2010.07.11 Canyonlands National Park

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If you like to travel with your dog or cat, the LaQuinta in Moab is the place for you.  We might have had the only two rooms that did not have a pet in them. We had never seen so many pets at a hotel before.  As we checked out this morning, I asked a man with a dog about it.  He said they asked around when they got into town and everybody said the LaQuinta is the place to stay with your pet.  I will say there was no sign of past pets in our room.

We cruised out of Moab on a quest to Canyonlands National Park.  We got the lowdown on how to best spend our time in the Park from the Park Ranger at Arches yesterday.  We’re glad we asked yesterday or we might have gone about it all wrong.

 

We took time for a photo op as we entered the Park.

 

Canyonlands National Park is really 3 different and distinct Parks – Island in the Sky, Needles, and The Maze.  These sections are separated from each other by the Colorado and Green Rivers.  The section named The Maze is not accessible, and Needles had some limited viewing sections.  We were advised to spend our time at Island in the Sky.  This is a mesa which stands about 1,000 feet above the other two sections.  As the Park Ranger put it, you will get to see Grand Canyon views without the crowds.  John Wesley Powell, who led the expedition to explore this region of the country, called it a “Wilderness of Rock”.

About a week ago, we purchased an Annual National Parks Pass.  When we pull up to the entrance gate at a National Park now, all we have to do is show our pass, and we cruise on in.  However, the young lady at the gate at the Canyonlands asked for my I.D. along with my pass.  She did the same thing to KK and he told her she was mean.

During our drive, Mallory explained to KK again that she had R.O.D. – Rock Overload Disease.  He told her that this sounded fatal, and he would be glad to provide her some counseling.

We stopped at the Visitor’s Center for the girls to get their Junior Ranger materials.  It worked out great, as just minutes after we arrived, a Ranger talk started that the girls and Stephanie attended.  When you walk out the front door of the Visitor’s Center, you are greeted with a majestic view of the canyon carved out by the Colorado River.  Luckily for the girls, the Ranger talk took place at the rim of the canyon.

 

Mallory and Marissa attending the Ranger talk.

 

After the Ranger talk, we set out on a scenic drive of the Park.  The first stop just happened to be of the Mesa Arch.  It was a half mile loop to walk to the arch, and it was worth it.  It turns out we did not overdose on arches yesterday, while at Arches National Park.  The Mesa Arch is not particularly long or tall, but it is sitting on the precipice of a 1,000 foot cliff, which certainly adds to its grandeur.

 

Mesa Arch at Canyonlands.

 

The view of the canyon next to Mesa Arch.

 

KK is in Rock Heaven.

 

We stopped at the most of the overlooks on the route, but our main destination was the Grand View Overlook.  So named, because you are standing atop the mesa (or Island in the Sky) looking down 1,000 feet to the canyons below.  It is in this valley that the confluence of the Colorado River and Green River occurs.  Unfortunately, the canyon walls are so steep that you cannot see either river from this vantage point.

 

Miles, Marissa and Mallory in front of Monument Basin.

 

The confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers.

 

While the canyon below was pretty barren, wildflowers were plentiful on top of the mesa.

 

The Park Ranger said we would get Grand Canyon views.  There were a few overlooks that were definitely as fantastic as anything you would see at the Grand Canyon, but the entire Park is not equal to the Grand Canyon.  However, when you consider we never shared a scenic overlook with more than 10 people at any one time, it was unbelievable.

 

Beautiful Canyonlands.

 

A view of the Green River.

 

Another great view of the canyon.

 

This Park had one overlook which had about a half dozen picnic areas.  When we pulled in, they were all full, but as luck would have it, one opened up while we were deciding what to do.  We had a picnic under the shelter, with a view of the canyon that had no peer.  This is what a vacation is all about.

 

I dare you to find a grander picnic spot than this.

 

These two Ravens wanted to steal our lunch.

 

Due to time constraints, there was one significant feature of this Park we did not get a chance to visit – the Upheaval Dome.  This is a huge crater that has scientists at each other’s throats, as they cannot agree on what caused it.  The two main theories are a meteorite impact and a salt dome that fell in on itself.  It would have been neat to see, but as we like to say, we are just on the “sampler tour”.  We can always come back later and see some more.

We stopped at the Visitor’s Center one final time so that the girls could complete their Junior Ranger.  This is their 6th of the vacation.  Marissa’s hat is now covered in Junior Ranger badges, as is Mallory’s knapsack.

We had to backtrack through Moab on our way to our next destination – Cortez, Colorado.  We stopped on Main Street and visited a few of the t-shirt shops.  We would compare Moab’s Main Street very favorably to Red River, New Mexico.

On the way out of Moab, we planned to visit a tourist trap called “Hole N The Rock”.  It boasted Southeast Utah’s largest petting zoo, as well as souvenirs, etc.  It appeared to be built right into a hole in a sandstone cliff.  Unfortunately, we pulled up at 5:00,they were closing the gate.  All we could do was pull slowly through their parking lot as we exited.  They had a bust of Franklin Delano Roosevelt carved into the sandstone.  This is our kind of place!  On the bright side, we found something else to see on our next trip here.

We said goodbye to Utah in the late afternoon, and said hello to Colorado.  Immediately after we crossed the state line, we began to see farmland.  The landscape changes very quickly.  So much green grass.  Even though we still suffer from Rock Fever, this was a pleasant change.

We pulled into Cortez around 7:00.  We had the option of grilling something for a picnic or going out to eat, but I didn’t feel like grilling.  KK found a seafood restaurant called the Dry Dock.  They had patio seating and a musician singing Willie Nelson songs.  Sold!

 

The entertainment at the Dry Dock in Cortez, Colorado.

 

The temperature was great, although the service left a lot to be desired.  Everybody enjoyed their food.  The singer may not have been great, but I enjoyed him.  Both Dad and I threw in a tip and requested songs.

When we got back to the motel, the kids were testing out the pool, but it was too cold. It should tell you something when the water is too cold for my kids to get in.

 

Our motel had a great neon sign. Tip: Do not always pick your motel based on the sign.

 

Once we settled into our tiny room for the evening, Marissa went to sleep, Stephanie read a People magazine, I did some blogging, and Miles & Mallory played a game of Night Sky Monopoly.  They bought this game a few days ago, and this is the second night in a row they have played it.  So far, it is a big hit.

As we wrapped up Day 10 of our 12 day journey, fatigue is starting to set in.  We are still excited to see everything we are visiting, but we do not have the same pep in our step we had on Day 1, which seems like a month ago.  Thank goodness this is only the “sampler tour”.

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