Thursday, July 2, 2009

Absolutely breathtaking

We are at the Willow Flat NPS campground
at Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah (map). And I will note here that Google changed the way these maps work a couple weeks ago -- we are at the green arrow, not the red balloon. I liked them better the old way.

The Island in the Sky region is quite aptly named. We are at 6,000' or so, with a 1,000'+ drop-off all around us. Just a couple hundred yards from our campsite is an overlook from which we can see all the way down to the Green River (which is actually brown, just as it was back in the eponymous town), as well as a vast swath of canyon and miles and miles of the White Rim.

Several features are accessible from the dozen or so miles of paved road, and yesterday evening we took the scooters out and rode to Upheaval Dome, apparently a meteoric impact crater at the western end of the "island" and accessible via a steep ¼ mile trail. We also rode out the other direction to Grand View with a panoramic view of canyons in all directions except back towards the entrance road. The late afternoon light brought many features into an interesting relief, unfortunately, our little point-and-shoot camera just can not do justice to these sorts of panoramas. In fact, we had to use our 7x30 binoculars to peer into some of the vast distances.

We perhaps came just a day too soon, as it was close to 90° when we arrived, whereas today is overcast and cooler after some showers last night. Between the high ambient temperatures and the engine bay being very hot from the long climb, the generator would not stay running and we had to get by with just one air conditioner running from the batteries until everything had cooled down considerably.

Later today we will head back down the hill and to Arches National Park, where it was insufferably hot yesterday, but is somewhat cooler today and expected to be cooler still tomorrow. We are hoping for a camp site at Desert View, but that might be tricky considering one must first select and pay for the site at the entrance station, some 18 miles from the campground, and there is nominally a 30' limit.

The limit here at Willow Flat is actually 28', but the space we are in is easily twice as long as Odyssey, and there are at least two other spaces here that would have fit us. Here, however, it was a matter first of choosing a site, then paying for it at an iron ranger. We had also checked with a (human) ranger back at the visitor center, who told us we were welcome to try and that he thought there were a few spaces where we'd fit (in contrast, say, to the folks at Mather in the Grand Canyon, or the ones at Organ Pipe). We are hoping the rangers at Arches will be similarly helpful, and that the campground is not already sold out due to the holiday weekend.

There are only 12 spaces here at Willow Flat, and our backup plan was Horse Thief campground on BLM land off the entrance road, which was completely empty when we checked it out on the way in. Similarly, our backup plan for tonight is the Elks lodge in Moab.


  1. Good luck getting a spot at Arches. I have found that most of the campgrounds fill pretty quickly during the season. If you can get online you might try Dead Horse State Park too. Love that area when the weather is not too hot!!

    his self

  2. Looks like a pretty spot!

    Today, a Neoplan rolled into the park where I'm working. The owners were quite shocked that I knew what it is and I made sure to direct them to your site! :)


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