One of the best ways to see America as it would have been from hundreds of years ago is to drive through its national parks in the Southwestern part of the country. Remember our cover story here?
We had arrived at the city of Moab in the southern part of Utah. And within a short driving distance would be two National Parks – both famed for their scenery of wild America, where the landscape is so desolate that you would lose all hope should you become lost in it! And to start off, we made a run to somewhere that looked,
Surreal. Like it’s another planet
A 30 minute drive from Moab, we had set off really early and arrived at the entrance to the park at 8am. Yes. We are now in Canyonlands National Park. A long straight road had led us in. And the local ranger office was not even opened! Tsk tsk…
A beautiful play of light cast shadows and streams of sunlight onto the distant landscape, creating a surreal-like environment – like we are on the planet Mars of something like that. To see the park in its entirety would take too long as it is 527mi² in size, making it roughly two times the size of Singapore.
One of the must do when here in Canyonlands National Park is to get to the Mesa arch. This arch is located at the rim of the plateau and gives you one of the most spectacular views in the park. You cannot drive up to the arch and need to do a short hike (about 0.5mi or 800m) to get there. But when you get there… One can only let the many pictures we took do the talking. And indeed a thousand words will be spoken by just one picture. While you can walk on the arch, we would caution against it as it was windy. A strong gust will likely bring you to the bottom of the plateau and it is a long drop. We’ve read that NASA tests some of their remote robots destined for Mars in some of the badlands in the southwest. This looks like a prime spot to try them out. Probably not that different from the red planet…
One of the five areas that the park is divided into is known as the “Island in the sky”. This is a high point in the park and a great panorama can be viewed at various points along the drive. When we reached it, we could see the edge of the white rim. At this height, the canyon formations look wonderful. Incredible as it seems, the Green River flows through this region on the way to the South to join into the Colorado River and Lake Mead eventually. Because some parts of Canyonlands is so deep, we cannot see the river from any point in our drive.
As we said, the canyon picture themselves looked like they are from Mars. See how the formations look like that of an outstretched palm and fingers extending from it? From our vantage point, we are about 1000 feet above these formations. One can hike the trails here, though caution is advised. And if you do, remember to register with the ranger office.
As we drove further on, we made a number of stops to pick out some of the best photo opportunities. Being so early, there was no other cars around and we had the Canyons to ourselves (we thought). Alas that was not the case, as Juniper trees can be found in many areas amongst the sandy soils watching us!
These hardy shrub-like trees have needle-like leaves and seem to thrive out here. And they seem to be bearing fruit! These “berries” are in fact cones. Be careful in consuming them, cause some literature suggest it may cause kidney damage!
Adjacent to Canyonlands by way of a short drive is a state park. It is a place where,
Many horses died here
Yes. This is Dead Horse point. There is a story behind this strange name, one that told of rustlers having herded their horses to this dead end to prevent them from running away. Unfortunately, they did not come back for the horses. The dry condition of the area caused a great many of them to die from dehydration.
The river in the background is the Colorado River, but it would be neigh impossible to get to it. As you might see the plateau in the background drops off with sheer cliffs several hundred meters high on three sides, with only a narrow neck of land (30 yards or so) connecting that slip of land to the main plateau. So near, yet so far is the irony for these poor animals. In remembrance, this place was named in their honor in the hope that this is never repeated. And so the name stuck.
Tip: just a point that if you buy the National Parks’ pass, it does not cover entry into the State parks.
Moab was indeed a fantastic location for us to be based for the duration of this portion of the road trip. We highly recommend considering this town as a stop on your road trip.
Finally, the one thing to do when driving out there in the wilderness is to ensure that your vehicle is fully topped up at all times. Being near towns help a lot so make sure you know where to drive in an emergency. Do your sums in terms of the range of your vehicle and make sure you have a supply of fresh water onboard. You have to realize that this is the real wilderness and unless help can be found you can be in real danger if you run out of gas and water.
We got here in October 2008 and thoroughly enjoyed it