Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Poison Spider Dinosaur Trackway and Petroglyphs

Poison Spider dinosaur trackway
Poison Spider dinosaur trackway has some of the best dinosaur tracks we've ever seen. As a bonus, there are beautiful, mostly undisturbed petroglyphs along the route there.

As you approach Moab from the north, you'll find a road that goes out to Potash just outside of town (Scenic Byway 279). This road follows the Colorado River on the opposite side from the Kane Creek petroglyphs. We drove down the road exactly 5 miles to a sign that says Indian Writing. There is a wide pullout next to the river on the left, and the petroglyphs are on the right. We looked up and saw them immediately about 25 feet up the wall. We did have to point them out to a lot of people, though, so maybe they're not as obvious as we thought. There are tons of petroglyphs here and the panel extends all the way down around the corner to about 150 feet. This rock art was created between 1 AD and about 1300 AD by the Fremont or Anasazi people who frequented this region. An interpretive sign here says to look for a bear, but we actually found it farther down the road.

These petroglyphs are just off the side of the road.

There are petroglyphs everywhere!

I have trouble drawing arms and shoulders, too.

I love the paper doll look!

Mr. Bear is very cool!
A couple hundred yards down the road there is another sign. We found the bear here, and he is impressive. There is not too much else on this panel, though. He is worth the stop.

The dinosaur trackway is a little farther down the road. On the right is a steep pullout with restrooms, ample parking, and a map showing you the tracks. I know it seems crazy to think you can see them through binoculars, but you can. A large rock stands up on the canyon rim facing the parking lot. The dinosaur tracks run up it. There are two very clear tracks and many other small tracks. A steep primitive hike allows you to get up close to the tracks. We had to scramble a bit, and Mom and the baby stayed in the car, but the boys aged 4 and 7 made the trip. We visited other dinosaur trackways in Red Fleet State Park and Copper Ridge, all of which were amazing to our dino-loving boys, but the Poison Spider Trackway is the most clear.

If you're in Moab, check it out!

You have to climb up the hill to the dino tracks.

The tracks are very clear.

Our boys loved all the dinosaur tracks.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Kane Creek Petroglyphs near Moab

We saw a lot of petroglyphs on our trip to Moab. Several panels can be seen by traveling Kane Creek Boulevard on the east side of the Colorado River. (Take Kane Road right from Moab's main street-- it's between McDonalds and Burger King. Bear left at the Y.) After about 3 miles, we came to Moon Flower Canyon. This area is gorgeous, and the camping here looks amazing.

We pulled into the Moon Flower Canyon pullout at the sign and the petroglyphs are on the right side. A huge rock face has all kinds of petroglyphs carved into it. Some have been a bit defaced as they are right at ground level. The panel is pretty big-- maybe 100 feet long and 12 feet tall.

This sign tells you about the petroglyphs at Moonflower Canyon.

They are very's sad.
Down the road 1.2 miles is another panel. All these panels seem to have bighorn sheep and snakes. I guess there were a lot of bighorn sheep in this area and prehistoric times. And snakes are so easy to draw....

More petroglyphs are located up this beautiful canyon. We continued down the road until we got to a cattleguard and the road became a well-maintained gravel road. From the cattleguard we traveled 1.3 miles to the final petroglyph. There is a sign, and a large rock just off the road. This rock is famous for "the birthing scene" or a child being born feet first (use your imagination). All four sides of the stone have some sort of petroglyph.

Be sure to check out the Poison Spider Petroglyphs just across the river.

The famous birthing scene is on the left side of the rock.

There are petroglyphs on every side of this rock.

More petroglyphs

Watch for this sign as you head up the canyon to find the
birthing scene.

Blood Moon (Lunar Eclipse)

This was the best picture I got of the Blood Moon.

On April 14th at midnight, the Earth cast its shadow over the moon. The result is called a "Blood Moon," and it turns the moon a pretty red color. The color changes because the sunlight must pass through the Earth's atmosphere as is scattered into longer wavelengths before it reaches the moon. This is a full lunar eclipse where the Earth comes exactly between the sun and the moon. This particular Blood Moon never got all that red. As the shadow crept over the moon, it stayed very white. When the eclipse reached totality at 1:00 am, the moon turned sort of a suede color. It was almost impossible to photograph or video, but the shadow made the moon look very much like a sphere rather than the white disk we usually see. The other thing that was interesting was watching the stars come out as the night sky grew darker due to the eclipse.

In honor of the occasion, we stayed up late with friends and watched through our telescopes and binoculars. We celebrated with Moon Pies, Starburst, hot chocolate, queso, and other treats. The moon put on a really beautiful show, which lasted until around 2:30 am in the morning (we didn't stay up for the entire thing).

This was a great addition to our solar eclipse, partial lunar eclipse, and transit of venus experiences.

This was taken at about 12:20 during the beginning of the eclipse.

I took this picture about halfway. It is really hard to photograph with a rinky-dink camera!

At about 3/4, we got to see a little bit of red.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Scott M. Matheson Preserve

The Scott M Matheson Preserve
Scott M Matheson Preserve is run by the Nature Conservancy. It is located on the outskirts of Moab and is a nice morning stop.

