The Great Southwest Trip 2017


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Saturday, September 23

It rained SO HARD in the night. I heard it coming down, and closed my windows, but too late. My blankets and foam mattress got soaked for about a foot in every direction from the window. Ew. And when we got up Saturday morning, Kelly said she had gone to sleep with her tent fly open, and everything inside was wet.

At least it wasn't raining when we woke up. We went to the bathroom and got clothes on, and came back. She started dealing with her wet sleeping bag, and I started getting out the food...and IT STARTED RAINING AGAIN. Screw this, I said, I'm taking us to Denny's. And we put everything back, she zipped up her tent, and off we went to breakfast. And it was dry inside Denny's, and the food was delicious, and when we got back to the campsite the rain had stopped long enough for us to pack up. We put her groundcloth (which was pretty much dry) over everything in the bed of the truck, and put her wet tent and sleeping bag open on top of it, to air them as much as we could, and off we went.

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Warm and dry, hot coffee and tea, and breakfast was DELICIOUS. And there was a rainbow outside, which Kelly got great pictures of!
We left the rainy skies of Colorado behind, hoping for better weather in Utah. Somewhere on the way, we pulled up to a stop sign and saw these tires that had been made whimsical...
Even the wind farm looks bedraggled. Sheesh.

The day's plan was to drive into Utah. Last time I had camped in this area I had done one of the four sections of Canyonlands, Island in the Sky. Today we were going to see the Needles. (The two other sections, the Maze and Horseshoe Canyon, are only accessible with a 4 wheel drive.)

We were getting close to the turnoff to the 26 mile entry road to the Needles, and saw this coming up...it's right by the road we were looking for. It looks like some kind of church, we both said...and sure enough, it's Church Rock. There's an opening, and you can go inside it, but it was closed when we were there. Still pretty amazing looking.
So this...is the road to the Needles. Okay. But then the rock turns colors, and after ten or so miles it starts getting interesting...
And then we came to Newspaper Rock, which was pretty awesome. It's about 20 feet wide, and you are standing maybe five or six feet from all these petroglyphs...

Spearleaf Rabbitbrush, I think.

And we continued on into the Needles, quickly getting to the WOW part of the drive...
And most of that was in cloud cover, as you can see. Wait til the sun comes out, this place is spectacular.

So we went to the visitor's center, and...the power was out. They could do some things but not others. We picked up a map and some information, and went off to see stuff.

Here's the map.

We drove out to the end of the paved road, stopping to take pictures of the amazing rocks and colors. The landscape here is colorful and different from anything else I've seen...it was really fun to drive through.
Kelly took these, showing some of the eponymous needles.
And this is what was at the end of the road! We got out and walked over to it...but first, a lizard break. What a cutie!

Then we climbed all around the two big rock pillars...

Then we went back about a quarter mile from the end of the road to hike the Slickrock Trail. This went through a wash and up about 1/4 mile, then wound around a smoothish rock outcropping that was huge; the trail was a couple of miles, and most of it was on this rock. And the trail was marked by small stone cairns, so finding the next one was sometimes a challenge. It was really fun!
A really good view of the Needles, all of which are at least an 8 mile round trip hike to actually get to...
Then we drove back to the visitor's center, stopping for pictures a few times on the way, and taking a side road for part of it.
We had decided when we got to the Needles that we could stay til 4 pm and still make it to Green River in time for Kelly to have daylight to put up her tent. So now...it was time to go. And the scenery was just as beautiful on the way out.
Turkeys! there was a flock of wild turkeys by the road on the way out.

And one more picture of Church Rock...and we turn north for Moab.

Utah's state motto: 'We have so much beautiful scenery that we can waste some of it on freeways!' This is the road heading north to Moab.
We missed the shortcut for Green River, so we went about 20 miles farther than we needed to...but it really didn't make that much difference. We got to the Green River KOA and set up our campsite, after having to move Kelly's tent to a different site because I'm fussy. But everything got done, and here we are at the Tamarisk Restaurant in Green River, having a lovely dinner. And (I found out at dinner) it was Kelly's birthday that day, and she said it was an excellent and memorable one. Yay for birthdays and hiking!

And that night...it didn't just rain, it HAILED. I could hear it RAT-A-TATing on my truck shell...