National Parks – Canyon Lands

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One of the other less known national park is Canyon Lands, South East to Salt Lake City, Canyon Lands sits towards Moab and another more recognisable national park – Arches. We have only visited Canyon Lands briefly and are looking forward to going back and exploring again soon. We visited in the summer when it was still pretty toasty and the days were long.

When we did visit we camped near by – there’s a few BLM campgrounds near the entrance, which are very pretty and reasonably quiet. Having sent up camp we went for a short drive around the upper rim of the park, otherwise known as the island in the sky. Canyon Lands as you may have guessed by its name consists of lots of deep canyons, with the same red rock that is so easy to distinguish in this area. It’s very pretty, the canyons have been carved out by the Green river and Colorado river – the very same responsible for the Grand Canyon further South.

The island in the sky is a large ‘island’ or mesa surrounded by deep canyons. There are some incredible views and rock formations. We stopped at a few view points and small trails and enjoyed watching the sunset over this amazing landscape.

We are looking forward to visiting again once the weather warms up, and exploring the needles area, the false kiva and visiting upheaval dome  a huge crater that nobody quite knows how it was made but most likely by a meteorite.

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National Parks of Utah – Capitol Reef

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Utah has 5 national parks, which is the third most in the USA, with Alaska and California having a few more. I thought I’d give a run down of Utah’s as we have now had chance to visit them.

Most recently we visited Capitol Reef, one of the smaller parks, Capitol reef sits near Arches and Canyonlands – which I’ll write about soon. The drive there is fairly straight forward and you also pass through some small rural communities and old towns that look like you could have stepped into the wild west. the park itself is one of the smaller national parks but it has gorgeous red rocks, some of the deepest reds I’ve seen so far, and several petroglyphs.

Capitol reef was settle by a Mormon community and one point and still has some old houses and a historic orchard. There is also aspects of Fremont culture. We spent some time in the visitor centre and went onto the scenic drive. This had lots of rock formations and stunning landscape. And the end of the drive – it’s along a one way road we went along to the tanks and walked for a while, finding some frozen pools and enjoying the near silence.

One of the most exiting part of Capitol Reef, aside from the many back country walks and places out of reach by car is the ‘wrinkle on the earth’ its a geological feature and is known as the water pocket fold. Unfortunately the scenic drive doesn’t offer any views of this, but there are several walks to overlooks, or a drive in the north in summer. In winter you can see it if you drive off road and have a bit of a walk towards the end.

The main canyon areas flood easily so check the weather before venturing out! we had beautiful clear blue skies, although a storm rolled in after we left and driving back in the snow wasn’t a great deal of fun! Fortunately the mid-west prepared us well for this.

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Bryce Canyon

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We recently had a visitor from the UK and keen to make the most of the last of summer/fall we set about visiting all the places. One of our favourite stops was one that we hadn’t really researched much and just planned to stop in as we were driving past. It turned out to be amazing.

Bryce canyon is another one of Utah’s magnificent natural landscapes. When we arrived we had had a chilly night camping, sadly the visitor centre doesn’t have any hot drinks but lots of information about rocks.

Not to be deterred we set about on the scenic route and stopped at a couple of viewpoints. these were stunning. The rocks were very red with pink and orange hues throughout. Most of the canyon is made up of natural needles – pointy stacks that are huge and together look incredible.

We also saw some information stating there had bee some recent mountain lion activity. this as exiting we kept our eyes peeled, but spotting one is unlikely. Bryce canyon however is a popular site for star gazing, a combination of wide open space, elevation, and lack of light pollution make it an ideal spot for gazing into the night sky.

We stopped at a couple of other viewpoints and enjoyed a walk into a small slot canyon we were surprised to find some large trees growing in it. We are planing on going back again when there is a bit more snow as it has some popular cross country ski routes, and to see the sparkly stars. We also will be heading back to a cafe we did find in the local town that did the BEST grilled cheese sandwich. It was AMAZING! I now truly appreciate what Americans are talking about when it comes to grilled sandwiches.

 

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A bucket of fossils

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A few weeks ago now when it was still toasty warm – still weird in October! Kiwi and I set out on a little adventure. We had heard that there was a place you could go to and go fossil hunting. Some friends of ours visited after hearing about it on the discovery channel, so off we set. Driving South we enjoyed some new scenery and the vastness of this country.

We eventually turned off the main road and followed a dirt track towards some small mountains. Our directions were a little vague, there were no signposts and we had no gps/phone reception. This was a proper adventure, we ploughed on enjoying how much of nothing we could see – no buildings, houses, other cars or people. eventually we found the right dirt track and followed it to the dinosaur quarry. The quarry appears to be a piece of land where the owners have a business, which has a little hut, some knowledgeable and slightly crazy fossil experts and lots of rock. On arrival we were given an info sheet explaining about the different trilobites we might be lucky to find. A bucket. A hammer and hours to explore and hit rocks.

The quarry has various pockets and mounds, which are dug every now and again so as to expose fresh rocks. They seem like slate and some of them crumble in your hands. You can either select a lucky rock form the many aorund you or get really keen and dig out a section of rock from the cliff. You then set about carefully smashing your rock with a hammer and seeing if you can find any fossils. I’ve never had so much fun sitting in the dirt surrounded by bits of rock in the sunshine happily hammering away. We found lots of fossils. some small ones, some slightly larger, and a variety of imprints and actual fossils. The fossils are all different types of trilobites, as the land was once upon a time under the sea. These pre-date dinosaurs. Somehow smashing these rocks and taking a bucket of fossils home seemed slightly wrong, if not lots of fun. We took some comfort knowing there were millions of fossils at the quarry and Kiwi has set to researching more about trilobites and how to effectively polish and display them. Sadly the quarry is now closed for winter, otherwise we would most likely be going back to find more.

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