Monday, January 5, 2009

Canyonlands National Park, Utah - Camping and Hiking

A quote from my friend Mate's holiday letter: "As you greet the New Year, so, too, shall you spend it."

I had good reason to go to bed just after midnight on New Year's Eve - an early morning departure to Moab to visit some of my favorite places in Southern Utah. If you want to see some of the most spectacular sites around Moab and not feel like you are in Disneyland or L.A. traffic, you need to be able to tolerate a little heat or a little cold. It keeps the crowds to a minimum. There have been many trips to this area during the height of summer, including Salt Creek Canyon - the gold standard of misery to which all other unbearable experiences are compared (at least according to some.) But I can only remember visiting the area once during the winter and it was right after I moved to Utah. I'll take the heat over the cold any day, but I always appreciate an outdoor experience without the crowds. This trip was on familiar territory but visiting in a different season made it feel like a whole new experience.

We set up camp the first night near the Colorado River, just outside of Moab. There were a few hours of daylight left so we decided to check out Arches National Park. There were very few visitors and the snow capped redrock made for some great scenes.

sunset and the LaSal Mountains

Balanced Rock

Double Arch

Turret Arch

Brandon in his tent

Since we were so close to Moab, we decided to do a little grocery shopping and have a "fancy" dinner, complete with real cooked food and beer!

Brandon cooking over the fire

Me making fajitas

On Friday we traveled south to the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park. This is a relatively quiet area even during the mild season so we pretty much had the park to ourselves. We set up camp and hiked into Lost Canyon. The weather was somewhat mild for January and we enjoyed the sunshine by relaxing on some rocks and checking out the views.

Brandon and Rob

Hiking into Lost Canyon

"Potholes" full of water



The next day we did a longer hike into Chesler Park. It was colder and a little snowy, a big change from my last visit to this area in July.

on the way to Chesler Park

me in Elephant Canyon


the Needles

dusting of snow on the Needles

We set a record for our coldest camping experience the final night. We decided to camp in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park. The temperature dropped to minus 9 degrees F in Moab and it may have been even colder where we were - high up on a plateau surrounded by canyons. It certainly was invigorating weather to wake up to. Most of our tent stakes were abandoned that morning since they didn't want to budge from the frozen ground. Once the sun warmed things up a bit we checked out some of the views in Island in the Sky.

Island in the Sky

Mesa Arch

Me on the edge of the canyon

frosty tents


"It Depends on Us... another year lies before us like an unwritten page, an unspent coin, an unwalked road. How the pages will read, what treasures will be gained in exchange for time, or what we find along the way, will largely depend on us."

-- Esther Baldwin York

we added our stone...