Thursday, September 08, 2016

A Grand View Indeed!

People look at clouds to figure out their shapes and see their resemblances with other life forms. I look at rocks and do the same thing.

Especially since I moved to Utah and I started visiting all the National Parks, you learn that every rock has a shape, a name and a story.

This past weekend, we drove through Canyonlands, one of Utah's five National Parks. It was our first time there. We're veterans of Zion and Arches, and I personally go back and forth between which one is my favorite. And then you see Bryce and then you see Canyonlands, and every one of them trumps the other for various and different reasons.

I do not have the literary genius of someone like Charles Bowden (“Blue Desert”, among other things) to describe the beauty, the peace, the miracle of deserts. I do not know how to evoke and retell the story of every canyon I saw, every bend in the flow of the Colorado and of the Green River and every story they wrote on every wall of the rocks they carved through. But I will try to record this trip, in my modest writing way, if at all.

All I have to tell you is that I felt as small as a pebble, and as humble as a monk in front of such eerie and outer worldly symmetry, elegance and grace.

Canyonlands is a rocky red desert, in the South-Eastern part of Utah, shaped by the erosion done by the Colorado and the Green River, alongside wind and precipitation. All these forces patiently, like a stone carver with a chisel, carve out shapes in the rock, over time. You drive into the park on paved roads, which guide you to many overlooks, from where you can see an ever changing view of the canyons below.

Although you can 'get an idea' about what makes the park unique with every overlook, to truly take in the whole park you'll have to either four wheel, hike an incredible amount of miles, or boat across the two rivers, to access the more hidden places and see it in its entirety. Just like they say that you cannot see The Louvre in one trip – you cannot see Canyonlands in one trip, or even ten, either. At over 500 square miles, the surface of land feels truly endless.

We just explored one of several main roads, the one cutting through the “Island in the Sky” area of the park and stopped at the overlooks available on it, on this trip. And how fitting the name of this area is! The park looks like either Mars or the Moon, pretty much void of vegetation, bright red, rugged and unforgivingly hot, floating in the sky, up above, where the overlooks are. There is no way anything or anyone can live in the rock which looks like poison. And yet, as barren, lonely, remote and dark as it looks, it also tells a story and has a life running right through its veins.

With each area we stopped at, another scene from some frozen-in-time play would enchant the eyes and entice the imagination.

Buck Canyon looked like a giant V shaped crevice in the crust of the Earth, with taller buttes scattered on the flat surface. 

The huge "V" shaped Buck Canyon

Although not part of the Canyonlands State Park, but its own State Park, Dead Horse Point looked like a winding maze: the Colorado river keeps changing course up and down and up and down this plane, creating these huge swan necks 200 or so feet deep into the Earth. You keep wondering to yourself if the Colorado is tired (or drunk) from so much winding about … 

The Colorado River at Dead Horse Point State Park

Green River Point is a mix between Dead Horse Point (the Green River winding, this time) and Buck Canyon (the many V shape cuts into the Earth). 

Green River Overlook

The winner of all the splendid views is the Grand View Point Overlook: here, God is surely showing off, just for kicks! The scene looks and feels as if peeled from a medieval play, where all courtmen and women are standing around in the Grand Hall, waiting for the ball to begin. Some of the standing rocks clearly depict heads of people, complete with hairdos and hats. It looks as if some volcano erupted just as they were having a get-together and it clad them all in hot lava, cooled over time, which rendered them eternal. They're still waiting to be unfrozen, or un-earthed from the fondant hot spill that killed them. They look full of life, under there. 

Bringing into focus the insane perfection and beauty of the Grand View Point Overlook. 
The shapes in the rocks are definitely a breathtaking spectacle. But what is more overwhelming and impressive than that is the sheer size of the spread of the land. The vastness and massiveness of the never ending plane, the amount of the sheets of rocks standing tall, unmoved for millions of years, for as long as the eyes can see. And you – a small dot on this land, trying to take it all in, you poor devil, and your brain and your retina not able to process this all!

The buttes and the sheets of rock, massive, standing on the flatter than flat red sheet of land reminded me of Monument Valley. The totem pole looking rocks at the Grand Point Overview and The Needles brought back memories of Bryce. But despite all these resemblances, Canyonlands is a park all in its own right – unique and deserving of equal fame of its other sister parks. 

The Monitor and Merrimac Buttes 

The Needles

The paved roads that bring you to the overlooks are flanked by green trees (surprisingly) and pastures. But the overlooks are hot looking craters, of nothing but rock and emptiness. Gaping, gouged, desert massive eye sockets, dead from staring into the sun for millions of years. Along the two rivers, you can see some green trying to survive. The whole area feels dead, however. No creatures, not even birds, other than crows. And who can announce death better than crows?!

We got lost for a day in this earthen, if barely, wonder. This is one of those trips where you know for sure one has to be seriously mixed up if they're not believing in something better and more powerful and creative than we will ever be. So much art; so much care; so much gusto and so much talent – how can anyone in the right mind deny the existence of something bigger than we might comprehend?! It dwarfs you and renders you helpless! This all cannot be a mistake, or happened by chance!

What is the purpose of our lives, a mere second in the millennia whose testament is written in front of us? It swallows you and your identity whole. What else is there left for us to do, to contribute to this planet, if something this sublime already exists?! Nothing but humility and reverence.

No answers. Just speechless and breathing, and taking it all in. And that would be enough for this one, small life. 
Vladimir Nabokov: The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.”
 - click on the picture to see the full album from this amazing tour and more beautiful places in Moab


No comments: