Archive for October, 2012

USA Adventure Part 3: Canyonlands – Island in the Sky

Another day, another national park :) Arches and Canyonlands are close together, but Canyonlands is very big and has several entrances. We chose the nearest one with the best name in the world: Island in the Sky. It’s located on a high mesa (Spanish for table, it means an elevated area with a flat top and steep sides) that looks down on another flat level (the White Rim) before dropping down all the way to the Green River, and this does make it feel like you’re on a island in the sky :) Down below you can see the White Rim Road, a dirt road that follows the rim for 100 miles. It usually takes a couple of days to drive, whether you do it by 4WD or by mountain bike! Here you can find some nice photos and a video of people who drove the White Rim Road on mountain bikes with a support vehicle. I’d love to do that one day!

Anyway, as we only had one day we weren’t going to drive this road, and instead we hiked to the to the rim of the Upheaval Dome, a crater with debated origins. There’s two theories: either it’s a salt dome that pushed its way up, or an eroded meteorite crater. Either way, it’s a fascinating place and a nice walk :)

Parts of the 100 mile long White Rim Road in Canyonlands Upheaval Dome, the origins of this eroded crater are debated

Afterwards, we drove to Green River Overlook but the hazy conditions and harsh light were not ideal for seeing very far. Still, it was impressive to look down at the White Rim, trying to follow the White Rim Road that goes very close to the edge at times, and see the Green River in the distance.

Looking down on the White Rim and (further in the distance) the Green River Dry riverbeds, far below

The desert is full of life: there were bees flying around some bushes with flowers near the overlook, and you always find lots of (well camouflaged!) lizards.

The desert is full of live: a small bee... ... and a large lizard

We decided to hike to Murphy Point Overlook for sunset, an easy and almost flat hike to the edge of the mesa (about 4 miles return trip). We were the only ones there and found a nice spot to have some food and wait for the sun to set. This raven kept us company the whole time we were there, and he was not shy at all!

This raven kept us company while we watched the sunset I love how you can see the sunset reflected in his feathers here :)

The light is so much prettier as this time of day, and the temperatures are more comfortable as well, so we really enjoyed waiting for sunset. The views were spectacular!

Soft light at sunset Paul took photos of the sunset with his telezoom...

I had taken my new lightweight tripod with me, and a set of graduated neutral density filters (to block the bright sky so that the difference with the dark foreground is less problematic). It was a magic sunset, I felt so lucky to be in such a beautiful place, all by ourselves, watching this spectacle…

... while I used a wide angle lens with graduated ND filters.. quite a difference! Just after sunset

After the sun had set, the crescent moon became visible. So pretty!

The crescent moon became visible Sunset at this low latitude goes fast, but the colours are so intense

We walked back as quick as we could, but darkness did catch up with us before we reached the car. We had good head torches though, and the path was easy to follow, so this wasn’t a problem. It was amazing how loud all the crickets were chirping after dark! It was a long drive back to our cabin near Moab, but it was definitely worth the trip to see Island in the Sky.

USA Adventure Part 2: Arches National Park

It was exciting to wake up in the desert the first morning, and enjoy the views from our nice little cabin in the middle of nowhere. After a lazy morning, we drove to Arches National Park, a park with over 2000 natural sand stone arches. We bought a pass that allows entry to all national parks for a year, as we will be visiting many :) Our first stop in the park was Balancing Rock. There is a short trail that goes all the way around the rock pillar, so you can admire it from all angles ;) We were not used to the heat yet, and were taking it very easy. Until a tour bus full of pensioned people arrived and we decided it was time to leave!

Balanced Rock in Arches National Park Balanced Rock from a different angle

After looking at the park’s map, we decided to hike to the most iconic arch in the park: Delicate Arch. It’s not only the symbol of the National Park, it can also be found on all Utah’s license plates. The hike was easy and not too long, but walking uphill in the heat made it a bit more challenging. We stopped for a break in a shady place, where we got company of a little chipmunk. They are so cute! Really tiny, really fast, and not very shy. Paul had his zoomlens with him, and this is the result…

The first chipmunk we met had to be caught on camera... They are tiny, very cute, and not shy at all!

