April 27, 2008

Moab - Canyonlands WOW!

Our first night was a nice boondock about six miles down the Mineral Bottoms Road in BLM lands just outside of the Park. We had gotten a tip to stay at the Horse Thief campground, a few miles away in the same BLM area, which was full. The host suggested the remote isolated spot, and it was a ultra-quiet delight!

Next morning we moved into the Park's fabulous "Island in the Sky" section, which is actually a huge mesa about 2000 feet above the confluence of the Colorado & Green Rivers. Kim decided we must see the "Gooseneck" of the Colorado and that the best vantage point was from an overlook about halfway down the near vertical canyon off the East (Moab) side of the mesa.

The map showed it could be reached by Shafer Trail (a 4WD Road??) .... let's see the Ranger at the Visitor Center said "it's actually in pretty good shape now" and gave no clue as to how steep and tight this was!!! definitely not for the faint of heart! Even in four-wheel drive, I felt the tires slip on the tortuous dirt & rocks scratched into the canyon wall. That was unsettling, given the deadly drop-off to my left, and the overhanging rock threatening to rip the kayak off the top on the right (which required driving much closer to the drop-off side than I'd rather). Unfortunately, these pictures were taken AFTER the steep area, where Kim wouldn't dare let me stop and get out to take a picture, for fear of the truck sliding off the edge.

We missed the warning signs at the top of this dizzying series of switchbacks that warned there would spots on the 1,400’ plunge to the White Rim, our vantage-point, that would require "jogging" the long wheelbase F-150 in order to make the turns without sliding over the edge! Kim clutched the passenger door handle and armrest so tightly, I thought she would tear it off. It was bad enough being the driver, it must have been really tough for her to sit there without any feeling of control! This pix is at the last steep switch, looking straight ahead onto a sheer drop, where I had to "jog" the pickup the last time to make the hairpin!
As it flattened out, the "road" was showing signs of washout in many places....

The vistas across the deeply incised mesa, where the higher rock of dusky reds and browns was beautiful, is a dangerous distraction anytime, but especially under these conditions. So I saved my sightseeing for a pullout about two-thirds of the way down. We were rewarded for our pain by this panoramic view of the Gooseneck!

The scenery along the way was diverse, and that along with a nice picnic lunch, provided a nice relief from the nerve-racking drive above.

Nearing the bottom, and on into Moab, Shafer Trail turns into Potash Road, which passes alongside the luminous aqua-green pits of this large operation.

Over the next few days, we learned that almost no one goes DOWN this thing! most run up it where your view over the edge & down the dropoffs is less distracting. Later that evening, we opted for the more traditional view of the Gooseneck, from Deadhorse Point and in spite of lots of haze managed to get a nice shot right before sunset!

The short drive across the mesa back to the Island campground provided the perfect platform for watching our "local" star surrender it's bright light to the night....

I joined the twenty-some dedicated photographers up at the crack of dawn to capture the famed Mesa Arch. According to the experts on hand the "light this morning is not favorable", but I guess that provides the reason for another trip. In spite of having to work around the large group of snappers & tripods, I did capture a few images that give a feel for the dynamics of change as the great fireball rose!

With that beautiful morning light still over my shoulder, I decided to drive over to the Crater, on the way, capturing a nice flat-topped bute between the western side of the mesa and the Green River....

A short hike up a little hill, and sunken below me the Giant Mesa Crater was waiting in the still cool morning shadows!

Looking downward on the hike back, an array of interesting colors, shapes & textures caught my eye...

Later that morning, Kim & I explored the southmost point of the Island, looking down on what has to be one of the Earth's most moving sites, we gaze mesmorized as we follow the stark cuts in Her crust that lead ultimately to the Green!

Recovering from this gravity defying view, we move along the ridgeline only to bump into two bandits....wonder if that had anything to do with my breaking out the peanuts? When we stopped a bit later for lunch, one of the two instantly swooped down from above, armed with new courage as the larger quantities of food were brought out.

I walked further along the precipice, and standing on a far perch, spotted Kim gazing again at the splendor below....we lingered half the afternoon, wandering Nature's magical path along this edge, enjoying perhaps Her greatest gift to mankind....infinite beauty!