Ranger Kathryn's Arches

May 23, 2011

Peekaboo Springs (the Needles district, Canyonlands NP)

There are glorious views 360 degrees around you on the Peekaboo Springs trail.

“This is so beautiful it almost makes me cry.” These words escaped my lips as Tara and I crested one canyon wall and perched on the brim looking to yet another vast horizon of red rock, of green wash, of bluest sky. I needed time to simply stop and absorb the wonder of it all — to feel it on a deep level rather than see only with my eyes.

In the Needles district on a cumulus-clouded day, the dancing light illuminates one pinnacle while shadowing the next; I could sit watchfully in one spot for an entire morning and not grow bored. It is one of my favorite places to explore in all of North America. Peekaboo Springs is clearly one of those hikes that can move me to tears.

Almost as an afterthought at the trailhead I had grabbed my binoculars, and was now scanning the canyon below for evidence of ancestral Puebloan culture. We had already found at least five granaries when something on a far wall came into focus. Wordlessly I handed the glasses to Tara, and her incredulous subdued “Oh, wow” matched my impression.

A round white shield with a flared cross-shaped center, unlike anything either of us have ever seen, stood alone on a sandstone wall. Farther along was a plumb-bob shape and concentric circles out of the same brilliant white paint that looked anything but a thousand years old. We instantly knew we had to make a return trip equipped with good maps and a way to get down there to investigate and photograph this rock art. Here’s the happiest part: there weren’t any trails or even footprints passing by them.

And when the day comes that we get back there to personally explore, our feet also will leave no trace.


For twelve additional photos of this hike, click on this Facebook album.

August 11, 2010

Peekaboo Springs, Needles: packed with surprises

Kathryn and shield pictographs at Peekaboo Springs

Sunflowers gone wild... tens of thousands of them

…or is it LIFE, packed with surprises? Every day is such an adventure. It’s an adventure to wake up and be breathing.

As three of us undertook a ten-mile hike in the gorgeous summer weather, we were not prepared for the audacity of the day’s gifts to us. It’s as if the Giver of all good gifts delighted to open his hand and unleash nonstop beauty and joy, just for us. Endless fields of sunflowers welcomed us to the parkland, an oddity in any other August. A Collared Lizard (my favorite reptile, remember?) startled us at the beginning of the hike, and a Long-Nosed Leopard Lizard (second fave) at the end. Cumulus clouds shadowed us, keeping the heat down and providing much-needed shade intervals as well as photographic interest. Most of the hike was high on the exposed sandstone benches, giving birds’-eye views of the canyons and washes, with stunning vistas across miles of national parkland. Vast stone walls were pierced by clefts and openings that gave sneak previews into upcoming canyons. A powerful panel of pictographs awaited us at the 5-mile far point, infusing wonder and intrigue as we pondered the inhabitants who painted them 800 and 3000 years ago. As we started back, we stumbled upon an area of ancient granaries, finding seven (7!) structures in one little neighborhood. To top it off, a majestic golden eagle posed for photographs as we drove out of the park. I could hardly take it all in; it is securely in my top five favorite hikes of all time. I must go back, in another season. I may take with me those who have eyes with which to see and savor the beauty; I may journey alone with my grateful heart.

Collared Lizard studying me

My hand... another's hand. Eight centuries apart.

Kathryn & Mariana hike the Needles.

This sentinel stands watch over the pictographs


A granary for crop storage -- sadly, some oaf "helped" rebuild the top

Useful 12-rung ladder, courtesy of NPS

Rocks have such beauty.

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