We have only visited desert country in the Big Bend National Park area of west Texas. Reading the 1968 vintage novel Desert Solitaire - A Season in the Wilderness inspired us to seek out adventure and travel in the high deserts and canyons in the southeast corner of Utah, as was so eloquently described in the book. Please enjoy a photo tour of our trip accompanied by a selection of quotes from the book by author Edward Abbey. Based in the small town of Moab we were conveniently close to the Colorado River, Dead Horse Point SP, Canyonlands NP, and Arches NP. (click on smaller images to enlarge to full size)


"Strolling on, it seems to me that the strangeness and wonder of existence are emphasized here, in the desert, by the comparative sparsity of the flora and fauna: life not crowded upon life as in other places but scattered abroad in spareness and simplicity, with a generous gift of space for each herb and bush and tree, each stem of grass, so that the living organism stands out bold and brave and vivid against the lifeless sand and barren rock. The extreme clarity of the desert light is equaled by the extreme individuation of desert life forms..."
In the morning hours the ravens, traveling in pairs or groups of 5-10, squawk and caw providing the only sounds available and the only activity visible other than the rain clouds forming.


Welcome rain on the canyonlands squeezes out the sun
Snaking bends in the Colorado
View from Dead Horse Point atop the mesa. "Beyond the highway, about ten miles away, rise the talus slopes and vertical red walls of Dead Horse Mesa, a flat-topped, uninhabited island in the sky which extends for thirty miles north and south between the convergent canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers. Public domain." - E.A.
The Colorado River makes a U-turn at the Goose Neck in Musselman Canyon on its long journey southwestward to the canyon-of-canyons, the Grand.


Paralleling the Colorado River is the shear and somewhat smooth rock face of the Poison Spider Mesa. These petroglyphs, dating from the Formative Period (A.D. 1 to A.D. 1275), were discovered 25 to 30 feet up on this wall. Look closely and you can discern a line of "paper doll cutouts" and horned figures holding shields as well as other abstract images. "There are two types of ancient rock art: petroglyphs (motifs that are pecked, ground, incised, abraded, or scratched on the rock surface) and pictographs (paintings or drawings in one or more colors using mineral pigments and plant dyes on the rock surface)." - NPS
A few miles down stream from Moab the Colorado River runs slowly. "The thirst. I dip a can in the river under my elbow and place it on the gunwale (so to speak) of my little rubber boat, giving the mud in the water time to settle out. The river at this point is so steady and serene that the can of drinking water hardly trembles, though it's balanced on a rounded surface. The current carries us on its back smoothly south and west toward the Gulf of California, the Sea of Cortez, but with many a wonderful meander on the way. Occasionally we lay a paddle over the side, drop the blade in the water and with the slightest, most infinitesimal of exertions turn the double boat for a view in a different direction, saving ourselves the trouble--somewhat greater--of turning our heads or cranning our necks. In this dreamlike voyage any unnecessary effort seems foolish. Even vulgar, one might say. The river itself sets the tone: utterly relaxed, completely at ease, it fulfills its mighty purpose without aim or effort. Only the slow swing of the canyon walls overhead and the illusory shore reveal and indicate the sureness of our progress to the sea." - E.A.



Buck Canyon erosion drainage to the Colorado River
Grand View Point
View from Grand View Point looking down onto the White Rim flatland and into the Monument Basin below that. In the bottom photo a four-wheel drive vehicle 1,000 feet below can be seen making its way along the 100-mile long rough and tumble White Rim Jeep Trail. No gas. No water. No rest stops.


Aztec Butte, above left. And the mysterious Upheaval Dome - a two-mile diameter crater with an up-lifted mountain formation in its center. "Scientists still argue whether it is a collapsed salt dome or the remains of an ancient meteor strike." - National Geographic


At first the rains came. The following evening the weather cleared.
View from Green River Overlook. The White Rim Mesas, Soda Springs Basin, and the Green River several thousand feet below. "...before this desert vastness opening like a window onto eternity..." - E.A. And onto the past by eons of time. "Imagine the featureless plain that was here millions of years ago. You could have walked straight ahead to the horizon on level ground. Since then, rainwater has been slowly stripping away layers of rock, creating huge canyons and basins. Stronger layers like the White Rim Sandstone resist erosion and form flat mesas. Weaker layers like the Wingate Sandstone erode to form steep cliffs or slopes. This 'stair step' erosion has divided the landscape vertically into 3 descending worlds. 1. Island in the Sky mesa (the broad flat plain on the top where this view is taken from). 2. The White Rim mesa (middle level below). and 3. The Green River gorge. The high cliffs make travel between these worlds difficult." - NPS
Last light on Green River
"...above the rim and mountains are salmon-colored clouds whipped into long, sleek, fishlike shapes by the wind." - E.A.


Rock formations: (on left) The three Penguins perched over the buff-colored stone, which is an ancient and petrified sea bed and sand dunes. (on right) The three Gossips holding court under the cloudy skies.


A bright dawn before the clouds return. Pathway to the North and South Windows formations.
The North Window frames the Turret Arch.
"...we catch occasional glimpses of eroded remnants--tapering spires, balanced rocks on pillars, mushroom rocks, rocks shaped like hamburgers, rocks like piles of melted pies, arches, bridges, potholes, grottoes, all the infinite variety of hill and hole and hollow to which sandstone lends itself, given the necessary conditions and , as Thoreau says, a liberal allowance of time--let us say , about five thousand years? Fifty thousand? Five hundred thousand? Choose whatever sum you like." - E.A.
Turret Arch
Double Arch hidden beneath the hill of "melted pies".


Devil's Garden Trail
Landscape Arch with a span, base to base, equaling that of a football field. "What are the Arches? ...I can see several of the hundred or more of them which have been discovered in the park. These are natural arches, holes in the rock, windows in stone, no two alike, as varied in form as in dimension. ...The arches were formed through hundreds of thousands of years by the weathering of the huge sandstone walls, or fins, in which they are found. Not the work of a cosmic hand, nor sculptured by sand-bearing winds, as many people prefer to believe, the arches came into being and continue to come into being through the modest wedging action of rainwater, melting snow, frost, and ice, aided by gravity. In color they shade from off-white through buff, pink, brown and red, tones which also change with the time of day and the moods of the light, the weather, the sky." - E.A.
Devil's Garden return trail
The trail follows the deep slots between the colossal shapes and colors of the garden of "fins" laid side by side and end to end.


'Hoodoo' city


"...looming over a bend in the road, is a balanced rock about fifty feet high, mounted on a pedestal of equal height: it looks like a head from Easter Island, a stone god or a petrified ogre." - E.A.
"The Balanced Rock...stand(s) in petrified silence--waiting." - E.A.


An example of a petroglyph depicting a Ute hunting panel. The Ute people lived in the area from A.D. 1200's to A.D. 1880. Human forms mounted on horseback hunting local wildlife.


The 3-mile uphill hike is by far the most popular in the park. A mule deer watching the hikers as the hikers watched it.
Delicate Arch warmed by the setting sun.
Lovers? Posers? in the Delicate Arch, and beyond "...twenty miles by line of sight, stand the peaks of the Sierra La Sal, twelve to thirteen thousand feet above sea level, all covered with snow." - E.A.
Sundown on the return trail. Flashlights required.


Back at Canyonlands NP for the new dawn.
"Suddenly it comes, the flaming globe, blazing on the...canyon walls and through the windows in the sandstone..."
Mesa Arch

ROAD BACK TO BOUNTIFUL - Salt Lake City and then home.

Fencing the hard way - UFO's? - and the morning train to Denver
The last evening it snowed lightly in the valleys, heavy in the mountains; the highway was slick and the scenery white.
Uinta Mountains - on the eastern border of Salt Lake City
The Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
The adventure comes to an end.

Thanks for joining us...Happy Holidays!

Created By
George Krezinski

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