Hanging High on an Island in the Sky

Trip Start Jun 01, 2011
Trip End Jul 31, 2011

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Where I stayed
Canyonlands RV Park
What I did
Islands in the Sky at Canyonlands & Park Aveneue in Arches

Flag of United States  , Utah
Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Today, we go to the other National Park in the Moab area – Canyonlands. Yes, it seems everything out here has a name with canyon in it – Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon, Bryce Canyon & now Canyonlands. There are three districts to this place – Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze. We'll be going to the easiest part – Island in the Sky – since the Needles section is 65 miles away, one way and the Maze needs at least a 4x4 to get to. The Island in the Sky is a huge mesa 2,000 feet above the Colorado and Green Rivers. Even that high up, you can only see a small bit of the Colorado from one lookout. There is an overlook where you can see a good bit of the Green River.

The park is 30 miles from Moab. First you head north on the 191 for 10 miles and then you hang a left on Utah 313 which takes you gradually up the mesa 2,000 feet above the Colorado. We bummed around the surprisingly crowded small visitors center for 30 min. which gave us enough time to see some of the exhibits and watch the intro film. All these intro films in the area really makes me want to run the Colorado. But that would take several days and almost $1,000 bucks per person – a little out of my budget for this year.

We drove 6 miles to our first stop – Mesa Arch. This is supposed to be the best place to watch the sunrise in the whole area. But the sun comes up here around 6:00 am and it takes 45 min. to get here – too early for us sleepy heads. The trail was only a half a mile over an easy path. The arch was small by the standards of the area, but it was unique in that it was attached to a 1,000 ft. cliff. So to go under the arch you’d have to jump off a cliff. Some brave souls walked on top of this arch – one strong wind the wrong direction and you’ll have a little free fall.

After three miles we stopped by Buck Canyon Overlook which is the only spot on the Island where you can see a small snippet of the river. From here it was three more miles to the Grand View Point Overlook. There is a one mile trail that follows the ledge of the island so Pooh and I took it. By this time it was around noon and getting pretty hot. So Pooh found a few small shady spots around some large boulders. The tip of the point was a little disappointing as a big mesa blocked 50% of the view. Plus, I really wanted to see the point where the Green and Colorado Rivers meet. But you really have to go on the river to see this. Right as we were going to walk back, we noticed a cloud to our south that just popped up out of nowhere. And not just any cloud, but a storm cloud with rain in the far distance concealing a butte in the distance. As we got in the truck after our mile back, the storm clouds now took up half the sky to our south and was covering up more buttes in the distance.

Our next planned spot was the Upheaval Dome area and trail. But first we stopped at the Green River Overlook. Now the weather was getting ominous. The storms were now around us on three sides. It was neat to watch the storm head toward us with a view of 50 miles – to watch one butte after another disappear behind the rain showers. As we were walking toward the truck it started to rain on us but just a little. Since this storm seemed to be on top of us, we cancelled out Upheaval Dome trail and headed back for Moab. Canyonlands had some killer overlooks but that was about it – I guess you need to take a raft for a 4x4 trek into it to really get a good feel of the place. Since the needles district is so far away, I don’t think we’ll be driving that just to do a few hour’s worth of trails.

From here it was about 40 miles. We passed in and out of the rain but it did not rain very hard until the second we reached Moab. Right as we pulled into where we were going to eat, the heavens unleashed its furry. I had to let Pooh out at the door while I found a place to park my big truck and run in myself. We ate at one of the Moab watering holes called Eddie McStiffs. Pooh got some wings while I had a small steak with some cilantro sauce on top. Pretty good food all around. They had a ton of drinks that looked pretty good but the prices are just too much for me – if I want one I can make most anything back in the RV. After lunch the rains had stopped and the sun was coming back out. We went back to the RV and did our traditional chill-out session during the afternoon.

In the evening we went back out to Arches National Park for a short two mile hike. Before the hike we did the Visitors Center thing where I checked out the really cool exhibits here on how arches are made and destroyed and it had a pretty good film done by the National Geographic Channel. I did get my traditional t-shirt at the store to add to my National Parks collection and Pooh got this really cool looking Mao-type hat. So now when she wears the cap I’ll call her "Comrade Pooh." I also confirmed my reservations for the ranger led hike for tomorrow afternoon at the Fiery Furnace and got my do’s and don’ts information.

Back in the truck we went back up the massive mesa in front of the VC and on top of the Arches mesa for just a few miles to get to the trailhead of Park Avenue. This trail is just a mile long but goes in a wash in the middle of these 1,000 high walls of stone on both sides. At the end of the trail a mile away was the massive spire called the Courthouse and the Tower of Babel. These monoliths just stuck out of the ground for no reason but to make you look very small. The trail went down into a wash most of the time, but then for the mile back we had to go uphill. Overall, a great trail to make you feel very insignificant. After the trail we drove back to the RV and chilled for the night.  
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