Scenic Utah and Mother Nature

This was another long driving day, so I apologize in advance if this post is picture heavy and drags on.  After leaving Natural Bridges National Monument, I finally got a chance to see the scenic beauty I missed by driving in at night.  And also how vast and desolate it was.  Perhaps one car every ten or fifteen minutes drove by.  But the road was very well maintained; a strip of black through a colorful landscape.

I crossed the Colorado River for the first time this trip at Lake Powell.  Or, I should say what is normally Lake Powell.  At full capacity the reservoir continues under the bridge and into the canyon to the left, but recent droughts have taken their toll.

One of the nice things about driving in the middle of nowhere is you can go fast, very fast.  So it didn't take me long to reach Hanksville.  From there I initially planned to head north to Goblin State Park and onward to Arches National Park.  Instead I followed the advice of a fellow traveller and headed west to Capitol Reef National Park.  The park protects a long and narrow ridge of mountains formed by tectonic plate collision.  I thought it was named reef because of the colorful rocks, but it actually refers to it being a barrier to travel.  Even though the park received sporadic thunderstorms the rocks were still lit with warm light.

Getting into the valley required yet another long drive.  At several points the road crossed through washes, temporary rivers that form after storms.  Of course, as I left a thunderstorm rolled through.  I came to the last wash crossing, one that was dry less then ten minutes before, and found myself blocked by a small flash flood.  I played it safe and waited with several other cars.

The water was only a foot deep, but moving very fast.  A fording car would most likely be washed away.  Just like in Oregon Trail.  As quickly as the water rose, it receded.  No more than thirty minutes start to finish.  A park ranger was the first to cross, welcoming us to "flash flood season at Capitol Reef" with a smile.

I backtracked to Hanksville and drove north to Goblin State Park, like I initially planned.  My former roommate recommended Goblin as a smaller and closer version of Bryce Canyon National Park.  Bryce is famous for its hoodoos, tall spires balancing larger rocks.  Just imagine elongated mushrooms or, something else.  Goblin is the miniature version.

The hoodoos are more human in scale, short enough to be climbed.  Which I saw a bunch of kids doing.  About a month after my visit some fools knocked over one of the hoodoos.  While the act was most certainly stupid and ignorant, given the number of visitors, it was only a matter of time.

As if to reinforce the playground idea, a group of teenagers went into the hoodoos for a game of manhunt.  Best idea ever!!!  The distant hillsides were lit up by the headlights of people leaving.  The lights in the hoodoos are the group playing manhunt.

I went back down into the hoodoos to try Milky Way photos and was immediately grateful that I brought GPS.  Once the sun goes down it gets dark.  Like, really dark.  I timed this trip to take advantage of the new moon for night sky photography.  The only way to orient myself were the car headlights in the parking lot.  Once they left, I was on my own.  I could still hear the teenagers' voices in the distance and sometimes I got lucky with a glimpse of cigarettes on the hillside.  No doubt about it, GPS got me back to my rental car that night.  As it would do again at Arches NP.

After Goblin I drove two hours to Arches NP.  But, just to crush my spirit at the end of a long day, all campsites were full.  I gave up and got a hotel room in Moab.  My first real bed in five days.