Dead Horse Point State Park and Eastward
There are those iconic shots of the South West that seem unreal..how could anything be that old and intricate and colourful and just WOW..this is one of those spots. Not a big National Park brimming with people and helicopter rides but a quiet, small 21 spot campground on the end of a point, well, Dead Horse Point that is. With views of the Colorado and Canyonlands National Park it gets it rather morbid name from the legend that states around the turn of the century the point was used as a corral for wild mustangs roaming the mesa top. Cowboys herded them across the narrow neck of land some ninety feet wide and onto the point. The neck was then fenced off with branches and brush. One time the horses were left corralled on the water less point where they died of thirst within view of the Colorado River 2,000 feet below…Nice guys those cowboys…but let’s forget them and just take a look 2000′ down…a long long ways down, a wowza kind of down…Mike was back a good 20 feet the whole way around.
23 miles in off of Utah 191 you drive across a plain and just can not imagine what is waiting for you when you get to the edge. At 6000 feet up though you have an inkling somewhere there will be an edge. From the point, a “layer cake” of geologic time may be viewed, revealing 300 million years of geologic history. The perimeter paths from the visitor center take you all around the edge with views to the La Sal Mountains, towering 12,000′ to the East and to the Colorado, slowly winding it’s way South and West to Canyonlands. Our first day there we ran into a lovely Kitt Fox resting in the shade. Smarter than we were hiking about in the 90° temperatures;)
The campground is nicely laid out with plenty of space between the sites. There were shade buildings and picnic tables as well as electric, no water here or even showers, that you have to pack in on your own. We backed up onto a magical little piece of brush and shrubs that was full of life. The jays were out right away begging and more and more life appeared once it cooled down. Several different lizards as well as Antelope Squirrels scampered about behind us..and hummingbirds:) Generally I can hear them as we hike and I did not put my feeder out the first day as I didn’t hear any, but they were there, so nice to see the amazing Black Chinned Hummingbirds. The male has a deep blue purple chin that looks black in most light and the female pale buff coloured flanks. They were in the midst of a courting. The male flies up and down in huge arcs showing his prowess no doubt, the lady didn’t seem too impressed;)
Our second day we awoke to the boom of thunder and rain. The temperatures dropped and we opened the windows and delighted in the cool breeze. There is something tantalizing about those after rain smells that brings everything to life. Even the cats sat sniffing the air. We hiked about but were chased back in by the rain several times until the late afternoon when it started to clear. That morning I got out at 3 a.m.to photograph the Milky Way after the moon had gone down, it shone brightly with a few wisps of remaining clouds leftover from the storm front.
Moab is only 32 miles away so the next day we went in to fuel and stock up. You can get gasoline and diesel at the 191/313 intersection but they charge you a premium to do it, an extra $2 a gallon, modern highway robbery;) It was a quick trip, the burgers at Milt’s Stop and Eat that was recommended were not sitting well, they arrived cold with lukewarm fries so it was quite sad, by night fall food poisoning had set in…Needless to say we won’t eat there again..0_0. Fill up on free filtered water at the Hiking store GearHeads. Great place and the only water in town:)
We needed an extra day to recoup after the Milt’s colon cleansing plan so put off going to Arches National Park until the day after. It was beautiful but we must have hit it on a “free” day, no one collecting entry fees, and it was packed. I don’t like crowds at the best of times but there hordes there…after the relative peace of Dead Horse this was a bit overwhelming, but worth a visit. We tried to visit the less busy arches, then just did the road tour after getting weary of the crowds.
We wished we had an extra few days to explore Canyonlands and a few other smaller state Parks in the area but we needed to head East. This area of Utah you could spend months seeing all the small state parks, to say nothing of the big National ones. It will be on our return ticket. There are some very dark spots out there still to find:) Mike had one night with the telescope but with the incoming rain we had to pack it up and so no Public viewing. The seeing was adequate for cell phone shots through the eyepiece but not steady enough for higher magnification.
The next day was back North to the US I-70 and into Colorado. We had looked up a small campground near Rifle and were determined to stay in these smaller parks, besides, I’d seen pictures of waterfalls and yes, had to see these! The scenery was changing rapidly. From desert colours to the muted green of pine and cedar forests.
We spent three nights here, the days were hot and the nights were getting cooler. In the upper portion of Rifle Gap State Park we found a spot in the lakeview area of the campground, there was no shade but it looked out onto a large reservoir. The town was quirky ( great Mexican grocery store) and we started to see our first hay fields, and water…everywhere, that delightful green that water brings. Five miles further up the road a tiny campground and another park, Rifle Falls had been my original destination but the sites were fully booked and I can see why. They were shady and the river ran by you, a few hundred feet away the triple falls could be heard. We will SO be back here. I could spend a week exploring the falls and bird life! I am so torn sometimes as we head East, I know Mike is getting anxious to go back to his hometown but we are are seeing so many amazing places…I keep writing them down, for the return trip:)
The next leg took us up and over the Rockies, winding our way up past the Eagle River along the US I-70 and the famous ski area, Vail. At the summit we were over 10,600 feet high, we went up and down several times before starting the descent towards Denver. Snow remained on the mountain tops as we entered the Johnson Tunnel and headed East. Goodbye mountains, hello plains. It is always astounding how the terrain can change in the matter of a few hours.
By late afternoon the mountains had faded in the rear view mirror and an expanse of high plain lay before us…rolling hills and miles of fields. We turned off of the I-70 and headed North on a small country road to cut across to the I-90 and Chappell. It was time for an RV park with water and sewer for a few days, all the amenities. The clouds were starting to gather and the sky darkened after we were settled…those tumultuous summer thunder storm skies…the clouds were swirling in all directions and the smell of rain filled the air. So odd after driving through clear skies all day.
It was magical, the storms passed, and the trains started. We were 500 feet from one of several main lines across the USA, and it was busy, about every 20 minutes at times. I guess the locals get used to it. They were a friendly bunch waving at me as I stood on top of the bridge photographing the trains that went by. I was thinking the local police or sheriff might show up wondering what I was doing there, standing, but it was quiet. At one point a small RV went by, parked at the side of the road and a guy came running up with his camera just as the train went by “awesome!” he said, “what a rush”…yup, I wasn’t the only crazy one standing there so guess I’m not too far gone:)
We went to the small local grocery, drove down the half mile of town and back, other than the trains and the RV spot, there was not too much to Chappell other than the huge grain silos with the American flag painted across them. A few faded pieces of farm machinery and a small pond to walk around. Not a destination area but certainly a quick stop on your way to rest kind of place. Farmlands and long long stretches of road, the folks were friendly and I guess this was welcome to the Midwest.
Saludos amigos and stay tuned…there is a lot of Midwest to come;)