Wednesday, 20 October 2010

I Walked Too Far....

At the end of this day, my body ached, not used to the distance I walked.

I drank a huge amount of water.

I forgot to put sun tan lotion on my nose. I now have a wrinkled red nose.

Despite those things, I had a great day!

Today was all about arches and canyons, for I saw many of both. I rode 152 miles today which doesn’t sound that far and it isn’t. Today was all about riding a short distance, parking the bike, walking to go see an arch or a canyon, walking back to the bike and riding a short distance again before repeating the cycle. I did this maybe 30 times and by the end of the day, my body was beginning to complain!

I started with riding along the Colorado River where not only the river, but the road as well, runs along the canyon. This is the canyon wall....


























Look again at the picture above though. See that little blob in the bottom left hand corner? That is my bike and I took this picture to illustrate how tall the canyon walls are along this road – they tower above you! The road is Utah 279 to the west of Moab and it is pretty spectacular with sheers cliffs that are so vertical and cracked, they looked as if they might fall onto the road at any point.

Here is the it flows around one of its huge bends....



















The area is obviously a favourite with people that like outdoor activities. Rock climbing, off-road motorbiking, camping, walking, cycling and running were all happening a great deal. Oddly though, this was a Saturday and I didn’t see many motorbikes on the road.

My research had showed me that some way along Utah 279 there was a large natural rock arch – Corona Arch - and I decided to try to find it. I arrived at a car park displaying directions of how to walk to the arch. I saw a few people who clearly take their walking seriously, with camel-backs, proper walking boots, terrain maps, walking poles and other gear setting out to walk the trail. The directions told me walkers had to register in a book, but didn’t say how far the arch was. This looked too serious for me. I got back on the bike and rode on.

After about 5 minutes of riding and thinking, I told myself I was a wimp and I turned around and went straight back to that car park. Of course I should walk to the arch. I hadn’t come all this way to chicken out of a walk and miss photographing something as good as this!

I grabbed my water and camera, left my leather jacket behind and started up the trail. It wasn’t an easy walk but it was fun. A couple of times I had to stop after walking / climbing up steep parts to catch my breath. It wasn’t a really hot day, but I was glad I took the water, which I drank most of during the walk. The other walkers had lightweight walking clothes on which were no doubt much more comfortable than my thick, Kevlar-lined, riding jeans. At one of my rest stops I saw and liked this scene....



























At times the walk was so steep, there were safety ropes to assist you and even a ladder! My guess for the distance of the walk was a round trip of about 4 miles. It was probably less, but it felt like more. It was worth it though and I was rewarded with a first sight of the Corona Arch....



























The arch is very elegant and is very tall, maybe 100 feet. It seems to spring out of the main cliff wall it sits next to and I can only guess that it was formed by water a long time before the rest of the canyon below it was formed. I waited until the other people there moved away so I could take my pictures....
































































Next to the arch is another formation in the rock. It looks like another arch is slowly forming as the weather wears away the rock forming a large hole. Whether this will turn into a full arch I don’t know, but my guess is yes....


























Corona Arch was certainly worth the walk.

I then went to see Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Covering 527 square miles, this is an area largely unaffected by people. Apart from a few paved roads that us tourists use, its roads are mainly unpaved and little used. It is a remote place that remains truly wild. I was lucky enough to see what I later learnt was a Coyote which was an unexpected joy, but alas I wasn’t quick enough to get my camera out.

Access into Canyonlands is from the south east or the north. The entrances lead to different places in the park are a long way apart and this meant I only had time to do one of these and I chose the north. The paved roads are mostly at the original plateau level and take you to a series of overlooks where you look down into the valley that has been formed and carved by the free-flowing rivers over millions of years. Some of the views are breathtaking. This was the first I saw, called the Shafer Canyon Overlook...

















From the Shafer Canyon overlook you also get a great view of the canyon wall and perhaps one of the most spectacular off-road tracks you will ever see. This is the Shafer Trail and I saw a lot of 4x4 off road vehicles and off-road bikes on the road. I was very tempted to try it on my Road King, but I watched some of the other vehicles on the trail and saw it was very bumpy. I didn’t want to risk dropping my bike on the rocks!

Anyone with an off-road bike (or a Ural) who is in the area must try this road. Dom – this means you!!!

This is looking down on the road....


























