Now that my mom’s been here for most of 2016, she’s getting a little restless to return home to Incheon. She’s not nearly as scared of being nuked by North Korea as we are, and she doesn’t want her tuho skills to get dull. Before she goes, though, my brother, Woodchuck suggested that we all get together to celebrate Lastleaf since that hasn’t happened in so many years.
Mom’s been jumping back and forth between staying with Flatty in Salt Lake City and Woodchuck in Beaver, so Woodchuck suggested that we meet somewhere in between. He would get Mom to Canyonlands National Park if I drove down with Flatty to meet them. That sounded like a great idea to me! I flew to Salt Lake, and Flatty and I headed south, stopping for the night near Dead Horse Point, where 19th century cowboys used to trap wild mustangs on the edge of the cliff!
We took our time heading south from there, knowing that Woodchuck is a late sleeper anyway, and we stopped by Wilson Arch, one of the most accessible stone arches in this area. Named for local pioneer, Joe Wilson, it was formed by years of freezing, thawing, and sandblasting!
The arch itself hasn’t changed a lot since I visited Arches National Park in 2011, but a whole resort community has moved in around it! This remote arch is now someone’s backyard view!
It was pretty windy and a little chilly, so after a brief exploration of both sides of the arch, we moved further south to the Needles Overlook, where we could catch our first glimpses of Canyonlands! Canyonlands National Park is split into thirds by the Green and Colorado Rivers. To the north: Island in the Sky! To the west: The Maze! To the south: The Needles!
We’ll be meeting Mom and Woodchuck in the southernmost part of the park: the Needles District, named for its spiny rock formations! We’re going on a hike, and I can’t wait to get down among those awesome spires! From above, this part of the country looks like a whole other world!
Mom and Woodchuck were waiting for us at the entrance to the Needles District! Mom has really been enjoying her time in Utah. After living so long in a huge city, she was really surprised at how much she preferred Beaver to Salt Lake! The peace, quiet, and open spaces really set her mind at ease. But, after all that ease, she was ready to do some exploring after hearing so much about Utah’s deserts. It was getting a little late, though, so we decided to start small and hike more tomorrow!
As we headed into the park, we spotted the first of what would surely be many ancient ruins on our trip. The Roadside Ruin was built by an ancestral Puebloan person to store grain. Tucked up under a rock, it was protected from rain and rats. It didn’t look like much, but it was amazing that it had lasted as long as it had!
From there, we headed over to Pothole Point, where a short trail led us out over slick rock to a neat vista of pancake-shaped hoodoos, some of the many unique stone shapes that make Canyonlands so amazing!
But why is it called Pothole Point and not Pancake Point, you ask? The rain pounding on the sandstone has worn pits called potholes into the rock, and when those pits fill with water, desert magic happens! Ancient, tiny creatures, like fairy shrimp and tadpole shrimp, which may have been dormant for 50 years, come back to life in a race to live their lives before the water dries up again! We sat and watched them for what felt like hours as they frantically foraged the way they have for millions of years!
The mighty boulders here gave us a taste of things to come, and Flatty joked that the clouds over them looked like a WiFi signal. I guess that’s so the shrimp can update their Shrimpstagram accounts!
Between the boulders, there were thin crevices that would have been tough for humans to navigate, but we had lots of room to frolic, bouncing off the walls and getting covered in southern Utah’s famous red dirt!
We’ve landed in a neat place to start our adventure, and I can’t wait for our hike into Squaw Canyon tomorrow. There are so many unique and secret places to explore; a few days just doesn’t seem like enough!
Woodchuck checked us in to our campsite at the Needles Outpost and whipped us up some dinner. We’ve got a great view from the side of a cliff to watch the sun set in the distance. We’ll see you at the trailhead tomorrow morning!