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The La Sals through Mesa Arch | by oldmantravels
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The La Sals through Mesa Arch

This visit, in the early evening light of March 2012 completed a full circle cycle for Ed and me. Last March on a similar road trip we visited this popular arch within Canyonlands Naitonal Park (Island in the Sky district). We arrived last March to photograph it as dawn. We were the only two people there and it was a pleasure being at this spot at dawn and having the entire site and sights to ourselves.


This March (2012), we visited Mesa Arch as the day was ending. There were perhaps six other hikers and photograhers here this time but everyone of them were considerate, polite, quiet, and respectful. In other words a second good experience at this beautiful landscape framing arch.


I couldn't decide on one photograph of Mesa Arch to post on flickr, so I settled for a few of my favorites. This is the hike we saw and photographed a plucky, curious, and mildly vain raven.


Here is a photograph I took last March (2011) of Mesa Arch at dawn:


The forecast for Tuesday 20March2012 was for sunshine. After two days of mixed weather, we voted to be at the previously visited Needles Overlook, early morning, to watch the morning sun light up the dramatic landscape there.


The lighting wasn't perfect but being the only one there was worth the price of admission. After photographing the scenic landscapes seen from Needles Overlook, we took the dirt road again, to the Wine Glass Arch; Dave Minor overlook; and the Anticline Overlook (where we hiked the rim for outstanding views down the Colorado River).


We also stopped to check out the Hatch Point campground (outstanding views from almost every site!),


We retraced our route back to Moab via the Eightmile dirt road to La Sal Junction.


The weather was as good as advertised so we made it a long day. We traveled through Arches NP again and took the wide open dirt exit to highway 191 by the unmarked dirt road, the Salt Valley road. Still with daylight left, we then drove up into the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park, with stops for a cattle drive across the road; Mesa Arch and Grand View Point Overlook.


We had visited all of the sights in Canyonlands on last year's road trip but wanted to see them again and with different light. A good day!


Utah Road Trip March 2012

Oldmantravels & Old Wrangler


Last March, my friend Ed and I, with his new Jeep Wrangler, made a 4,000 looping road trip through the Four Corners area of the Southwest. We had a lot of fun on that trip so decided to do a different version in March of 2012.


We made plans that were highly flexible depending on the weather we would encounter and the condition of hiking trails and back country dirt "Jeep roads". We even had a "plan B" to head for Joshua Tree and Death Valley, if the Utah weather didn't turned out like we hoped. In the end, we were able to enjoy each and every day of our road trip in the state of Utah and utilizing Green River, Utah as our primary "base camp".


Weather wasn't always the best for photography but it was fun capturing the moment with photographs, both to share with others and of course to preserve the memory of the fun times had on a road trip. Below is a day by day general outline of where we traveled and what we did during this Utah Road Trip March 2012 (just in case you want to follow along):


DAY ONE [Wednesday - 14 March 2012]:

Ed left his house in Western Washington and picked me up in his Jeep Wrangler at my house in Eastern Washington. We then drove the interstate through rain and wind to Boise, Idaho.


DAY TWO [Thursday - 15 March 2012]:

We drove the most direct and quickest route from Boise, Idaho to Green River, Utah where we got rooms for three nights. We later added another three nights as the small quiet town of Green River turned out to be just right as a quiet base camp for our outdoor activities in the area.


DAY THREE [Friday - 16 March 2012]:

We headed out early down highway 24 through Hanksville, then over to Capitol Reef National Park. We forded a swollen Fremont River and took the scenic Cathedral Valley loop in clockwise direction, putting over 50 miles of fun miles on back country dirt roads, mostly within the boundary of Capitol Reef National Park.


We visited scenic overlooks like Jailhouse Rock and the various vista overlooks along the way. The stop at the Temple of the Sun and the Moon formations was well worth the time. We took a couple of short hikes to get better views of many of the areas along this scenic loop route.


Returning to highway 24 we drove west into the heart of Capitol Reef NP and made the short hike up to Hickman Bridge. Returning to the Jeep, we drove down to the visitors center and drove the "scenic road" which dead ends in Capitol Gorge. The late afternoon and then dusk light made for an excellent trip on this road.


