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Posts tagged ‘Canyonlands National Park’

A Bumpy Trek to Angel Arch

100_0988Grand Canyon hazy day 152I am a creature of habit.  I love to travel to national parks, and if I find one that fascinates me I am apt to go back again and again.  Yosemite National Park and Grand Canyon are two of my favorite destinations.  Each visit has enough differences (time of year, weather, my perspective) to make each trip unique.  However, the basics of the location do not really change.

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 280Another place I have visited several times now is Canyonlands National Park (Utah). Canyonlands was established in 1964 with the promise “to preserve an area. . . [of] scenic, scientific, and archeological features for the inspiration, benefit and use of the public.”  This park is comprised of four districts created by the Green and Colorado Rivers.  Although these sections appear relatively close on a map, there is no one road that connects them to each other.  The entrances to the various locations can be anywhere from two- to six-hour drives apart.  Each section offers wondrous beauty and several hiking opportunities.  The sections are named The Needles, Island in the Sky, The Maze, and River Trips.

I first visited Canyonlands in the late 1990s, taking several days to view various sections of the park.  This spring, I returned to The Needles Section for a second visit that I will share in a future blog posting.  At the time, I could not help but think back to my first visit, when I took a four-wheel drive tour to visit Angel Arch.  I had hoped to get out to that specific feature again, but it is no longer possible, at least not in a way that I can maneuver.  In 2004, access was limited to those who will make the strenuous nearly 18 mile round-trip hike out to Angel Arch.  Well, there is no way I can make that hike these days!

angel 5

Given this change in policy to better preserve this wilderness area, my first trip to Angel Arch will have to suffice as my only visit to this glorious feature.  Fortunately, it was a great trip!  At the time, there were three ways to gain access to Angel Arch.  One could hike to the area; this is the option that is still available today.  But private cars could also drive to the area, but four-wheel drive was needed as well as permits to limit the number of vehicles per day.  I took the third option by signing up for a four-wheel drive tour to Angel Arch.  When I made my reservations, I asked to be placed on the tour with the fewest participants.  I never have liked crowds.

Besides the driver, there were four of us on this specific trip. And we were a great combination.  All of us were in academia in some way.  I taught English and was an avid bird watcher.  Others represented the fields of history and biology with some expertise in wildflowers.  The guide/driver had never had such a small group before, so he was ecstatic.  Our size allowed him to take a vehicle he rarely used.  Instead of an open-air truck of some sort that sat up to about 15, we were in an enclosed Land Rover of some kind. It even had air conditioning! And rather than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, he picked up the makings for a gourmet fare from his wife who prepared meals at a hotel in Moab that provided meals for lots of local tours.  She had prepared more than she needed and we were such a small group, so she shared.  We had fresh made guacamole and a shrimp salad for lunch.



drive 3The wild drive out to Angel Arch bumped along Salt Creek Road.  A different tourist on a different trip offered a description of this route that sounds very accurate:  The vehicle veered “off the paved highway and headed up the Salt Creek ‘Road’—part tire-grooved sand, part splashing pools, part unforgiving step-stone slickrock.  On a four-wheel-drive scale of one to four, with four as the toughest, this route rates a three.”  This route follows an old cowboy trail along a winding canyon.  Water is present year-round, so the area hosts a variety of wildflowers in later spring and summer. The landscape was phenomenal.  But I do remember that at times we almost stalled out and other times we seemed to be climbing almost straight up and over boulders.  As long as I was not driving, this was fun!

drive 1

flower by rock

flower 7

vista 1

vista 7We stopped at various points to see the sights and stretch our legs.  The trip itself promised to take up most of the day.

flower 4

vista 8

close 1 to vista 8

vista 9


flower 10

vista 11

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vista 13

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flower 2

angel 1car areaEventually we pulled into a level area where we stopped to eat, close enough to walk a short distance to a good view of Angel Arch.  It was heavenly!  The Arch itself reaches up 150 feet and stretches over an expanse that measures 120 by 135 feet.  First discovered in 1955, the Angel Arch has become one of the most well-known sculptures in the area. At first several names were used to describe this glorious sculpture, but Chaffee C. Young’s name of “Angel Arch” was finally accepted as the most descriptive.  It is easy to see this angel, frozen in time, her wings back as she rests and enjoys the vista, perhaps offering up a prayer or a song of celebration.

angel 2

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angel 3

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I fully understand the concern that stopped the access of all motorized vehicles into the area around Angel Arch in 2004.  An attempt in 2011 to reverse that decision was not successful.  I think I would be fighting to keep access free from motorized vehicles.  But I sure am glad I had the chance to take the four-wheel drive tour out to Angel Arch years ago.  It turned into a great once-in-a-life-time adventure!




