A Perfect Storm - Canyonlands National Park
After making the decision to do a cross-country road trip, it was a given that we’d try to visit as many national parks as possible. Our first stop was Glacier, followed by Yellowstone. Then we had to decide whether to continue down to the Rockies or to backtrack to the west a bit to see Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. Having spent most of the last three months in the mountains, we opted for a change of scenery and headed toward the desert. When we drove across the border of Wyoming and Utah, the landscape was one of flat grasslands. Fifty miles later, we were winding our way through shrubby-green mountain roads before we emerged from the pass into the starkly contrasting land of desert plateaus and canyons. We marveled at the diversity of Utah’s scenery between our grumbles about how poorly written our current audiobook was.
As we turned right into Canyonlands National Park, we were struck by the amazing vista of deep black storm clouds punctuated by the crash of thunder and vivid flashes of lightning. The clouds loomed above the road ahead, while to the west the sky was a clear blue. On top of the plateau, Llew’s height of 6’7” made him a perfect target for a stray lightning bolt and his nervousness at getting out of the car was comical, though fairly merited.
Nym cowered from the booming thunder in the floorboard of the passenger’s seat and gave us incredulous looks that seemed to question our sanity for driving into the storm. Meanwhile, I’m running about outside snapping photos of all the things and grinning at those two Willises for being scaredy cats.
The thunder soon trailed far enough after the lightning that it signified that the storm was moving away and Llew came out of his shell and ventured on a few short hikes with me. The cloud coverage remained thick enough that the temperature was quite cool, despite being in the desert.
The overlooks in Canyonlands National Park are like nothing I’ve seen elsewhere (including Arches National Park which is just down the road). Though reminiscent of vantage points you get standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon, these views were more varied and you never knew what sight awaited at the end of the trail.
We sat atop giant rocks as we gazed out over the land in awe, the wind from the storm making our hair whip about our faces to create hilarious photos. Having driven all day from Yellowstone to Utah, we were more than ready for a break from the road and may have been a bit hysterical.
Mesa Arch, though best seen at sunrise, offered an amazing view even this late in the day. The arch itself isn’t as grand as those in Arches National Park but as you peek beneath its curve, the panorama is quite remarkable.
For sunset, we headed to the Orange Cliffs Overlook. After worrying all day that the sunset would be shrouded in clouds, we were pleasantly surprised by a dazzling performance and more than a little happy that this one viewpoint wasn’t marked with the dreaded “No Dogs Allowed” sign. Together with Nym, we peered out as the sun sank below the horizon creating one last memory of this incredible park.