We had another great day today…although it was a lot windier up on top of the plateau than it was yesterday down in the canyon. We set the alarm for 0530 today instead of 0600 and were up, had coffee and breakfast and were on the road just a bit after 0700. Our destination the Islands in the Sky region of the park. It’s about 10 miles north from Moab on UT-191 then down UT-233 all the way to the park entrance. On the way we were passing Dead Horse State Park which is supposed to be the best state park in Utah…it’s perched on a narrow point of land 2000 feet over the Colorado River…and you can see the Green River and the Confluence of the two rivers as well. We thought that the state park would be pretty empty since we were getting there just a couple minutes past 0800 but we ran into a large group of birders out on the point…they were all watching the falcons flying around the point and taking some smaller birds for breakfast. We had left the long zoom lens in the car as we were only expecting landscape pictures so Neil passed on pictures of little black dots…they were moving pretty fast anyway so getting a shot would have been difficult at best. So you’ll have to just settle for these beautiful views of the two rivers down below. The last one is about a 140 degree panorama shot.
Leaving Dead Horse State Park we entered the National Park about 5 miles later; our plan was to stop by Mesa Arch on the way in since it’s best in the early morning…then go out to the far end of the road and get some early morning canyon vista shots followed by hitting the other view points and interesting things on the way back out. Here is a nice shot of both the arch itself and then one of Neil’s favorite shots of the day; the canyon wall taken through the arch as a frame. I’ve also included a couple of shots of the two walls of the canyon that leads away from the arch location as well as a panorama of the entire canyon… and finally a wildflower for Connie that we saw on the hike back to the road.
Heading on down the road another 6 miles or so we arrived at the Grand View Point Overlook and I gotta tell you…the views were truly spectacular. The point is surrounded on three sides by the canyon and river 2,000 feet or so below…and I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves. Some of these were taken at Grand View and the others at various viewpoints as we headed north toward the park entrance. Simply spectacular…words and pictures cannot adequately describe how awe inspiring and small these wide open spaces make you feel.
We passed up on taking the hike out to the Upheaval Dome…the scientists aren’t sure whether this is the remnants of a meteor strike or a salt dome but it was a mile and a half hike round trip and was pretty steeply uphill…and we wuz tired.
We did stop by the visitor center and watch the movie…it was pretty decent but not up to the usual standards for National Park movies as far as information went. Outside the visitor center we were getting into the car and Neil spotted one final view he had to go get a shot of…this is the La Fall Mountains in the distance across the other side of the canyon. This is the clearest we’ve seen these mountains and he really liked this view particularly as well.
With that our day was again done…we headed home and had some chicken and baked beans for dinner. Tomorrow Connie has some work she really needs to get done, and the weather isn’t supposed to be very nice (mostly cloudy is the forecast)…so we’re going to cancel our planned drive down to Monument Valley. It was going to be a 300+ mile round trip and the only things we would have been able to see are the 17 mile Monument Valley road tour plus the famous Mile Marker 13 on Old Highway 163…this is the sign that Forrest Gump was next to when he gave up his cross country run. The view from Mile Marker 13 is one of the most photographed in Monument Valley…so it’s highly likely that you’ve seen this view of the road…the usual photo is taken looking down the road from the centerline and you see the road going downhill for about 2 miles or so then turning 45 degrees and heading straight off into the distance with a couple of buttes highlighted in the background. We’ll hope to get down there next time we are out this way though. Assuming the weather is clear tomorrow evening we’ll likely head into Arches and find a spot to watch the sun go down followed by some post sunset star over mountains shots…Neil’s never tried to get any of those since he went the digital camera route and wants to ‘speriment.
Saturday we’ll probably take a short hike in Arches then we’ve got the Alabama game in the late afternoon. Sunday we’ll either rest or head back into Arches if we’ve missed anything we want to see then Monday we’re off somewhere…we have to make a decision tomorrow on either the northern route through Denver and the Colorado Rockies and risk snowy passes or the 280 mile longer southern route through Durango CO, Sante Fe NM, Amarillo TX and then over to Junction City.