Saturday, May 28, 2016

Into the Needles, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

The Needles, named for spires of Cedar Mesa Sandstone that stick into the sky like pointing fingers, is an area of profound beauty and geological wonder. This southeast corner of Canyonlands National Park is about 70 miles drive from Moab and therefore less crowded than the Island in the Sky region or nearby Arches National Park.
There are numerous hiking trails to take your deep into the rock formations. We chose a 7.2-mile loop consisting of the Squaw Canyon Trail south with a return via the Big Spring Trail. Some online guides rate this as strenuous, but the elevation change is only about 500 ft, and the trail is easy walking. This loop demonstrates the ecological and geological diversity of the southern part of Canyonlands Park.
There was water in the streambed. This is a pleasant benefit of trekking in April. By mid-summer, I suspect the beds are dry and dusty.
Here water was flowing through the grass.
The desert trees continue to fascinate me. How can they tolerate the months of dry and heat? The bark is so craggy and gnarled, it is a study in texture and shadow.
The thunderheads developed in the early afternoon, but we did not have a storm.
The cliff on the right marks the drainage divide between Squaw and Big Spring Canyons. The trail leads up on the slick rock and through a gap in the ridge. It then drops steeply into Big Spring Canyon. The walk back to the Squaw Canyon trailhead is straightforward and passes some camping sites. All in all, a great way to spend a day.

Photographs taken with a Fuji X-E1 digital camera with polarizing filter on some exposures to enhance the sky. I processed the RAW files with PhotoNinja software.

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