From desert to greenery

Trip Start Jul 26, 2010
Trip End Aug 23, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Utah
Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday 14th August

From desert to greenery

Our last day in Moab – a place we'd highly recommend – breakfast at the diner, followed by an hour’s drive to the Canyonlands NP entrance, the northern end, Island in the Sky. Yesterday’s trip to the Needles end had been interesting (and knackering), but in the end underwhelming. We were apprehensive that today would be the same. How wrong we were!

The landscape looked identical at first, but within minutes it opened out into fantastically wide canyon vistas on a scale with those at the Grand Canyon. In some senses the views were more stunning for their range and depth. The Grand Canyon views are steep and constantly framed by the opposite rim. Here the vistas just spread wide and far, so wide it was difficult to take it all in. Single photos don’t do the scale true justice and only the video panorama sweeps that I’ll try to upload will show the real scale. We’d already decided not to do any "longer", adventurous walks, merely because we had been so tired the day before. We did tackle the usual shorter overlook trails and all of these led to splendid landscape views. Canyonlands is still at a serious altitude, ranging from about 6000 to almost 8000 feet in places. The main canyon “floor” is lower and very exposed to the sun. On the rim it was in the 80s all the time; down in the canyons it must have been much hotter. We covered the more popular spots, Mesa Arch trail, Whale Rock trail, Elephant Hill and lastly Grand View Point trail – all of them quite short but demanding in the heat. A few uploaded photos will give you the idea! If all you want to do for a while is hike, chill out in peaceful, picturesque surroundings, we would highly recommend this NP. It is ideal for campervans and especially if you have a four-wheel drive to take you down to the lower canyon rims – there are some fantastic off-road trails.

The drive to our next stop in Torrey was going to be quite long, probably around three hours, so we left Canyonlands around 1 o’ clock to make the drive north to the Inter State 70. The freeway drive was our first since we left Las Vegas almost 3 weeks ago. It’s quite a change from the M1 and hugely different from the M25. 75 mph speed limit on well surfaced dual-carriageways with limited traffic – using cruise control on the car makes the driving so painless. From Canyonlands heading north, the scenery changes to a high arid plain, almost devoid of any greenery and with temperatures ranging to the high 90s. We stopped at Green River, a big red blob on our road map that turned out to be a small one-street town with more motels than shops and almost nothing to recommend it – except for a newly opened ice-cream parlour! We stopped for a refreshment with flavour; we’ve noticed that water is tasteless – stunning, eh? – and despite the benefit of hydration by bottled water, we long for a taste! The ice-cream slaked our thirst and led to a short nap in the car under the shade of one of the very few trees in town.

Back on the freeway the scenery changed again, this time back to the canyonland scenery of southern Utah. We pulled off the freeway and headed south to Torrey and within minutes we had travelled into Alpine scenery. Amazing transformation! Tall trees, wooded valleys, green and lush meadows. We were beginning to hope this was the sort of terrain we would meet in Capitol Reef NP, our next adventure. The Alps climbed to over 9000 feet, then dropped into more green pasture country where farmsteads littered the minor road we were on. Lots of irrigation of huge fields of green stuff – it looked like rye grass, could have been anything in fact, but it was certainly green! And then the landscape changed once more, back to canyon-style hills. We were close to our latest motel, Capitol Reef Inn, in Torrey and we were hungry. The motel is quaint, very homely and has a certain rural charm about it. We had the night’s special for supper, “hen” (i.e. tiny chicken) stuffed with wild rice and served with a choice of broccoli or cauliflower. It was very tasty, if a little dry. The motel doubles as a restaurant and shop too and has lots of different Indian stuff to buy, including a large collection of petrified wood! Our room is huge and very comfortable – 2 nights here will be very relaxing!
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