Sunday, September 29, 2013

Canyonlands NP, UT - 09/29/13

Sunday – September 29, 2013
Needles Outlook
Canyonlands National Park, Utah

The temperature dropped into the mid-30’s last night here at the Wind Whistle Campground in the Needles Outlook region of the Canyonlands National Park. Today, the temperature reached the mid-70’s and tonight the temperature will be in the mid-40’s. Such is life here in the Utah desert.

It is a beautiful sunny day, time to go exploring. We travel 16 miles west of Wind Whistle Campground to the Needles Overlook. This is the end of the road. Spread out before us, as far as the eye can see, is the canyons, mesas, cliffs and canyon floor of Canyonland National Park. This is a barren desert region, with the canyon floor perhaps a thousand feet below us. Off in the distance, we see a lush green vegetation area. Upon closer inspection, through our binoculars, we see the vegetation borders the shores of the Colorado River. As we scan the winding route of the river, we lose site of it as it cuts through deep canyons, only to reappear briefly a few miles further downstream, before we lose sight of it as it flows through another canyon.

The desert landscape below us is dotted with islands, rising towers of rock formations with deep canyons cutting through them. The islands, perhaps hundreds of feet high, rise up out of the desert floor. They all have a relatively flat surface and vary in size, with the largest being about the size of football field. The towers of rock formations, dispersed throughout the floor of the canyon, resemble clusters of skyscraper buildings.

The desert floor has a few dirt roads that offer the adventurous visitor, equipped with a four-wheel drive vehicle, hundreds of miles of exploration. On this visit, we spotted a camper-top pickup truck very slowly navigating what appeared to be a very sandy and rutted section of the road. A little later, we spotted six mountain bikers traversing this very same road, followed by what appeared to be their chase vehicle, carrying extra mountain bikes and containers of water and gasoline. To the naked eye, the vehicles and mountain bikers look like miniature figures moving along the road. Only with binoculars can they really be seen. The desert floor of the canyon is so desolate and inhospitable, that visitors must obtain a permit to travel through this region.

We spent several hours at this marvelous overlook, absorbing the majestic beauty surrounding us. We became fascinated watching a fairly large ant dragging an item, probably five times its size. It dragged the item through the rock-strewn ground for about twenty feet and then left the item on the surface of a large flat rock. It disappeared into the nearby rocky terrain. We figured it had had enough of dragging that item all by itself and had gone for help! It must have seemed to the ant that it was dragging the item through a canyon filled with boulders.

Tomorrow another adventure begins.

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