DAY FOUR [Saturday - 17 March 2012]:

WE drove the "Eightmile Road" near La Sal Junction over to the Needles overlook and Anticline overlook road junction. Stopped at Looking Glass arch along the way (windy) and poked around a few of the "cowboy cave" structures, carved out of and/or built into the sandstone formations in the area.


We scratched our heads in bemusement when we spotted the Rockland Ranch, a man made "eye sore" on a large otherwise lovely sandstone formation known as Hatch Rock. The "cave houses" are painted mostly bright loud colors with an obvious attempt to "stand out" rather than "blend in".


I haven't read the whole story yet but seems the government granted a 50 year lease to some "alternative life" folks, and so Hatch Rock is "their" home for now. The lease is for $6,500 a year and the "homes" have been blasted into the side of Hatch Rock. The founder, Bob Foster (with three or four wives and 38 children passed away in 2008 at age 82, of cancer).


The drive out to Anticline overlook was a pretty drive as we checked out the Hatch Point campground along the way and enjoyed the views offered by the loop around the rock formation at the Dave Minor overlook.


From the Anticline overlook you can see forever, including a Jeep trail following the near bench far below. I would find out later that that winding dirt road can be taken all the way from Moab to the Needles portion of Canyonlands National Park (and all day endeavor).


The Colorado River is seen from this viewpoint as are the large potash ponds and the waterways that drain from them to the Colorado River below. In all it seems a bit too much "man made" intrusion on the landscape to completely enjoy the fabulous view.


After Anticline we returned to the Needles Overlook which we both agreed would be a wonderful place to catch a sunrise (so we agreed to return to it if we caught some good weather later on).


After the Needles Overlook we returned to the highway and made out way into the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park (highway 211). We made the mandatory stop at Newspaper Rock then drove out to the visitors center and talked with the rangers there (two nice knowledgeable and helpful, lady rangers).


We took the Jeep to the end of the "good" dirt road past the camping areas, but didn't even think of trying the challenging Elephant Hill section of Jeep road. We saw lots of mule deer, rock climbers , and spectacular rock forms on our way back to highway 191.


DAY FIVE [Sunday - 18 March 2012]:

Sunday and Monday were forecast to be the "rough weather days" in the area and throughout much of the west, so we set our sights on places to visit that we would enjoy no matter the weather (and keep mostly on paved roads should it rain too much).


So we braved wind and rain to visit Sego Canyon then took the quiet yet scenic highway 128 from Cisco down to Moab. We stopped at the Fisher Towers trailhead along the way where it was raining pretty good by then. The only sheltered place for photo ops of the mist shrouded towers was the portico of the trailhead outhouse (looked silly but worked well - HA).


Returning to Green River, Utah we were pleased to find the John Wesley Powell "River Runners" museum open. A short film feature we watched there was exceptionally well done (A Seattle film company produced it).


I have read many of the books about the early river runners and it was a great place to look at the old boats and photographs and get a sense of the risky and exciting life many of those folks lived (Read the books: The Doing of the Thing; Sunk Without a Sound; and the story of Bert Loper if you want a good sampler).


DAY SIX [Monday - 19 March 2012]:

We first drove the back roads of Green River, Utah photographing everything from the state park; the town tavern (in Utah no less); old bank; wooden church; and the town fire station. The fire station had an old beat up ambulance (Pontiac) that would bring a smile to anyone's face, except by somebody who actually needed an ambulance in Green River. Oh yes: Veracruzana for good Mexican food in town.


With weather looking very "iffy" we drove out the Potash Road near Moab to take the Bowtie and Corona Arch hike. We started in partly cloudy weather, got snowed on near the arches, hid in a tall shallow alcove where a water fall formed and fell at our feet, then cleared to a bright blue sky day.


No doubt the magic moment and most memorable experience of our road trip for me. We met some interesting folks (and dogs) on that hike as well. Pure fun and outstanding scenery for a short hike so close to Moab.


After the Bowtie/Corona Arch hike we headed up into Arches to photograph the Windows Section of the park, where we spent a lot of time at the North & South Windows and the Double Arch. Next we took a short hike up to the "Upper Delicate Arch overlook". We hiked to the arch itself last year but decided to try photographing it from across a canyon on this road trip.


DAY SEVEN [Tuesday - 20 March 2012]:

The weather forecast looked good, so we headed to the Needles Overlook once more, arriving soon after the sun came up there. There was nobody else there and the landscape was impressive but not the light we hoped for from a photography point of view. We repeated our drive to Anticline and Eightmile Road, taking photographs that we had missed on our earlier drive out there.


