Island in the Sky – Canyonlands National Park, UT (part I)

Grandview Point Overlook - Canyonlands National Park, UT

After two wonderful days in Arches National Park, it was time to explore Canyonlands. Canyonlands National Park is located west of US Highway 191 in southeastern Utah. The park is transected by both the Green and Colorado Rivers, which converge, effectively splitting the park into three disconnected sections (there are no bridges across either of the rivers).

The northern third is the Island in the Sky district. The western portion is The Maze district, and the southeastern section is The Needles district. The Maze can be accessed only by long drives down rough roads, for which a high-clearance 4WD vehicle is required My mom’s Corolla obviously doesn’t fit this description. This is the most rugged and primitive section of the park, and is therefore the least visited. The Needles and Island in the Sky are more developed and easily-accessible, though both of these districts also have some roads that can only be traversed with 4WD. We didn’t visit The Needles because it was significantly farther from where we were camped, but I’ve heard this area is extremely cool. Next time, I suppose. Continue reading

Happy Birthday to the National Park Service!

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In honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, I’ve put together a list of my favorite National Park Service sites:

NATIONAL PARKS

#1: Glacier National Park, MT

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I’m probably always going to be biased towards my home state, but I think just about anyone would agree with me that Glacier is one of the most beautiful places in the country. How can you top big blue skies, crystal clear waters, rugged mountains, and powerful glaciers? Not to mention the thousands of wildflowers, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, and the largest grizzly bear population in the Lower 48. Glacier has been dubbed the Crown of the Continent, due to both its ecological importance and its natural beauty, and I can’t think of a more accurate nickname for such a special place. Continue reading

Sand, Sand, and More Sand – Arches National Park, UT (part III)

Sister and I under Broken Arch - Arches National Park, UT

For day #2 in Utah, we headed back into Arches to explore the other half of the park. We followed the main road all the way to the end this time, to the Devils Garden campground, picnic area, and trailhead. Just before the picnic area is a short trail to Skyline Arch.

Skyline Arch (Day 2)
Skyline Arch – Arches National Park, UT
Continue reading

102° – Arches National Park, UT (part II)

Delicate Arch from Frame Arch - Arches National Park, UT

Delicate Arch is arguably the most iconic image of Utah. It’s on their license plate, state quarter, and probably every other photo of Utah you’ve ever seen. And with good reason…it’s huge! You don’t really realize just how huge until you’re standing under it looking up and realizing that, in the grand scheme of things, you’re pretty insignificant.

So for obvious reasons, Delicate Arch is a must-do if you ever visit Arches National Park. It’s a 4-mile round trip hike and it’s not overly steep, but you’ll spend most of the time walking across giant rock faces in 100-degree heat. The day we did this hike, it was 102°F. And it’s dry heat. You could drink a gallon of water and still not be properly hydrated because the air is so dry. We each had 2 Nalgenes and some Gatorade with us, and we finished them by the end of the hike. In fact, we were drinking 5-6 Nalgenes per day each and by 9pm maybe, maybe we’d have to go to the bathroom. Long story short, it’s hot and dry in Utah in late July. Arches may be a better destination for April or May. But the end of July was when we could go, so we just had to suck it up. Continue reading

The Power of Wind – Arches National Park, UT (Part I)

Double Arch - Arches National Park, UT

Rocks are weird. And also very cool. It’s amazing to me how rocks can be arranged in such a way that differences in resistance to erosion result in the formation of such incredible geological features. Exhibit A: Arches National Park, where giant sandstone arches have formed as a result of thousands of years of exposure to water and wind.

Over 2,000 arches decorate the landscape in this section of southern Utah. There are also numerous other rock features – giant monoliths that rise out of nothing, groups of red rock fins that form a maze, and even a giant balanced boulder. Geologically speaking, Arches is probably the most unique place I’ve ever been. Continue reading

Above – Dead Horse Point State Park, UT

Cliffs along Highway 313 - Dead Horse Point State Park, UT

Since we’d had so much fun in southern Utah in 2009, we decided to head back to the area the following summer. My mom had visited Arches National Park many years ago, but none of us had ever been to Canyonlands or Mesa Verde. Plus, my sister wanted to check out a college in Colorado. So we pulled up a map and plotted out an 1,800-mile road trip!

From our house in MT, it’s a 9-hour drive south to Moab, UT, which is the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Since we’d be there for a few days and wanted to go to both parks, we decided to camp at Dead Horse Point State Park, conveniently located between the two parks. An old legend tells the tale of cowboys who used a peninsula high above the Colorado River to corral wild horses and select the ones they wanted. The remaining horses would be set free. According to the legend, one year the horses were left in the corral and died of dehydration on this point 2,000 feet above the Colorado River. Hence, Dead Horse Point. Continue reading

Trek to the Big Sky, MT

Views from the summit of Andesite Mountain - Big Sky Resort, MT

Every summer, a local nonprofit called Reach, Incorporated used to host a hike called Trek to the Big Sky. Reach, Inc. is an organization that provides services and support for adults with disabilities. Trek to the Big Sky was an annual fundraiser for this organization. My mom’s office supported the cause, and each year would put together a team for the hike.

Trek to the Big Sky took place in Big Sky, Montana – which is most famously known as one of the best ski resorts in the country. However, plenty of other recreation opportunities are available there once the snow melts away. For this event, we hiked up Andesite Mountain, one of the main peaks at Big Sky Ski Resort. It’s about 2 miles in each direction, moderately steep, but the trail is a service road so it’s wide and well-maintained. Continue reading