Canyonlands National Park

November 7, 2016
Canyonlands National Park Needles District, Utah

This was the first National Park that we visited that I hadn’t heard of ahead of time. Brad was overdue for a long run, so we dropped him off at the end of a 3-mile dirt road in the late morning. While he ran the girls and I did 3 small hikes – one was to an 800 year old granary left over from Puebloan communities, and another was to look for life in potholes in the rocks (there hadn’t been enough rain to fill the potholes…so no tiny shrimp sittings).

The soil developing in pockets on the rocks is an amazing, organic crust fighting for survival in the harsh desert conditions.
crazy rock formations!
We got to hike through some pretty amazing cracks in the rocks.
Enjoying the unusual landscapes.
Working on Junior Ranger books, surrounded by dry potholes.
Debating whether or not this is a dinosaur footprint. And also Coral is levitating.
This interesting Yucca plant grows all over the desert. It was amazing to learn about all of the uses that the native people found for this plant!
ancient granary on Roadside Ruin hike

But the crowd favorite was the Cave Springs Trail!  This loop took us along some alcoves in the canyon.

The girls were STOKED about the ladders, so we saved this one for last!
The first alcove had remnants of a cowboy camp used by cattle ranchers from the 1860’s until the 1970’s. You can see the smoke stains on the rock above.
The next alcove had a natural spring, and was home to the some of the valley’s original inhabitants, and likely many others since. You can see ancient smoke stains on the ceiling. This is one of the park’s only year-round water sources.
and also pictographs.

Then the trail meandered around the canyon walls and up two ladders to the top of the small mesa. These two ladders proved to be the highlight of the girls’ day…nay, perhaps their whole lives. They managed to mention them on every page of their Junior Ranger book, wrote and drew about them in their travel journals, and have told everyone willing to listen about “the hike with 2 ladders”. It really was pretty fun, and when Coral was half-way up the first one she stopped and announced, “I’ve never climbed a ladder before!” So I guess it was a pretty big deal.

Sunny climbing ladder 1.
Coral on ladder 2

On top of the little mesa, the girls insisted that they wanted to hike alone and that I should stay at least 10 seconds behind them. Sunny was in mothering-mode and really wanted to help Coral with her activity book. So after following the trail from cairn to cairn across the rock for awhile, they found a shady place to sit and do their books together, and I enjoyed a peaceful time within earshot for about half an hour.

Playing life-size dot-to-dot with the maze of cairns across the mesa.

When we decided it was time to go find Brad, we finished our hike. The girls walked and skipped hand-in-hand singing songs about being best friends for the entire hike back.

“Pretending” to be best friends.


Junior Ranger final exam

When we picked up Brad he told us about the amazing 11-mile run he had finished, part of which took him through a narrow crack in the rocks called The Joint. He said it was such a fantastic run that he found himself just looking around and smiling. For all of these unexpected great joys and good moods in this national park that I’d never heard of, we decided it was officially the most fun we’d had as a family on a national park day trip. Hooray for Canyonlands!

Church Rock – along the highway on our way to the park


Oh, also on the road to this park, we stopped at Newpaper Rock. Remember how last week I was delighted to see Petroglyphys for the first time in my life?
Yeah, this….Newspaper Rock. Lots of curious things to look at here, but we found all of the feet with 6 toes to be the most puzzling. See the drawing of Church Rock?

2 Comment

  1. Kelsey says: Reply

    You’re pretty much a geologist now.

    Also, “playing best friends” SLAYED me!


  2. Grandma says: Reply

    Way to go climbing ladders!!

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