The world has many National Park groupies. I’m one of them. Among us Natural Wonder aficionados, we all harbor our favorites. That’s the Park where just hearing the name causes our involuntary systems to kick in. Our heart pumps an extra thump. We don our happy faces. It’s a lovesick reaction to a place that’s special to us. It’s a feeling of friendship.
For me, it’s Canyonlands National Park in Utah. I’ve been visiting this“Wilderness of Rock” for over a quarter of a century. Throughout those years, I’ve shared the Park with a few girlfriends. I have lots of smirky memories from those times. It’s a true sign of friendship and respect when you show off your significant other to an Old Buddy.
On this visit to Canyonlands, I came unattached. A condition I’m feeling less and less thrilled about. But Hey! That’s what friends are for. The good buddies pick you up, dust you off and push you back out on the trail. Canyonlands knows me. Hitting the trails is just what I needed.
So...for a week, I woke at first light. After my morning rituals, I hit the trail. I then performed my two-pot of coffee trot past other Early Risers for the first few miles. When the sounds of strangers huffing and puffing were a distant memory, I’d ease off on the throttle. I wanted to spend quiet, quality time with an Old Pal. It’s more meaningful that way. The truly wonderful thing is not once did Canyonlands kvetch, “You never call. You never write.” It’s a guilt free relationship.
Enough about my buddy-ship with an inanimate object. Let me “learn” you about Canyonlands National Park. A good way to describe CNP is this way. How can a Park have three Districts and each one be so different?
There’s Island in the Sky with it’s Big Views. It’s the closest to Moab and the most visited. The Mesa is attached to the mainland by a narrow neck. When geological erosional forces eventually win, this will truly be an Island in the Sky. It contains the mountain bike friendly 100 mile White Rim Trail. (Been there, done that five times).
There’s the Maze, a convoluted and contorted District which requires a more-than-macho 4x4 vehicle to conquer. I’ve been there one time. I’d love to go back. It’s aMazing. BTW. There’s no toilets, water or 7/11’s. What you lug in, must come out, plus your poop. Read all about it.
Included in the Maze District is Horseshoe Canyon. A separate unit housing the mystical and beguiling rock art of the Grand Gallery. Look but do not touch. It’s other claim to fame is being the canyon Aron Ralston stumbled into after amputating his own arm. But that’s another story.
Lastly there’s my most cherished, The Needles District. It contains 60 miles of interconnecting trails of Joy. It’s accessible and intimate. I hiked most of them this past trip. The Needles rocks.
All told Canyonlands is 527 square miles of Wild Lands. It receives less than a million visitors a year. Not bad-yet. The Park was established in 1964 (the same year as the Wilderness Act). It’s a young Park despite an over 300 million year geologic age. (Yes! Older than Adam and Eve.)
I’ll wrap this up with a Canyonlands birthing story.
In the early 60’s, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Floyd Dominy escorted Secretary of the Interior Steward Udall on a flight over the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers. Dominy pointed down and said that would be the site of his “next” big dam. Udall thought not so much. That will be the confluence of my next big National Park.
Every now and then, the Good Guys win.
Cheers to more winnings.
From windy (again) Blanding (yawn) Utah
Last Photo. I bought property.