Onions and Needles

Posted by on May 23, 2012 at 9:54 pm :: 1 Comment

Twice a year Jason and I head to Moab; these trips are nearly as constant as the ebb and flow of the tides. This spring we had a hard time finding an open weekend to visit our favorite adventure hub but somehow we squished it in. How can you not make time for Moab?

Crossing Onion Creek over and over was delightful and messy. I'm not usually that thrilled to be that soggy.

One prickly pear blooming in the desert is lovelier than a garden full of roses.

On this outing we again hit a couple new biking and hiking spots. It seems like no matter how many times we go to Moab there is always new terrain to explore. We biked 20 miles to the Fisher Valley Ranch and back via Onion Creek Canyon. Although this sandy bouncy road definitely wasn’t on the upper end of the technically challenging scale, the unfit would probably find it unfit for cycling due to its persistent climbs. For us though it was as tempting as a cup of hot cocoa in a snowstorm. All those bumpy hills strewn in unnatural looking reds, greens, grays, and yellows practically begged our tires to tread on them and we were happy to oblige. The dreamlike scenery kept our eyes popping but the best part of this ride was its 52 river crossings, and no, that was not a typo. Jason and I got to navigate our bikes through Onion Creek 52 fabulous times. It goes without saying that we did not return to our car dry. And, thanks to a 25 MPH wind that whipped the endless supply of sand into our faces, I didn’t even return to our car looking human. Instead I resembled what would happen if a stinkbug and a sandman produced unfortunate offspring. They really should never have kids together. Despite the gritty gusts that literally picked up our bikes on occasion and turned me into walking sandpaper, we thoroughly enjoyed this ride. I would recommend Onion Creek to those who aren’t super confident in their off-road skills but don’t mind a good workout or a wet crotch.

This is an untouched photo, as hard as that is to believe. Onion Creek was really that red and otherwordly looking.

That smudge of dust is not the workings of a camera lens gone awry but rather the sandy minions of an aggressive breeze.

In the narrows of Onion Creek Canyon my bike kept tilting toward the river gorge far below thanks to that tricky wind.

The second part of our adventure took us to The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Canyonlands is comprised of three separate sections that are divided by the Colorado and Green Rivers. While we’ve hit the Island in the Sky District before, we’ve never made the 65 mile journey south of Moab to see The Needles until now.

Misshapen rocks littered The Needles' landscape.

We came across this rattler in The Needles just a foot from our trail. Later we discovered that it was a midget-faded rattlesnake, one of the deadliest vipers in North America. Apparently they're quite reclusive so a sighting is rare. Lucky us!

The Needles bore little resemblance to the Island in the Sky or anywhere else for that matter. It was a jumble of strange boulders and outcroppings. Its fingers of rock lined the horizon like ancient stone cityscapes. Everywhere you looked fields of mushroom rock popped out of the earth as if they had sprung up overnight.

This tunnel added a little claustrophobic zest to our Chesler Park hike.

We hiked to a place called Chesler Park, a peaceful scrub brush covered meadow surrounded by spires of stone that stretched toward the infinite sky. There we climbed a random rock blob and ate our lunch with a 360 degree view of the circling sandstone towers while a curious crow watched us from a few feet away.

We came across these unusual kissing petroglyphs at the top of Big Spring Canyon. Okay, so we created them with our cheesy shadows but aren't we clever!

Sunsets in the desert are glorious and not to be missed. So after our hike we relaxed above Big Spring Canyon and watched the whittled stone transform from a dull brown to a blazing red within minutes. Unlike other flames, this fire burned without a sound. In fact the world was so still at the top of that canyon it almost made your ears ache.

The Red Cliffs Lodge is frequently our hotel of choice. It is also home to the Castle Creek Winery...and this cute truck.

That concludes my account of yet another trek into Utah’s southeastern desert. If you’ve never been to Moab what are you waiting for? You could travel the whole world and not find anything comparable to the understated patient beauty of this worn landscape. It may have taken thousands of years of infinitesimal alterations to create this unique masterpiece but I would recommend not waiting that long to enjoy it.

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