Ok, one more photo of the chipmunk because he’s so cute ;) There are lots of them everywhere in the states, and after a while you get so used to them that you don’t take photos anymore. We continued our hike, wondering when we would get a glimpse of our final destination. In fact you don’t get to see it until the very end of the trail. You turn a corner, and suddenly it’s there! What a view… the arch is located right at the edge of a kind of platform of slickrock, so you have really nice views as well.

Ok, last photo of the chipmunk... there are so many of them that you stop taking photos at some point ;) The view we were rewarded with at the very end of our hike: Delicate Arch

It was fun playing with the fisheye lens, which can fit the whole arch in even from close by.

With the fisheye lens, the whole arch fits in one photo As real tourists, we both posed with the arch ;)

These photos show the surroundings of the arch a bit better, it’s like a big bowl! We actually walked to the bottom of the bowl, and climbed up on the other side.

The arch is located right on the edge of a big platform. You can see a lot of people on the far right, this is where you first have a view of the arch at the end of the trail. Steep slickrock with lots of holes in it

This is the unusual view from the other side, where you look right at the side of the arch so you can’t see the whole. It becomes almost hard to spot :) We walked back when sunset was on its way, and we saw LOTS of people walking up with tripods. I wonder if they were all able to get a photo without 10 other photographers in it :P We drove a bit further into the park, and stopped at a viewpoint of Fiery Furnace. We would have liked to hike into Fiery Furnace, but you need to either join a guided walk (which needs to be booked quite a while in advance), or apply for a permit.

Delicate Arch seen from the other side of the platform, where you look right at the side of the arch so you can't see the hole. Look how steep the drop is! Fiery furnace at sunset

Sunset was really beautiful… my favourite time of the day, when it finally cools down a bit and everything is turning a deep orange.

A scenic part of the road through the park, at sunset The sunset was really pretty

We walked the short trail to Sand Dune Arch, which is located inside a slot canyon. The floor of the canyon consists of amazingly fine sand! Unfortunately, at this low latitude sunset goes realllly fast, and it’s basically dark only half an hour after the sun has set. So after enjoying sunset, it was soon time to head back to our cabin.

Inside the slot canyon near Sand Dune Arch, amazingly fine sand at the bottom of the canyon! Silhouettes at sunset... time to head home

It had been a fantastic day, but the combination of heat, jetlag and so many new experiences made us really tired. So tired that we ate at McDonalds, and that says a lot ;)

USA Adventure Part 1: Denver to Moab

We just got back from a fantastic three-week adventure in the USA :) I’ve made a map of our trip below (please enlarge for better viewing). We drove from Denver to San Francisco, visiting lots of National Parks and other interesting places. We slept in hotels, apartments, cabins, our tent, a yurt and even in a lookout tower. We drove more than 4600 km (almost 2900 miles), on highways as well as dirt roads. We had lots of sunshine and warm (/hot!) weather, and only one thunderstorm. We saw mountains, deserts, canyons in all shapes and sizes (from the Grand Canyon to canyons barely wide enough to walk in), big cities and giant trees. Three weeks full of amazing experiences and landscapes :) It’s going to take me a while to go through all the photos – this trip will probably be covered in 15 blogs (all indicated with a blue dot on the map below).

Overview of our trip from Denver to San Francisco - there will be separate blog posts for every blue dot on the map :)

But to start from the beginning: we flew with Iceland Air, Tromsø->Oslo->Reykjavik->Denver. Quite fast and convenient. We spent one night in Denver, then drove through the Rocky Mountains to Moab, Utah – our first stop. The road through the Rocky Mountains climbs to 3000 meter, where autumn was in full swing and the aspen trees were a spectacular yellow colour. So beautiful!

The Rocky Mountains, the road climbed to 3000 m, where autumn colours were in full swing Incredibly yellow trees!

We stopped for dinner in Glenwood Springs, where we also watched this train.

Driving west on the I-70 Looking at a train at Glenwood Springs Amtrak station

Around sunset, the Rocky Mountains slowly gave way to a desert landscape and we arrived in Utah :)

Close up of the train At sunset, the Rocky Mountains slowly gave way to the desert... welcome to Utah!

We rented a cabin not far from Moab, where we arrived late at night when darkness prevented us from seeing our surroundings. The stars were amazing, but we were both too tired to do any stargazing. We went to sleep, excited about the views we’d find the next morning.

Next stop: Arches National Park! :)