Posts Tagged ‘island’

Valley of the Gods & Monument Valley

6th February 2011 by Helen

This morning we took a walk around Sand Island and looked at some more petroglyphs here before heading off to drive through the Valley of the Gods.  Driving through the Navajo Indian Reservation we posed for photos in front of the Mexican Hat monument before stopping for lunch at San Juan cafe in the town of Mexican Hat.  We had a great chat with a local Indian artist working at the cafe before heading off again through Monument Valley down to Flagstaff (on Route 66).  By now it was dark and the rest area was closed so we stopped at the truckers garage (Pilot) for the night.  The roads through the Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley were ‘off road’ but in good condition and an easy drive for a 4×4.  Drove 294 miles today.

Wending our way through the Canyons

4th February 2011 by Helen

 

After our visit to the Island in the Sky we hung around Moab for a few days largely because the weather forecast had been for so much more cold weather.  With our water tank already frozen there seemed little likelihood of it defrosting anytime soon and it’s not only tedious having to defrost all your water for cooking, drinking and washing, it’s not that sensible to be camping out in isolated places when temperatures are below -15C.

Moab itself is a bit of a one horse town.  Because of the vast areas of canyons in this area it caters mainly for the summer tourist industry.  This time of year many of the stores that rely on a tourist presence are closed.  There remains open the usual plethora of fast food joints, along with a much recommended Moab Diner.  Jim, the man we met at the rest area when we first arrived in Moab recommended it to us and I’m ashamed to say we left it rather too long to try it.  Would happily have spent more time there.  Liver & onions, roast beef dinner – much better than the fast food stuff, and just as cheap if not cheaper.

rest area at night

rest area at night

Wednesday (2nd February) we debated long and hard where to camp tonight.  Should we return to the delightful little campsite we’d discovered previously, William’s Bottom, or opt for a cab sleep at the rest area just south of Moab.  If only we could combine the two – the beautiful scenery and peace and quiet of William’s Bottom, with somewhere to sit in the warm and facilities to have a warm wash in the morning of the rest area.  Eventually the rest area won, but it was a close call.

Kane Creek Road - the view ahead

Kane Creek Road - the view ahead

Thursday (3rd February), with the weather forecasts improving, we stopped in Moab to fill up on breakfast and fuel before setting off for the canyons again.  This time we are taking the 4×4 off-road route down through the canyons, starting off along Kane Creek Road and following the line of the Colorado River, before turning on to Lockhart Basin Road. 

icicle along the road - Kane Creek Road

icicle along the road - Kane Creek Road

Why am I here I wonder?  Heights are not my favourite thing.  I peer out of the window to see huge massive drops one side or the other for much of the time (Paul thinks this is a bit of an exaggeration).  Paul is driving oh so sensibly.  We are not racing madly round corners or doing anything daft but it suits me well to be peering carefully at the map and the GPS screen, comparing the two so I know exactly where we are, and negating any necessity to look at the scenes outside the window.  At other times I’m quite happy walking along taking photos of Paul driving, or the scenery from the vantage point of terra firma.

Here we are at Hurrach Pass

Here we are at Hurrach Pass

One of the marvels of this place is the lack of thoughtless desecration.  When we came across an abandoned beaten up camo style painted old caravan that had obviously been dumped in the canyon it was quite a surprise.  And I’ve seen no more than maybe half a dozen empty bottles or cans over the whole of the drive through this canyon.  There seems to be a pride here in looking after the land.  When graffiti does appear (such as at the rest area we visited), there’s someone around who will clean it off pretty quick.  What is evident however, is that any sign or marker (or abandoned old caravan), is used for target practice.  We’ve seen bullet holes in pretty much anything that’s not moving.  On the Pony Express trail many of the signs had bullet holes, as did an isolated mail box sat right on a T-junction, and all the signs at the Bonneville Salt Flats, to name just a few.

morning campsite - Lockhard Basin Road

morning campsite - Lockhard Basin Road

But back to today’s story.  Finally, the day is drawing to a close, signalled by a setting sun.  We are still well and truly in the middle of this canyon.  We are not legally allowed to camp anywhere along this road but there is no way we want to continue driving in the dark so we set up camp anyway.  Far enough away from a cliff edge to keep me happy of course.

Friday (4th February) we woke to beautiful sunshine again.  Frozen water, but beautiful sunshine.  Paul cooked up a luxury breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms and tomatoes, while I slowly built up my resistance to the cold air outside my nice warm arctic sleeping bag.  We again admired the scenery here in the canyons before setting off.

Once again we are startled by the magnitude of the canyons.  We debated the geological history, the marvel of the creation of the canyons over such a vast region, the height and depth of them, the wonder of the layers of rock that have been a part of their formation.

firepot cookin - Indian Creek campsite

firepot cookin - Indian Creek campsite

We saw a few small rodents (a bit like voles or marmots, not sure exactly, they run so fast), the first creatures other than a few birds we have seen since entering the canyon.  Later we saw some deer tracks, and possible some cattle tracks.  And that’s pretty much it on the animal side.

By the middle of the afternoon we had reached the end of this stretch of road and arrived at the Visitor Centre in The Needles National Park.  Paul in particular was disappointed to learn that parts of the road he had wanted to drive are closed.  Elephant Hill had been recommended as a good piece of off road driving and a definite must for anyone visiting the area.  Except the park authorities say it is too dangerous still as there is still some snow and ice on the road.  With that section of the road closed it effectively cuts off the whole road and so we turned back to camp at a lovely little campsite we’d just passed, called Indian Creek campground.  Rather like the previous one we stayed at it’s quiet and peaceful, this time with a small brook running nearby.  The surface of the water is all frozen over but we could hear the water running underneath.  Paul got a good fire going in the fire pit that we used to cook up a stew for dinner. The stars came out and littered the sky with sparkling lights.  And so another cold night began.

 

Campsite – Indian Creek campsite – Indian Creek Reservation

Distance travelled – it’s taken us two days but we’ve covered about 90 miles since leaving Moab

Switchbacks in the Canyon

30th January 2011 by Helen
sitting on the edge

sitting on the edge

After such a glorious sunny day yesterday we woke this morning to clouds and cold.  However by the middle of the day it had brightened up again and we explored the rest of the ‘Island in the Sky’, marvelling at yet more scenes of canyons and trees before heading back into Moab via the Long Canyon Road.  This delightful little road leading down from the ‘Island’ and into the canyon that stands between the Island and Moab is described as a 4×4 road.  Hmmm.  With high cliffs on one side and a vertical drop (Paul: “rubbish”) on the other, compacted snow under our tyres, and some 180 degree switchbacks as we travelled (often steeply) down hill to the bottom of the canyon, I found getting out to take photos and walk rather more compelling that watching the world go by from inside the car!!

After finishing off with some jobs to be done in Moab we found a campsite just outside of town, called William’s bottom, and in the dark set up camp.

Campsite – William’s Bottom

Distance travelled – 76 miles