Escaping La Nina – The Needles

DAY 4 – CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK, THE NEEDLES

There is a gallery here for viewing the images fullscreen (recommended)

I arrived back at camp after shooting sunrise and had some breakfast with Tara who was enjoying a book in the warm early morning sun. We packed up and headed for Moab. We would be restocking with some food and water before the drive South out of town towards the Needles district of Canyonlands. The annual Jeep muster was happening in Moab so we witnessed dozens and dozens of kitted out off-road vehicles in the staging areas along the highway and then all around the town of Moab which was interesting to see.  We arrived at a campsite we had found some good reviews for and grabbed a spot by quickly throwing up the tent. A short drive later we stopped at the visitor centre to get a little advice on which hike might best suit our timelines and desired experience, before setting off for the trailhead.

 

I was completely unfamiliar with this park and this particular region of it up until a couple of months ago. After seeing some incredible photographs, I started to research the area, including taking a look at google earth imagery of the place. What I found was truly mesmerising, so when we arrived at the parking lot we were excited to hit the trail and begin exploring some of the canyons and cool formations along the hike out to Chesler Park, a large grassy plain with many rocky outcrops and features. Along the hike we were continuously impressed by the impressive, colours, shapes and textures in the boulders, slot canyons and formations that littered the landscape. The trail was easy travelling with undulating ups and downs, but no sustained elevation gain, which is a refreshing change from our normal hikes that go up, up, up.

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The mushroom
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Hiking through the canyons
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This one was quite narrow for about 50m or so
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The recurrent theme of incredible patterns, textures and colours to be found

I saw several small and medium sized Lizards sunning themselves at various points, some of which were so comfortable with my presence I was able to get nice close-up images where myself, my camera and hands were extremely close without disturbing them. The only unfortunate aspect of the hike was the time of day, being that the sun was kind of at it’s peak for the afternoon, and the light wasn’t always very nice for photographing what we saw. However the scenery was delightful and the needle-like formations that seemed to border the landscape in every direction were very unique.

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I believe this is a Plateau Fence Lizard, though I am no expert. It was about 20cm long.
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Quick water break
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The needle-like formations that the area is named after.
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The La Sal mountains dominated the skyline. Note the sand dunes and vegetation in the foreground that just seems to appear out of nowhere as you pop our of the winding canyons
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More vegetation and canyon walls
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Some of the formations here really reminded me of some of central Australias beautiful rocks
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Beautiful
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The view back over the canyons with the Needles in the background. Chesler Park is immediately behind me.
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The plains of Chesler Park

After retuning to the vehicle we slowly explored a few more areas of the park as the sun began to sink, stopping at a nice picnic spot to enjoy the final moments of sunlight for the day. The sky was cloudless, and we headed back to camp to cook dinner, both quite hungry after an energetic day. Our camping spot at hamburger rock was quite a nice spot. It glowed red in the post sunset light, and as it got dark, the start began to make their appearance. The full-ish moon wasn’t rising for an hour or so after dark, so we sat in the darkness on top of the rock and just watched the stars while we ate.

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Cactus grew in small congregations all over the place
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Tara looking small at Big Spring Canyon overlook
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Sunset colours were knockout even without any real cloud cover
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Those last, long rays of sunlight
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Hamburger Rock campsite

The next day we would make the drive further South toward Arizona. We would be arriving at the very well known Monument Valley Navajo territory. We actually had a campsite booked for this location, a spot on the side of the sand dune that looked directly out at the vista that has featured in so many films and photographs over time that I feel like almost everyone would recognise.

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