Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Canyonlands National Park: The Needles Region



We joined my parents and brothers last week on a trip to Utah's Canyonlands National Park. This post is about our first day in the area, to the Needles region of Canyonlands. Canyonlands is amazingly beautiful because of it's massive size and it's serene remote location. Only about 1/4 (?) of the park is accessible with paved roads. If you have a high clearance four-wheel drive vehicle you can access more of the park, but to get to see all of the park you would have to hike- for days. I would not want to be lost out here!

Newspaper Rock

Newspaper Rock is actually just outside of Canyonlands NP and is a State Historical Monument.

It is amazing.

Many people have stopped by to carve their "news" on this rock, beginning about 2,000 years ago and on until the 20th century. The early petroglyphs on this rock are attributed to the Pueblo Native Americans, the latest to the Utes and Navajo and later still to some 20th century travelers. The darker images are the oldest since minerals have begun to build up again on the oldest carvings.

 No one really knows what the images mean, so you can look at the pictures and make your own guess as to what message the artist intended to convey. It's cool to image all the real people who passed by here over thousands of years and decided to stop and leave a their mark. For who? Were they intending to tell a story to others? Or just to remember? Or to leave an actual message, like a warning or indication of good hunting ground?

Roadside Ruin

This was a short loop trail that lead to an ancestral Pueblo granary kept well preserved under a rock ledge. I didn't get a picture of the granary, but it's in the Youtube video above. All the kids walked the whole way, even 17 mo. old Camden. You'll notice that most of the trails in the park are either on slickrock or sand.
Cave Spring
Next, we did the Cave Spring Trail. The kids loved this trail! It is also a fairly short trail, but there is a lot of variety and visual interest along the trail.

The first major stop is an old cowboy campsite where cowboys would stop and camp while herding their cattle through the area.


The trail continues along the side of a huge rock where the overhanging rock creates many caves. There are also some cool pictographs in the overhangs. Can you see the hands?



Then you have to climb two ladders that take you up to the top of the rock. This was probably the kids' favorite part of the whole trip. Ladders on trails are just cool.

I carried Camden in the hiking backpack for most of the hike. Don't worry, there was always someone there to help me over the steep parts.

On the top of the rock.


The view on the top was magnificent.


By following cairns the trail slowly takes you down to the other side of the rock where it is less of a drop off and you can just step off the slickrock rather than having to climb down another ladder.


Elephant Canyon
Next we had a picnic lunch at the Elephant Canyon picnic area (all two tables of it).

 I thought this rock leaning on it's side looked ready to tumble. Maybe in another hundred years?
 

After lunch my dad and brothers took off for a long hike while my mom and I stayed and let the kids play.

 They thought the lizards were cool.

Julia built her own cairns.

After a while we went for a short drive to put the kids to sleep since it was naptime but they didn't want to nap. It worked for Micah and Camden. This was the view on the drive.

Since there were two kids sleeping I was going to go for a short hike on my own, but I ran into these guys coming back 100 yards into my hike!

 The view from the Big Spring Canyon Overlook.

Julia took my picture since she didn't want me to take her picture. I told her I think they had that rock in the movie Cars. Actually, that was my lame joke the whole trip because the landscape looked a lot like the landscape in Cars.

Squaw Canyon

The last hike of the day Micah and Camden were still sleeping, so we took Julia and just walked until she started to complain that she was tired, and then turned back. I loved the clouds and the rainstorm out in the distance, and again, the majesty in the monumental size of the space. Julia loved all the water filled potholes on top of this slickrock.


Grandpa finally had to carry her at the end of the hike. It was the end of a long day.

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