Week of September 12, 1999
On To Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

We did some more research on our family history at the BYU campus library. We ate at an interesting restaurant, Frontier Pies, where we had stir fry and then slices of strawberry and coconut cream pies to top it off. The menu is like an old West newspaper with interesting tidbits. After spending a few days in Springville (outside of Provo, Utah), we then headed south towards Moab which is near Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. As we drove we passed numerous mountain ranges and peaks. Some of the trees along the ridges were vibrant red and fiery orange. We got in a traffic jam where road workers were working and had to wait for 30 minutes. The sun seems brighter here in Utah. It beats down on you. Once we got near Moab, we stayed at Archview Campground, which had views of Arches National Park in the distance. They provided us with a modem hookup in their store and included a Texaco gas station and an antique shop. Moab is named for a remote area in the Bible.

Upon entering Arches National Park, we went up a winding road to view the many sandstone and sculpted slickrock formations formed from 100 million years of erosion and underground salt beds. We could see the snow peaked La Sal Mountains in the distance. The mountains were so named by Spanish explorers who thought they looked like piles of salt when covered by snow. Along the short Park Avenue, we could glimpse the Courthouse Towers and the Tower of Babel formations. We drove past Petrified Dunes, which are ancient giant sand dunes turned to stone. We stopped to walk around the Balanced Rock which stands precariously by itself on top of a pinnacle. At the Fiery Furnace, a maze of spires create an intricate array of miniature canyons. There are over 2,000 arches to view in this tranquil place. The most popular is Delicate Arch which appears on the Utah license plate. There are three trails which provide views of this arch. We took the half mile viewpoint trail to get a glimpse. Another, more strenuous three mile (round trip, allow 2 to 3 hours) hiking trail offers a close view after walking along a rock ledge for 200 yards. Native Americans traveled these lands for thousands of years, leaving evidence of petroglyph and pictograph drawings (We saw some evidence of these when we visited Capitol Reef National Park, to be reviewed here soon). Ranchers came in the late 1800s to raise cattle in the side canyons. Be sure to stay on the trails if you go. The soil is fragile, made up of algae, fungi, and lichens. This crust absorbs moisture and helps prevent erosion in the harsh climate. The best time for photos are in the early morning or late in the afternoon, where the colors of the rocks appear the richest (photos to appear here soon). As we left the park late in the day, we saw a skinny mule deer along the road.

The next day we headed to explore the Island of the Sky, the northern section of Canyonlands National Park. There are two other sections of the park, the Needles in the eastern section and the Maze to the west. The side canyons were formed from the merging of the Green and Colorado rivers. From Island of the Sky viewpoints we could view broad vistas of the canyons below, the river basin, and the other two sections of the park. This region is similar in some regards to the Grand Canyon, with pinyon pine and juniper trees and varying hues of the canyon walls. The Maze section to the west has been described as a "30 square mile puzzle in sandstone". It is one of the most remote areas of the country. The Needles section contains hundreds of ancient Indian ruin sites and petroglyphs. Upon exploring the area back in 1869 on his way to the Grand Canyon, Major John Wesley Powell is said to have explained it as "strange, weird, and grand". It rains less than 10 inches here a year. We picked one of the days that it did. By the time we got back to Moab, we could see a double rainbow in town.

The next day, we moved our Travel Supreme further south to Circleville RV Campground on Highway 89. The small town of Circleville's claim to fame is that Butch Cassidy grew up here. It is also a haven for hunters with ATV trails all around. It is now elk hunting season here in Utah. Along the way to Capitol Reef National Park, we stopped by to sample the cheese at the Chammell Cheese Company in Loa, Utah. We watched from a viewing platform as they made cheese.

Capitol Reef National Park, the Navajo Indians called the area "The Land of the Sleeping Rainbow". With towering canyons of dramatic multi-colored layered rock, peaks which resemble state capital domes, arches, and historic sites, the park contains quite a few surprises. In a large area of the park called Waterpocket Fold, you can see the result of the Earth's buckling movements. Landmarks which we viewed throughout the park included Twin Rocks, the Castle, Capitol Dome, and Chimney Rock. Within the Fremont River valley of the park, settlers moved here to found the town of Fruita in the late 1800s (the Mormons called it a "Red Rock Eden") and started farming and raising fruit. The town buildings are now a part of the historic district of the park. We saw a blacksmith shop and a one-room school house (used continuously until the last inhabitants of the 1940s). We saw several old wagons and farm implements. From one of the many orchards in the valley, we picked fresh apples and pears for a nominal fee. Depending on the time of the year, you can also pick cherries, apricots, peaches, walnuts, mulberries, almonds, or plums from the over 2,700 trees that have been harvested here for nearly 100 years. From one of the groves we saw SIX mule deer bucks together. Mule deers, which are found throughout the region, have large mule-shaped ears. The Gifford House Homestead in the valley represents early 1900's pioneer life in the Fruita valley. There was an old Model T in the garage and a storm cellar behind the house. I picked a mystery fruit next to the house, it has a tart taste and a yellow furry skin. It tasted almost like an apple. Near the settlement on the canyon walls can be seen ancient Indian petroglyph drawings from Indians who lived here as early as AD 700. The images were probably used to symbolize a ceremony that took place there. Other drawings are said to be calendars to document planting and animal migration schedules. There are many petroglyphs and pictographs (paintings on rock) throughout the area. We went down the Scenic Road a ways and took a side canyon dirt road. Signs advise about instant flash floods that occur on this road due to being next to a canyon wall and a dry creek bed. We stopped and walked to old uranium mines which had been dug out by prospectors in the 1950s. The caves have iron bars over the entrances with radioactive signs inside (as well as a warning about bats). We saw the remains of a small rock building here which problably served as sleeping quarters. We drove along the bottom of the canyon which in places the slickrock walls (which rise to over 600 feet in areas of the park) were smooth, and sculpted at the bottom with pockets of holes. You can see huge boulders that have fallen from their high perch in the past. From a distance at the top of a peak we could see Butch Cassidy Arch. We skipped the strenuous hike to it. We saw several more mule deer when we headed back to our campground.

Next: Bryce Canyon National Park and Garfield County, Utah

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