Another two pictures looking down on the trail....






































The paved roads in the park are good to ride as well. Don’t these curves just look so inviting....














































One of the main overlook points not only has a fantastic view of the canyon below, but has the added benefit of a rock arch structure. This is Mesa Arch....
































































The main view point in the northern section of the park is called Grand View Point Overlook and the views are remarkable....




















































































They even make the barriers look interesting....


























Still within Canyonlands, this is the Green River Overlook....


















And the Holeman Spring Canyon Overlook....


















I liked the shape of this dead tree....


























Towards the end of the day, I left Canyonlands and went to see the nearby Dead Horse State Park. The brochure I was handed as I entered the park says of the name “According to legend, Dead Horse Point was once used as a corral for wild mustangs roaming the mesa. Cowboys rounded up these horses, herded them across the narrow neck of land and onto the point. The neck, which is only 30 yards wide, was then fenced off with branches and brush, creating a natural corral surrounded by precipitous cliffs. Cowboys then chosen the horses they wanted and for some reasons unknown, left the other horses corralled on the waterless point where they died of thirst within view of the Colorado River, 2,000 feet below”.

I was there in the late afternoon which is not the best time to visit as you are looking in the same direction as the sun when looking at the main views....


















I did see this terrific looking van, to which Austin Powers would have said “Groovy Baby!”

13 comments:

Canajun said...

Beautiful. Thanks to your pictures and travelogue, that part of the US is now on my "must visit" list. Thanks.

FLHX_Dave said...

The more I follow this the more I get the "gotta ramble" feeling. It's killing me! I don't know if I can come here anymore Gary, jus' don't know.

This is an amazing journey. You are in my favorite part of the U.S. I have been all over there and you still have seen what I haven't.

Awesome. That's about it.

SonjaM said...

Great pics, again! I have been there half a life ago, and it looks like nothing has changed. I have (pre-digital) pics probably taken from the same spots that you have chosen for perspective. Thanks for taking me back there.

Mike said...

Spectacular photos again Gary! That shot of Corona Arch with the sun looks other worldly. Thanks for tour today!

Eve said...

I really must go someday Gary. How can I live my life in the United States and not see this beautiful sight in person! Thanks for kicking me in the the butt!!!
Now I find it difficult to believe (completely) that cowboys left horses to die in the desert. I know there are some horrible people in this world and maybe there were some that did, but I'll give the benifit of the doubt to the story you heard. I hope it is not true.

Beck said...

Stunning! Gorgeous! Awesome! You never ceast to amaze us with your wonderful pictures and stories. Thank you!

Charlie6 said...

thanks very much Gary for the Canyonlands Park pictures....I am so there next week! I hope my pics come close to the stuff you produced!

dom


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

cpa3485 said...

Those are great pictures. I have never been there myself, but have a client that rides there every summer on a BMW R1150 with some of his friends.
I caught the comment you made abouot seeing the coyote but not being able to get the camera out quickly enough. I sometimes think a memory of seeing something like that is better than an actual picture.
I continue to live vicariously with you and your pictures and commentary.

Jim

mq01 said...

OMG, stunning!

bobskoot said...

Gary:

the Moab, Canyonlands, ARches area is my favourite, and I would like to go there again soon. I also took a photo at the top of that goat track. We had the same problems with shadows in the canyon. Next time you should bring your Really Really Big BIG Flash

bob
Wet Coast Scootin

Axel said...

Fantastic pictures from Canyonlands

bluekat said...

Awesome images once again! I really love this region, and must make a point to visit.

Gary France said...

Canajun – It is a spectacular area.

Dave – Sorry! I don’t want to make you want to ramble, but I know what you mean! You gotta keep looking at my blog though!

Sonja – I think things change very slowly out here. Rocks take a long time to get worn away, even the soft sandstones that are common here.

Mike – Thanks. I liked that picture as well.

Eve – I hope it is not true as well, but as it was written in the brochure that the State Park hands out to visitors, I suspect it might be.

Beck – Thank you!

Charlie6 – Sorry to hear about your staycation.

Jimbo – It was a shame I didn’t get my camera out in time for that Coyote, but I did in Death Valley! More to follow!

mq01 – Yep, stunning.

Bob – LOL, that would be a really big flash!

Axel – Thanks!

bluekat – You really must go there one day.