Road Trip USA – Day Ten “Canyonlands National Park”

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Today, I continue blogging our road trip west last fall  (yes, it has been awhile!).  As I am taking in the panoramic ocean view of Topsail Beach, North Carolina,  I reflect on a very different panoramic view we experienced on Day Ten of our Road Trip USA – The Canyonlands National Park, Utah. The Canyonlands (a 337,598 acre National Park treasure) provided a different type of panoramic view – a view from a desert mesa.

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Our family arose early to begin a day of adventure!

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We started with a  four-wheel jeep exploration of the mesa and finished by paddling through the canyon on a family safe white water rafting trip.

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There are several companies in Moab to navigate the Canyonlands.  We highly recommend the company we used, NAVTEC Expeditions. This company coordinated both our excursions. The driver arrived at our hotel to pick us up in a 4X4 and after safety instructions we were on our way. Our family had no idea what to expect and were clueless to the white-knuckle, terrifying and exhilarating couple of hours that lie ahead!

Before we began our mesa climb, we stopped and stared at monumental petroglyphs and cave writings from long ago.   Although there is debate, most agree humans inhabited this area between 7,000-10,000 years ago.

pet·ro·glyph   /petrəˌɡlif/  noun a rock carving, especially a prehistoric one.

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Our driver was a cool cat.  He reminded me a bit of Indiana Jones. Cool, cocky, confident.  Characteristics one desires when they are trusting the lives of the four most important people in your life on steep, narrow, rocky high cliffs edges.

I do not lie.  The roads, a word I use loosely, switch backed or crisscrossed the steep climb and had enough room for ONE vehicle to pass.  There were times where the road was no more than five feet across and one wrong turn we would have fallen to most certain death. When you stick your head out the window there are times your vehicle was flush with the wall of the canyon.

 

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Look closely at the switch back roads in this image.

 

Several times we came across other vehicles coming in the opposite direction and there was NO room to pass. Indiana would relish (and win) each game of chicken. I would have never ever, ever attempted to drive this narrow dirt road etched in the side of a cliff without a guide. I saw people (families) doing it and I tell you, no way, no how would this girl ever try this solo.

Once we arrived at the top of the Island in the Sky, the views were spectacular.  The rock formations, fossils (at one point in the evolution of our globe this entire area has been under water – several times) and vast spaces are something one rarely experiences in a lifetime.  Our guide recommended using Google Earth to truly understand the enormity of the Canyonlands.

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You may not see this when you first look, but it is a ‘sky bridge.’  Do you see the plank between the two boulders?  Look how high it is! Until recently, people would walk across it. Makes my palms sweat just thinking about it. 

Here are some more images from the Top of the Island in the Sky.

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After our jeep experience we returned to headquarters and switched guides.  Aubry, a sweet and college-aged river guide drove us to our drop in point where we enjoyed a riverside picnic and many laughs with the local squirrels.  They were a trip.  Aubry shopped and prepped our delicious lunch- with our vegetarian restrictions honored.

The white water raft experience was family-friendly.  While we flirted with Class 2 rapids, we mostly enjoyed Class 1 rapids.  It was a beautiful, quiet experience.  You felt so small down inside the canyon.  We enjoyed good conversation, listened to history of the formation and changes of the canyons through millions of years.  We relaxed.  The tempo and safety of this experience was a nice balance to the high-adrenaline experience of the mesa earlier in the day.

After we finished our adventures, we were returned to our hotel.  We showered and enjoyed a nice stroll through downtown Moab and ate one of our few meals out.  A delicious Mexican dinner.  We shared a lot of laughter and reflected on many of new memories made that day!

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We walked back to our hotel, did some laundry and packed up in preparation for our track further south to Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon in the morning.  Four more days to go…sigh.

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