A boardwalk winds around the preserve, leading to several viewpoints. We saw some interesting birds along the way. We counted about ten spotted towhees. There were also robins, pheasants, and mourning doves. The trail is nice and stroller friendly. It wanders about a mile across a bridge and around a loop. There is one spur that leads to an overlook of the river.

In the river we saw a strange sight. About 20 large fish, probably either carp or catfish were surfacing as if they were gulping for air. We watched (and listened) for awhile as they gasped for air at the top of the water.

One of the spotted towhees we saw.

The fish
The Matheson Preserve is a nice spot in Moab to get away from the crowds that are ever-present in Arches and other more touristy areas. To get to the Preserve, turn off Main Street onto Kane Creek Boulevard between McDonalds and Burger King. The preserve is nearly 1.5 miles down the road. Go left when the road splits. The preserve will be on the right. All the trails are stroller friendly, and most are boardwalks.

The trails are nice and flat and about half are boardwalks.

This blind was nice, but there weren't too many birds to hide from.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Canyonlands National Park (Island in the Sky)

Canyonlands National Park is one of 5 parks located in Utah, and the only one we hadn't been to before this year. The park is divided into three sections. Island in the Sky is the most popular and it is located on the north end. The Needles district is located on the southeast end, and the two sides do not have access to one another. The southwest side is called The Maze, and is undeveloped for serious backpackers and campers.

The visitor's center at Island in the Sky is small, but they do ranger talks, the junior ranger program, and they have a few small displays and a gift shop. (All the bathrooms in the park are pit toilets, so don't plan on flushing anything porcelain while your in the park.) The rangers helped us a find a few hikes and all the essential turnouts for our three boys ages 1-7 years old.

This section of the park is shaped like a giant Y with the visitor's center on the upper right arm. As we drove down to the junction, we passed a few pullouts that look down into the canyon lands that this park is named for. The first hike we stopped for was called Mesa Arch. Our 1 year-old did this entire half mile hike with very little help. The trail ascends to the rim up some shallow stairs and comes to the edge of the canyon. An arch, different from those in Arches stands at the edge. Getting too close to the arch could be fatal as it drops hundreds of feet, so keep a hand on little ones. The arch looks fairly small at first, but it extends down the cliff pretty far. There are some great photo opportunities, just don't lean backward! The trail loops back to the car, and the hike is really pretty.

The trail is pretty easy, but it does climb up to the arch.

Mesa Arch
We continued down to the junction and turned up the other arm of the Y. At the very end is an interesting hike that is a bit steeper and includes a short scramble across the slick rock. They call this area Upheaval Dome, and we hiked only as far as the first overlook (.8 miles RT). When you reach the overlook, you can see down into a hole that has sharp white points sticking out of the ubiquitous red rock. It looks a little like teeth jutting up from sore gums. Scientists posit that one of two things happened: either salt pushed it's way to the surface of the red rock, or a meteor struck here thousands of years ago. The signs leave it up to you decide.
Upheaval Dome
We turned around at that point, because we had a hike that we were excited about back toward the junction. The Aztec Butte trail takes you two miles roundtrip up a large butte, with a side trail to see some ancient Aztec buildings. Read the sign carefully, or you'll make the same mistake we did. We really wanted to see the Aztec granaries (used for storing grain, obviously) and skip the longer portion of the hike. Unfortunately, we weren't careful sign readers, so when we came to a fork in the trail, we went right (we always choose the right when we're unsure). This trail led us to Aztec butte farther back, and climbed right up the side. Steep slick rock, hand-over-foot climbing and an eventual summit over the rim greeted us. It was pretty difficult for our boys age 4 and 7, and Dad with a baby on his back (Mom is like mountain goat. She only lost her shoe once.) The trail led around the top of the butte and past an old Aztec structure, but people had added to the foundation, and it was obviously rebuilt-- not very impressive. So, we climbed back down. When we reached the fork in the trail, we made the correct turn and climbed a small much more manageable butte and found the granaries. This hike would've been around a mile had we taken this route the first time (and we wouldn't have risked our skins), but our boys saw it as a bonus adventure. If you take this hike, make sure to choose the left!

We climbed up all that slick rock.

This structure is on top of Aztec Butte.

Aztec Butte is in the background.

These granaries are much easier to climb to.
There is another short drive immediately across from Aztec Butte called the Green River Overlook. We stopped to look over, and it was very impressive. This is a necessary stop while you are in the park.

Finally, we drove down to the bottom tip of the Y (stopping at several overlooks along the way) for the Grand Viewpoint Overlook. This point is the highlight of Canyonlands Island in the Sky District. There are panoramic views here that allow you to see all the way into the haziness of Colorado as you are hundreds of feet above the valley floor.

There are a few other things for very serious adventurers in this section of the park (anyone up for 100 mile drive in a high-clearance vehicle that drops 1,000 feet over the first mile and a half to the valley floor?) but we felt like we spent just the right amount of time at Canyonlands.

Island in the Sky is just down the road from Dead Horse Point. Plan to spend a full day between these two adventures.

There are interesting rock formations all over Canyonlands.
That is part of the 100 mile road.
Green River Overlook
Panorama point