Next we headed back into Arches National Park and drove out near the Devil's Garden trailhead where we took off on the Salt Valley dirt road that passes by Tower Arch. It was a fun road to drive and when we eventually reached highway 191, we decided to head up into the Island of the Sky section of Canyonlands for a short visit at Mesa Arch and Grandview point, where we had stopped last March.


DAY EIGHT [Wednesday - 21 March 2012]:

The snow and sun hike to Bowtie and Corona Arches was my favorite hike of this trip, especially with the short lived but spectacular waterfall which formed and fell at our feet. This day would provide the most scenic drive however.


Most of the route I had been on before and enjoyed many times but the section down the east flank of the Henry mountains (to downtown Tickaboo), then north to the switchback section of the Burr Trail, was the favorite section of road we drove for both Ed and for me.


The Henry Mountains were covered from top to toes in a fresh bright white snow and the moisture that had fallen on the sage, rabbit brush, and Mormon tea plant plains were washed clean with fresh bright colors (and fragrance).


We rounded the southern end of the Henry's and cut back north past the Surprise Canyon trailhead before regaining familiar ground on the "wiggle" road up through the Water pocket Fold.


A short stop to photograph Peekaboo Arch and we drove on to Boulder via Long Canyon. At Boulder I asked around and found out where a Flickr contact could be found so we stopped, shook hands, and said "hi" to Darren.


The weather turned perfect on our way to Escalante, Utah so we turned off for a visit to Devil's Garden. The last time I had visited it with my wife the sky had been flat gray and I looked forward to photographing the unusual rock formation and elegant Metate Arch with a dark blue late afternoon sky. Again, we had the entire area to ourselves.


On into Escalante and with hope that Robert at the Circle "D" would have rooms for us (which he did), so we stayed in Escalante and topped a great traveling day off with a huge western dinner at the "Cowboy Blues".


DAY NINE [Thursday - 22 March 2012]:

We drove Escalante to Zion National Park, arriving via the always interesting highway 9. The road up the Virgin River was not yet closed to cars (in favor of the shuttles that start operating soon), so we drove up to the end of the road there, enjoying the view along the way.


Then we returned down canyon and tried our luck with the Kolob Terrace Road. We hoped to make it to the Lava Point overlook, but the road was closed about four mile before reaching that location due to all the snow still covering the road. Still it was a fun drive. We then made our way to Cedar City, Utah where we got rooms for the night.


DAY TEN [Friday - 23 March 2012]:

Heading for home. We decided to break the trip home into two sections with the first being Cedar City, Utah to Twin Falls, Idaho. We chose the road less traveled (Cedar City to Panaca to Ely to Wells to Twin Falls), mostly on highway 93 as our route.


We enjoyed stopping to photograph some friendly but huge draft horses (I think they were Shires or perhaps Clydesdales) along the way. A highlight of this drive was a side trip into Pioche, Nevada (pronounced pee - oach). I had never taken the time to visit this old mining town with a rich (figuratively and literally) history - including what they boast as their Million Dollar Court House.


We found a bakery/cafe that had outstanding bakery products so we stocked up on high calorie "road trip food" (at the canary colored Silver Cafe). We laughed at some of the "Western humor signs we saw around town". I also like the one I saw in a Hanksville, Utah eatery on this trip:


No Trespassing. Violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot a second time".


Twin Falls, Idaho would be our last overnight stop on this road trip.


DAY ELEVEN [Saturday - 24 March 2012]:

Last road trip day: Twin Falls, Idaho to my house in Eastern Washington. But first a quick stop in Boise to see the Falcon exhibit portion of the Birds of Prey site there (and check on the condors, eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls); then a fitting fattening farewell to a road trip with a BIG country style meal at Boise's Cracker Barrel restaurant.




Note: I have moved my favorite 36 photographs from "Utah Road Trip March 2012" to the front of my photosteam. If you want to see the photographs in chronological order, then open the photo set: "Utah Road Trip March 2012) and click on the "slideshow" icon at the upper right hand corner of the screen. You will then see all of the photographs from this road trip in roughly the order they were taken. Thank you. OMT

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Taken on March 20, 2012