We wanted to stay in the Willow Flat campground in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park, and we knew we’d have to arrive early if we wanted to make that happen. The Lady of the House and I woke up early on the free BLM camping area where we’d spent the night and cooked a quick breakfast. Other than a young woman camping across the road who let her dog run free with no supervision and didn’t allow the sounds of nature to prevail, our time boondocking there was uneventful.
The Lady and I cooked breakfast, ate, cleaned up, and packed the van in record time. We were on the road by 8:30 and proud of ourselves for it.
We saw beautiful red rock formations on the drive to the National Park. Once again, The Lady’s attitude was you ain’t seen nothing yet, and since we wanted to get a spot in the campground, we didn’t stop to take any photos of the cool rocks we saw along the way.
The ranger booth was closed when we entered the Park, but we saw a heavy wooden sign reporting the campground was full. Dang! We thought. We weren’t early enough.
I stayed outside to check the level of the van’s transmission fluid, but The Lady went into the visitor center to show her Southeast Utah Group Annual Pass and to double check on the availability in the campground.
Oh, we never take that sign down, she reported a worker in the visitor center told her. As far as the worker knew, there were still sites available in the campground. We were lucky The Lady had decided to go inside and ask! Her double checking certainly paid off in our getting what we wanted.
We drove directly to Willow Flat campground and found ourselves a campsite. After dropping the payment of our camping fee into the iron ranger, we went out to explore the Park.
Overlooking the Green River
Our first stop was the Green River Overlook, just down the road from the campground. We could have walked there had we not had limited time to see all the sights. From there, we drove through the Park, stopping at scenic overlooks and enjoying the beauty of all we were seeing.
I’m sure most of us who have experienced the grandeur of nature know how difficult it is to capture that beauty in words or photos. Nothing I can say or show truly expresses what I saw that day. Multiple my Wows and what you see in my photos 100 times and maybe you’ll have an idea of what I’m trying to share.
When we stopped at the Grand View Overlook, we agreed to look over. The Lady remembered the view from her previous visit to that part of the National Park and suggested we walk a ways on the trail. We can turn around whenever we want, she reminded me. While the scenery was stunning, and in the end I was glad we had seen all the sights along the trail, the two mile round trip was more than I had bargained for. I was tired!
Upheaval Dome formation
Still, we pressed on, and I drove us to the parking area for Upheaval Dome where we started the short hike to the place where we could stand and look at the Dome. I suppose taken by itself, Upheaval Dome would be an impressive sight, but surrounded by all those red rocks and deep canyons, Upheaval Dome seemed a bit boring to me. If I went back to the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands, I wouldn’t bother visiting Upheaval Dome again. If someone put me in charge of renaming Upheaval Dome, I might call it “Yawn Yawn Dome.”
Next I drove us back to the visitor center/gift shop to find out the time of that night’s sunset and the next morning’s sunrise. Sunset at the Green River Overlook was supposed to be spectacular, as was sunrise through Mesa Arch. The Lady and I wanted to witness both.
On the way back to our campsite, we decided to stop at Mesa Arch. We planned to see it the next morning in all
its sunrise glory, but I wanted to get a look at it during a regular part of the day too. I was delighted by the view through the arch, and was glad I’d be able to visit it twice.
Once back at the campground, The Lady prepared a delicious dinner for us. She did almost all of the cooking on our trip, and every meal was awesome tasty. Any van trip would benefit from a cook as talented as The Lady.
We left the campground well in advance of the sunset. We drove again, to save time and energy. We needn’t have worried about time; we were plenty early and wrote postcards before leaving the van.
When we approached the overlook, we found a few visitors already there, including a man with a fancy camera on a tripod, and a group of Asian folks happily snapping photos. Alas, the spectacular sunset we were all hoping for was not meant to be. The overcast day turned into an overcast evening, and the clouds obscured the setting sun. There were no beautiful colors and no striking shafts of light. The grey sky darkened to dusk and our chance to see the sun set over the Green River was over.
The Lady heard the fellow with the fancy camera on the tripod tell one of his companion that sometimes there is no shot to get, but you have to be there and be ready to get your photo if the light is right. We were there, and we were ready that evening, but Mother Nature wasn’t cooperating.