We aimed to beat the crowds. Diane and I rose before dawn. We got packed and out the door as the sun started to rise.
But we were still too late.
It took forty minutes to reach Canyonlands National Park. Although there wasn't much of a line at the park entrance, probably two dozen other hikers launched their hikes before we were ready. When we confirmed the trails we wanted to take, Grand View (the Rim Edge Trail), and Mesa Arch, we drove to the first trailhead to discover someone already returning along the rim edge.
He gave us a polite smile. A few minutes later, not much farther on the same path, we encountered a pair of women heading back along a similar route. From the glow of their skin, they looked like they had completed a high-speed hike.
I wasn't up to their rate, for sure. Even when motivated, I get distracted by the wildlife. Among the weird desert plants, I spotted an adolescent rabbit, small and fast but careless of our presence. Turkey vultures swooped overhead. I wasn't sure if they had been hunting the rabbit or not.
As we proceeded along the rim, we got a spectacular view of the canyons below, especially the hoodoos, which are columns of rock formed when a layer of harder rock presses down and makes the lower, softer layer erode unevenly. The hoodoos can get over a hundred feet high so they are a bit weird to see and walk among. They are armies of forgotten, giant stone chess pawns. Canyonlands, Bryce, Zion, and Arches are famous for them.
The Grand View Rim Edge Trail provided a great walk and a bit more. We got to stand on the precipices along the trail. To get to one of them, I hopped a tiny gap with a cliff below. When I eyed another gap, though, it seemed to eye me back. It was a bit large. So I didn't bother. When there's no reason to hop across a chasm actually, it's hard to justify much distance.
The second trail, Mesa Arch, turned out precisely as described. We hiked around an arch formation that could have belonged to the more famous Arches site. Because it isn't near other formations like it, though, we didn't find it crowded.
Along the way from Canyonlands to Moab to Capitol Reef, we saw a smaller park sign. Curious, we got out for a look. There under a grove of trees, we found petroglyphs. For more, we walked on a raised platform that traversed a line around the the bottom of a cliff. As far as anyone knows, the petroglyphs were left by Fremont Indian ages ago. Even now, they are slowly being destroyed by rockslides and sometimes local vandals. For the moment, there's still something to see.