Utah Trip 2012 ~ Part Four

Welcome back for Part Four!  If you’ve had the patience to follow along this far, you know that this trip has had some ups and downs which most recently ended on a high note at Delicate Arch at the close of Part Three.  

For the sake of keeping things moving, I’m going switch up the storytelling a bit and just cover the highlights.  So here you go, let’s get right to what you came for: The Pics!

Mesa Arch has to be one of the most photographed features in the Island in the Sky District.  The accessible, mostly flat, 1/2-mile round trip hike from the parking area is an easy hike even for children.  If you go, I recommend going early in the morning to catch the sunrise under the arch.  It’s extremely unlikely that you’ll have it all to yourself, but it’s still a sight definitely worth seeing.  For photographers, the sunrise shot has been said to be sort of a right of passage akin to a sailor getting a tattoo upon crossing the equator.  Well I can tell you, I didn’t get a tattoo.  But I will say that after all my frustrations and disappointments with uncooperative weather, it feels extremely satisfying to have these photos as part of my collection.

After I was done shooting at Mesa Arch, I headed back over to nearby Green River Overlook.  I had just been there two nights before, but I thought it might be interesting to see what it looked like under a morning perspective.  I was amazed at how the colors of the landscape change depending on the time of day!

By now I had spent most of my vacation with a primary focus on photography, so it was time to mix things up with some different activities.  I decided to pack up my camp at Island in the Sky, and head into Moab to check out some of the outdoor shops and inquire about hiking info.  One of the locals recommended the excellent Hidden Valley Trail, located about three miles south of town.

From the start, the trail climbed strenuously for about 600 feet in a quarter mile.  But I had so much fun watching the little desert lizards scurry out of my path that I didn’t really notice how much work it was.  After reaching the top of a ridge, it leveled off into easy hiking through a delightful grassy valley nestled in between two sandstone ridges with excellent views of the La Sal Mountains behind me to the east.

After a walking a few relaxing miles through the valley, the trail hooks up with other trails and four-wheel drive roads that one could link to make a loop back into town if one were so inclined.  From here there was a viewpoint overlooking the valley I had just hiked through, and also the large sandstone fins of the Behind the Rocks area.

At that point a short spur trail led me up to an impressive array of petroglyphs carved into the canyon walls.

Now, remember way back in Part One when I said my biggest fear on this trip was not being able to find a camping spot?

It happened.

Despite there being about a dozen group camping sites along the river, every one of them had already been claimed.  I suppose the fact that it happened to be Spring Break during that week had something to contribute to the situation.  Note to self: Find a campsite before noon when planning to car camp in a popular recreation area!

So there I was with no open camp sites, and I was loosing daylight fast.  I might have slept in my car, but there were threatening signs posted everywhere which made it very clear that that wasn’t allowed either.  What to do?

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  I did what any stranded climber would do in that situation.  I bivied.

Across the road I spotted an accessible ledge about 200 feet up the cliff that looked like a great spot to set up a stealth camp where I wouldn’t be noticed.

It was the most excitement I’d had all week!  Finally, an adventurous day’s ending to a thus-far mostly uneventful trip!

* * *

Next time:  Goodbye to Canyonlands, here I come, Capitol Reef!   

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