Sunday, June 4, 2017

Exploring Island in the Sky

Gopher Flats
Moab, UT
May 28, 2017

This is our fifth year to spend a good amount of time in Moab.  We have enjoyed many hikes in Arches NP, Dead Horse Point State Park and on BLM land.  For some reason, maybe distance, we haven't done much exploring in Canyonlands NP.  Its about 45 miles (one way) from our home to the Island in the Sky Visitor Center.  Memorial Day week-end turned out to be an OK time to visit although we almost turned around at the pay booth.  The line was moderately long...nothing like Arches...but seemed to move fast.  The Visitor Center was packed so we didn't make a stop there.  




Once we were on the scenic drive,  it was really quite nice.  Fields of Indian ricegrass along with other grasses line the 34 mile (roundtrip) scenic drive.  There are lots of pull-outs and some paved parking areas for highlights like Mesa Arch and Upheaval Dome...all were very crowded.  I did manage a few drive by shots...




Our main goal for the day was to hike to the granaries near Aztec Butte.  Imagine my delight to pull into an almost empty parking lot...yippee !  Aztec Butte is a 2 mile hike rated moderate because of a steep climb to the top of the butte.  Some ledges to climb are 3 to 4 feet tall. Neither one of us were "in the mood" for a rock scramble, so we opted to skip the butte this time.  We opted for the trail that climbs up the smaller butte then drops below the rim to two Puebloan granaries.  Ledges were smaller and slick rock not quite as steep. 

The trail begins in a sandy wash.



Lots of little things caught my eye.
Cushion Buckwheat...

Egg Milkvetch
 Plains Prickly Pear...



Grasses taller than me...
Clumps of asters...
Lizards...
and birds. (I had to lighten these pictures to see the colors in the birds.)



The next part of the trail took us up a slick rock slope and onto the top of a butte.  It twisted its way to the other side of the butte then dropped below the rim to the granaries.  

As we climbed, we had a good view of Aztec Butte.  


This was an amazing new experience as I have never seen a granary or ruin up close and personal.  Roughly 2,000 years ago Ancestral Puebloans  began to rely more on domesticated animals and plants for food.  The granaries were built to store meats they hunted and crops they grew.  The granaries we saw were estimated to be about 1,000 years old.  

Totally awesome !


On the home front, we have enjoyed some of this...
 this...


 this...















this...
Gopher Flats has lots of butterfly bushes.  They just started blooming last week.
 and this.  The gold collared lizard lives in the cactus garden in our neighbors backyard.  The garden backs up to the puppy dog fence.  

Until next time,

HAPPY TRAILS !