Sunday, 10 October 2010

Blanding Utah October 9th
I have taught/do teach about St Helens, Yellowstone and Arches. I know/knew that Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyons are spectacular. I was aware that Mesa Verde was a historical gem. So I was expecting not very much when it came to today’s trip to Canyonlands. How wrong. The park covers a huge area and the main attraction, as the name suggests, is a line of canyons that runs parallel to the Colorado River. None of them are on the scale of the Grand Canyon but the landforms are both varied and interesting. Yes, it is more sandstone. Yes, it is more red/vermillion cliffs. Yes it is more pinnacles, buttes and mesas. The volume and variety of them in a single area is probably unsurpassed, however, even if the majority of them are only accessible with 4WD or on long, overnight hikes.
I only got to one area, known as The Needles. It consists of a ridge of red and white sandstone that has been eroded into a series of superb, rounded pinnacles. It was a three hour round trip on foot and a longer walk was something I was grateful to have had the opportunity to do. It generates a greater sense of achievement on reaching the goal and also gives a feeling of being more in touch with the surrounding environment on the way. On the way there were several deer, lizards and small rodents. Fortunately there were no rattlesnakes or cougars. I was only made aware of the existence of the latter on my return to the visitor centre, where I spent 30 minutes finding out how the whole area was formed. I would have felt a bit more nervous walking on my own had I known in advance, so it was probably as well.
I am lamentably under-equipped for walking. I have my walking boots but no backpack, means of communication in an emergency or water container. It wasn’t that hot, thank goodness, so my weedy half-litre water bottle was just about enough.
When I got to the obvious viewpoint for The Needles, a big rock looking out over the plateau into which the canyons are carved, there were about 40 people there. I thought they all just happened to be there, so climbed up to join them and take some pictures. One bloke, dressed in a smart tweed jacket and neat trousers, then approached me and asked if I would mind moving elsewhere. I was a bit put out internally but said nothing ( golly I need to learn to do that more often ). I was glad I hadn’t when he went on to explain that I had inadvertently crashed a wedding ceremony. Hilarious. I moved a little way off and as I did, the bride, dressed in a dress and heeled shoes, appeared with her bridesmaids from behind a clump of nearby bushes, where I think they had changed into their smart clothes. The priest ( or whatever LDS call their blokes in charge ) then got on with ‘dearly beloved’ etc..

I could bore everyone to tears with the geological, tectonic and erosional history that lies behind the Canyonlands but will only do so on request on my return. Don’t say I don’t know who is bothering to read these offerings.
Sunday tomorrow. Nothing except LDS places of worship locally. I will try to find something, not least because I’d like to experience it. I then intend to do a low mileage trip to the Natural Bridges National Monument and, possibly, to Glen Canyon, on Lake Powell. Then it will be Arches Monday, on the way to Denver Tuesday, leaving Wednesday night, home Thursday afternoon.
And a pint Thursday evening.

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