Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dead Horse Point and Canyonlands

[photos to come]

The initial thought was just to go to Dead Horse Point, where we knew we should get a dramatic view of the Colorado River from the Island In The Sky plateau.   We'd get an idea of what to expect in Canyonlands, and decide what to do from there.

You drive up onto the plateau through some interesting terrain -- canyons wandering off everywhere, and drive across this big plateau that actually had some grassy vegetation on it .... and indeed apparently much of  it had been a ranch.

Dead Horse Point is a state park, just outside of Canyonlands, and we paid ... I can't remember, $6 apiece to get in or something not unreasonable.   We got the literature at the entrance, and read the sad story of how Dead Horse Point actually got its name.

Looking out to Canyonlands from
Dead Horse Point
Dead Horse Point is kind of a peninsula of this island in the sky plateau, with sharp cliffs to the valley below -- and which is only about 30 feet wide at one point.   Apparently, cowboys used to round up wild horses and drive them out here, and fence them off with a 30 foot cedar fence.

They would then select the best horses for ranch work.   Which is fine with me.

But then .... they'd leave the rest of them fenced in there, with no water, to die of thirst, looking at the Colorado River 2,000 feet below.

I just can't imagine.  I certainly don't want to try.

Another view from Dead
Horse Point
The view was spectacular, and it was probably only about 30% of what you'd see on a day without smoke haze.   We wandered around the edge, looking at the Grand Canyon-esque view.  It's only about half as deep, I know, but it's vast, vast vast.  You could see a little dirt road streaking off into the distance below, and on the east side there is some sort of evaporative salt pool where they harvest potash.  They're bright blue, standing out starkly against the surrounding desert earth tones.

The Colorado River is a green grey, as it is through the whole area ... full of silt from it's highly erosive path out of the Rockies.   On a clear day, with no smoke, I'm sure our jaws would have hit the ground in awe.

As it was, they hit our knees.

But there's only so much to see at Dead Horse Point, and we were done in 60 to 90 minutes, so we headed out.   It turns out there's an entrance to Canyonlands National Park just a few miles from the turnoff to Dead Horse Point.  For some reason, I had thought the main entrance to Canyonlands would be south of Moab.  But no.  It's west northwest, right here, by Dead Horse Point.  You can get into the Needles district from a point south of Moab.   Might as well check it out while we're here.  Hit the Visitors center, see what's to see.  Maybe come back tomorrow.   Which we did.  We went to the Visitor's Center ... and not much going on, really.  Found out there were some Puebloan granaries not too far down the road.  And we could check out the upheaval dome.   Well.  We have time.  Let's head out there.
A few miles down the road we found the trailhead for the granaries.  There are two sites, one on each of two buttes.   Vicki was up for the close one.   I would have done either one or both.  But I think she's hot, and tired, and wearing down a bit.  And there's something else in the back of my mind.

I know we're pretty close to False Kiva, one of my goals for this trip.  One that Vicki probably doesn't know is as desirable to me as it is.  Ok.   We'll go to the close one.

It was probably a mile or so.  You circle around the south side of the butte and hike up the east side of it, across the top.   We came to a point where there appeared to be a log across the trail.  Well why would somebody do that?

Granary in Canyonlands
But then we looked around.  And I saw a cairn to the right, down the north face of the butte.  That way.   We stepped down about 6 feet.  And there they were.  Two  round-faced stone structures built into the overhang of the top of the butte over the north face.  Maybe 3 to 4 feet high.   Probably been here for 800 years.  Pretty cool.   There was fine sand and some rodent droppings.  Sandstone roof and back wall.

We inspected the structure and looked at the view from up on the butte ... maybe 80 to 100 feet up, over the parts of Canyonlands to the north.  Lots of that scrub cedar and other arid vegetation, surrounded by lots of dirt between everything.  Impressive in a way.  But not at all inviting.

We headed back down.  I was looking at my watch.  I hadn't broached my thoughts about finding False Kiva yet.  And I didn't want to break her morale.  I decided I probably wouldn't go.  Which was killing me.  I know we probably won't be out here again any time soon, if ever.  And it was dawning on me that we needed a day off.  We needed to get the windshield fixed, and do some laundry, and basically not make Vicki hike around.  Do some tourist shopping in Moab.

Upheaval Dome

I told Vicki we'd go look at the upheaval dome, which everyone said was impressive, and it wasn't far.  We drove up the road in that direction.  And off to my left I saw the valley profile and the cliff face ... where I knew False Kiva was.  I could see some of the features from the famous photos taken from there, and the rim of the dropoff I'd seen pictures of from people who had been there.

Man.  I'm *HERE*.  But... Upheaval Dome.  And if there's time ... there won't be time.

We went to Upheaval Dome.  It's only about a 1/4 mile hike from the parking lot to the overlook.

A Canyonlands shot
We started hiking.  I was racing out ahead of Vicki ... not intentionally.  But I soon realized I was trying to make time.  I wasn't that far ahead of her, but we got out of eye-shot, and I went to one overlook while she went to a closer, better one.  She called for me, "Where are you?"   I wasn't far.  I trotted back and over the slickrock to the overlook where she was.

It looks like a big crater with those same "piles of green gravel" we saw in the salt wash in Arches National Park and a few other places in the area.

The ranger at the Visitor's Center had told us there were still raging arguments over what caused this formation.  It's called the upheaval dome on the theory that it was from a geological upheaval which raised a salt dome which melted away when water got through the cracked rock, leaving a crater.

And then others think it's a meteor impact crater.

And there's apparently evidence for both.

But you know what?   It's almost 5:00pm.  The sun will set at about 7:00pm.  We need the windshield fixed. We could do some laundry.  A drive out here and back tomorrow will be 3 hours, plus two hours to check out False Kiva.  That'll take up the whole day WITHOUT fixing the windshield and doing laundry.

False Kiva is just a few miles from here.  We're here.  We're not coming back.

I gotta try.

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