Sunday, May 25, 2003: I figured Arches would be extremely crowded again, so I headed for the Islands in the Sky portion of Canyonlands, stopping for a few pictures of Monitor and Merrimac Buttes on the way. (PHOTO) This time I took the trails to Grand View Point (PHOTO) and White Rim Overlook. I found the latter the best of the overlooks, partly because I could make more sense of what I saw. There was a Gray Vireo near Grand View Point. I remember how we struggled to see this bird at Big Bend several years ago. This one was much more cooperative. Some of the potholes at the White Rim Overlook had water and the Violet-Green Swallows were coming down to skim it. I also stopped at the roadside Orange Cliffs Overlook and Candlestick Tower Overlook.
By then it was getting hot, so I again tried the LaSal's. Again rain appeared! This time was less intense and more scattered, so I tried some roadside birding. A lot of birds were happy to sing, but few were happy to be seen. The most interesting that came out to be seen was a Mountain Chickadee. I headed up higher, to over 9000 feet, but then the rain started to pick up and I turned back to Moab. I relaxed some in the heat of the day, then went ate dinner outside at an Italian restaurant. I had just gotten done when it started to rain, turning into a regular storm after I returned to the motel.
Canyonlands: Needles District
Monday, May 26, 2003: Since the Matheson Preserve wasn't open early, I headed for the Needles area of Canyonlands. Newspaper Rock State Park (on the way) was the first stop. That area turned out to be fairly birdy, with many Yellow Warblers, Warbling and Plumbeous Vireos, Spotted Towhees, Robins, and one Western Wood-Pewee (the first I heard when I got out of the car). The rock, which has petroglyphs, is located in a pretty canyon with a stream.
From there, it was on to Needles. I did all four short trails today: Pothole Point, Slickrock, Cave Spring, and Roadside Ruin. Pothole Point was first. It would have been better if any of the potholes had water. Then, rather than going to the next short trail, I hiked along the beginning of the Confluence Trail, down into Big Spring Canyon, up the other side, and return. Then I hiked the Slickrock Trail. It had views into some nice side canyons. The next to last trail was the Cave Spring Trail. I goes by an old cowboy camp and a shelter used by the "Ancestral Pueblo". They knew how to pick a good site. The big rock overhang kept it shady and cool even though it was in the upper 80's. From there, two wooden ladders led up on top of the slickrock. The trail eventually descended, went under more overhangs, and returned to the parking lot. The last stop was the Roadside Ruin, which has an old Anasazi granary. It's made of rock and mortar, but is not very big, only a few feet across and a few feet high.
I then returned to Moab. I'll be back in Needles tomorrow for one of the longer trails, but I haven't figured out which one yet. If it weren't so hot, it would be the Confluence Overlook. However, I might settle for the shorter Chesler Park Overlook. It may depend on how early I get up.
Small world department: I was sitting there, eating my dinner when Chuck and Judy (TAS trip regulars) show up. What a surprise to see them out in Moab!
Gods and Ancients
Tuesday, May 27, 2003: I got up late today (6:30am), so the Confluence Overlook was out. It would just be too hot. (You have to factor in the 90 minute drive to the Elephant Hill trailhead, and the 6-7 hour hike...not to mention the distractions on the way such as Western Grebe, Redhead, and Ruddy Duck) I decided to take the six-mile (round trip) hike to Chesler Park instead. I stopped on the way to take a couple of photos of Newspaper Rock, then it was on to the Elephant Hill trailhead.
Even with the shorter hike it was 12:30 when I got back to the car. It was pretty hot, with highs in the 90s today. I drank a quart of water and quart of Gatorade on the trail, and still headed directly for the cooler when I got back to the car. Heat stress! There were many nice views on the way, and a fair amount of up and down. Fortunately, the return was more down that up. Chesler Park is a meadow surrounded by the needles formations (and with one in the middle). Very interesting.
I then drove to Blanding and visited the Edge of the Cedars State Park. The park preserves some old Anasazi ruins. One has been "stabilized" and can be visited. You can even the ladder down into the kiva. They also have a museum. An interesting way to spend an hour. (PHOTO)
This left me with a problem. What to do with the rest of the day. There were some nearby sites that had been cut out of the itinerary that provided the solution. I drove south to Bluff, then east toward Mexican Hat on US-163. I passed the east entrance to Valley of the Gods, although some of the formations were easily visible from the road. About 4 miles before reaching Mexican Hat, I turned north on the "Trail of the Ancients" (UT-261). Just after the turnoff was the turnoff for Goosenecks State Park, so I followed that. The only development in the park is a picnic area overlooking the goosenecks of the San Juan River. Photos were taken!
I then headed up the Trail of the Ancients a few miles to the west entrance to Valley of the Gods. This time I went in a few miles and took a few pictures before returning to the trail.
The "Trail of the Ancients" turns into a gravel road as it climbs uphill. At the top (Mokey Dugway, aka Mokee Dugway, aka Moki Dugway) there's an excellent view. I'm told that when it is clear you can easily see Monument Valley. However, it was too hazy to see that far today. There was a good view into the Valley of the Gods.
From there I continued north on UT-261 to UT-95 where I turned east to return to Blanding. Besides noting some possible turnoffs on UT-95 for tomorrow, there was one task remaining: photograph Comb Ridge. It's best in late afternoon, and that's when I was there. Some clouds helped improve the pictures. I guess I could have stayed longer and waited for more color to come out, but it was pretty good already. After that, I returned to Blanding.