"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Moab: The Needles of Canyonlands

The drive from Moab to the southernmost district of Canyonlands, called Needles, took about one and a half hours. I left Kona in daycare for the day so that I could take a few hikes and I was really looking forward to that.  My first stop along the way was Newspaper Rock Historic Monument, right on Rt. 211. It has one of the most dense collections of petroglyphs in one place anywhere.  

Here is a sample of some of the clearest of the many figures represented there.  Some are representational, while others look more abstractly symbolic. Really neat. I especially like the ones in the upper right that look like that big fuzzy character, Sully, from the animated film Monsters Inc.  Do you think they borrowed the image?

Once in Canyonlands, I stopped at the Visitor's Center to get an idea of what hikes to take and decided on Pothole Point and Cave Springs.  On the Pothole Point trail I saw my first really good example of cryptobiotic soil. All over the place in these parks there are signs saying "It's Alive!" referring to this kind of soil and asking visitors not to step on it.  Well I guess everywhere I've been it's already been stepped on to oblivion, because nowhere have I seen anything like this:

You can see on the left is regular sandy soil (with footprints), then rock, and then the cryptobiotic.  The soil thrives in potholes, and creates rich places for other plants to take root and grow too, like cactus and rubber rabbit bush are doing here.  I scrambled around on these huge flat rocks for awhile...

...and got some good pictures of the Needles in the distance.  There are not short hikes into the Needles unfortunately, so I had to be satisfied with the long view.

There had been no rain for awhile, so there was no water in the pot holes.  Looks pretty dry doesn't it?

But when it's wet, little creatures live in the potholes, like the tadpole shrimp that I saw in the Tanks at Capitol Reef.  

My next hike was at Cave Springs Trail, a green area fed by a spring emerging from under the eaves of more huge rounded rock mounds.  There is an old cowboy camp preserved there.  I was drawn to the construction of the old fences and the barbed wire bound around the joints, so I took this series of pictures.

The trail continues around, under the overhang of the rocks, in and out of caves they create.  In several places there are pictographs left by ancient native inhabitants of the area. Pictographs are different from petroglyphs in that they are made with pigments rather than carving or etching the stone. Sometimes they are combinations. These are all pictographs.  This one is a figure of some sort.

These are handprints, obviously.  It's pretty amazing how well the pigments are preserved. 

The trail then goes up two primitive ladders...

and across the tops of the rocks, revealing some big views.  The trail is not very evident up there, so you had to look carefully and follow the cairns.

The trail eventually scrambled back down the sides and under the ledges again, where I spotted this:

Until I came out west I had no idea what these were.  Now I'm pretty sure it's a pack rat nest, measuring almost a yard high and two yards wide.  If anyone has another idea of what kind of critter might have made this nest, let me know.

I finished my visit to Needles with a short drive down a dirt road to Elephant Hill, and then called it a day.  On the way home I stopped at the "world famous" Hole n" the Rock, on Rt. 191 just south of Moab.  I was dying for some ice cream, and strolled around the kitchy grounds while eating.  The actual hole in the rock is a home built in, yes, a hole in rock cliffs.  The home was inhabited during the mid-twentieth century by the Christiansen family. Now it is preserved and available for tours, and is surrounded by a general store, a gift shop, and a really mixed collection of sculptures and Americana kitsch.

This sculpture by Lyle Nichols, right out front, reminded me a lot of something I had seen earlier in the day, not far from this location:

Everything old is new again.

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