I have always considered myself a Roadside Naturalist.

pink tree along I-5christio umbrellas along I-5Some roads are noted for their wonderful views, such as California’s Big Sur Coastline and the 17-Mile Drive outside of Monterey.  But even roads like I-5 can let you find a gorgeous tree in pink splendor or Highway 395 can drive you past autumn colors.  The noted artist Christo even planned his Umbrellas Exhibit—in both California and Japan—along common roadways.  No matter where I go, if I pay attention, I can usually find some glorious aspect of Nature to appreciate.

Lone pIne monterey

big sur

Bishop road

In fact, Nature and Solitude are such rejuvenating forces that I used to take Nature Solitude Treks every spring.  The frequency of those trips, however, stopped when I moved into administrative work and no longer had May as a regular time off.  And then I had a series of major surgeries starting in 2006 and my chances to get out into Nature dwindled even further.  I still valued Nature and sought it out, just with less planned intention.

Drive to Flagstaff 013This spring, I finally took another Nature Solitude Trek, this time traveling over 6500 miles and stopping at national parks and wildlife refuges along the way. I did not complete major hikes or camp out under the stars.  In fact, most places I visited I made sure had scenic drives as part of their layouts and options.  It is amazing how much Nature you can enjoy, literally, along the side of the road.  Some of those roads were bumpy unpaved dirt roads while others were interstates, and still others were county back roads.  But they allowed me to get close to Nature, even though I cannot walk very fast or very far anymore.

Below are some of the photos taken from the car that show the Nature I encountered along the many, many roads I traveled on this trip.  It was a glorious time.  And not one flat tire or speeding ticket!


Zion & Kolob Canyons 016

Zion & Kolob Canyons 120

bull close


Bryce NP, red rock canyon 006

Bryce NP, red rock canyon 117

Bryce NP, red rock canyon 100


Coral Reef National Park 093

Coral Reef National Park 123

Coral Reef National Park 094


Canyonlands Needles & I 70 206

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 216

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 213

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 293


CO national mon 2 & River Park 057

CO national mon 2 & River Park 062

CO national mon 2 & River Park 009


Pam Day 2 & Garden of the Gods 048


Pam Day 2 & Garden of the Gods 009


Bosque de Apache outside Albu 007

Bosque de Apache outside Albu 211

Bosque de Apache outside Albu 148

Bosque de Apache outside Albu 161

Bosque de Apache outside Albu 223


Saugaro NP Rincon & West 156

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 325

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 078

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 018

Saugaro NP Rincon & West 114


(Actually two little trips before and after my big driving trip in Spring 2014)












This trip immersed me into the overwhelming and rejuvenating power of Nature and Solitude. In today’s world, when we are urged to see multi-tasking as an expectation, when the Internet and social media bring us news and oddities alike in the blink of an eye, and when reality shows focus so often on people doing stupid things rather than on a delight of Nature, my escape into Nature was a real treat.  This trip confirmed that the best way to approach Nature is as a child excited by the ant and butterfly alike, curious about birds and squirrels and whatever catches her eye.  This trip reminded me of the power of wonder and mindfulness to help keep me balanced and spiritually aware. As a result of this trip, I remembered some simple truths that can help me lead an engaged, wonder-filled life, no matter how hectic my life gets:

  • Don’t multi-task your life away. If something is so unimportant that you need to be doing something else at the same time, why do it at all?
  • Slow down and look around.  You will never notice the natural wonders around you if you just keep rushing to the next item on your to-do list.
  • Be like a child and capture the wonder of each moment—it is the only way to build memories.
  • Express your gratitude and appreciation for nature, life, relationships often.

What truths about life help keep you grounded and sane?

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“Amidst the splendor of the scene and the silence, I was filled with a wonderful peace.”   Basho

“ah, sweet spontaneous earth…”    e. e. cummings

“We need the tonic of wildness—we can never have enough of nature.”  Thoreau

“The spirits of the road beckoned, and I could do no more work at all.”   Basho

“Silence alone is worthy to be heard.”  Thoreau

“Be happy for this moment.  This moment is your life.”  Omar Khayyam

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  W. B. Yeats

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”  Emerson

“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”   Betty Smith

“Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”    Franz Kafka

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”   Goethe

“You’ll never find a rainbow if you’re looking down.”  Charles Chaplin

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”   Socrates

“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”    G. K. Chesterton

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”    Aristotle

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”     Buddha

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”    G. K. Chesterton

“Mystery creates wonder, and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”   Neil Armstrong

“Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.”  Albert Schweitzer

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