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.

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