses about 77 thousand acres and was created in 1916.
As if this Park weren’t enough, we continued on to Canyonlands National Park. While the wonders of Arches rise ‘UP” the splendor of Canyonlands is below. The Park’s brochure points out Canyonlands (established as a national park in 1964) preserves a wilderness of rock (336 thousand acres of Utah’s high desert) at the heart of the Colorado Plateau. Water and gravity (the land’s primary architects) cut flat layers of sedimentary rock into hundreds of canyons, mesas, buttes, fins, arches and spires.
The contrasts are striking between the two parks…Arches seems to embrace visitors — with its many user friendly stopping off viewpoints and helpful information at overlooks. Canyonlands, on the other hand is more aloof…”Look at me,” it says…”but don’t touch.” Reaching its 60 miles of trails and campsites can be daunting…and if you think you’re going to find your way to visit the Horseshoe Canyon Pictographs — left by the hunter/gatherers over 2000 years ago — you’ll have to navigate a 600-foot descent into the canyons of the MAZE District, one of the Park’s most remote wildernesses. As with the Arches, photos do not do justice to Canyonlands.
And, as we have discovered in just two days, even a Thesaurus wouldn’t help…there just are not words to describe (with any accuracy) this magnificent “real estate.”
You can see Alex center left…black shorts, tan shirt, with his photographic gear. He got terribly close to the edge…something he takes great relish in…to make me scold him.
Tomorrow morning, Alex plans to take a hike up into a nearby canyon, then I expect we’ll go off in search of yet more visual extravaganzas. Come along…