Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Small Scenes, Grand Vistas

We took a break from our visits to Arches NP to see some of the sights in Canyonlands NP about 32 miles southwest of Moab, UT.

Traveling along Route 191 to Route 313 and before entering the Park, we came upon these two formations called Monitor and Merrimac, named for the vessels involved in a Civil War naval battle, the Battle of Hampton Roads.

We feel fortunate to have time to look around us for the small scenes and to focus on them after viewing the Big Picture. This scene with the desert grass and flower caught our attention.

This red flower really stood out from the beiges, browns, and grays of the desert. It offered a reminder that dramatic scenes can be found in a relatively small area as well as in the view from a mountaintop.

Arches National Monument Superintendent Bates Wilson first visited the area by horse in 1951. In 1957, he began leading visitors into the Canyonlands area, publicizing its scenic and recreational values, and recommending the creation of a "Grand View National Park." Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall, visited the area in 1961 and began campaigning for a national park on what were then Bureau of Land Management lands.

The heart of the canyon country was preserved as Canyonlands National Park when on September 12, 1964, President Johnson signed legislation establishing the first Park since 1956. In 1971, President Nixon signed into law an expansion of the park to its present size of 527 square miles.

After asking a few questions, viewing a brief film, and adding the Canyonlands stamp to our National Parks Passport at the Visitor Center, we headed for the trail to Mesa Arch. At its beginning, the half-mile trail was wide and flat with this interesting natural "marker" along the way.

Soon the trail's terrain changed to a course over slickrock. During the full half-mile hike, we had to walk slowly because of the lizards. On more than one occasion, I had to take an extra long step to avoid stepping on one of these quick little creatures as it scurried across the path. It may be hard to see in this photo (right), but in the center you may be able to see the first glimpse we had of Mesa Arch.

Within eyesight of the Arch, it would have been easy to walk a straight line for a closer look, but because of the delicate nature of the desert's crust, the trail is marked by the rocks, and tree branches serve as "barriers" to non-trail desert trampling.

Approaching Mesa Arch, we could see that it was a solid-looking arch, thereby reducing my search for cracks and my concern about an immenent collapse.

Several other hikers took photos of each other standing in front of the Arch. Sometimes I like people included in a picture to give an idea of perspective and scale, but for "line up and shoot photos," I waited until all had been completed.

This is the view through Mesa Arch. Although very tiny, a window in the rock formation in the center of this photo can just barely be seen. (Clicking to enlarge the photo will help you to see this.)

Canyonlands NP has three sections with three separate entrances. The Colorado and Green Rivers separate Island in the Sky from The Maze and The Needles. The two rivers join, forming the Colorado River, which separates The Maze from The Needles.
With this view from Mesa Arch in the Island in the Sky section, we could imagine these canyons providing hideouts for such outlaws as Robert Leroy Parker (Butch Cassidy) and others. Even today, there is little access to The Maze section, so it's easy to imagine Robbers Roost, west of the Maze, as serving as a secluded refuge for the bad guys.

Returning from the Arch, I was intrigued by this scene. As interesting as the cavity in the rock was, I was equally taken with the "crown" of grass at the top of the formation.

One of those small scenes that complement the grand vistas.

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